Friday Fail

  • By 7016489815
  • 10 Mar, 2017
I have some personal rules about laughing in court:

Rule 1 - Don't laugh in court
Rule 2 - If the Judge tells a joke, abandon Rule 1 and laugh loudly whether said joke was funny or not.
Rule 3 - Do not grin, smirk, or otherwise disrespect any victim or victim's family member making a heartfelt plea to the court.

The people mentioned in the below article should definitely have followed my personal rules.

Norland Law Firm LLC Blog

By 7016489815 10 Nov, 2017
A large percentage of the cases we handle involve changing existing placement orders. Those changes are subject to a state statute that greatly restricts a court's ability to change placement orders within two years of a "final judgment." I will spare you the technical legalities. Suffice it to say that, unless you can show the current placement order is harmful to the physical or emotional well-being of a child, you will not be able to make a substantial change to placement within that two year time frame.

This statute is meant to prevent parents from running back to court every time something changes in their, or their children's, lives. However, a side effect of this statute is that the court is prevented from substantially changing placement orders, even though significant changes may have occurred in the parents' or children's lives since that time. One area this is particularly relevant is in the case of a newborn child. A newborn has a completely different set of needs than a two year old, however current law prevents placement from changing within that two year period. This results in hard-fought, emotional litigation since the parents know that whatever the placement order from the court is, they will likely have to live with it for the next two years.

Two State legislators are sponsoring a bill to address this problem. Their bill would allow the court to anticipate future changes and create a placement schedule that would change along with those events. This would, hopefully, prevent parents from having to come back to court by allowing the court to craft a placement schedule that changes as parents lives change. 

I, for one, support this legislation. I believe the more flexible a judge or family court commissioner is allowed to be, the more a placement schedule can be crafted to suit the needs of each individual family. The Family Law Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin supports this legislation as well.

For an article on the proposed legislation click here

The proposed legislation is Assembly Bill 551 and the text of the bill itself can be found here

By 7016489815 20 Oct, 2017
It is not infrequent for one parent to want to relocate during a divorce. It is also relatively common for one parent to want to relocate if those parents were never married but share children together. Currently, Wisconsin law provides for system (albeit a confusing one) by which one parent is to notify the other of their intent to move.

  Current Law -  Right now, if you want to move more than 150 miles away from the other parent, or across state lines, you must provide written notice at least 60 days in advance. The other parent than has 15 days to respond to that notice if they object to that move. If they object you are prohibiting from moving with the children until the dispute is resolved. That will mean mediation and, if necessary a Guardian ad Litem, and the issue would eventually be decided by a judge or court commissioner if the parties cannot agree.

Proposed Changes -  A proposed bill would change the distance of the move triggering the notice requirement to 100 miles. It also addresses an issue that affects the La Crosse community frequently which is a short move across state lines, say to La Crescent, which under current law would require the notice described above. The bill purports to make the process easier, and to clarify what happens in the event a parent objects and the Court system becomes involved.

For those who are interested an article describing the proposal can be found here . The bill itself can be found here .

By 7016489815 08 Sep, 2017
A recent proposed bill to the Wisconsin Assembly would have increased consequences for some people convicted of multiple drunk drivings. In recent years the legislature has steadily increased drunk driving penalties. A new bill would permanently revoke the driver's license of any person convicted of a fourth offense drunk driving. It would also  permanently  revoke the driver's license of any person convicted of a second drunk driving who also were convicted of two or more additional serious crimes involving a vehicle. It is unclear what "serious crimes involving a vehicle" means exactly.

Repeat drunk driving is a huge problem in Wisconsin. In 2015 1/3 of the state-wide drunk driving convictions were for repeat offenders. A daily look at the news shows what a problem this can be. See here and here for evidence of that. 

What do you think? Is a permanent license revocation in addition to existing penalties enough? Is it too much? Feel free to weigh in below, but also contact your local Assembly Representative to let them know your thoughts. 
By 7016489815 23 Jun, 2017
It is (thankfully) the time of year when it is time to pull the cover off the boat and head out on the water for fun, sun, fishing, water-skiing, or whatever your favorite boating activity is. If you are like me, having a cold beer or two on a hot Saturday on the water is tough to beat. Few things are more relaxing than enjoying Wisconsin's many beautiful rivers and lakes. This post is a reminder, though, that if a beer or two turns into five or six, you could find yourself spending the weekend in handcuffs instead of relaxing on the water.

 Most people know the law in regards to drinking and driving. You cannot drive while impaired, and in the State of Wisconsin you are presumed to be impaired if your blood alcohol level is over a .08. What many people do not know is that the same presumption applies to Boating Under the Influence (BUI). The limit is .08 whether you're driving a vehicle on land or a boat in the water.

The penalties for BUI can include fines, impounded boats, or even jail time for a repeat offender. In addition, anyone operating a boat has been deemed to have   already consented  to an alcohol test by the DNR or other authority. 

Stay safe out there and have fun! For more information check out the BUI law in Wisconsin here:
By 7016489815 12 May, 2017
Recently Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to be more harsh in the sentences they seek. He wants longer prison times and longer commitment periods for all crime, including non-violent drug offenders. This is contrary to the strategy put in place by the Obama administration.

It is easy to get wrapped up in believing that harsher penalties = less crime. The reality is that is simply not the case. Decades worth of research supports "evidence based" sentencing practices which focus on rehabilitation of the offender, connection to local community resources, and court ordered community based treatment. These methods have been shown to greatly reduce the rate of recidivism of those convicted of a crime. This is particularly true in cases involving non-violent offenders and other offenders where the root cause of their criminal behavior lies in mental health or substance abuse issues.

Harsher sentencing often has the opposite of the intended effect. By alienating people from the outside world for an extended period of time, we create a nearly impossible situation for them upon release. They have been out of the job market during their incarceration. Upon release many have no housing, no job, and no prospects for either of those things. They have no money and no way to obtain an income. Worse yet, we haven't treated the underlying issue. Many people in that situation find themselves turning to crime. They see no other alternative.

Attorney General Sessions' directive, combined with the Trump Administrations policy against the legalization of marijuana, are likely to jam our prisons and have negative impacts on our communities for generations to come.  The only people winning from this directive are the people running the large for-profit prison conglomerates. The rich get richer, and the poor get locked up.

I encourage you all to do the research for yourselves. I am not saying no offender should be incarcerated. I am saying that unless we address the root of the problem, we only make the problem worse.

For the press release on Attorney General Sessions directive click here:

For more information on evidence-based sentencing practices a wealth of information can be found here:
By 7016489815 21 Apr, 2017
This Friday's post considers an issue I have seen raise its head multiple times in divorce proceedings. What happens to a couple's beloved furry (or scaly if that's your thing) pets in a divorce? Certainly, to most people, our pets are far more important to us than the dining room set, or the bedroom furniture. However, Wisconsin divorce law treats pets as property to be distributed the same way as the exercise equipment or kitchen appliances. To most people, myself included, this fact represents one of many areas where the law does not accurately reflect reality. Most of us consider our pets as part of the family. They mean more to us than normal property items. We love them in a way we do not love our big screen TVs. And they love us back, and have feelings and emotions of their own. 

There are many ways to address this deficiency in divorce law. Some people are proponents of changing the law so that pets are essentially treated the same as children in a divorce. Some people are proponents of keeping the law as it is, and treating our pets like any other property item we own. Perhaps there is a middle ground. Some states have addressed this problem in their family law statutes already. The article below highlights one example. What do you think? Should pets be treated differently in divorce actions?
By 7016489815 24 Mar, 2017
In today's digital age it is easy to forget that as you sit behind your keyboard and type, or on your phone to post to Facebook or Tweet, that what you are posting or tweeting can have very real consequences. In many ways your behavior online can be legally treated the same as if it were face to face contact. Bullying, harassment, threats, and in some cases even assault over the internet can be chargeable offenses. As a family law attorney I see this a lot. Even in situations where inappropriate online behavior does not result in criminal charges, you may still have to answer for your actions in family court, particularly during battles for custody and placement. The best advice I can give is that if you would/should not say it to someone's face, do not say it to them online. For an interesting example of how a Tweet can turn into an assault charge check out this article:
By 7016489815 17 Mar, 2017
For a perfect example of how the law does not always reflect the will of the people, we need look no further than March Madness and the office pool you are probably a part of right now. Don't worry, this does not mean you are going to be in trouble, or that you shouldn't post on social media about how you totally knew that 12-seed would beat that 5-seed. But, if you run or are part of an office pool, the below article may shed some light on where those pools sit from a legal standpoint. Remember - You aren't likely to get in any sort of trouble for hosting or participating in a bracket pool, but it certainly doesn't hurt to be informed.
By 7016489815 10 Mar, 2017
I have some personal rules about laughing in court:

Rule 1 - Don't laugh in court
Rule 2 - If the Judge tells a joke, abandon Rule 1 and laugh loudly whether said joke was funny or not.
Rule 3 - Do not grin, smirk, or otherwise disrespect any victim or victim's family member making a heartfelt plea to the court.

The people mentioned in the below article should definitely have followed my personal rules.
By 7016489815 03 Mar, 2017
I am going to try to create a blog post every Friday on an issue that is pertinent to Wisconsin as a whole, and of some legal significance. What better way to start than by addressing a problem that most Wisconsin residents either don't know exists, or if they know of its existence many times they do not know how pervasive of an issue it actually is.

Wisconsin incarcerates African-Americans and Native Americans at a greater disparity than any other State in the country. Not a statistic we want to be number one in. The theories behind how this happened, and the answers on how to fix it vary greatly and in all likelihood there is not just one answer. Mandatory minimum jail/prison sentences and tough penalties on non-violent drug offenders seem to be not only choking our justice system but also disproportionately impacting minority citizens.  Further complicating the problem is the fact that no politician or lawmaker wants to be seen as "soft" on crime, meaning these minimums are unlikely to go away. Instead, we see maximum and minimum penalties increase and incarceration levels increase as each new crop of politicians tries to be "tougher" on crime than their predecessor.

La Crosse County is more forward-thinking than most, in that we embrace the idea of "Evidence Based" sentencing practices. In other words, evidence shows that incarceration can create a career criminal out of a first time offender, and that incarceration for drug abuse issues is often counterproductive to society as a whole. Supervision and treatment statistically are superior to incarceration if the goal is preventing offenders from re-offending. The problem is, that goal also conflicts with the goal of punishment. Many Wisconsin residents believe punishment, not rehabilitation should be the primary focus of our criminal justice system.

The State Bar of Wisconsin today published an article touching on this issue. See the link below. I have no magic wand for how to fix it, but I think La Crosse's focus on Evidence Based sentencing practices is a good start, and other counties around the State are beginning to craft similar approaches to their criminal courts as well. I think, most importantly, in order to find answers we need to first have a discussion, and I hope posts like this will help. What do you think? Feel free to comment and share.
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