Posted Apr 22, 2017 10:00 pm CDT
Avvo went all-in on the gambling metaphor for this year’s Lawyernomics conference. As conference-goers learned, however, there’s a difference between making a calculated, smart bet and recklessly letting it ride on double-zero.
The conference, which took place at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, wrapped up Saturday with a spate of speakers talking about a wide range of topics, including the future of the legal profession, dealing with stressful clients, utilizing social media, branding, and work-life balance. (The ABA Journal is a media co-sponsor of the event.)
Investor and entrepreneur Tom Breitling delivered the keynote address, using his career as an entrepreneur to emphasize the value of taking risks.
“There’s no profit potential without risk,” Bretiling said. “We all bet on ourselves and bet on our features.”
Of course, that’s not to say Bretiling just made a bunch of random bets. For instance, Breitling’s travel company, Travelscape, made an early bet on the internet and rode the dot-com bubble all the way to a $90 million acquisition by Expedia in 2000. It wasn’t a blind gamble, though.
“Our customers told us that they wanted online booking, pictures of hotels, and things like that, so we did it,” said Breitling. “If you just listen to your customers, they will give you the answer.”
Likewise, Breitling noted that his biggest-ever bet, investing $20 million of his own money into buying the Golden Nugget Casino in 2004 with his partner, Tim Poster, came after diligent analysis, as well as the creation of a detailed business plan.
“We wanted to inject personality and personalized service into an industry that was becoming more and more faceless,” said Breitling, who, along with his partner, sold the casino in 2005 at a $113 million profit.
Even the best bets can go bust, and Breitling touched on that as well. Clearly still stung from the failure of Ultimate Gaming, the legal online gaming website that he created with the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2010, Breitling noted that failure is a part of life.
“You must accept failure,” said Breitling. “Try and fail fast and minimize your risk.”
Several of the other speakers on the day epitomized this gambling spirit. Andrew Arruda, CEO and founder of Ross Intelligence, for instance, has bet that artificial intelligence will transform the legal industry in a beneficial way and was on hand to dispel some common myths about artificial intelligence.
“Robot lawyers are not coming to take your jobs,” Arruda said. Instead, he argued that artificial intelligence can help lawyers work more efficiently and creatively—allowing lawyers to consider possibilities and accomplish tasks they never thought were possible. “The future of law goes hand-in-hand with artificial intelligence. When you have a justice system where 80 percent of Americans can’t afford a lawyer, then there are huge possibilities to use artificial intelligence to bridge the access-to-justice gap.”
Vanessa Vasquez de Lara, owner of Vasquez de Lara Law Group, has bet that she can have a healthy family life while maintaining a successful law practice. To ensure she has enough time to take yearly family vacations and pick up her kids from school, Vasquez de Lara says she runs a highly efficient firm and draws up detailed plans to minimize work-family conflicts. In addition to making sure she gets her work done within her allotted window, she says she hires people to take care of details that aren’t related to being a lawyer, such as bookkeeping.
“Your staff makes you money,” said Vasquez de Lara. “Any job you do that isn’t making you lawyer money is a waste of time.”
Vasquez de Lara was one of only nine female speakers at the conference (compared to 16 men), a fact pointed out by lawyer and author Jeena Cho on Twitter. Cho, who was not at the conference, repeatedly criticized Avvo for a lack of diversity among its conference speakers.
In an interview with ABA Journal, Avvo founder and CEO Mark Britton emphasized his and his company’s commitment to diversity while commending Cho for raising important points. Britton also pointed out that conferences can be difficult to put together and finalizing a speakers’ roster can be challenging.
“Diversity is absolutely an important part of Avvo’s corporate ethos,” says Britton, who says about half of the people directly reporting to him are either women or minorities and states that the company has worked very closely with women and minorities in Seattle to bring them into the STEM community. “These are important questions to ask, and we’ll go back and see if there are places where we can improve.”
Posted Apr 21, 2017 09:24 pm CDT
On Friday, during the first full day of the Avvo Lawyernomics conference, attendees got a steady stream of two topics that, for many lawyers, were among the reasons why they decided to go to law school in the first place: math and science.
The central theme for the Friday sessions, which took place at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, was that lawyers need to collect, measure and test data if they wish to be competitive in the demand-driven economy. The conference, which is in its eighth year, brings together lawyers, law professionals, legal service providers, technologists, business developers and marketers. It officially kicked off with a half-day of sessions Thursday and wraps up Saturday. (The ABA Journal is a media co-sponsor of the event.) According to Avvo, an estimated 400 attendees are expected at Lawyernomics this year.
Avvo founder and CEO Mark Britton kicked off the conference with sobering reminder. “These are turbulent times,” Britton intoned.
Ever since the Great Recession, demand for legal services has shrunk, while jobs and wages continue to diminish. Britton noted that the landscape has become even more unpredictable and dangerous as a result of the recent political upheaval. However, he also argued that the rise of the demand-driven economy, where companies like Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, Amazon and others cater entirely to the consumer is an opportunity for lawyers.
“Every one of those marketplaces can or will be a source of customers for you,” Britton said to those in attendance. “Understanding which ones are more valuable to you is critical.”
Britton also told attendees that they could take some principles of the demand-driven economy to apply to their own practices. First and foremost was the notion that customer really is always right. “The customer knows best. That means you need to understand them at a deep level,” Britton said. “Your biases are irrelevant.”
In order to better serve customers, as well as target potential clients, lawyers must collect, analyze and synthesize data and apply to their processes. Avvo chief product officer Sachin Bhatia recommended utilizing the old scientific method that many lawyers haven’t thought about since high school as a means of identifying problems to fix and proposing solutions that can be tested and experimented on.
Avvo chief marketing officer Jason Moss pointed out that between a firm’s intake process, as well as free services like Google Search Console and Google Analytics, lawyers already have access to a tremendous amount of data at their disposal.
“You don’t need to collect all the data automatically like we do [at Avvo],” said Moss. “And it’s not necessary to put it in a data warehouse. But you do need to stitch it together.”
Avvo chief legal officer Joshua King suggested using data to come up with standardized, ethically compliant processes that could be easily repeated as a means of driving efficiency as well as lead conversion.
“You must have a great intake system,” said King. “If you don’t follow up within five minutes after a lead comes in, your odds on converting it plummet.”
As for a company that has managed to do a tremendous amount with its data, Michael Mogill, CEO of Crisp Video Group pointed to Facebook. “Facebook ads are the new gold rush,” Mogill said. “Facebook’s level of targeting is incredible, and it provides the most comprehensive targeting options. Everyone is on Facebook, yet only 6 percent of businesses are active advertisers.”
Posted Apr 21, 2017 05:05 pm CDT
A man accused of murder and arson who has spent three years in jail awaiting trial has been released on his own recognizance after a prosecutor acknowledged problems with the case.
Judge James Daniel ordered the release of Randal Wagoner on Wednesday after a new prosecutor said the case was weak, the Florida Times-Union reports.
The charges have not been dropped, however. Wagoner still stands accused of killing Kathy Lorraine Johnson and setting the fire that burned down her building. The new assistant state attorney handling the case, London Kite, plans further investigation to determine whether the case is viable.
Kite told the judge that tests indicate DNA under the victim’s fingernails did not belong to Wagoner. She also said the medical examiner had changed his opinion that Johnson died by blunt force trauma after a review by a prominent expert hired by the defense.
The medical examiner still believes Johnson’s death is a homicide, but “he could go either way,” Kite said.
Kite replaced assistant state attorney Peter Overstreet in November. He was one of 11 employees let go after voters elected Melissa Nelson and ousted Angela Corey as state attorney. Overstreet was one of the prosecutors in another case in which the defendant was held in jail for 589 days before the case was dropped. According to a January 2016 story by the Florida Times-Union, the defendant was accused of three armed robberies, and had alibis for two of them.
Hat tip to the Marshall Project.
Posted Apr 21, 2017 04:15 pm CDT
Updated: Law schools are increasingly interested in taking transfer students to bring in more revenue, higher education consultants say, and it’s become a seller’s market for first-year students at the top of their class: They can easily move to a higher-ranked school, or stay put and get bigger tuition discounts.
There are a few incentives to keep or attract 1Ls with good grades—people who do well their first year generally pass bar exams on their first attempt, and transfer students traditionally pay full tuition. Nothing in the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools speak specifically to financial aid packages law schools offer to transfer or existing students as an inducement, says Barry Currier, managing director of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.
The number of law students who transferred between 2015 and 2016 has actually dropped from 1,979 to 1,749, says Jerome Organ, a professor at Minneapolis’ University of St. Thomas School of Law whose work focuses on transparency in financial aspects of the decision to attend law school. Organ wrote about the development in a Legal Whiteboard post.
Organ says it’s hard to know how many law schools are offering deals to students to stay put because that information is not specifically reported in 509 reports.
“It is possible that with increases in the size and number of scholarships available to incoming students, the cost differential for transferring has grown and made it less attractive. It is possible that some schools are being more generous in offering scholarships to retain potential transfer students,” Organ explains. “We just don’t know because this information is not collected and published.”
Some deans complain that transfers hurt their bar passage rates, but it’s not likely that the council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar would create accreditation rules restricting transfers. Doing that could stand in the way of student opportunities, Organ says. In terms of ABA accreditation standards and transfer regulation, schools must disclose transfers in 509 reports, and there are some rules about accepting credits from other schools.
What could happen, Organ says, would be the addition of reporting requirements for an accredited law school’s graduating class, or more information about how transfer bar pass rates compare to graduates who started as first-year students.
“That is an area about which we know very little,” Organ says, “even though my guess is that those transferring to another school assume that they are likely to see comparable bar passage and employment outcomes as those reported for the graduating class as a whole, even though that may or may not be an accurate assumption.”
Traditionally, first-year law students interested in transferring would reach out on their own to schools. Now, when law schools deny admission or waitlist an applicant, they increasingly tell him or her to check back in after first-year grades, sometimes keeping up the communications throughout the applicant’s first year, says David Mulligan of Eduvantis, a higher education marketing and enrollment growth strategy firm.
“It’s fairly recent phenomena. Generally there’s been a more genteel approach to the law school transfer market,” says Mulligan, adding that the transfer market can be more lucrative than non-JD programs. Law school and non-JD programs have comparable tuition, but non-JD programs only run one year, while law schools get two years of money from transfer students.
George Washington University School of Law indicated that it had 107 transfer students on its 509 report for 2016. Fifty-one came from American University Washington College of Law.
“We need to dig deeper to find out why students feel the need to move. For us, this is a moment of self-reflection,” says Camille Nelson, who became American’s law school dean in July 2016, shortly after the students transferred.
Annual, full-time law school tuition at George Washington Law was reported as $56,244 in its 509 report. Out of its 2015 graduates, 64.7 percent had full-time, long-term jobs that require JDs, according to the school’s employment summary. American University’s employment summary information shows that 44 percent of its 2015 graduates had full-time, long-term positions practicing law. Annual, full-time tuition at the school was reported as $53,016 in its 509 report.
When asked if the school offers tuition discounts to students with transfer opportunities, Nelson responded that financial awards are available for high-performing first-years.
“When students come to speak to us [about transferring], we really try to counsel them about their options. If one option includes greater monetary support, that’s part of the conversation,” she says.
Michael Matta, who started law school at George Washington in 2015, last fall transferred to UCLA School of Law with a GPA that he thinks was in the top 35 percent of his class, and a LSAT score of 165.
Matta was previously waitlisted by the California school. Following the advice of another law student who transferred from George Washington to UCLA, last spring Matta asked the UCLA dean of admissions for a campus tour, and they met in person during the visit.
“You want to plant a little seed, in terms of your name,” he says.
Matta, a California resident, now pays in-state tuition, which at UCLA Law is $45,338, according to its 509 report. According to the school’s employment data, 73.7 of its 2015 graduates have full-time, long-term jobs that require JDs.
Transferring to a higher-ranked law school, Matta says, is easier than one might think.
“Even if it doesn’t end up panning out, it’s still totally worth it to try. It’s not really a huge time suck,” he says. “I think a lot of people would really kick themselves in the butt if they knew they could do it and didn’t.”
Updated April 21 to revise the headline and include additional comments from Jerome Organ.
Posted Apr 21, 2017 03:24 pm CDT
At February’s midyear meeting, the ABA House of Delegates voted to adopt Resolution 10C (PDF), urging President Donald Trump not to use religion or nationality as a basis for barring otherwise eligible people from entering the United States. The resolution expressed concerns about the legality of the president’s original executive order banning travel by people from majority-Muslim countries.
Acting on that vote, the ABA on Friday filed its second amicus brief (PDF) strongly opposing the travel ban, now on its second iteration, this time in the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The brief argues that the plain language of the Immigration and Nationality Act and the rules of statutory interpretation support upholding a nationwide injunction against the travel ban.
“As the voice of the legal profession, the ABA has a special interest and responsibility in safeguarding the integrity of our legal system,” the brief says. “Preserving and promoting robust judicial review of executive action goes hand-in-hand with these responsibilities, particularly where executive action encroaches on the Constitution’s fundamental protections or important statutory protections.”
Like Wednesday’s amicus brief in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case challenging the travel ban, International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, the brief in Hawaii v. Trump relies heavily on language in the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act expressly banning discrimination on the basis of race or national origin in issuing immigrant visas. The brief says this issue was not addressed in the Hawaii district court’s opinion, but should be considered because it substantially limits the president’s power.
For one thing, the brief says, the government has argued that a provision of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act permitting the president to exclude classes of people he believes are detrimental to the interests of the United States should override the 1965 discrimination ban. “This argument makes no sense” under ordinary rules of statutory interpretation, the brief says, and nothing in the 1965 law suggests an intention to make an exception.
Furthermore, the brief says, there is no legitimate basis for using the 1952 provision to stop visitors from the six majority-Muslim countries affected by the second travel ban. Prior presidents have used it as a sanction against countries violating international law or Americans’ rights; this president is asking to use it to exclude people based on their national origin alone. And the administration has cited no evidence that people from those countries pose a special threat, the brief says.
Finally, the brief takes exception to the government’s argument that the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act gives the president “virtually unlimited and unreviewable power”—an argument that fell flat during a prior trip to the 9th Circuit. Statutory authority is subject to constitutional and congressional limits, the brief says, even during wars.
Oral arguments in Hawaii are scheduled for May 15 in Seattle, a week after oral arguments in the 4th Circuit case. Though both cases challenge injunctions against the executive order, the injunction at issue in International Refugee Assistance Project stops only enforcement of the order’s ban on travel from the six specified nations, whereas the one in Hawaii forbids enforcement of the entire order.
Posted Apr 21, 2017 02:51 pm CDT
The U.S. Justice Department announced Friday that it has sent compliance letters to nine sanctuary jurisdictions, saying that many of them are “crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime.”
The letters warned the jurisdictions that they could lose federal grants if they don’t demonstrate compliance with a federal law that requires sharing of immigration information, report the New York Times and NPR.
The letters were sent to Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York City, California, Cook County (which includes Chicago), Law Vegas County, Miami-Dade County and Milwaukee County.
The DOJ press release said many of the jurisdictions are plagued by violent crime and illegal immigration and singled out three jurisdictions in particular.
“The number of murders in Chicago has skyrocketed, rising more than 50 percent from the 2015 levels,” the release said. “New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance. And just several weeks ago in California’s Bay Area, after a raid captured 11 MS-13 members on charges including murder, extortion and drug trafficking, city officials seemed more concerned with reassuring illegal immigrants that the raid was unrelated to immigration than with warning other MS-13 members that they were next.”
Sessions had warned about the possible loss of grants last month if jurisdictions don’t comply with the law known as Section 1373.
Trials & Litigation
Posted Apr 20, 2017 05:20 pm CDT
After complaints that murder defendant and Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was being harassed by protesters at the criminal courts building, a Cook County Circuit Court judge said Thursday that individuals who continue such behavior would be held in contempt.
Judge Vincent M. Gaughan’s warning extends to anyone who brings a sign to the courthouse “and starts waving it around,” the Chicago Tribune reports.
“That’s not going to be allowed in this courtroom or outside of my courtroom,” Gaughan reportedly said at a Thursday status hearing for the case. “No matter what anybody’s charged with, no matter what anybody’s done, they should not be compelled to go through some type of harassment.”
Laquan McDonald was 17 when Van Dyke shot him 16 times, and protesters centered on Van Dyke’s case often refer to that number. He was charged with murder after a police dashboard camera video was released, and the footage led to a Department of Justice report that found that officers frequently use excessive force against people of color but are rarely disciplined. Since the indictment, Van Dyke has been suspended without pay.
The officer’s lawyer has asked the court to let his client stay home from hearings or use a courthouse entrance that allows him to avoid protesters, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The judge has not ruled on that motion.
A woman identified as Carolyn Ruff held a small, handwritten sign that read “Sixteen shots and a cover-up” toward Van Dyke as he exited the courtroom Thursday, both the Tribune and the Sun-Times report. She claims to have missed Gaughan’s warning about court protests and was let off with a warning from the judge.
Van Dyke’s family members also think they’ve been unfairly targeted following the police camera footage release. His wife, Tiffany Van Dyke, told the Tribune in March that her 16-year-old daughter had been harassed at school with the “16 shots” wording. Van Dyke also said she recently lost an opportunity to train as a Cook County sheriff’s deputy because of her husband’s murder charges.
A top aide to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart told the Tribune that Tiffany Van Dyke’s tentative start date to enter the training program was delayed because of safety concerns about her working in the jail.
Jason Van Dyke now works part time as a janitor for the Fraternal Order of Police, earning $12 per hour, the Tribune reported.
Marvin Hunter, McDonald’s great-uncle, told the newspaper that he identifies with the officer’s family.
“I feel sorry for his children; I feel sorry for his wife,” Hunter said. “They’re feeling what we feel. We’ve all been dragged into something—a terrible tragedy that happened—that had nothing to do with us.”
Posted Apr 20, 2017 08:56 pm CDT
Updated: On Thursday night, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals that would have halted the execution of Ledell Lee, the Associated Press reported.
The justices voted 5-4 to reject the appeals, and new Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch voted with the majority, according to AP. More appeals are expected, however.
The on-again off-again attempts by Arkansas to execute multiple death row inmates were off Wednesday evening after two court actions halted a plan to carry out two of the death sentences Thursday, NBC News reports.
In a sweeping decision Wednesday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray put the execution of Ledell Lee on hold, ruling that the prison cannot use its supply of vecuronium bromide, a paralytic that is part of the three-drug mixture used by the state for lethal injections. McKesson Corp. argued that the prison system had deceived the company by saying the drug was to be used for medicinal reasons.
“Irreparable harm will result,” Judge Gray said, in ruling from the bench. “Harm that could not be addressed by [monetary] damages.”
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge appealed Gray’s decision to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which lifted Gray’s order Thursday afternoon, the Associated Press reported.
In the other case Wednesday, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a stay on the execution of Stacey Johnson, whose lawyers asked for more time to have new DNA testing done and presented as evidence in the case, claiming it will prove his innocence. The court ruled 4-3 to stay Johnson’s execution and remand the case to the trial court for a hearing on new DNA evidence, without explanation, although two justices in the minority released opinions that criticized the majority.
“With no explanation or instruction, this matter has been remanded to the trial court for another hearing,” wrote Associate Justice Rhonda K. Wood. “Today, our court gives uncertainty to any case ever truly being final in the Arkansas Supreme Court.”
The hurried execution schedule—Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed eight death warrants to be carried out before the end of April—would have been the most of any state since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.
“When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases, but I expected the courts to allow the juries’ sentences to be carried out since each case had been reviewed multiple times by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the guilt of each,” the governor said in a released statement, adding that she will “continue to work with the attorney general as we evaluate our next steps.”
Updated at 5:02 p.m. to report Arkansas Supreme Court ruling. Updated at 8:56 p.m. to note U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Posted Apr 20, 2017 03:55 pm CDT
Kerrie Campbell, the female Chadbourne & Parke partner suing the firm under the Equal Pay Act, was voted out of the partnership Thursday, Law360 reports (sub. req.).
The move follows an unsuccessful plaintiff motion to halt the vote. On Monday, U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken of the Southern District of New York found that the law firm had the right to determine who would be a partner. He also denied the plaintiff’s motion to prevent the law firm from speaking about the lawsuit publically or among Chadbourne partners, Law360 reports. He told the firm that it should not retaliate against potential plaintiffs in this lawsuit or others.
Jaroslawa Johnson, the former managing partner of the firm’s Kiev office, and Mary Yelenick, a retired partner who now is of counsel with Chadbourne, also are name plaintiffs in the proposed class action, filed in 2016. It also alleged gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The vote against Campbell—who reportedly continued to work out of the firm’s Washington, D.C., office after the lawsuit was filed—was based on bias and incomplete information. And it wasn’t surprising, says her lawyer David Sanford.
“A trial in this case will bring to light the facts, and we are confident that the truth will emerge. This case, ultimately, will not be about Kerrie Campbell alone. It will be about three class representatives, all female partners, with nearly 50 years of collective experience at Chadbourne who will prove a systemic pattern of discrimination in pay at the firm directed against female partners,” he said in a statement.
Campbell spoke at Chadbourne’s Thursday meeting and voted against the motion that she be expelled from the partnership, a law firm spokesperson wrote in a statement to the ABA Journal.
“Ms. Campbell’s decision to sue the firm and her more recent medical condition were not a basis for today’s outcome and were expressly not considered by the partners in reaching their decision. The bases existed long before her suit,” the statement reads. “The firm now looks forward to moving on as it prepares to enter a new chapter in its future.”
According to Campbell’s complaint (PDF), she generated more than $5 million in collections over a two-year period. That rivaled top-performing male partners, she says, but her pay was on par with the bottom ranks of male partners who generated significantly less business.
A March 2 court filing from the plaintiffs stated that the average base pay for women partners was 21 percent less than their male counterparts. There also were discrepancies in merit bonuses, according to the filing. It claimed that in 2015, 44 percent of the male partners and 28 percent of the female partners received bonuses.
Various women partners at the firm in September 2016 wrote that they wanted no part in the lawsuit and accused Sanford of seeking class action status for the lawsuit as a way to garner press attention.
And in November 2016, the law firm filed a counterclaim against Campbell, alleging that she breached her fiduciary duty by revealing confidential financial information and engaging in “a nationwide smear campaign” against the firm.
In February, Chadbourne confirmed that it was in merger talks with Norton Rose Fulbright.
Updated at 4:53 p.m. to include statement from Chadbourne.
Posted Apr 20, 2017 02:15 pm CDT
The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s conservative majority has rejected a petition from a group of retired judges seeking rules requiring judges and justices to recuse themselves from cases involving significant donors to their campaigns, the Wisconsin State Journal reports.
The justices voted 5-2 along party lines against the recommendation to develop a scale of donation amounts that would trigger recusals.
“The appearance of partiality that large campaign donations cause strikes at the heart of the judicial function, which depends on the public’s respect for its judgements,” said the petition, signed by 54 retired judges.
But the conservative majority on the court said the petition assumes that judges aren’t capable of determining for themselves when it is inappropriate or unethical for them to hear cases.
Daniel Kelly, a conservative appointed to the court by Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2016 to fill a vacancy left by a retiring justice, said the message to judges would be that they aren’t trustworthy.
“I think that’s caustic and inappropriate,” Kelly said, the Wisconsin State Journal reports.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has been a partisan battleground in recent years as it handled politically charged matters, such as deciding whether to permit an investigation into possible coordination between Gov. Walker’s recall election campaign and outside groups in 2011, the New York Times reported two years ago.
The Times wrote that the political battles “prompted reports of dysfunction and partisan discord on the [Wisconsin] Supreme Court.”
The court put a stop to the Walker probe in 2014, though it recently ordered some of the documents to be released to the public, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The Wisconsin State Journal said Thursday that the justices’ decision to reject the petition concerning campaign contributions to judges “comes during a long bout of public turmoil on the increasingly conservative, and fractious, court.”
The petition from retired judges asked that municipal judges recuse themselves in matters in which a party had donated $500 to their judicial election campaign. For circuit judges the amount would be $1,000; then $2,500 for appellate judges; and $2,500 for state supreme court justices. Under current law, donors can give up to $20,000 to candidates for the state supreme court, the Wisconsin State Journal reported in an earlier story.
Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley said such a rule would violate the U.S. Constitution because campaign donations are free speech, the Associated Press reports.
“The people of Wisconsin have a First Amendment right to speak out in favor of the judges they support and in opposition to the judges they oppose without being penalized,” Justice Bradley told the AP. “If a judge does not act with impartiality and integrity, that judge will answer to the people of Wisconsin on election day.”