Tuesday, May 24, 2022
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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

Ryan Owens for AG: Are Conservative Donors Backing the Right Horse?

In a podcast analyzing Evers’ Safer at Home actions, Ryan Owens criticized people “on the right” who are “saying the governor is a tyrant and all this,” calling it “that nonsense.”

Republican Attorney General primary candidate Ryan Owens, who is a political science professor at UW-Madison, hasn’t appeared on a court case since at least 2005, and his campaign could only come up with 10 court/legal cases he’s ever been involved in outside of friend of the court briefs – none criminal cases.

In some of those 10 cases, he was giving advice and doing research for an old law firm, not appearing in court as the attorney of record. In other words, he was helping other lawyers with their cases.

He’s never prosecuted or handled a criminal case in court. Furthermore, in four of the 10 cases his campaign provided, Ryan Owens is not listed as an attorney of record in court records for them, Wisconsin Right Now found. Four of the other cases are administrative law cases in the public service docket. None of the cases is a criminal case. The most recent court case is a 2002 case involving Wisconsin Bell and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin that wound through the appellate court system until 2005.

Does this matter?

The Attorney General’s primary is just getting started. Two Republican candidates are vying to replace Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul – Ryan Owens and Fond du Lac District Attorney Eric Toney, who has handled hundreds of cases of all varieties, including many serious criminal cases, both as a prosecutor (DA for about nine years) and as an attorney in private practice before that. We think it’s important for conservatives to thoroughly vet their candidates; those concerned about, say, the Brian Hagedorn election to state Supreme Court have learned that lesson the hard way.

Because Ryan Owens is a relatively new political player on the scene, and because he’s way ahead in fundraising, we decided to examine his background. Is it a house of cards? You be the judge. If we don’t raise these issues, Kaul and his well-oiled political machine certainly will. Owens raised more than $300,000 since entering the AG race in April 2021, including from some political heavyweight donors, which is an astonishing figure for a little-known candidate in a low-key race; Kaul, though, has raised more than $400,000. Toney raised $41,000, although the race is early.

“We both come from very different backgrounds. He comes from being a professor, being an academic. I come from personally prosecuting violent crimes and criminal cases in Wisconsin,” Toney told Wisconsin Right Now in an interview. “Josh Kaul – we are seeing the consequences of his experience in the AG’s office. The AG is our top cop, our top law enforcement official.”

We searched Ryan Owens’ state bar ID number in Wisconsin online court records under “prosecuting attorney” and came up with no cases. We searched his ID under “party attorney” and came up with a single case, a civil case from 2002 involving a money judgment in which he’s listed as the attorney for a bank.

The case is described as involving a bankruptcy. We searched Owens’ name in Wisconsin appellate courts and got only the case involving Wisconsin Bell, which lists many lawyers. In federal court, we found one case for Ryan Owens, dating to 2002-03.

When we search Toney’s state bar ID, we get 76 pages of cases under party attorney, and 154 pages of cases, including serious felonies, as a prosecuting attorney. Toney has highlighted his experience as a “frontline prosecutor” in the race. We get 599 cases for Toney under Wisconsin appellate courts.

“As a front-line prosecutor, it’s critical we have an attorney general who’ll support law enforcement and has firsthand experience fighting crime. As the next attorney general, my primary focus will be the on the safety and security of families all across Wisconsin,” Toney says prominently on his campaign website.

“I have been fighting for justice and to uphold the rule of law by locking up violent criminals and sexual predators for nearly 10 years as the Fond du Lac County District Attorney,” Toney told Wisconsin Right Now. “I’ve personally prosecuted hundreds, if not thousands, of cases and I have prosecuted dozens of jury trials. This includes; cold case homicide, child homicides, violent crime, rape, domestic violence, drunk driving, complex drug conspiracies, drug deaths, and racketeering.”

Yet some prominent conservative donors have been heading the other way, although it’s early.

Are conservative donors backing the right horse? That’s up to them, and you, to decide. We aren’t picking a horse ourselves in this race; our goal is to educate primary voters on their choices. We previously wrote a story examining Toney’s COVID prosecutions. We’ve also turned a spotlight on the record of the Democrat, Kaul, exposing his failures in the state Crime Lab.

It would be very unusual to elect an AG in Wisconsin with no criminal prosecution experience. There is concern in some corners that the highly financed, politically crafty Kaul will jam the UW-Madison’s political science professor’s lack of prosecution experience down his throat in a general election, that there is a difference between theory and doing, the old adage of the man in the arena counting more than the critic. At the same time, Toney is facing questions from some conservatives concerned over the COVID-19 prosecutions, which may be a bigger primary problem for him than a general election hurdle.

However, we’ve learned Owens was not always as tough talking on Evers and Safer at Home as he is now.


Ryan Owens on Evers’ Safer at Home Actions

“My stance on the Safer at Home order has remained the same,” Ryan Owens told us.

However, we found audio in which Owens, in a podcast analyzing Evers’ Safer at Home actions, criticized people “on the right” who are “saying the governor is a tyrant and all this,” calling it “that nonsense.” He also criticized the left in that same statement.

“There’s been a lot of dust up over this about, you know the Legislature wants you know the elderly and the immunocompromised to die, and the people on the right are saying the governor is a tyrant and all this,” he said in the podcast.

“You know if we can cut through that nonsense and just say you know what do think aside from the sort of the interpretation here of the law what do think are potentially some of the benefits of the court’s decision? And here I’m thinking a little bit about getting everybody to the table.”

He then indicated that the topic “isn’t about Republicans good, Democrats bad,” and said he was “willing to attribute good faith to everybody in this…everybody I think is trying to do their best.” He said it’s regrettable that “we hear more from the loudmouth at the end of the bar than we do from anybody else over stuff like this,” and said, “I think it’s unseemly that some people are fundraising off of this; that’s a little obnoxious.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Dan Bice wrote about another podcast, the “1050 Bascom” from April 6, 2020 in which Owens said this about Evers’ ‘safer at home’ order,

“The governor, to his credit, was ahead of the game when it came to the ‘safer at home’ order,” and “We can quibble around the edges about the treatment of religion and things like that with it, but he was well ahead of a lot of states when he issued that order, to his credit.” and “I’m glad I’m not the one who’s having to make these decisions right now because no one is happy about them.”

In an interview with Wisconsin Right Now, Ryan Owens said he decided to run for AG in part because of “the leadership deficit we have right now in this state in the attorney general’s office. What worries me is that leadership deficit is turning into a freedom deficit. I think Wisconsin deserves better than this.”

He added: “Every major issue this state faced, the AG has been on the wrong side of it; I couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore. I needed to get out there and try to do something about it.”

During the last Attorney General’s race, incumbent Brad Schimel made a big deal about the fact that Kaul had never prosecuted a single Wisconsin criminal case, although Kaul did work as a federal prosecutor in Baltimore. Schimel was Waukesha County DA before being elected AG; JB Van Hollen, Kaul’s mother Peg Lautenschlager, and Jim Doyle were all DAs before being elected AG and Van Hollen and Lautenschlager were also former US Attorneys. AGs Don Hanaway and Bronson La Follette had worked as prosecutors too. That takes you back to the 1970s, at least. Today, Kaul comes up under a single Wisconsin criminal case as a prosecuting attorney in CCAP, although more civil cases come up for him as a party attorney.


Pardons & Friend of Court Briefs

Ryan Owens highlights his experience working for Gov. Tommy Thompson’s pardon office. “For Gov. Thompson he worked for the pardon advisory board and worked with other states to bring fugitives back to Wisconsin,” his campaign says.

But his resume reveals that’s something he did as an assistant for one year in 1998 before he was a lawyer. He graduated from law school in 2001, according to the State Bar of Wisconsin.

He says he “represented Mike Lee and Ted Cruz at the United States Supreme Court.” But these were friend of the court briefs, his campaign confirmed. The legal dictionary explains that friend of court briefs mean “literally, friend of the court. A person with strong interest in or views on the subject matter of an action, but not a party to the action, may petition the court for permission to file a brief, ostensibly on behalf of a party but actually to suggest a rationale consistent with its own views.”

According to Ryan Owens’ website, “He is the author of three books.” He’s listed as a co-author on books about the Supreme Court. He’s also written a number of columns; one advocated for criminal justice reform. The 2018 article was headlined, How to Keep people Out of Prison. (You can read more of his articles here.)

In July 2021, while running for AG, he struck a different message in a column arguing, “Wisconsin needs to make crime criminal again.”

Ryan owens Ryan owens Ryan owens

Asked about his lack of prosecution experience, Owens’ campaign told Wisconsin Right Now, “The Attorney General’s job is to set the state’s legal agenda, support the lawyers in the Department of Justice, and to help law enforcement obtain the resources and support they need.” Ryan J. Owens served as the first Director of the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership. He is a political science professor who is on the affiliated faculty for the UW-Madison Law School. His research is focused on American political institutions and the courts. (Some news sites, such as Wisconsin Public Radio, has misleadingly called him a law professor.)

“I’m running for Attorney General because we need new leadership and a new vision,” Owens says. “We need an AG who can defend us on multiple fronts. We need an AG who will build a safer Wisconsin and make crime criminal again. At the same time, we also require an AG who will stand up for our freedoms and defend our constitutional liberties against government intrusion. Make no mistake, radicals are coming for our way of life. Wisconsin needs someone to defend it against their attacks.”

Owens added, “I’m running for the position of Attorney General, not against Eric Toney. This will be an election about their records, experiences, and philosophy.”

Ryan Owens has been a professor since 2008. His resume lists the following positions under experience:

UW-Madison, 2019 – George C. & Carmella P. Edwards Professor of American Politics
UW-Madison, 2015 – Professor, Department of Political Science
UW-Madison, 2013 – 2015, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
UW-Madison, 2011 – 2013, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
Harvard University, 2008 – 2011, Assistant Professor, Department of Government
Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, s.c., 2001 – 2003, Attorney
Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, 1999 – 2000, Law Clerk
Governor’s Pardon Advisory Board and Extraditions Assistant, 1998 – 1999

Ryan Owens was born in Wisconsin and lived in Edgerton before moving to the Wausau area, where he grew up. His father was an assistant school superintendent.

Owens told Wisconsin Right Now that he went to UW-Madison as an undergraduate, then worked in “Gov. Thompson’s office doing pardons and extradition work, then for the public service commission,” where he said he “worked with regulating utilities in the state.” He said he then “went into private practice for a large law firm,” where he did a “mixture of telecommunications litigation with real estate work tossed in.” He then went to get his PhD, focusing on “legal institutions and judicial behavior.”

In our interview with him, Ryan Owens told us he was concerned that AG Josh Kaul did “nothing to stop” the “lawlessness we saw” in summer 2020 and “refused to work to get kids back in schools. He sided with unelected bureaucrats to try to take freedoms away.”

He added, “We are working as hard as I can on this. I have put on 9,000 miles going across the state talking to people and listening to people. The three things I am talking about everywhere I go are freedom, safety and prosperity.”

He asks people, “Are you freer than you were two years ago? Are you safer? Are you more prosperous?”


Law Enforcement Endorsements

Although he’s trailing in fundraising, Toney, the president of the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association, is way outpacing Owens in law enforcement endorsements. Owens lists 11 on his website.

“District Attorney Eric Toney is already endorsed by over 1/3 of all District Attorneys, nearly 1/4 of Wisconsin Sheriffs, and has been unanimously endorsed by the Wisconsin Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge,” Toney’s website says, listing more than 50 sheriffs, DAs, and police chiefs. Toney says it’s up to more than 1/4 of sheriffs and more than 60 sheriffs, DAs, and police chiefs overall now.

Toney, who was born in Fond du Lac, is the son of a former sheriff’s deputy, whose stepmother is a retired detective. He said he spent his life “growing up in a law enforcement family and it’s something I’ve supported my entire life. As the son of a cop, it makes me angry when I see Josh Kaul pandering to different interest groups and failing to recognize the bravery” of law enforcement officers.

Toney added, “This false narrative pushed out there needs to stop. I’m able to talk about it through personal experiences I’ve had as a DA and son of a cop.” He worked on a Republican congressional campaign, and was co-chair of the Republican club in Law School.

Thus, although Toney has been a lifelong Republican and Ryan Owens also stresses support for law enforcement, the race could be shaping up as a contest between a political insider choice (Owens) and a law enforcement choice (Toney). Why? Owens has some politically connected people on his side, especially in Waukesha County, and Toney’s COVID prosecutions have made some in the GOP base concerned.

This all matters to conservatives because, if Kaul prevails in the general election again, it’s easy to see him running for governor the next time around, and the AG’s position is a powerful perch from which to do so. And that’s in addition to the damage Kaul would continue to do to the DOJ’s public safety mission, where he’s prioritized things like hiring a new equity director over criminal prosecution and the crime lab.

Ryan Owens is trying to turn his unusual resume (for the position) into an asset, calling himself an outsider in the race. While this might have some appeal to primary voters angry at the establishment, it’s a harder sell to make when your campaign finance reports are full of political insiders.

“Our campaign has worked tirelessly,” Owens says about his fundraising. “Our fundraising numbers are a direct reflection of our team’s determination to win and Wisconsin’s craving for new leadership in Madison. In just two months, we raised a record sum for a first time candidate and from all 72 counties. We are the team that will defeat Josh Kaul and his radical policies in November. And we will work to make Wisconsin freer, safer, and more prosperous.”


Owens’ List of Court Cases

We asked Ryan Owens for a list of all court cases he’s handled during his career. These are the cases his campaign gave us. We asked what the PSCW docket is and his campaign explained it’s “an administrative law proceeding.”

Specifically, we asked Ryan Owens’ campaign these questions:

Has Ryan ever prosecuted a criminal case? What and when?

Has he ever conducted a jury trial?

If the answers are no, do you think that matters? Why or why not? Won’t Kaul exploit it?

Has he ever appeared in court on any other cases? If so what and when? …He worked for Reinhart. What did he do there specifically and which cases did he specifically work on?

Why should voters see Ryan’s experience as superior to Toney’s?

This is the comprehensive list of cases that Ryan Owens’ campaign gave us, with the descriptions in their own words:

“List of Ryan’s Cases/Disputes:”

1. Wisconsin Bell, Inc. v. Public Service Commission, No. 01-CV-11870 (Milwaukee County Cir. 2002)(Hon. Michael P. Sullivan) affirmed in part, reversed in part, 2004 WI App 8, 269 Wis. 2d 409 (Hon. Charles B. Schudson, Ralph A. Fine, Ted E. Wedemeyer), aff’d by equally divided court, 2005 WI 23, 279 Wis. 2d 1 (2005).

“In this complex dispute (with which I was involved from 2000-2003), my firm represented competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) Sprint Telecommunications, Excel Telecommunications, and AT&T Communications of Wisconsin. In 1994, the Wisconsin Legislature enacted a statute that offered incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) like Wisconsin Bell a choice: they could continue to operate under “rate of return” regulation of their intrastate revenues or they could elect “price regulation.” This new price regulation guaranteed that the ILECs would recover their costs or make a profit. In exchange for this better regulatory treatment, however, the ILECs had to agree to eliminate certain intrastate charges. Wisconsin Bell, an ILEC, elected price regulation and therefore agreed to eliminate intrastate charges. Nevertheless, it later adopted similar charges—called presubscribed interexchange carrier charges (PICC)—and assessed them on CLECs in violation of the law.

The case involved: (a) whether the Wisconsin Bell’s “presubscribed interexchange carrier charges” violated Wis. Stat. § 196.196 (which prohibited it from assessing intrastate common line charges) and if so, (b) whether the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin had the statutory authority to order Wisconsin Bell to refund $18,000,000 in charges to our clients.

The court of appeals determined: (a) the Public Service Commission correctly found Wisconsin Bell in breach of the law, and (b) that the Public Service Commission enjoyed the legal authority to force it to refund $18,000,000 to our clients. In commenting on the complexity of the case, the court of appeals remarked: “To say that the factual background can seem complicated is like saying that pasta can be filling. Reviewing the record, reading the briefs, and listening to oral argument, the author of this opinion often felt like the hungry but uncertain traveler who, sitting down to indulge in fine Italian cuisine for the first time, loosens his belt but wonders whether he must untangle the linguini before eating it.” 2002 WI App at 8. The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals by an equally divided court.”

However, we would note that Ryan Owens is not listed as an attorney of record on the case in CCAP. He is listed as an attorney, though, in the appellate records for the case.

2. RURAL v. Public Service Commission, No. 1999-CV-105 (Dane County Cir. Ct. 1999)(Hon. Gerald C. Nichol), aff’d, 2000 WI 129, 239 Wis. 2d 660.

“This case involved whether the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin properly granted RockGen Energy a certificate of public convenience and necessity to construct and operate a new power plant. My firm represented RockGen Energy and Polsky Energy Corporation, the companies who provided the new electricity. (Note that the case bypassed the court of appeals and was appealed to the state supreme court, given the immediacy of the need for more electricity.) In the late 1990s, Wisconsin faced a number of electricity shortages due in part to a shortage of electricity-generating plants. The PSC advised then-Governor Thompson and the electric companies that the state immediately required an additional 500 megawatts of capacity. Alliant Energy (then Alliant Energy-Wisconsin Power and Light) entered into an agreement with RockGen Energy and Polsky Energy to construct a new power plant that would generate such additional energy. RockGen sought and obtained approval from the PSC to construct the new plant. Opposing the move, RURAL and the Village of Rockdale argued the PSC failed to meet its procedural obligations when expediting the certificate approval process. I researched the law on whether the PSC enjoyed the legal authority to engage in conditional certifications. The PSC determined it did, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed.”

We don’t find Owens listed as an attorney in the appellate record. It’s listed as an administrative agency review.

3. Investigation Into Ameritech Wisconsin Operational Support Systems, PSCW Docket 6720-TI-160.

“When Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, it sought to enhance competition in the telecommunications industry. It required incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) to open up their monopoly facilities to competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) seeking to enter the market. From 2000-2003, I represented CLECs that were beginning to compete with the ILECs who lost their monopoly status. My firm represented TDS Metrocom, Time Warner Telecom, Rhythms Net Connections, KMC Telecom, and CoreComm. At issue in this very complex dispute was whether the ILEC’s Operational Support Systems (OSS) operated with discriminatory impact on the CLECs. Operational Support Systems are broadly defined as a set of programs that help a communications service provider monitor, control, analyze and manage a telephone or computer network. They are the things “behind the scene” that support the telecommunications company’s network services. We argued that the ILEC’s operational support systems did not in fact provide efficient access and non-discriminatory levels of performance to companies, like our clients, who had to use the ILEC network. The Public Service Commission adopted a Remedy Plan that ordered the ILEC to revise its practices so as to promote competition, consumer choice, and efficiency.”

Our note: This is an administrative law case.

4. Investigation Into Ameritech Wisconsin Unbundled Network Elements, PSCW Docket 6720-TI-161.

“From 2001-2003, I represented CLECs (Time Warner Telecom, TDS Metrocom, KMC Telecom, McLeod USA, and Charter Communications) in their challenges to Ameritech’s pricing of its Unbundled Network Elements (UNEs). UNEs are parts of a telecommunications network that connect the customer to the local telephone exchange. Pursuant to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, ILECs like Ameritech were required to allow CLECs to use those wires. The goal of the 1996 Act was to allow CLECs to offer services without having to install their own lines to customer—something that would be costly. Instead, they could “piggy back” off the line ILECs previously built while they benefitted from their monopoly status. Under federal law, the ILEC was allowed to charge my clients a fee to use its lines, but that fee could not be so large as to be anti-competitive. The question in this dispute was whether SBC Ameritech violated federal and state law by charging fees that were, in fact, anti-competitive. After four years of litigating, the Public Service Commission accepted a settlement crafted by the parties.”

Our note: This is an administrative law case.

5. Wisconsin Builders’ Association, Inc. v. Wisconsin Bell, Inc., PSCW Docket 6720-TI-167.

“From 2001-2002, I represented the Wisconsin Builders Association in their challenge to Wisconsin Bell’s pricing. The Builder’s Association challenged Wisconsin Bell’s revised construction charges. Wisconsin Bell had operated under a stable tariff for years. Suddenly, it changed the rates it charged developers. The Builders argued the revised charges were unjust and unreasonable because they allowed Wisconsin Bell to recover more costs than allowed under law. Additionally, the Builders argued that Wisconsin Bell imposed the price change without following proper procedures. During the summer of 2001, the Public Service Commission held a series of hearings on the matter. I helped research the law and write portions of the briefs in the case. In the fall of 2002, the Builders and Wisconsin Bell settled the dispute, with Wisconsin Bell agreeing to return to its earlier construction charges.”

Our note: This is an administrative law case.

6. Investigation Into Matters Relating to Compliance with the Competitive Checklist of § 271(c) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 by Ameritech Wisconsin, PSCW Docket 6720-TI-170.

“From 2001-2003, my firm again represented competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) opposed to an Ameritech Wisconsin’s attempt to offer interLATA services (i.e., long distance services). The CLECs argued that Ameritech failed to meet the strict requirements of 47 U.S.C. § 271, which generally prohibited Bell Operating Companies from providing long distance services except under stringent conditions. The PSC ultimately concluded the SBC Ameritech complied with its federal requirements.”

Our note: This is an administrative law case.

7. United States Cellular Operating Company v. Town of Brookfield Board. No. 02-C-0384 (E.D. Wis.)(Hon. Charles N. Clevert, Jr.)

“From 2002-2003, I represented U.S. Cellular in its challenge against the Town of Brookfield. U.S. Cellular sought to increase the height of its cellular communication tower in the Town. In order to increase the power of its cell signal, U.S. Cellular needed a taller tower—and it needed the Town’s permission to make it taller. The Town, however, refused to hold a hearing on the request. We argued the Town’s refusal to hold a hearing violated the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 (which required hearings). During discovery, the Eastern District of Wisconsin rendered a decision in a case with similar facts. See Primeco Personal Communications v. City of Mequon, 242 F. Supp. 2d 567 (E.D. Wis. 2003), aff’d, 352 F.3d 1147 (7th Cir. 2003)(Hons. Richard Posner, Michael Kanne, and Ilana Rovner). Because that decision was nearly on all fours with ours, the parties were able to bargain in the shadow of that decision and come to settlement.”

Ryan Owens comes up as an attorney on this case in federal court records.

8. Town of Dunkirk v. City of Stoughton, No. 01-CV-719 (Dane County Cir. Ct. 2001)(Hon. Robert DeChambeau ), aff’d, 2002 WI App 2809, 258 Wis. 2d 805 (Hon. Margaret J. Vergeront, Charles P. Dykman, Paul Lundsten).

“This case turned on whether a complaint, signed by an attorney who was temporarily suspended from practicing law, voided the courts of personal jurisdiction over the dispute. My firm represented the City of Stoughton. Stoughton sought to annex land in the Town of Dunkirk. Dunkirk’s attorney filed a summons and complaint challenging the annexation. The attorney, however, was temporarily suspended from practicing law when he signed the summons and complaint. We argued the court lacked personal jurisdiction because Wisconsin law established that an attorney suspended from practice cannot sign pleadings. And while the Town of Dunkirk filed an amended complaint—signed by a lawfully practicing attorney—it nevertheless still failed to cure the defect because it never filed a corrected summons. The court of appeals agreed with us and affirmed the circuit court’s decision to dismiss the action. In 2001 and 2002, I researched the law in this matter and wrote portions of the briefs at the circuit court and court of appeals levels.”

We would note that Ryan Owens is not listed as the attorney of record in this case in CCAP. He’s also not listed as an attorney of record in the appellate court history for the case.

9. Campbell v. Brown, No. 01-CV-2072 (Dane County Cir. Ct.)(Hon. Daniel J. Moeser), aff’d, 2004 WI App 125, 275 Wis. 2d 276 (unpublished)(Hon. David G. Deininger, Margaret J. Vergeront, Paul Lundsten).

“The controversy in this case turned on whether the word “park” in a 1933 plat implied a private or public park. Our clients were heirs to the original landholders who had subdivided the land into a number of lots. Some of the lots on the plat had the word “park” written on them in the original documents. Our clients believed the work “park” implied a “private park” for the benefit of the subdivision lot owners. One opposing party believed, conversely, that the lots were supposed to be “public parks” for the Town of Dunn. The circuit court and court of appeals agreed with our argument that the lots were dedicated for private parks rather than public parks. The court agreed with us that it would make no sense for the landowners to place a public park on the waterfront across from the landowners’ lots. Doing so would have foolishly reduced the value of their landlocked property. Instead, creating lakeside recreational areas for the landlocked lot owners would have increased the value of their lots, an action much more likely. From 2002-2003, I researched the law in the case and crafted portions of the briefs.”

Ryan Owens is not listed as an attorney on CCAP for this case. He’s not listed in the appellate record, either.

10. Ammerman v. Hauden, No. 99-CV-1060 (Dane County Cir. Ct. 2004)(Hon. Stuart A. Schwartz), aff’d in part, rev’d in part, 2004 WI App 167, 276 Wis. 2d 309 (unpublished)(Hon. David G. Deininger, Charles P. Dykman, Margaret J. Vergeront).

“My firm represented the defendants, Paddy A. Hauden and Susan A. Scholl against the plaintiff, ROI Investments. Our clients offered to purchase property from ROI for $1.3 million. ROI originally agreed to sell to our clients. But they then filed for bankruptcy, sought to stall the sale, and ginned up an offer from another company for $1.4 million, leading the bankruptcy judge to not approve the sale to our clients. ROI later sued our clients for not purchasing the property. ROI then failed to appear at trial after engaging in lengthy delays. The circuit court awarded us a default judgment along with prejudgment interest. On appeal, the court of appeals determined that the district court properly granted default judgment in the case, but that pre-judgment interest was not warranted, as such damages are only allowable when there are no factual disputes as to the value of the damages. In 2002 and 2003, I provided research and advice on this case.”

Ryan Owens does not come up as an attorney in CCAP for this case. He’s not listed as an attorney in appellate records, either.

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(The Center Square) – It’s been two weeks and there’s still no word on who leaked the U.S. Supreme Court draft brief indicating that the court was set to overturn Roe V. Wade and returning the issue of abortion back to the states.

At a recent event in Dallas, Texas, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution, and the Manhattan Institute, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke about the leak and his concern for the rule of law and credibility of the court.

A roughly 8-minute clip of his talk was published by C-SPAN, in which he said, “I think we are in danger of destroying the institutions that are required for a free society. You can’t have a civil society, a free society without a stable legal system.

“You can’t have one without stability in things like property or interpretation and impartial judiciary. I’ve been in this business long enough to know just how fragile it is.”

Prior to the draft opinion being leaked this year, Thomas said it was impossible to think that even one line of one opinion would be leaked by anyone.

“No one would ever do that,” he said. “There’s such a belief in the rule of law, belief in the court, belief in what we were doing, that that was beyond anyone’s understanding or at least anyone's imagination, that someone would do that.”

Now, “look where we are,” he said. “That trust and belief is gone forever. When you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder. It's like kind of an infidelity, that you can explain it, but you can't undo it.”

New York University professor Melissa Murray holds a similar sentiment. She told the New York Times last week that the leak “violates the omertà that traditionally has shrouded the court’s deliberations. To the public, this not only looks like the kind of maneuvering that we’ve come to expect from politicians, it also strips the court of the mystique it has generally enjoyed.”

Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts’ reputation is also at stake. He has a lot riding on whether or not the leaker is identified and punished, Dan McLaughlin at National Review Online notes.

“John Roberts’s Court is at stake here,” he argues. “If decisions can be leaked in draft form with impunity in order to influence their outcomes, this will become a regular feature of high-profile cases, placing the Court under even worse pressures and threats than already exist.”

The Supreme Court isn’t the only institution that’s changing, Thomas said. Universities, colleges, law schools have all changed over the last few decades. Today, the climate on most campuses doesn’t allow for peaceful debate of differing views, instead policies of censorship are creating a “chilling effect” on speech.

He recently met with students attending the University of Georgia, where he said students expressed that they can’t publicly affirm pro-life or traditional family views because of the climate on campus.

At Yale Law School, his alma mater, students could once freely speak about anything, “it was anything goes, you do your thing I do my thing,” he said. Now. there’s censorship, he said.

"I wonder how long we're going to have these institutions at the rate we're undermining them,” Thomas said. “And then I wonder when they're gone or they are destabilized, what we'll have as a country – and I don't think that the prospects are good if we continue to lose them."

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Biden’s DHS Disinformation Governance Board Paused After Blowback

(The Center Square) – President Joe Biden's Department of Homeland Security "Disinformation Governance Board" has been put on hold after quickly falling into controversy, according to media reports.

The Washington Post on Wednesday reported a pause for the board, which DHS head Alejandro Mayorkas announced at a Congressional hearing last month.

Mayorkas told lawmakers the board would use federal law enforcement power to address disinformation. He gave the examples of bad information given to migrants as well as Russian disinformation.

"The goal is to bring the resources of (DHS) together to address this threat," he said before Congress in April.

Soon after, videos emerged online showing the woman tapped to lead the board, Nina Jankowicz, making a series of controversial comments. News outlets reported her resignation Wednesday.

Critics also raised concerns about how such a board could be used to silence free speech. Several lawmakers took issue with the board.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., posted a video on Twitter saying the “Soviet-style censorship agency” is evidence “the Marxist left are coming after your most basic constitutional rights.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but the Department of Homeland Security just set up a new office that’s going to be a speech police,” Rubio said after the board was announced. "They’re basically going to be focused on misinformation … so instead of the Department of Homeland Security focused on stopping drugs from coming into America or securing the border, stopping illegal immigration, they’re not going to be focused on that. They’re focused on policing speech, on making sure that people cannot share information or say things that they decide is misinformation."

Bear Market Walmart Earnings

Stocks Tank After Target & Walmart Earnings Plummet Because of Rising Fuel Costs, Inflation

(The Center Square) – Stocks tanked Wednesday after major retailers’ earnings reports were down significantly because of inflation, sparking a selling frenzy. Wall Street closed with the largest drop in one day since March 2020.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average drop of nearly 1,200 points was the ninth-largest single-day drop in U.S. history, Seeking Alpha reports.

The stock market began to tank by midday. By noon EST, NASDAQ was down 400 points and the DJIA was down by 800 points. Then the DJIA dropped by roughly 1,100 points after 2pm EST and closed with a near 1,200-point loss.

The market closed with the DJIA down by 3.6%, the S&P 500 down by 4% and the Nasdaq down by 4.7%.

Overall, the DJIA dropped 1,164.52 points, closing at 31,490.07. The S&P 500 dropped 165.17 points, closing at 3,923.68. The Nasdaq dropped 566.37 points, closing at 11,418.15.

Panic set in after major retail corporations like Target and Walmart reported earnings losses. Apple and Microsoft also led big tech losses.

Target shares were down by nearly 25% after reporting first-quarter results that fell far below Wall Street forecasts. Its second-quarter outlook was also weaker than expected with its quarterly gross margin dropping from 30% to 25.7%.

“We were less profitable than we expected to be or intend to be over time,” Target Chief Executive Brian Cornell said, Reuters reported. “These (costs) continue to grow almost on a daily basis and there is no sign right now … that it is going to abate over time.”

Rising fuel and freight costs will add nearly $1 billion more than originally expected in annual cost, Target said.

Wal-Mart stock fell nearly 7% after it also reported a weaker-than-expected financial outlook. It also said it was grappling with rising fuel costs and inflation eating into its profits.

Apple stock fell 5.6%, Intel lost 4.6%, Microsoft lost nearly 5% and HP dropped 7%.

Companies reporting earnings losses cited rising fuel and freight costs as primary factors.

These, coupled with supply chain issues, caused transportation costs to skyrocket in the first quarter. While companies passed on increased costs to consumers, consumers weren’t buying enough to offset company losses.

“Worries over inflation and a hawkish Fed are nothing new, but now add in worries over profit margins and the impact of inflation on the consumer and you have the recipe for a big down day,” Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at LPL Financial, said, The Hill reported.

Normally, a drop in consumer demand would force companies to drop prices and subsequently reduce inflation. But supply chain issues, coupled with Biden administration energy policies restricting domestic production of oil and gas, are leading causes of prices skyrocketing across the board.

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Republicans Criticize New UW-Madison Chancellor, Threaten UW Funding

(The Center Square) – Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol are not happy with the new choice for chancellor at UW-Madison.

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, who is the vice chairman of the Senate’s committee for universities and technical colleges, called Dr. Jennifer Mnookin a “ridiculous choice.”

“Jennifer Mnookin has a very clear history of advocating for the forced indoctrination of college students with critical race theory. She has openly supported mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations regardless of the rights of individuals to make that healthcare determination for themselves.,” Nass said Monday. “It has also been reported that Mnookin met with the scandal plagued Hunter Biden (in 2019) and supported him joining the UCLA faculty to instruct students on drug policies.”

UW Regents unanimously chose Mnookin, who is currently the dean at UCLA’s law school. They announced her selection on Monday.

Nass said the Republican-controlled legislature should take Mnookin’s appointment as a message from the university.

“If the Board of Regents truly believes that Mnookin is the best choice, then the next Republican governor and legislature should find it impossible to provide more taxpayer dollars or allow the board to increase tuition,” Nass added.

UW Regent Karen Walsh told reporters Tuesday that she doesn’t take that threat seriously.

“I don’t think that’s realistic,” Walsh said. “I would like for those folks to meet with Chancellor Mnookin before they threaten our funding. I don’t think they intend to do that. I think they’re much more interested in sitting in a room with us and talking about our differences.”

Mnookin told the same news conference that she is waiting to get to campus, so she can meet with everyone involved with the university.

"I look forward to arriving in Madison and looking for that common ground, and higher education is a place where I hope we can come together,” Mnookin added.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Monday pushed regents to take a look at another chancellor candidate.

“We deserve campus leaders who will encourage healthy debate, diverse thoughts and freedom of expression. Given her obvious viewpoints and political donations, Dr. Mnookin needs to prove she supports free speech on campus and not politically correct ideologies,” Vos said. “After all the work of Tommy Thompson and Rebecca Blank that attempted to strengthen relationships between the university and the Legislature, this is a step backwards. I strongly hope the Board of Regents will reconsider their selection.”

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Gas Prices Hit New Record High in U.S.

(The Center Square) – Gasoline prices hit a new high in the U.S. on Monday, with the average cost of a gallon of regular gas at $4.48.

That's an increase of 15 cents a gallon in the past week and 40 cents over this time last month. A year ago, gas prices on average were $3.04 a gallon, $1.44 cheaper.

The average price for a gallon of diesel fuel is at $5.57 a gallon, also a record high. Diesel fuel is used by truckers who transport goods across the country, contributing to 40-year-high inflation that's sending the prices of groceries and other commodities significantly higher.

In California, the average price of a gallon of gasoline is $5.98, highest in the U.S.

President Joe Biden has attempted to blame the rising cost of gasoline on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but prices began elevating shortly after he took office, when he canceled new oil and gas leases on federal lands and placed new restrictions on the industry.

Just last week, Biden canceled three pending oil and gas drilling leases in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

Deer District Shootings Water Street Shooting

Republican Candidates Promise Tough On Crime Approach After Deer District Shootings

(The Center Square) – The Republicans running for governor in Wisconsin are promising more cops, more prisons, and say they'll fire prosecutors who don’t get tough on crime after a violent weekend in Milwaukee that saw more than two dozen people shot.

Milwaukee Police say Friday night’s shootings near the Deer District wounded 21 people. Another of those shootings saw 17 people shot. A string of shootings on Sunday saw another five people shot, including two people who died.

Monday saw the Republicans running for governor promising to get tougher on crime if elected.

“The simple points are to put 1,000 more cops on the street. Bail and sentencing reform to stop these bad D.A.’s and these bad judges. Fire [Milwaukee County] District Attorney John Chisholm on day one. And use the Wisconsin State Patrol to surge where violent crime is surging,” frontrunner Rebecca Kleefisch told News Talk 1130 WISN’s Jay Weber Monday morning.

Kleefisch said under Democratic leadership the Deer District has become the “fear district.”

Republican Tim Michels is also promising to fire Milwaukee County’s district attorney. But he is also promising to fire other prosecutors across the state who don’t get tougher on crime.

“I will review all the D.A.s, and the ones who have an awful pattern of catch-and-release, dropping charges quickly, and letting guys out on the street, I will remove them from office,” Michels told Weber.

Michels also said he wants to build more prisons in the state, starting with a replacement for the maximum security prison in Green Bay.

Candidate Kevin Nicholson took to Twitter on Sunday to blast Chisholm and the leadership in Milwaukee.

“Twenty one shot on Friday; 3 murdered last night. Out of control car thefts. Record-breaking homicides,” Nicholson Tweeted. “We’re sick of it. Time to turn the page. We need new leaders who are serious about getting this back on track.”

Crime and public safety have been issues in the race for governor since day one. Republicans have blamed Gov. Tony Evers for the spike in violent crime during his time in office, including record years for both shootings and homicides in Milwaukee for the past two years.

The governor on Saturday offered thoughts and prayers, but didn’t offer any plans after Milwaukee’s violent weekend.

“Kathy and I are heartbroken by last night’s horrific acts of gun violence in Milwaukee. We are thinking of all the people who were injured and are praying for their full recovery, and we are thinking of the many people affected by this senseless tragedy,” the governor Tweeted.

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