Jennifer Dorow’s Unsound Judgement On Mingling Guns And Alcohol Calls Into Question Her Suitability For High Court

When I think of Wisconsin Supreme Court justices my mental image constructs a serious person with law books and one of those expensive type pens that write smoothly and has a nice heft when held. I recall the mesh market bag that held at least ten legal tomes as Wisconsin Justice Shirley Abramson placed them into the back of my car for a trip to Door County. She was a guest speaker at an event packaged by our legislative office, and I readily introduced my sincere interest in being her means of transportation. I would argue she best exemplified and epitomized a member of the high court in both intellect and legal reasoning, as well as temperament and personal composure. After all, that court must be viewed as a place of decorum and high personal standards.

I have been giving thought about the type of person best suited to sit on the court as our state enters the final weeks of a primary contest where four candidates vying to fill the seat of a retiring conservative member. (Place aside for the moment that merit selection would be a wiser and more appropriate way to fill seats on the court.) There is no way to not think about the type of person we need on the court, especially when reading the news this weekend.  One of the candidates, Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow, has been constructing a business plan in Delafield for an indoor gun range with a liquor license.  Potentially alcohol-fueled guests could also buy firearms and accessories on-site and use them on a shooting range.  One might assume there will be convenient cups and glass holders near to where the bullets are stored for easy access for the paying guests as they load the deadly weapons. I have never heard of a more potentially dangerous business plan. 

Nothing of this type has come before the local Marquette Neighborhood Association, where over the years I have attended meetings on proposals for many an entrepreneurial design. While many were interested in making money and having success with their venture, no one would have ever so foolishly entertained the marriage of alcohol and guns.  Dorow is just plain wrong to play so close to potential injury, or worse, as she seeks to make money.  This business plan, in and of itself, serves notice as to why she is not fit to sit on the Supreme Court.

Our state has many complex and weighty issues that percolate up to the court that then await the review and findings of the justices. Citizens obviously have sincere, and at times, very diverse opinions as to the proper outcome of such cases.  But win or lose, at the end of the day, the populace must have a feeling the justices are credible individuals. Folks around the state most likely are not much aware of the nuances of the law and state statutes, but they can relate to the foundations that a justice must first have a solid character and basic common sense as a prerequisite for being elected.

Dorow alerts us to her lack of seriousness for statewide office as a justice when she endorsed combining alcohol sales, gun sales, and a shooting range.  Why not ask for a daycare center in an adjoining room?

High Capacity Wells And Farming In Hancock, Wisconsin

I rarely think about The Agriculturalist, a publication aimed at the farming community.  Other than a relative recently talking about how Grandpa Schwarz read it, which brought back memories of seeing it in their rural farmhouse, I had not thought about it for decades.  But this week someone who knows about my interest in groundwater issues in the Hancock area, the place I grew up, made me aware of a story about farming and irrigation in that long-forgotten source for farming information.  

The story centered on Jim Bacon who farms 6,050 owned and rented acres with his family near Hancock in central Wisconsin.  There is no need to remind readers why farmers are an essential sector of our economy. I have long championed farmers for the part they serve with international relations as their products are very much a part of diplomatic underpinnings with other nations through, as an example, massive grain and beef sales. But farmers also have a deep responsibility for the land and the groundwater which allows them success and profits.

Farmers in the Central Sands rely heavily on irrigation to grow crops on very sandy soils. One hundred percent of the land the Bacons farm is irrigated with 60 center pivots.

Bacon is grateful for irrigation, adding, “We need the water to farm, and we need to manage it properly for future generations.”

I was truly pleased that Bacon added that managing water for future generations is important. Because it is!  I would have liked to know more about his thinking and what practices he undertakes to meet his desires for the future. That would have seemed a logical progression of the news story. But the reporter/writer for The Agriculturalist did not seem to inquire of Bacon what that type of managing entails or write one line about the negative impact of high-capacity wells. 

There is another side to this story from Fran O’Leary, of course, and it deals with the overuse of irrigation for the profits of large farming businesses.

In the area where I grew up the conversation about high-capacity irrigation wells has taken on a louder and more robust tone over the past decade.  It is pitting farmers against those who wish for more considerate and wise use of natural resources.  The numbers speak for themselves when looking at the menacing side of these wells.  In the early 1950s, there were fewer than 100 high-capacity wells in the Central Sands, while today there are more than 3,000.  That is 40% of the state’s total — in just a six-county area!

In 2021, I was very pleased with the truly tremendous victory from the Wisconsin State Supreme Court for science, the environment, and the authority of experts in state agencies to craft rules (that was not a small victory, mind you) that work for all residents when they strongly affirmed the Department of Natural Resources has the authority to place permit restrictions on high-capacity wells in order to protect the state’s water.  The Court had also ruled that same day about having the power to regulate through rulemaking huge livestock enterprises which pollute groundwater. 

The majority Court decision, written by Justice Jill Karofsky, found the DNR “had the explicit authority” to impose both permit conditions in order to “assure compliance” with limitations on discharged waste and groundwater protection standards. Justice Rebecca Dallet wrote in the court’s majority opinion that the state Legislature “has granted the DNR the broad but explicit authority to consider the environmental effects of a proposed high capacity well.”

My concern about water issues has been a decades-long journey.  I still recall the woman, in the 1990s, holding the jar of cloudy and unappealing-looking water taken from her kitchen tap in Kewaunee County prior to driving to the Madison office of her state assemblyman. What she made clear to Representative Lary Swoboda was the harmful impact the water would have on her children.  She offered to leave it on my desk so I would not forget her plight.

I fondly recall biking again and again to a local lake in Hancock as a teenager, and though not knowing how to swim, loving to wade about and cool off. As an adult, it became clear that the groundwater concerns from locals were not just irrational fears but were coming from first-hand accounts of new homeowners needing to go deeper and deeper when digging a well. My dad, Royce Humphrey, had a second well, located near our garden plot near County KK, go dry when I was a young adult.

While the past two years have allowed for Hancock lakes to be very full, that does not diminish the long-term data about the groundwater and the impact of high-capacity wells in the area. The need to better regulate the permits is a necessity, given that such wells can withdraw more than 100,000 gallons of water a day from the ground.

Dad and Lary had passed away by the time the Court ruled, but I knew how pleased they would be with the rulings. Dad served 40 years as a Hancock Town Supervisor, trying to press in his low-key style the need to be mindful of natural resources. Lary, who served for 24 years in the Assembly, had wished for a more forceful ability to constrain farm runoffs into local streams. What they both understood and knew very well to be true was that wise and judicious use of the groundwater is something that requires continued vigilance.

I am glad that Bacon alluded to that idea in his statement to The Agriculturalist and only wish the reporter would have written an article that was aimed to allow for a better understanding of the issues surrounding irrigation.

Perpetually Litigious WILL Takes Loss At Supreme Court Over Biden’s Student Relief Program

It goes without saying that there are many smiles around Wisconsin following the news that the Supreme Court rejected a request from a conservative advocacy operation in the Badger State aimed at thwarting President Biden’s student loan debt relief program.  Since the request was flawed in its conception it comes as little surprise that conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett denied the emergency application to block the program. The challenge to the plan came from the Brown County Taxpayers Association. 

The loan relief plan, which has strong merits for being set in motion, and is set to begin taking effect this weekend, could cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for millions of borrowers.  The plan cancels $10,000 in debt for those earning less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 per household, and $20,000 for those who received Pell grants for low-income families.  The taxpayer group was ginned up and aided by the continually discontented Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a group that has never met an idea of social value it did not oppose. They had already suffered a defeat when a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the suit, saying the group lacked legal standing to stall Biden’s effort.

Legal minds and policy analysts have stood by the research contained in the now rather famous memo from the Department of Education, which was partly written by Toby Merrill.  He was helpful in creating the Predatory Student Lending program, aimed at cracking down on ruthless lending practices on low-income borrowers. It was his draft of a key legal analysis arguing that President Biden has the authority to cancel student loan debt through executive action that has so riled and energized the ones who now aim to stop the needed program.

“Congress has granted the Secretary a more specific and unrestricted authority to create and to cancel or modify debt owed under federal student loan programs in the Higher Education Act (HEA) itself.” The legal analysis in the memo pointed to a key provision that gives the President, via the Secretary of Education, broad authority to “compromise, waive, or release” a borrower’s obligation on federal student loan debt. It should be noted that many student loan borrower advocacy organizations and members of Congress have cited this analysis to support their argument that Biden should cancel student loan debt using executive action.

Tonight, we can be glad that WILL was bounced by a conservative justice, but knowing the zeal that the perpetually litigious-minded thrive on we know more such battles are in the offing.  I am, however, confident that the law is on the side of Biden and the former students in this land.

Supreme Court Starts Session With Win For Gun Control Safety In America

The new session of the U.S. Supreme Court started out with an action that runs in alignment with a major theme of this blog, gun safety in the nation.  The Court rejected two appeals by gun owners seeking to overturn the federal government’s ban on the sale of bump stocks.  Those stocks are the shortened term for devices that allow a semiautomatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger.  It is not difficult to understand why that item is most undesirable, and why the ban was implemented. The ban was one of the very few policy moves from the one term of Donald Trump with which I could voice strong agreement.

The only way to report this story is from the perspective of the safety factor as the ban is a way to stem the furthering of gun violence this nation faces daily. The action of the court in their rejection of the cases is a significant victory for gun control advocates and supports the role our government has undertaken–though far too timidly–with efforts to regulate very dangerous weapons.

Why these cases being shunted out the Court door matters is that knuckle-draggers who sought to undo the ban tried to suggest the government did not have authority to ban bump stocks under the National Firearms Act, a law enacted in 1934 to regulate machine guns. In 1968, the Gun Control Act expanded the definition of a machine gun to include accessories “for use in converting a weapon” into a machine gun, and the ATF concluded under the Trump Administration, when it issued the ban, that bump stocks meet that definition. I found fault with the ATF under the Obama administration when that agency ruled bump stocks should not be classified as a “machinegun” and therefore should not be banned under federal law. 

Bump stocks are accessories for semi-automatic rifles, such as the popular AR-15-style weapons that have been used in a plethora of mass shootings in our country. They use the recoil energy of a trigger pull to enable the user to fire up to hundreds of rounds a minute. That is simply insanity that needed to be curbed. It took the mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead before the ATF acted during Trump’s time in office, and credit needs to be given where it is due. After all, what more needs to happen to show the bump stock ban was necessary. The Vegas shooter used assault-style rifles to fire more than 1,000 rounds in 11 minutes into the crowd of 22,000 music fans.

For rational and common-sense people in the nation who fully understand and desire that logical regulations be placed on the sale of guns and their “particular attributes”, today was a solid win. Not a bad way to start a Monday morning or the first day of a new session of the Court.

Wisconsin Justice Brian Hagedorn Correct: “The Business Of Courts Is Public Business”

The ruling Friday from the Wisconsin State Supreme Court was direct and to the point. The request from those bringing suit against the Madison School District to remain anonymous was denied in a case dealing with a gender identity policy. They must disclose their identities to attorneys arguing the case. The court did allow them to proceed using pseudonyms publicly.

There are many perspectives that can be had about the policy and its implications on both transgender youth, and parents or guardians of those children. I will not wade into that fight, but rather wish to write about the process of open and transparent government that must be adhered to if all are to be treated and viewed fairly.

If our system of government is to be open and transparent there can be no justification for keeping the names of those seeking redress through the court system secret.  As Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote in the majority opinion, “While we protect certain vulnerable legal participants, such as children and crime victims, the business of courts is public business, and as such is presumed to remain open and available to the public.”

If one can not stand in the light of day to their convictions when seeking a remedy in the court system then perhaps there is a problem with the position that they are privately taking. 

It should be remembered John Hancock used a large bold script when signing the Declaration of Independence, so large in fact that ”…fat George can read it without his spectacles.”  That should be the model of our convictions today.  If people can not publically stand by their views as expressed in court proceedings and are ashamed of having their names made known in the press or seen in the public square, we need to ask why they seek cover?

When one lobbies in any fashion for the government to take any action it should be public knowledge.  The consequences of using a conservative law practice to attempt, through the court process, to hide and harbor those who bring a suit when perhaps they are not even living in the school district or have students in our Madison schools run counter to the openness that our government should always strive to maintain.  (The same holds true for the individual who signs a petition concerning a heated issue.)

This issue of anonymity should not be a conservative vs. liberal issue but instead viewed as one of strict adherence to higher ideals. A good government issue. A process concern about how to proceed when our judicial system operates.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a favorite of conservatives, spoke to this issue in oral arguments regarding individuals seeking anonymity for signing a petition to get policy matters on the ballot. The oral argument was in John Doe # 1, et al., v. Reed, et al. (09-559)

Declaring that the rough-and-tumble of democracy is not for the faint-hearted, what Scalia referred to as the “touchy, feely” sensitivity of some political activists, the Justice said “you can’t run a democracy” with political activity behind a First Amendment shroud.  “You are asking us to enter into a whole new field,” Scalia told James Bopp Jr., the lawyer for Washington State signers of an anti-gay rights petition.  Politics, the Justice went on, “takes a certain amount of civic courage.  The First Amendment does not protect you from civic discourse — or even from nasty phone calls.” 

Scalia was most correct with that point.

Let me be most direct. The higher ideals of our state and the judicial process can not be made hostage to the fears of retaliation.  If that had been the case at the beginning of our national story Thomas Jefferson would never have set quill to parchment.

Would it not be great if, in the face of this needless court case concerning Madison schools, brought by people who may not even have any direct connection to the district, we could fully recognize the need for openness and transparency about how our court system must continually operate?

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Some Wisconsin Progressives Must Share Blame For Supreme Court Abortion Debacle

It is fair to say that conservative justices on the Supreme Court embraced an ideological position from which they ruled when handing down the decision that undid the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. No one can pretend the ruling was framed with only the law in mind, as the playbook for this result was fashioned from the likes of the Federalist Society along with the decades of work by politicians such as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. They sought an outcome from the Court and did everything in their power to have it realized. Even if the law and precedent had to be stepped over so to achieve it.

The blowback of the citizenry that has occurred over the past several days is not surprising. We are seeing only the start of what will be a relentless and searing rhetorical effort to steer voters to the ballot box in this fall’s mid-term elections. Whether or not the issue of abortion is so baked into the partisan DNA of the voters already, or if there is room to energize more votes for Democrats in key races will be what politicos watch play out this summer and fall.

While conservatives on the Court are correctly taking the bulk of the anger and outrage since Friday morning, it does need to be pointed out there is another segment of the nation that also needs to be accountable for the tossing away of Roe. Those people were the purists in the Democratic Party or that segment of the independent vote that could not see the wisdom of supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016.

It was noted often on this blog how I felt about the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. At the time of the 2016 Democratic Convention, I stated the following.

Bernie Sanders was out of the race for the nomination by mid-March with no mathematical way forward.  Still, however, the socialist thought he could take over the Democratic Party.  Instead of bowing out gracefully, he bore down harder still into the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

It also should not come as any surprise to those who supported Sanders for the nomination that races are tough and politics means someone wins and someone loses.  If one is not aware of that simple fact it means they really should not be weighing in on the larger and far more complex issues that face the nation.

Basic politics underscores that no candidate in good conscience would seek to undermine the eventual nominee of the party. The results of such a strategy are dangerous. Continued bombast from the far left about Clinton aided in too many of them sitting out the 2016 presidential election or voting for someone that had zero chance of winning.

Clearly, pragmatism was not underlined as a needed component in politics and governing when civics was being taught in some classrooms. But it is very much an essential ingredient to our political dynamics, and when it is missing or willingly tossed aside, we then have election outcomes that produce a Donald Trump sitting in the Oval Office.

In Wisconsin in 2016, Democrats needed roughly 20,000 more votes to carry it for Clinton. The numbers were roughly the same for Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Had those three states found their common sense the electoral college would have been 270 for Hillary Clinton. As I often write on CP, not only must we vote—but we must always vote intelligently,

Consider that in Wisconsin the amount Clinton lost by was less than the 30,981 votes Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein garnered statewide to get 1.1 percent of the total.  Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson took 3.6 percent of the statewide total or 106,434 votes.   

As a result of Trump winning the presidency, he had the opportunity to name three Supreme Court appointments, and those three justices were critical to the ruling that now places women across large swaths of the nation no longer being able to make their own reproductive health decisions.

There is absolutely a need to hold conservatives accountable for what was handed down from the Court. But if we are honest, there also must be a recognition of those progressives and independents who cared more about some notion of ‘purity’, than for the greater political and policy needs of the nation. Those people can try to duck, weave, and spin their yarns but they, too, are very much a part of the reason Roe was undermined.

Newspaper Front Pages: Ideological Blow From Supreme Court Against Roe v. Wade

Friday a majority of the males on the United States Supreme Court stepped away from the law and squarely mired themselves into their political, cultural, and religious beliefs as they dealt a blow not only to abortion rights in the nation, but also to the longheld understanding regarding the importance of precedence guiding our judicial system.

This morning I gathered up a wide cross-section of front pages of newspapers from this nation, including Hawaii, to underscore the seismic consequence of placing ideologues on the high court. As can be seen on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle the lead heading also noted the sinister concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas as he threatened both sales of contraceptives in the nation, along with the right to gay marriage.

It is also worth noting that Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins is the only elected official that I can find (from about 100 papers) being placed on the front page (Portland Press Herald) for her spineless behavior during confirmation hearings for justices to the Court.

The nation has been offered too many examples of Collins’ glibness and silliness as she prattles on about being duped by others. I know she was unsettled Friday by the court ruling, was dismayed this morning, and surely will be distressed by cocktail hour. Once again we are reminded of how delusional she continues to be about her senatorial duties.

This is the same conservative senator who actually said after the first impeachment process of Donald Trump that “I believe that the president has learned from this case”. There is no way someone like that should not have a guardian.

Now, here is a wide selection of how the nation is reading of the assault on abortion rights in the United States.

Justice Thomas Writes Opinion For Rolling Back Gay Marriage, Contraceptive Sales, But Did Not Mention Loving v. Virginia

There is plenty of reason to feel ashamed of the Supreme Court today for its purely partisan and doctrinaire ruling which overturned Roe. v. Wade. With no regard for the social realities of the early 21st century, a majority of the males on the court tossed aside precedent and dived into the idealogic depths. They view women as birthing chambers, as the powerfully worded dissent correctly stated, “from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of.”

While the abortion ruling was one the nation knew was coming for a couple months, the gravity of the ruling and the explosion of emotions and political consequences which will follow surely will be quite unlike anything we have witnessed before in the nation. At a time the political divides are already severe, and the anger among citizens is at an intense level, the court opted for a highly partisan and purely ideological ruling rather than a measured and competent address of the issue at hand.

As if the ruling itself was not jarring and threatening enough to the nation, Justice Clarence Thomas in his cold and calculating conservative concurring opinion called for overturning the constitutional rights the court had affirmed for access to contraceptives and LGBTQ rights. This, too, was not totally a surprise as many, including this blog, have argued since the leak of today’s ruling, that they were the next steps of the conservatives in the judiciary. Some commented on this site that I was basically exaggerating.

But those registering concern about the undermining and stripping away of other rulings were not just blowing smoke.

Reading the separate opinion today by Thomas allowed us to understand his initial view that the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization did not directly affect any rights besides abortion. But then in his customary angry nature that is often seen while sitting petulantly in silence during oral arguments, or his 19th-century views when writing, he argued that the constitution’s Due Process Clause does not secure a right to an abortion or any other substantive rights, and he urged the court to apply that reasoning to other landmark cases.

Thomas stunningly wrote, “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”

Oddly, Thomas left out the famed Loving v. Virginia, the landmark civil rights decision that ruled that laws banning interracial marriage violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. His marriage seemed not to need judicial review.

As we know from years of following the Court and also following legal scholars and noted writers the reckless action today that produced a tingling thrill for conservatives when overturning the landmark decades-old abortion decision, now leaves other precedents vulnerable.

I fully understand that the typical person in Topeka or Green Bay is not pondering the long-term consequences of today’s ruling. But those who follow the cases at the Supreme Court and the politics of moving certain cases forward, and the means by which they make such a journey, do pay attention.

That is why it was sophomoric and utterly ridiculous for anyone to claim two months ago that gay people in our nation had nothing to worry about regarding our marriage rights. What we warned was a possibility was put into writing today by a Supreme Court Justice.

A black man who was able to marry a white woman because of a Supreme court ruling.

Irony is very much alive.