March 25, 2012

At the Wisconsin Supreme Court today...





... I served as one of the 7 justices hearing the final stage of the Evans Moot Court Competition. Look how lovely the hearing room is!

ADDED: Someone took a picture of me:

53 comments:

Beta Rube said...

Did you choke anyone?

Aridog said...

For God's sake, I hope they never let the "Occupiers" in there.

Irene said...

In whose chair did you sit?

deborah said...

Impressive.

AllieOop said...

This is a beautiful room, much smaller than I thought it would be when attending my daughter's swearing in ceremony in 2006. A solemn and impressive event, when they went up one by one to sign that massive book.

Rockeye said...

I married my first wife in the WI SC chambers back in the mid-80s. The chamber of self-inflicted woe I should say.

MadisonMan said...

Did it make you want to run for SC? You could be cruelly neutral there.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Someone forgot to lay out the silverware.

Ann Althouse said...

"In whose chair did you sit?"

Not sure. Second from the right (as viewed from the lawyers).

"Did it make you want to run for SC? You could be cruelly neutral there."

Absolutely not. I've said it time and again: I do not have judicial temperament. I like to have my fun. I like to speak subversively. I like to write a blog maybe some judges like to read!

Palladian said...

Is the room skylit?

Ann Althouse said...

"Is the room skylit?"

No. It's completely enclosed. No windows at all.

Irene said...

"Not sure. Second from the right (as viewed from the lawyers)."

I'm pretty sure that that is the seat of Justice Five, Justice Patience Roggensack.

Palladian said...

Interesting, the overhead light looks very much like a natural light spectrum.

The color palette of the wall paintings looks like fresco.

YoungHegelian said...

The painting at the far end of the second photo you posted seems to be the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymeade.

The other painting is of some Greco-Roman court/Senate kind of scene, but I can't tell what it's about.

What is it a painting of?

edutcher said...

I was going to say I'll bet it's a lot livelier when there are people opinionating and chokeholding and stuff.

But, yes, a very splendid venue.

We had respect for government in those days.

Ann Althouse said...

Did it make you want to run for SC? You could be cruelly neutral there.

Absolutely not. I've said it time and again: I do not have judicial temperament. I like to have my fun. I like to speak subversively.


We love it when you let your inner vixen out.

Is the room skylit?

No. It's completely enclosed. No windows at all.


Fortified from the hoi and the polloi.

garage mahal said...

Beautiful. Democracy. Interrupted.

Ann Althouse said...

Here's a description of the paintings.

One is the Magna Carta.

garage mahal said...

Congrats on the opportunity to judge the Moot Court Competition. How cool! Hopefully Palladian will dive into an interpretation of the paintings.

Cornroaster said...

Hopefully, none of the other justices put you in a chokehold.

MadisonMan said...

It's unfortunate that they sequestered you inside, windowless, on a beautiful late March day. At least there wasn't the agony of looking outside and seeing what you were missing.

David said...

Pretty cool.

Did you make the contestants nervous?

FedkaTheConvict said...

Second from the left is Prosser's chair.

edutcher said...

Serious question about how moot courts work:

The Blonde, in her Legal Nurse Consultant days, always wanted to participate in a moot court.

Do they allow other professionals to participate or is it just budding lawyers and profs only?

gail said...

I read the competition announcement and see it was based on a ficticious school choice issue with freedom from religion and single sex schools as the injunction basis.

Professor, could you share some of your impressions of the competitors, their arguments, and your summary thoughts of the competition? Just curious if there happened to be a future SC judge in the group, and wondering if the law school rankings are reflected in this type of competition. thank you.

Ann Althouse said...

"Serious question about how moot courts work..."

These competitions are only for law students.

Mutaman said...

Not familiar with the local court rules in Wisconsin but many states prohibit the taking of photographs in a courtroom whether court is in session of not. Did the ol professer break the law? And remember Ann, ignorance is no defense.

3/25/12 9:35 P

Ann Althouse said...

"Professor, could you share some of your impressions of the competitors, their arguments, and your summary thoughts of the competition? Just curious if there happened to be a future SC judge in the group, and wondering if the law school rankings are reflected in this type of competition. thank you."

All 4 of them were terrific. We peppered them with questions and they stood their ground, cited their citations, and did just fine.

These were the finalists after numerous rounds, and it was very rewarding to get to be on the judge panel for them. I'm sure they will all go very far in their careers.

Mutaman said...

I couldn't imagine entering a courtroom with my cell phone on, much less snapping a picture. Simply a high showing of disrespect by an officer of the court.

ricpic said...

Beautiful blue cheese marble. Quarried in Wisconsin I presume.

Mark said...

Mutaman, have you no decency? I say good day, sir!

Chuck66 said...

Quite impressive. The capitol building looks like it could be a federal capitol structure.

chickenlittle said...

@Althouse: The photo does you justice.

I've been in that room a couple time--always on tours.

Tom said...

The state senate, assembly chamber, and the north hearing room on the same floor of the capitol building all have skylights, and I'm pretty sure the supreme courtroom does as well.

Pastafarian said...

I'm not sure why people are impressed with ostentatious, palatial public buildings. Hell, why don't they encrust the floor with jewels, so that these mighty justices' feet touch only rubies and sapphires on their walk to their thrones?

What a magnificent squandering of other, actually productive, people's money.

AllieOop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AllieOop said...

During the swearing in ceremony, we were told by the clerk that we we allowed to take pictures, just not to go behind the area that the Justices sat.

steph said...

Hi there, Mutaman! As I understand it, the Wisconsin Supreme Court rules only provide restrictions on taking photos during actual judicial proceedings (see Wisc. S. Ct. R. Ch. 61). This, however, was not an actual judicial proceeding; it was a moot court competition.

None of the photos, by the way, were even taken during the competition argument. (I took the picture of Ann when she was announcing the results, partly because I figured she'd like it for her blog. :) Indeed, the whole panel of moot court judges, some of whom were current members of the Wisconsin judiciary, posed for pictures in the courtroom afterwards.

(Eek: the "comment deleted" thing shows up? I was only trying to fix some typos.)

chickenlittle said...

Pastafarian wrote: What a magnificent squandering of other, actually productive, people's money.

Ironically, all that "ostentatious palace building" took place in a different era, when such artisans still lived in Madison & many materials were quarried locally or within the state's borders. Many of the Capitol building's ornate features were constructed by recent immigrants.

Beldar said...

A bit rococo for my personal tastes, but that's generally what an appellate courtroom ought to look like.

Still a notch behind the en banc courtroom at the Fifth Circuit headquarters in New Orleans when Chief Judge Brown had the plaster parts painted mustard yellow.

Beldar said...

@ Pastafarian: I'm not in favor of ostentation for its own sake, but genuine grandeur of some sort is worth its money to the taxpayer in this situation.

Courthouses and cathedrals have aesthetic value that translates into public confidence and support.

I've practiced law for 30 years, and I've tried cases in towns big and small, rural and urban. For a time here in Houston, before our new civil courthouse was built, overflow cases from the old civil courthouse went two blocks down and three blocks over, to the Old Fire Station. "Old Fire Trap," it ought to have been called: It was dangerous, crowded, dim, smelly, and altogether unpleasant. I defended a department store being sued over an elevator accident in that "courthouse," and I considered whether to ask for a mistrial when, during the trial, the courthouse elevator ground to a shrieking, terrifying halt. Fortunately no jurors were inside, but the deliveryman transporting my six large boxes of documents, exhibits, etc., was indeed stuck, and I spent the morning armed only with a borrowed legal pad and ballpoint pen.

Fortunately, we had a superb judge who made the jurors feel like they were serving as comrades together doing hardship duty together. But for his creativity and charisma, I very much fear that the grim surroundings might have affected many cases in random ways; and they inevitably sapped the respect and confidence of the jurors for our legal system and, therefore, for their own essential participation in it.

That's not to say you can't get justice in a soulless McOffice courtroom. I've seen justice served in improbable settings, and occasionally seen it denied in grand ones.

But these buildings aren't intended to glorify the individual judges who occupy them, no more than the lawyers who practice in them or the visitors who simply drop by. They're intended to express our collective commitment to, and reverence for, a rule of law that is the cornerstone of our civilization. There are some expenditures that promote the public good even though -- and in part, because -- they're inspiring to look at.

virgil xenophon said...

Beldar is correct. Think also of the NYC Public Library and the old Post Office Bldg--both classic examples exemplifying that school of thought believing in the majesty of the institution of government as an entity of serious purpose within whose halls proper reverence and decorum should be observed.

Tank said...

Nice room. I like the way the Court is just a bit higher than the lawyers, not looking down from a great height, as at many appellate courts.

How are the acoustics? Lotta times good looks /= good acoustics.

Mick said...

Please. You are serving as a "judge" now, yet don't even know that the putative POTUS is ineligible (born British, of a British subject father.)

deborah said...

Great posts, Beldar, though I can't tell if you're kidding about the mustard yellow.

Which Attorney General was it that draped Justice's nude breasts?

Rusty said...

Just once you should stand up and shout, "Off With Their Heads!"

I bet you don't get invited back.

deborah said...

It's cool that you sat in Prosser's chair.

Ann Althouse said...

@Steph Whew! That was close!

Wouldn't it be hilarious, after all the crazy stuff done to our Capitol building over the last 14 months, that the one to get in big trouble would be me, for photographing the courtroom?

@deborah No, I was on the other end. I think the seat is Roggensack's.

rhhardin said...

Althouse looks like a liberal justice to me.

Women always are, when they get up there.

steph said...

Haha, Ann! But no, I figured it was probably okay--seen too many pictures of smiling moot court students in final rounds of competitions at actual courthouses to realize there was probably some exception.

Deborah: It was during the time John Ashcroft was AG, though (1) it wasn't like the drapes actually were on the statue--it was more like general drapery, and (2) the official statements say that it wasn't anything that Ashcroft had anything to do with personally--it was just to save on costs of repeated rentals.

(If I recall correctly, the drapery actually ended up having the added effect of making it less likely that random attorneys would accidentally interrupt something formal by using the back of the room as a shortcut).

deborah said...

Thanks, A. I adore the name Patience Roggensack.

Thanks for the info, steph.

Hey, rh, wanna play Prosser and Bradley? I promise to be very liberal.

Amartel said...

What a lovely courtroom. I've done appellate arguments in weird little spaces in office buildings as well as in enormous beautifully appointed courtrooms like this one. The setting doesn't really matter at the appellate level where it's just lawyers and judges. Wel, maybe it matters from the judge's perspective. Setting definitely matters at the trial level, though. Jurors notice, it's something they can form an opinion about right away and one of the many variables to feed into the mix of the presentation. I've tried cases in trailers (excuse me, "modular courtrooms") as well as more permanent but no less sketchy surroundings. It definitely makes a difference in the level of respect for the process.

FWIW, here's my little elevator debacle. I got caught in the court's elevator on my way to do opening argument in my first trial to a jury. (Oh, lord, the panic of that situation.) Not an elevator case, alas, but I was duly sanctioned and berated when I finally showed up, half an hour late, until the judge was informed that it was their elevator. Perfect way to meet the jury, actually.

David R. Graham said...

Recalls a Sistine Chapel with Chairs.

David R. Graham said...

"They're intended to express our collective commitment to, and reverence for, a rule of law that is the cornerstone of our civilization."

With respect, Counselor, please allow me to submit:

"They're intended to express our collective commitment to, and reverence for, a rule of law that is A cornerstone of our civilization."

How many cornerstones of civilization are there? Clean water, fertile soil, rivers, rain, seed stocks, genetic strength through redundancy and resistance, fecundity, compassion, respect for law by acclamation, secure communications of every kind, including domesticity, tolerance, dedication to truth, proper conduct, peace, love and non-violence, education, recreation, rest, nutrition, to name some.

Absent any one, any single one, of those cornerstones of civilization, civilization ceases to exist. Civilization is a multi-dimensional, impossible-to-force mixture.