At the Court
In June, in a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender employees from workplace discrimination.
“Until Monday’s decision, it was legal in more than half of the states to fire workers for being gay, bisexual or transgender,” wrote Adam Liptak for the New York Times.
Gerald Bostock sued after he was fired from his county job in Georgia, alleging his superiors fired him after learning he joined a softball league for gay individuals.
Bostock said the firing violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex.
“It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex,” Justice Gorsuch wrote in a majority opinion.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanagh dissented. They argued the Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on “sex” – not “sexual orientation” – and only Congress can amend the Civil Rights Act.
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“If you have an issue with substance abuse or know a colleague with one, be aware that these times are particularly rough for people with addiction or depression problems.”
– Attorney James Gray Robinson, in a June ABA Journalarticle.
Robinson noted the high percentage of problem drinking among lawyers and recent studies that show approximately 45 percent of lawyers experience depression during their careers.
“Our lives are upended, and life will never be the same. The old standby drink or drug is always there to tempt us, to medicate our emotional and mental pain. Reach out to any lawyer you think may be having a problem. We don’t want the statistics to get any worse.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use or mental health issues, the Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLAP) can help. It’s confidential, with trained volunteers and staff, and available 24/7 all year.
WisLAP 24-hour Helpline: (800) 543-2625
By the Numbers
– The percentage of Wisconsin prison inmates who were African-American, as of 2019. The African-American population in the state was 6.7 percent, based on the last census data from 2010.
“We must look clearly at the huge increase in incarceration and the enormous disparity in Wisconsin’s incarceration rates: more than 23,000 people in prisons and among the highest rates of racial disparity in the nation,” wrote Mary Prosser and Shannon Toole in “Wisconsin’s Mass and Disparate Incarceration” (Wisconsin Lawyer, April 2018).
To learn more about racial disparity in the criminal justice system and what the State Bar is doing to support change, visit wisbar.org/racialequity.
Tommy Thompson Selected as Interim President of U.W. System
The U.W. Board of Regents has selected former Wisconsin Governor and State Bar of Wisconsin member Tommy Thompson as the interim president of the U.W. System amid the chaos of COVID-19 for educational institutions.
Reports noted Thompson, secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department under President George W. Bush, was a clear choice after the only finalist withdrew from consideration. Thompson served four terms as governor, 1987-2001. The moderate Republican was known to bridge political division on important issues.
In 2018, Thompson headlined the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Health, Labor, and Employment Law Institute. In an interview with the State Bar, he said:
“My philosophy never changes. My philosophy is to work with people who want to get things done. I did that as governor, and I did it as secretary. If a Democrat wanted to work with me, I said ‘come on in.’ We did it.”
On the Radar
Brett Ludwig Confirmation Advances for Seat on U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
In June, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee questioned and approved Brett Ludwig, appointed by President Donald Trump to fill a vacant judicial seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
Ludwig’s confirmation is complete upon consent of the Senate. Ludwig has served as an Eastern District bankruptcy court judge since 2017. Before that, he was a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP.
Upon confirmation, Ludwig will fill the vacant seat left by Judge Rudolph Randa, who took senior status in 2016 and died later that year. President Trump has not yet nominated anyone to fill another Eastern District vacancy, created when U.S. District Judge William Griesbach took senior status at the end of 2019.
Did You Know?
State Court Reopening Plans
Wisconsin state courts are slowly reopening after establishing safety plans to address COVID-19. Safety plans, which must be approved by the chief judge for each judicial administrative district, will differ in each county.
The Wisconsin Court System website (wicourts.gov) has a COVID-19 tab on the homepage that lists orders for all courts, including “chief judge orders authorizing in-person proceedings.”
Everyone who enters a courtroom will be required to wear a face covering. The Wisconsin Director of State Courts Office purchased 600,000 face masks for distribution at courthouses.