Today's Judge Sykes Events
The noon question and answer session discussed Judge Sykes' experiences on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, and the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. She talked about the varying levels of technology available at the three courts, including the archaic "everything on paper" system at County to the high tech electronic network available on the 7th Circuit. Having everything computerized allows the judges of the 7th Circuit to use homestate chambers (the 7th Circuit covers Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana) when the judges are not in Chicago hearing cases.
Judge Sykes shared her experiences in the confirmation process, something fresh in many people's minds after Justice Alito's recent confirmation. Wisconsin uses a bi-partisan selection committee to recommend candidates for federal positions. Judge Sykes was on both that list and the list prepared by the White House. She went through the same confirmation preparation as other nominees, including Justice Department "murder boards". Murder boards are mock confirmation hearings done by the administration to prepare the nominee for the type and style of questions that the Judiciary Committee will ask. For all of the preparation involved, it wasn't very necessary. Judge Sykes was a relatively uncontroversial nominee. There were minor delays in her confirmation vote because this was the time when the Democrats were getting prickly about appeals court judges. However, only Senators Leahy and Durbin stood to speak against her on the Senate floor. I read the transcripts of their comments, and they both come across as idiots (shocking, I know).
The second and more prestigious event was the 10th Annual E. Harold Hallows Distinguished Lecture, given by Judge Sykes. Entitled Reflections on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Judge Sykes' lecture analyzed five controversial decisions from the last term of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. I will let the Judge's words, as linked in the previous PDF, speak for themselves. Her main point was that the Wisconsin State Supreme Court has been increasing willing to make decisions based on the preferred policy of the justices, not based on the language and history of the law. The justices are acting more like a legislature than a court. It was a strong indictment of the cavalier behavior of a majority of the justices.
Judge Sykes is an excellent representative of Marquette University Law School. She will continue to distinguish herself with her work on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly elsewhere in the future. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
EDIT: I was verbally assaulted in the hallway before my night class for not going into enough detail about Judge Sykes' lecture. I didn't dissect it because (a.) I had to get to the aforementioned night class, and (b.) the speech is 24 pages long (26 with the case citations). I would urge everyone who wasn't there to read it. If you don't know anything about the WI Supreme Court, you need to read this speech and learn what they did to our state last term. Hopefully, this speech will highlight what the Court has done and get people to pay attention to who is on the Court and who is in the governor's mansion (and appointing justices in the event of a vacancy).
Just read the speech. It's more than worth your time.