My last column. The year has flown by in an instant – my predecessors warned me that this would happen – and it seems to me that I have accomplished only a little of what I set out to do. But it has been a great time. I've met so many people across the state and around the country while representing you and our organization. I've come to know many people much better by working closely with them – our judges and legislators, local bar leaders and, of course, the dedicated members who are active in our association through the Board of Governors, sections, and committees. We do a tremendous amount of good work, and as we take the long view, the work continues apace toward the goal of making the law work better, more fairly, and more accessibly by all who need our legal system. Thanks for never giving up on this noble quest.
Lawyers play a crucial role in maintaining the rule of law by working for a good legal system, which is what makes the difference between a civilized society and chaos. While we value liberty as the ideal, in and of itself, without the law, produces chaos. We need the law to protect our freedoms, to provide the security each of us desires, and to preserve our values. We sometimes struggle to find the balance between law and liberty. Too many laws and regulations lead to the stifling of personal freedoms, but the balance, the sweet spot, is debated endlessly.
The system that we are sworn to uphold, immortalized by our Constitution, created by the Founding Fathers, embraces and encourages the debate. Regular elections, checks and balances, and an independent judiciary ensure that the voices and arguments are heard, that there is accountability, and that change comes deliberately. It does seem these days that chaos is winning over order, but such a notion is short term. The process that we serve, preserve, and improve is continuous, and changes are constantly made.
Let me once again encourage you, my fellow lawyers, to step up and run for office. Become part of this important and essential process. In the long run we all benefit with people trained in the process of the law making the law. And as lawyers dealing with people's tough problems day in and day out, we have a special connection with humanity and all its foibles that I assert is the best training an elected official can have.
Too many laws and regulations lead to the stifling of personal freedoms, but the balance, the sweet spot, is debated endlessly.
I extend our gratitude to those who advanced the State Public Defender private bar compensation petition before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and to the court for recognizing the problem and addressing it to the extent it felt it could – the court-appointed rate was increased by rule. But the real work needs to be with the governor and legislature to recognize that the paltry rate appropriated for the SPD private bar needs to be addressed. Having a right to counsel, one of those Constitutional guarantees, is nothing if counsel cannot be had for lack of resources.
Thanks for a great year. I trust I'll see you all for a great time at the Annual Meeting & Conference in Lake Geneva. I'll buy you a drink at Chris Rogers’ inauguration. I know he'll be a great president!