The Third Branch
Courts across Wisconsin celebrate Law Day
Several counties throughout the state and the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Wisconsin hosted Law Day events on May 1 in recognition of our nation's commitment to the rule of law. This year's theme, "Realizing the Dream: Equality for All," marks 150 years since Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 years since Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
In Bayfield County, Judge John P. Anderson worked with the local bar and court staff to develop a mock trial that brought 90 local students to the courthouse on Law Day. Photo credit: Denise Nordin, deputy clerk of circuit court
|Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan B. Colas opened Dane County's Law Day celebration by urging fellow judges, court staff, lawyers and paralegals to combat injustices in whatever manner they are able.|
|Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson was honored as a ‘Champion of the Law' by Globe University in Eau Claire when she served as keynote speaker at the school's Law Day celebration. Presenting the award were Patti Salimes, chair of the school's Criminal Justice Program, and Jeffrey Ahonen, chair of the Paralegal Program.|
The 2013 theme celebrates the achievements of the civil rights movement and encourages continued efforts toward the ideal of equality under the law.
Statewide, the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Wisconsin celebrated Law Day by pairing lawyers with students in 30 Wisconsin classrooms. There were also a number of counties that organized their own celebrations.
In Bayfield County, Judge John P. Anderson held a mock trial with the local teen court in for 90 students.
In Dane County, the bar and circuit court developed several activities at the courthouse. Local attorneys put on two mock trials in which middle- and high-school and paralegals served on the jury. Continuing legal education presentations on limited scope representation were offered, and a Pro Bono Fair provided information about volunteer opportunities with 14 community agencies and organizations. In addition, the Dane County Legal Resource Center collaborated with lawyers to provide free consultations in Spanish and English to the public throughout the day. The lawyers consulted with at least 35 individuals.
In his opening remarks for the annual Law Day reception at the Dane County Courthouse, Judge Juan B. Colas noted that "there has been a great movement toward equality in the last 150 years" but that inequality remains and "there is still much to be done.
"Lawyers, judges, court staff must have eyes open to see injustice and inequality when it presents itself, and within the ethical limits of our roles, within our capacity and the constraint of the rule of law, must act against that injustice and inequality," Colas said. "In that way, each doing our own small part, we can continue and build upon the progress that has been made so that dream that Martin Luther King spoke of is more and more fully realized."
In Douglas County, Judge Kelly J. Thimm and local attorneys visited with students in Superior schools. Local attorneys also provided free legal guidance at the public library.
In Eau Claire County, Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson spoke to a gathering of Globe University students from the paralegal and criminal justice programs who gathered along with members of the public at the Luther Auditorium.
"In our lives, each of you can, in a small way, work for equality," she told the group. "Stand up and have courage to make sure that all people have equal opportunity. That is equality for all."
In Manitowoc County, Judge Patrick L. Willis followed his tradition of working with the local bar and courthouse staff to present a mock trial for area children. He presided in the trial of the three little pigs. Second-grade students from several local schools attended this annual Law Day event.
In Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee Bar Association (MBA) provided free legal information clinics on the Saturday following Law Day at four metro Milwaukee locations. Ten volunteer lawyers helped 75 people during the course of the day.
"The legal clinics are part of the National Law Day Education Program which is in its 55th year," said Britt Wegner, Director of the MBA's Lawyer Referral and Information Service.
In Sheboygan County, more than 150 middle school students were welcomed on the courthouse steps with a re-enactment from Sheboygan Atty. William Holbrook, who played the role of Judge David Taylor, who practiced law in Sheboygan in the 1840s, was later elected first to the state Assembly and then to the state Senate, and ultimately served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court for 13 years.
Judge James J. Bolgert then led a mock trial, as he has for 17 years, according to an extensive article on the event in the Sheboygan Press. This year, the mock trial involved a student who allegedly spray-painted graffiti on the courthouse in the middle of the night (he was found guilty and the "judge" – a student – sentenced him to a substantial term of incarceration). Press reporter Kali Thiel also noted that Sheboygan County Sheriff Todd Priebe talked to the students about emergency calls and how evidence in collected, and two local attorneys explained how laws are made.