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Author: Hannah Dugan

From Litigation to COVID-19 Mitigation: Milwaukee County Courts after two years of the pandemic

Two years ago on March 22, 2020, COVID-19 closed access to public buildings, but not to the courts within them. When the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the suspension of nearly all in-person hearings, the Milwaukee County Circuit Court already had geared up for the impending justice system slowdown. By pivoting away from in-person appearances to pandemic-safe Zoom “courtrooms,” the local justice system never ceased hearing cases. Two years ago, the 4600 persons daily entering the Milwaukee court facilities were reduced by 85% to fewer than 700 essential workers and litigants involved in the most serious criminal cases and domestic...

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Stalag Milwaukee: German World War II prisoners left their confinement at Camp Billy Mitchell 75 years ago

The highly anticipated upsurge of flight activity post-COVID vaccine at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport is second only to the surge expected 75 years ago this month. In April 1946 “Camp Billy Mitchell,” Milwaukee’s prisoner of war work camp, was finally decommissioned. The closure made way for Milwaukee County’s long-delayed post-war civilian air travel to soar. However, the War Department’s continued “squatting” would delay the anxiously anticipated air travel rush from taking flight for another two years. Between 1945 and 1946, over 3000 German prisoners of war (PW’s was the abbreviation used in 1945) were interned at General Mitchell Field,...

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Lady Justice: Fifty years of women in the Milwaukee Judiciary and the impact of their inclusion

During Women’s History Month the achievements and the impact of women are recounted, and assessments of the trajectory of inclusion are reviewed. This year marks not only a milestone for women in the law in Milwaukee, but also reveals the slow but steady equitable inclusion of women – as judges, public servants, and elected officials. Fifty years ago, then-Milwaukee Alderperson Vel Phillips resigned her office to become the first woman judge in Milwaukee County and the first African-American judge in the state of Wisconsin. Governor Lee Dreyfus appointed her to the Children’s Court (a designated appointment at the time)....

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Who Counts and When: On Women’s Suffrage, Census, and incremental steps towards citizenship and Civil Rights

2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, confirming women shall not be denied the right to vote, and marked the 150th anniversary of the first full United States census of African-Americans. These milestones are consequential for women, and Black women, respectively. They prompt reflection about the hard fight obtaining, retaining, and maintaining both ballot access and census accuracy. The day the 19th Amendment was adopted, American swelled representative democracy by millions; its single largest such expansion. Despite this achievement, America continued to deny the vote to millions of women. Disenfranchising barriers would not...

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Shirley Abrahamson: First female Chief Justice of Wisconsin Supreme Court dies of pancreatic cancer

Chief Justice Emerita Shirley S. Abrahamson, a monumental and historic figure in Wisconsin’s judicial and public service history, died at the age of 87 of pancreatic cancer on December 19. During her fourth 10-year term, she became the longest-serving justice on the Court – almost half that time serving as chief justice. She was the first woman to sit on the Court when Governor Patrick Lucey appointed her to the high court in 1976. She was short-listed twice for presidential appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Breaking glass ceilings and longevity have their places. But it is the content...

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Who Counts and When: On African-American suffrage, census, and the incremental steps for Civil Rights

2020 marks the 150th anniversaries both of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confirming male African American suffrage, and of the first full United States census of African-Americans. Commemorating these consequential milestones prompts reflection about the hard fight obtaining, retaining and maintaining both ballot access and census accuracy. The steps towards official African American citizenship and civil rights were absurdly incremental; they began decades before 1870 and were not achieved in law for nearly ten decades after 1870 – upon the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In recent years, the federal judiciary removed critical enforcement...

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