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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    February 11, 2020


    Interesting facts, trends, tips, bits and bytes in the news.

    Judge Maxine White Appointed to Wisconsin Court of Appeals

    Maxine White

    In January, Gov. Tony Evers appointed Maxine White, chief judge for the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. White will be the first African-American woman to serve on a Wisconsin appellate court.

    White fills a vacancy created by Judge Joan Kessler, who retired on Feb 7, 2020.

    A 1985 graduate of Marquette University Law School, White was first appointed to the circuit court bench in 1992 by Gov. Tommy Thompson.

    White follows a path blazed by the late Vel Phillips, who became Wisconsin’s first African-American judge (and first woman judge) when she was appointed to the Milwaukee County bench in 1971, almost a half-century ago, by Gov. Patrick Lucey.

    Sources: Wisconsin State Journal; U.W. Law School

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    Tech Tip

    Beware of Vendor “Vishing” Scams


    Everyone at some point in their professional career will receive a cold call from a vendor attempting to sell products or services. 

    You might not know whether that vendor is a legitimate company trying to earn your business or a hacker trying to steal sensitive information.

    Vishing, also known as voice phishing, occurs when a hacker impersonates legitimate businesses or governmental entities during a phone call to obtain sensitive information. 

    According to Mimecast’s November 2019 Threat Intelligence Report, the legal industry is “suffering approximately twice as many impersonation attacks as other sectors … due to the heavily interpersonal, social nature” of the industry.

    The harm in providing information over the phone about your law firm’s systems is that a hacker may obtain enough information to compromise them. 

    For instance, sharing information about your operating system to a vendor offering to upgrade your current system for a discount would provide that vendor with information about your current safeguards and the hack potential.

    Simple lesson – do not give information about your law firm’s systems to anyone, except trusted and vetted professionals.

    Source: Christopher C. Shattuck, Practice Management Advisor (Practice 411), State Bar of Wisconsin

    Out There

    Castle Doctrine: Does it Apply to Homeless People?

    bullets and constitution

    A New York criminal court may decide whether a homeless man can use the “castle doctrine” as a defense to charges of assault with a knife.

    The castle doctrine, applicable in Wisconsin, generally allows individuals to use deadly or substantial force against home intruders.

    But Joseph Matos is homeless and was using cardboard boxes as a shelter when a college student allegedly awakened him by kicking his shelter.

    Matos says he thought he was under attack and was protecting himself when he knifed the student and the student’s friend. His lawyers have invoked the castle doctrine.

    Prosecutors say the castle doctrine does not apply because Matos’s cardboard box shelter was not a permanent structure.

    A New York Times article on the case notes that there are approximately 3,600 people living on the streets in New York City. Last fall, five homeless men were murdered and one was injured by a man with a history of mental illness.

    Source: New York Times

    Good Ideas

    Elder Abuse: A Hot Practice Area

    elder abuse logo

    This issue of Wisconsin Lawyer continues its series on how lawyers can help older clients avoid or end elder abuse.

    If population statistics are any indication, elder law will continue to be a hot practice area for the next two decades.

    According to Wisconsin’s Aging Plan for Older People (2019-21), “Wisconsin’s population aged 65 and older is projected to increase from 780,000 residents in 2010 to over 1.5 million by 2040.”

    By 2040, almost one in four individuals (25 percent) of the Wisconsin population will be 65 or older.

    Fifty years ago, in 1970, about 11 percent of the population was 65 or older. Who will this aging population turn to for legal help with elder abuse, estate planning, and other issues that affect older adults?

    Look to the State Bar of Wisconsin Elder Law & Special Needs Section for information and resources on this hot practice area.


    “Code is law, and law is increasingly becoming code.”

    digital scales

    – Prof. Alex “Sandy” Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He’s talking about computer code in his article, “A Perspective on Legal Algorithms,” published in the MIT Computational Law Report.

    “Most laws and regulations are just algorithms that human organizations execute, but now legal algorithms are beginning to be executed by computers as an extension of human bureaucracies,” he writes.

    While Prof. Pentland believes legal algorithms are driven by “the growing need for access to justice and the ambition for greater efficiency and predictability in modern business,” he also recognizes that computers cannot replace human judgment and interpretation.

    A system of legal algorithms, Pentland says, will allow lawyers to create more robust legal agreements.

    “As a consequence, the legal profession has the opportunity to transition from being a cost center and a source of friction, to a center for new business and opportunity creation,” he writes.

    On the Radar

    Ending Workplace Hair Discrimination


    New Jersey recently joined New York and California in passing laws that prohibit workplace discrimination based on hairstyles. In a recent blog post, MWH Law Group in Milwaukee noted that a bill to ban hair discrimination is pending in the Wisconsin Legislature. The bill is called the Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act (see AB 440).

    “Men and women who choose to style their hair in braids, locks, twists, or in its natural afro texture experience resistance and sometimes repercussions at work for violating grooming policies,” the MWH blog post notes.

    “Although there are federal and state laws against discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity in the workplace, those laws do not include language that protects employees from hair discrimination.”

    Reported decisions in Wisconsin have addressed workplace policies on beards and hair length, but not hair style.

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