7th Cir. Explains What Same-Sex Marriage and Voter ID Have in Common

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What do cases involving challenges to same-sex-marriage and voter ID laws have in common?

The answer, according to a per curiam opinion issued today by a panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Frank v. Walker, Nos. 14-2058 & 14-2059 (7th Cir. Sept. 30, 2014), is that both involve “laws enacted through the democratic process” that should “remain in force pending final decision by the Supreme Court.”

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7th Cir. Upholds Springfield's Panhandling Ordinance, Using a Historic Twist

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It can’t have happened often (if at all) that a retired Justice would decide a new case based on his reading of an opinion in which he dissented.

Yet that is precisely what happened in Thayer v. Worcester, 755 F.3d 60 (1st Cir. 2014) (Souter, J.), a First Circuit decision from earlier this year in which the now retired Justice Souter, writing for that court, upheld Worcester’s panhandling law using Justice Kennedy’s analysis from International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee, 505 U.S. 672 (1992)Lee was the latest decision (in a series of three) from the Supreme Court dealing with anti-panhandling laws and one in which Justice Souter had dissented.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court 2013-2014 Term Summary Part 3: Recap of Cases Affecting Wisconsin Businesses

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This post is the third in a series of posts analyzing the 2013-14 term of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. For our previous posts click here and here.

This post provides in a nutshell what businesses need to know about the cases from last year’s term of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

We already have written about a number of the key business-related cases on our blog:

In Data Key Partners v. Permira Advisors LLC, the court adopted the federal courts’ heightened pleading standard from Twombly and reaffirmed the importance of the business-judgment rule in shareholder litigation. (Post here.)

In Dow Family, LLC v. PHH Mortgage Corp., the court declared that the equitable-assignment doctrine is alive and well, and it held that the doctrine applied to the widely used (and controversial) electronic mortgage-registration system, more commonly known as MERS. (Posts here and here.)

In Associated Bank N.A. v. Collier, the court effectively overruled In re Badger Lines, Inc. and limited the lien that attaches in supplementary proceedings under Wis. Stat. ch. 816. (Post here.)

In Kimble v. Land Concepts, Inc., the court used its discretionary reversal power to reverse an award of punitive damages, holding that the award was unconstitutional. A statutory limit on punitive damages exists now, found in Wis. Stat. § 895.043(6). But if that statute is ever repealed, the court’s constitutional analysis in Kimble will substantially limit the availability of punitive damages in Wisconsin. (Post here.)

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Wisconsin Court of Appeals Provides a Lesson in Documenting the Settlement

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A recent case from the Wisconsin Court of Appeals demonstrates the necessity of properly documenting the details of a settlement after agreement is reached on the amount. In Singler v. Zurich American Insurance Co., 2014AP391, Robert Singler and Zurich American Insurance Co. agreed to settle Singler’s personal injury claims for $1.9 million on the eve of trial. It does not appear that the parties signed a formal settlement agreement, but instead documented the settlement in an exchange of letters between their counsel. In one communication, Zurich’s attorney indicated that it “would take at least a month to get the check authorized out of Australia,” but the parties never agreed on a specific date by which Zurich would provide the payment.

When Zurich still had not paid six weeks later, Singler asked the circuit court to assess interest under Wis. Stat. § 628.46(1), which lets claimants collect 12% interest if an insurer does not pay a claim within 30 days. The circuit court agreed and awarded Singler $23,112.42 in interest, on top of the settlement amount.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court 2013-2014 Term Summary Part 2: A Divided Court?

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This post is the second in a series of posts analyzing the 2013-14 term of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. For our previous post click here.

In our last post, we observed that the Wisconsin Supreme Court released unanimous opinions more quickly than non-unanimous opinions and that the court had released opinions very slowly this year. These two observations raise an important question: Is the Wisconsin Supreme Court an ideologically divided court? The answer to this question, based on the voting patterns of the seven justices in the court’s issued opinions, is no.

Only about 26% of the court’s opinions this term were 4-3 decisions (16/61). This number is up markedly from 2011-2012 (4) and from 2012-2013 (9). Yet, while three of four 4-3 decisions in 2011-12 had the same composition of those in the majority and those in dissent, 2012-13 had five different combinations, and 2013-14 had six:

  • Eight of these opinions had Justices Crooks, Roggensack, Ziegler, and Gableman in the majority and the Chief Justice, and Justices Bradley and Prosser in dissent.
  • Three of these opinions had Justices Prosser, Roggensack, Ziegler, and Gableman in the majority and the Chief Justice, and Justices Bradley and Crooks in dissent.
  • Two of the opinions saw the four most senior justices in the majority and the three most junior in dissent.
  • And there was one opinion each where the majority was (1) the Chief Justice, Justices Bradley, Prosser, and Roggensack; (2) the Chief Justice, Justices Bradley, Crooks, and Gableman; and (3) the Chief Justice, Justice Crooks, Prosser, and Gableman.

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