Recently there have been some glimmers of sanity appearing in the government's attitude towards drugs, with President Obama issuing an executive order to the Justice Department in 2009 requesting an end to raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in states where weed has been legalized for medicinal purposes. The War on Drugs, however, is far from over, and politicians continue to try and score easy points with the public by crafting policies and legislation that attack drugs as the source of all society's ills, all the while distracting the legal system with petty cases against small-time users and stealing resources from efforts to reduce more serious crime. A perfect example of these misguided laws is the recent ban on sales of the psychotropic plant Salvia divinorum, sponsored by Representative Sheldon Wasserman. Users of Salvia divinorum reportedly experience a brief hallucinogenic effect that lasts less than five or ten minutes, and the active compound in the plant, salvinorin A, is currently being used in research for the treatment of depression, Alzheimer's, and many other disorders and diseases. Representative Wasserman, however, is on record saying that "there is no medical purpose for this product, it is completely for getting high, getting stoned." In spite of this damning statement, a provision in Assembly Bill 186 is made for "any dosage form of salvinorin A that may be obtained from a retail establishment without a prescription and that is recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a homeopathic drug." Both salvia's use in medical testing and exceptions in the very bill that bans the drug call into question Representative Wasserman's reasons for sponsoring this law in the first place; the entire thing seems like more of an attempt to pander to a particular constituent base than to effectively manage salvia use. Regulation perhaps, but an outright ban? It seems that politics has again influenced drug policy in ways that could harm otherwise law-abiding citizens and make the choice to use such a drug a more dangerous one. If you have been the victim of drug laws that waste our civil resources and clog our justice system, feel free to contact me at www.reddinandsinger.com.
Every August 1st, in Milwaukee County and the other more populated counties where judges have only one type of case to deal with at a time, judges are reassigned to other types of cases to help keep them up to speed on all areas of the law. For example, if a judge has been hearing only juvenile cases for the last year or more, he may transfer to family court or adult criminal court to hear different kinds of cases. If a criminal defendant's case is on-going at the time of a change in judges, he may get a different judge on his case after August 1. If he doesn't like the judge assigned to his case, this can be good news. Perhaps the new judge will be a better choice. Of course, if the judge you have is perceived to be better than average, you may be sad to see him or her go. Sometimes there can be some strategy involved at this time of year. Your lawyer can try to speed your case up to get it resolved before the rotation, if you want your judge to be your sentencing judge. However, if you and your attorney think the next judge may be a better choice, there are sometimes ways to drag a case out to take advantage of the upcoming change in judges. If you have a case going on, be sure to discuss with your attorney the implications of the upcoming judicial rotation. If you don't have a lawyer and you think this issue may affect your case, feel free to contact us at reddinandsinger.com.
I've been asked a lot lately by perspective clients, "Who's the best attorney in Milwaukee?" Or, "Are you the best criminal defense lawyer in Milwaukee?" People that call from out of town want to know if our law firm has better lawyers than the lawyers in Racine or Green Bay or Waukesha, etc., etc. The short answer is that there is no "best lawyer" in Milwaukee or anywhere else. At Reddin, Singer and Govin, we pride ourselves on our 30 plus years of experience and the inclusion of our lawyers in the various "best attorneys" lists that are around. However, the best lawyer for you is one you have confidence in, that returns your phone calls, that seems in control in the courtroom and that you do the research on to convince yourself that this is the "best lawyer" for your case and your personal situation. We don't pretend finances don't also enter in to the equation. If someone from Eau Claire or Wausau calls me, I frequently tell them that a lawyer with an office across the street from the courthouse is likely to charge less than I might, either because I have more experience or simply because it takes more time for me to drive to a city 100 plus miles away than it would take a local attorney to walk across the street. If money is tight but you absolutely have to have an attorney, the local guy in West Bend might be the "best lawyer" for you.
States everywhere continue to modify their laws to allow for the use of marijuana for medical purposes. What about Wisconsin? Civilization doesn't seem to be crumbling in these other states. While we're at it, why not decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for all of us? Prosecutors complain about not enough resources to charge all the cases that are brought to them. Maybe the answer is to stop bringing them cases that have no business in the criminal justice system. There is considerable disparity in the various Wisconsin counties regarding the prosecution of marijuana cases. Ozaukee County cops bring all marijuana cases into the DA's office because the county has no ordinances prohibiting possession. Just across the county line in Milwaukee County, MPD cops routinely dump small amounts of pot out and send people on their way rather than do the paperwork to even send them to municipal court. Let's end the injustice of uneven prosecution. Decriminalization-the time has come.
Having recently completed a jury trial in a felony matter, I am reminded of the many many things that can happen unexpectedly in a trial, some good, some bad. Overall, though, I think lawyers and clients have become a little too chicken about putting their cases before 12 fellow citizens. It's always interesting to see how often the cases look better on paper for the state than when they're required to put the witnesses on the stand. Especially in state court, defense attorneys are frequently able to take advantage of the district attorney's lack of knowledge about his own case and the inexperience of the prosecutor to gain the upper hand. Given the volume of cases DAs are required to handle and the high turnover in their offices these days, defense lawyers have no excuse for not knowing far more about the facts of a case than their opposition.