Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. November 12, 2023.
Editorial: Patience wearing thin on records delays
We’re in agreement with a Wisconsin judge’s order last week instructing a former chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to hand over documentation from her work advising Robin Vos on possible impeachment of a current justice.
We’re written on the impeachment itself before, and we stand behind those statements. This is a little different. Patience Roggensack is the only one of the three handpicked judges advising the Assembly’s speaker on the issue to thus far duck public scrutiny of her work.
Vos himself has turned over some 20,000 pages of documents as public records. Jon Wilcox, a former justice, has said he didn’t produce a report on the question, but did advise against impeachment.
A third former justice, David Prosser, turned over his records from the work. Like Wilcox, he said impeachment shouldn’t be taken up at this time.
Roggensack’s silence is impossible to miss. By ignoring her responsibility she is effectively placing herself above Wisconsin’s open records laws, a stunningly defiant position for someone who once served on the state’s highest court.
There’s no plausible way for Roggensack to claim she isn’t aware of the attempts to open up her records. Aside from voluminous press coverage, a process server went to her home with a subpoena. Judge Frank Remington, who issued the order, was told an elderly man opened the door to Roggensack’s home, claimed he didn’t know anyone by that name, and closed the door.
That claim is exceedingly difficult to believe. Most people don’t allow complete strangers into their homes, let alone allow them to open the front door when someone knocks.
The fact Roggensack’s attorney isn’t returning phone calls or emails about the issue contributes to the overall impression of a former justice simply hiding and hoping she can wait out the demand for open records.
Remington’s order gives Roggesack 30 days to comply. He cited Wisconsin’s “long and storied tradition on the responsibility of open government.”
That tradition is under threat, though. The Legislature has not yet addressed the gaping loophole the supreme court opened in the open records law last year. By saying governmental bodies can duck the penalties associated with open records lawsuits if they hand over the documents before a case is settled, the court eviscerated the law. It gave bad actors a plain incentive to delay and defy legitimate requests, something Roggensack now seems to be taking clear advantage of.
Open records are unequivocally a necessity. There is no way for a population to keep tabs on how its government behaves unless it can see the documents that underpin decisions. That’s true regardless of whether the officials involved want those documents to become public.
When you act at the request of a public official on a question of public importance, there can be no legitimate argument for a blanket withholding of documents. There can be genuine concerns about redactions within the documents to avoid irreparable harm to innocent people, but the documents themselves are public records and must be treated as such.
Everyone in the current fracas has seemed to recognize that fundamental fact, with the glaring exception of Roggensack. There’s no question the others understood their responsibility under the law. They acted accordingly.
For a former justice, someone who purportedly would understand granular details of the law and the full implications of defying it, to take a stance so contrary to Wisconsin’s public records requirements is concerning. Roggensack must hand over the records. If she won’t because of the law’s requirement alone, perhaps she’ll recognize a court’s authority to compel such action.
Wisconsin State Journal. November 12, 2023.
Editorial: Deer hunters don’t need AR-15s to bag a buck
Dear, deer hunters:
Tell them you don’t need an AR-15 with high-capacity magazines to bag a buck. You’re a much better shot than that. And you don’t want to ruin the venison by blowing it to bits.
More to the point, tell them you support sensible gun laws — universal background checks, “red-flag” orders and more — to help prevent crime and chronic mass shootings.
Such modest regulations won’t hinder your right to hunt. Responsible hunters don’t need weapons of war to feed and protect their families.
So speak up — and from the heart — in favor of solid steps for improved public safety. Hunters can have an outsized say in making society safer if they raise their voices. That’s because sportsmen and women hold sway over many of the politicians, especially Republicans, who are blocking reasonable limits on guns.
Though crime is down in Madison this year and homicides have finally dipped in Milwaukee, gun violence continues to rage, often involving illegally obtained firearms. Just last month, a 15-year-old was killed and three 14-year-olds were injured by “indiscriminate” gunfire on Madison’s Far East Side, according to police. It was the second fatal shooting at an apartment building since July.
The massacre at a Maine bowling alley last month killed 18 and injured 13. Closer to home, seven were murdered and 45 injured last year at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois. And the shooter in Highland Park “seriously contemplated” another rampage after driving to Madison, police said.
The Gun Violence Archive counts nearly 600 mass shootings across America this year, which is approaching the record.
These aren’t hunters harvesting game who spray bullets with semiautomatic guns in our neighborhoods, churches, theaters and schools. They often are people struggling with personal demons who shouldn’t have been able to get firearms in the first place. About 1 in 4 mass shooters obtains his weapons illegally, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.
The vast majority of hunters take gun safety seriously and follow the rules. They don’t need military-style weapons and vast arsenals to down a deer.
That’s why hunters should push for a solution. They can assure the politicians opposing popular and necessary limits that sportsmen and sportswomen will have their backs in the next election if they do the right thing.
Universal background checks — favored by three-quarters of gun owners in Wisconsin, according to a Marquette Law School poll — will close loopholes for private and online sales. A proper background check could have stopped a man who fatally shot three women, including his wife, at a Brookfield spa in 2012.
Wisconsin’s 48-hour waiting period to buy a handgun, had it not been repealed in 2015, could have prevented the killing of a 24-year-old Stoughton woman in 2016. Bring the requirement back.
A red-flag law allowing police to temporarily disarm people deemed a risk to themselves or others has proven effective in other states. Judges would have to agree someone poses an imminent danger before such an emergency risk protection order could be issued.
Florida adopted a red-flag law with bipartisan support in 2018 following the Parkland school shooting. Like so many mass shooters, the former student was armed with an AR-15-style weapon when he killed 17 and wounded 17 more. Since that massacre, emergency risk protection orders have been used thousands of times in conservative Florida to help guard against similar tragedies.
Wisconsin needs such a law.
Hunters also should support limits on magazines and clips. They should favor a ban on “ghost guns,” which can be assembled at home by just about anyone.
Firing a military-style weapon, such as an AR-15, at a shooting range is one thing. But no one should need a weapon of war in public or for protection. Banning them from our streets is overdue, as the man who took one to the state Capitol in Madison last month demonstrated.
The faster and more powerful the gun, the more people it can quickly kill.
Most Americans understand their 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms comes with limits. So do most hunters, about 550,000 of whom will be aiming for deer starting Saturday.
We wish every hunter good luck. Enjoy the camaraderie and time outdoors.
But call your elected officials first. Tell them law-abiding gun owners strongly back rational limits on guns.