State Crime and Court Roundup: Court to decide whether domestic partner registry is constitutionalWisconsin News
-- A state appeals court is refusing to touch the question of whether Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry is constitutional.
A state appeals court is refusing to touch the question of whether Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry is constitutional. The Fourth District Appellate Court asked the State Supreme Court yesterday to decide the matter, calling it a “novel constitutional issue with statewide significance.” Democrats and former Governor Jim Doyle created the domestic partner registry in 2009. It allows same-sex couples to have about one-fifth of the benefits of married couples – including the right to inherit each other’s property, visit partners in hospitals, and make end-of-life decisions. The Wisconsin Family Action group believes the registry violates the 2006 constitutional amendment against gay marriage and civil unions. The group went directly to the Supreme Court to try-and-block the registry from taking effect – but the justices said the opponents had to go through the lower courts first. Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser upheld the domestic partner registry last year. The group Fair Wisconsin is defending the program in court. It says domestic partnership rights are different than marital obligations.
A federal judge in Green Bay says two companies will not have to pay to remove harmful PCB’s from Little Lake Butte des Morts and northward portions of the Fox River from Oshkosh. Judge William Griesbach agreed that Appleton Papers and NCR cannot be held solely responsible for discharging the chemicals during the 1950’s-and-‘60’s. Federal and state officials agreed that the two firms were not directly involved in polluting the waterways – but they should still be held liable for arranging to have other paper firms dump their toxic waste into the lake and river. An effort continues to determine which companies should pay for the clean-up work.
A group that seeks to improve Wisconsin’s criminal justice system is holding a listening session in Milwaukee next week. State Attorney General J-B Van Hollen is inviting people to attend the session, which begins at 5:30 on Tuesday evening at U-W Milwaukee’s school of Continuing Education. Van Hollen and state Corrections Secretary Gary Hamblin co-chair the Wisconsin Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Among other things, it seeks to improve cooperation between state government and local law enforcement agencies. Governor Scott Walker created the council in April. It has held listening sessions in Green Bay and Eau Claire.
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman will not have to withdraw from cases argued by a law firm that gave him free legal help a couple years ago. On a 3-3 vote yesterday, the other justices decided not to hold a hearing on whether Gableman should have pulled out of a case that involved the siting of a large livestock facility in Rock County. Attorneys in the case asked Gableman to recuse himself in January, saying there were questions of impropriety because attorneys from Michael Best and Friedrich were involved in the matter. That’s the firm which represented Gableman when he won an ethics case in 2010 – and the attorneys never billed him for their services. Gableman’s three fellow conservative justices ruled that a hearing on his involvement in the livestock was not required. David Prosser, Pat Roggensack, and Annette Ziegler wrote that the Supreme Court does not involuntarily remove justices from pending cases. But Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said Gableman’s conservative colleagues should have analyzed the reasons that he didn’t withdraw – and they should have gone into more depth on the grounds for which the recusal was sought. The chief justice said Gableman did not mention the concern over his free legal services when he wrote his formal decision not to pull out of the livestock siting case.