What was your oddest experience in a legal context?
The oddest experience I ever had as a lawyer was when I was called for jury duty. Law professors never get on juries, so I was very excited when I was empaneled for voir dire in a criminal case. The case was the first prosecution under a new state statute that punished the offeror of a bribe, and it required proof not only that the defendant had done the prohibited conduct but that he knew it was unlawful.
To the group of prospective jurors, the challenged conduct seemed pretty trivial, and they immediately started saying that they didn’t think it should be a crime. The prosecutor asked me several questions about what jurors were supposed to do when they disagreed with the law, encouraging me to say that the law required them to follow the court’s direction even if they disagreed with it. Meanwhile, the defense lawyer asked me questions to elicit how unusual it was for a criminal statute to require proof that the defendant knew the conduct was illegal. After a lot of talking, the court sent the whole panel out for lunch. I had high hopes, but on our return, I was immediately excused. Both lawyers later insisted they had not struck me from the jury. In retrospect, maybe the judge removed me for cause. Guess maybe I knew too much about criminal law!
Margaret Raymond, Dean Emeritus and Warren P. Knowles Chair, U.W. Law School, Madison.
What is your favorite hidden-gem website or database?
I do a lot of legal history writing, and as a result I have spent a lot of time in the dustier corners of libraries over the years. COVID-19 and the resultant library shutdown forced me to look for online substitutes, and one gem that I discovered is Hathitrust. Hathitrust is open to anyone; it has put online thousands of books, including many old treatises, legislative reports, constitutional convention reports, legal biographies, and other items that can be useful to practicing lawyers as well as historians. It’s good as a research tool, and it’s also fun to poke around on if you are feeling curious about something!
Joseph A. Ranney, Madison, WI.
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What is a passion project you are pursuing?
A passion project I started last year is my Wisconsin courthouse picture project. I’ve set out to have my picture taken in front of every county courthouse in Wisconsin. It’s interesting to see the variety of architectural styles, both inside and out. It’s also great to see the pride that counties take in their civic buildings – especially the counties that maintain both original and newer courthouses. In those counties, I get to “shoot” at two locations.
COVID-19 restrictions curbed the project’s travel schedule and access to the courthouses themselves. However, this summer I was able to see some beautiful interiors again. In several counties I even, by chance, got to visit briefly with the judges who preside over both the court and the care of their courthouses. My goal is to finish the project before Wisconsin’s 175th birthday in May 2023.
In the accompanying photo, I am at Wisconsin’s first courthouse (1825), located in current Heritage Hill State Park in Green Bay.
Hannah C. Dugan, Milwaukee County Circuit Court,
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
I actually have a superpower ... and it is one we all have access to. That is the superpower of intuition.
I spent most of my life not trusting my intuition. When it came to important choices, I’d make a pros and cons list and come to the most rational decision. Like many of us, that’s what I’d been taught to do, but somehow this approach led me down a path of poor choices, wasted years, and extreme unhappiness.
Most of us are taught to ignore or suppress our intuition. In fact, in our work as lawyers, we are rewarded for our logical minds. About 10 years ago, I decided to see what would happen if I started listening to, and acting on, that quiet voice inside. Since then, I’ve become a healthier, happier person. More content. More at peace. Along with that, I’m doing work I love, where I have an impact, and I feel joy every day.
Life still has peaks and valleys, but the more I trust my intuition, the more I find a flow of connections, opportunities, and even little miracles that align with who I am and the life I want. Following my intuition does not mean I throw my rational and analytical thinking out the window. In fact, I am finding that the real “magic” is in the powerful combination of intellect plus intuition.
Julie Bonasso, RYP Global LLC.