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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    November 01, 2013


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    Edward G. RyanFrom the Archives: Controversy Plagued Chief Justice Edward G. Ryan

    November marks the birthday of Edward G. Ryan, one of Wisconsin’s greatest – and most controversial – chief justices.

    Ryan emigrated from Ireland to Wisconsin as a young man. He became a fervent Jacksonian Democrat and a committed opponent of big government and big business.

    In Wisconsin’s 1846 constitutional convention, Ryan led an unsuccessful fight to limit banks’ powers. In the 1850s, he made more enemies by criticizing lax legal ethics and urging respect for unpopular federal courts.

    Ryan’s opposition to the Civil War sent his career into decline, but in 1874 a reform governor appointed him to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

    Ryan accomplished much during his short time on the bench. He established the state’s constitutional right to regulate corporations, and he corrected abuses in Wisconsin’s tax system.

    Source: Jay Ranney, Madison lawyer and legal historian

    By the Numbers: 16

    The number of specialty Wisconsin license plates that are probably tied to lawyers or judges. There likely are additional creative “legal” license plates out there, but if you’re in the market, these are definitely taken:

















    dinner partySource: License Plate Lookup, Wisconsin DMV

    Did we miss yours? Email editors at or post a comment below.

    Good Ideas: Chit-Chat: Making a Good First Impression

    Networking helps grow your business, and it pays to be good at chit-chat.

    Don’t like small talk? Look at holiday parties or professional conferences as a way to generate business down the road.

    The key? Leave a good impression. You must be likeable. Here are a few tips from Roy Ginsburg’s article at the Lawyerist blog:

    Compliment. Let someone know you are open to conversation with a nice compliment, like, “I really like that tie.”

    Don’t Dominate. You may love fishing, politics, or books by John Grisham, but your chit-chat partner may hate all three. Don’t dominate the conversation with your favorite topics.

    flowersAsk Questions. People like when others listen. Do some listening by asking questions. Show your interest in the other person. Silence is okay. Don’t freak out by a break in conversation. Stay cool.

    Exit Gracefully. There’s no perfect way to end a conversation. But here’s one version: “Well, I’ve enjoyed chatting with you. I’ll let you mingle. Let me give you my business card, can I get yours?”

    Quotable: “I don’t know where that leaves you, but you’re still deceased as far as the law is concerned.”

    A probate court judge in Ohio, speaking to a 61-year-old man, clearly alive.

    Donald Miller Jr. had ditched town in the 1980s and stopped paying child support. The ex-wife requested that Miller be declared dead, allowing her to collect Social Security payments. The court declared Miller dead in 1994.

    Miller reemerged in 2005 and asked the court to “undeclare” his death so he could obtain a Social Security card and a driver’s license. The ex-wife opposed the move, claiming she would have to repay the benefits she received while Miller was “dead.” The judge refused to vacate the death declaration.

    Source: Associated Press, Oct. 10, 2013

    exploding computer screenTech Tip: Upgrading? Tips on Disposing Computer Hardware 

    Under Wisconsin law, computers must be recycled. For information on recycling electronics, visit

    For single computers or other electronic devices, find e-Cycle Wisconsin collection sites at Computers or other electronic items can be recycled at no cost. In larger counties, these sites may include Best Buy, Staples, and other electronics retailers.

    Before recycling, wipe hard drives of all data. This is very important for lawyers who maintain confidential records. Free solutions include Derik’s Boot and Nuke, Active@KillDisk, and Eraser.

    Commercial solutions include Shredit in both Windows and Mac versions, WipeDrive, and Acronis Drive Cleanser.

    You can also remove the hard drive and keep it secure or physically destroy it by shredding it, drilling holes in it, or taking a hammer to it, which can also be a good stress reliever (think Office Space, the movie). Or, for a more organized physical destruction, check out the DiskStroyer DIY hard drive destruction kit.

    Money syringSource: Nerino Petro, State Bar Practice Management Advisor

    On the Radar: Campaign Finance: U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Could Inject More Money into Elections 

    The U.S. Supreme Court, back in session last month, heard a case on campaign finance that could lift restrictions on campaign contributions.

    The high court ignited some political fires with its 2010 ruling in Citizens United, which declared that restrictions on “independent expenditures” – contributions that are not made directly to candidates – are unconstitutional. This decision gave rise to so-called super PACs, which are not affiliated with candidates directly.

    However, there are still restrictions on the aggregate amount of money that individuals can contribute to candidates directly or to committees established for candidates. These restrictions are imposed by the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act.

    Now, in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the CEO of a major corporation is attempting to remove those restrictions. At least one expert believes it could happen, based on the current make-up of the court.

    “That would dramatically change federal, state, and local elections,” wrote law Professor Erwin Chemerinsky for the ABA Journal.

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