Tag Archives: legal intern

An Exciting Victory

As those of you who live in Wisconsin probably noticed, yesterday the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a decision declaring the most recent stay-at-home order from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services unconstitutional. From a practical level, this returns the choice of whether or not to open to businesses and communities. From a more esoteric perspective, the ruling preserves due process and the rule of law in Wisconsin by requiring agencies to operate only within the explicit bounds of their legislative authority. 

But on a much more personal level, the case represents the culmination of nearly ten years of effort from the legal foundation where I work.

Almost ten years of lobbying, educating, and brief writing. Almost ten years of cases representing farmers and nurses and others regulated businesses.

All because agencies frequently use more power than the legislature specifically gave them and no one holds them accountable for it. But yesterday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court finally drew a line in the sand. Agencies can only use the authority explicitly granted to them by the Wisconsin Legislature. The Court explained: 

¶51 “To place this contention in context, the reader should note that there is history underlying how courts have interpreted administrative agency powers. Formerly, court decisions permitted Wisconsin administrative agency powers to be implied. See Wis. Citizens Concerned for Cranes & Doves v. DNR, 2004 WI 40, ¶14, 270 Wis. 2d 318, 677 N.W.2d 612. In theory, “any reasonable doubt pertaining to an agency’s implied powers” was resolved “against the agency.” Wis. Builders Ass’n v. DOT, 2005 WI App 160, ¶9, 285 Wis. 2d 472, 702 N.W.2d 433. However, the Legislature concluded that this theory did not match reality. Therefore, under 2011 Wis. Act 21, the Legislature significantly altered our administrative law jurisprudence by imposing an “explicit authority requirement” on our interpretations of agency powers. Kirsten Koschnick, Comment, Making “Explicit Authority” Explicit Deciphering Wis. Act 21’s Prescriptions for Agency Rulemaking Authority, 2019 Wis. L. Rev. 993, 997.

(As an aside, Kirsten is a former intern at the foundation where I work and a friend of mine. She deserves all the congratulations for getting cited!) 

¶52 “The explicit authority requirement is codified at Wis. Stat. § 227.10(2m), which provides: “No agency may implement or enforce any standard, requirement, or threshold, . . . unless that standard, requirement, or threshold is explicitly required or explicitly permitted by statute or by a rule that has been promulgated in accordance with this subchapter[.]” Furthermore, Wis. Stat. § 227.11(2)(a)1.—3., as summarized by a recent comment in the Wisconsin Law Review, “prevent[s] agencies from circumventing this new ‘explicit authority’ requirement by simply utilizing broad statutes describing the agency’s general duties or legislative purpose as a blank check for regulatory authority.” Koschnick, Making “Explicit Authority” Explicit, at 996. The explicit authority requirement is, in effect, a legislatively imposed canon of construction that requires us to narrowly construe imprecise delegations of power to administrative agencies…”

While there are plenty of battles left to fight, this is a victory and one well worth celebrating. 

It was worth wondering if I would fail my final because I had no time to study because I was at the office trying to get the brief finished with my boss. It was worth running the three blocks in high heels because none of us attorneys can get anything done on time without our support staff. (Who are all working from home and not around to help with the jammed printer!) It was worth locking myself out of the building and standing in the cold until the other intern came out to get me, forgot he also didn’t have a key, and so stranded both of us out in the cold. Actually…it was all worth it for the comical, pained expression when I handed over the blood-stained appendix to our brief because my boss stabbed himself with a stapler and we didn’t have time to print out another one before everything closed…

Ugh, just kidding. What an awful day that was. I knew there was a reason I didn’t blog about it. But guess what? It was worth it because incrementally, we preserve the rule of law by drawing clear lines for when an unelected, unchecked bureaucrat can regulate you and when it can’t. And that’s a reason to get out of bed in the morning. And run in high heels, get stabbed with a stapler, and freeze in the cold. 


Watching Oral Arguments

One of the former interns at the Foundation where I work swung by today to look up some paperwork. She is also a 3L and her article is also getting published by the Wisconsin Law Review this semester. She took over for me as president at the Federalist Society. We have a lot in common. 

Our boss (former boss, in her case) recently did an oral argument before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and someone in the office tipped us off that we could watch it on WisconsinEye. So we did. It was quite eye-opening. To be perfectly blunt, we were both shocked at how poorly some of the oral arguments went. (Not our boss, of course. He was great.) But some of the other presenters routinely interrupted the justices, didn’t know the answer to basic questions, or took a condescending tone when explaining the law. 

It was a very crystallizing moment for me. Not just because my friend and I realized ‘hey, even we could do that!’ But sitting there, talking to my friend about our upcoming publications, watching an oral argument about a brief we both helped write, I realized…I finally feel like a 3L. It isn’t that I’m a full-fledged attorney yet. But in a year I will be. 

Maybe someday my friend and I will argue before the Wisconsin Supreme Court together. Or even sit on the court. Or maybe we will go our opposite ways and totally lose contact. But for a moment, I did not feel like we were watching as clueless students, only half sure of what was going on. We watched as colleagues, knowledgeable and passionate about the law, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of our boss’s presentation. (I mean, what weaknesses? There were no weaknesses.) And I am looking forward to more of that. I realized…

There is a light at the end of this law school tunnel! 


My School Checks Up On Me

My career adviser at the law school sent my boss an e-mail today. He shared it with me:

I hope we might be able to find a time to discuss Amy’s summer employment—what went well, areas where our students can improve, and how we can best help you recruit future attorneys and interns.

A fairly innocuous request. Probably. Certainly helpful information for the law school. After all, if their students are going around burning bridges, they’ll want to know. And anyway, I want to develop the relationship between the career office and the foundation. This is a great place to work. 

But I have a confession: I’m a teeny, teeny bit annoyed by it.

It feels like my law school is checking up on me. Like a Mom asking if her kid played well with the other kids in kindergarten. ‘Is she social? Did she share? Did she bite Little Timmy again?’

I worked an adult job that I got on my own without any assistance from the career office, the diversity clerkship, or the law school clinics this summer. In fact, I have been working this job for over a year and a half now. So it seems a little silly to have someone checking up on me. Even for useful, research purposes. 

My boss was also confused. 

Because I am not a kindergartner. I am not a high schooler. I am not even a college student. I am an adult who chose a course of study through the law school. The law school is not my parent. Or my boss. It has no responsibility for me. And while I will probably laugh at my annoyance tomorrow, tonight I very much wish I could say: 

“How Amy’s summer employment went is none of your business!” 

(But it went well, for the record.)


Grantwriting

I consider one of the perks of working at a small, non-profit legal foundation that I get to do a little bit of everything. I handle communications, blog for the website, research briefs, write memos, and deliver final copies of the work to the clerk of courts.

Most recently, I’ve been handed the task of figuring out grant writing. It is a bit intimidating. But fun. 

Today I finished reading my 7th book on grant writing and non-profit fundraising. For someone who has thus far succeeding in bringing in $0, I sure feel like an expert. Hopefully some of this research will pay off. (Literally and figuratively!) 


“Normal” Amount of Posts

As I mentioned in an earlier post or two, part of my job at work involves updating the Foundation’s blog. I actually quite enjoy it. But I realized, the fact that I blog on Fernweh’s Call every day has given me a skewered perception of what is “normal” for a healthily updated blog.  

For example, my work’s blog is accessible through the website and the website lists the most recent 8 or so posts with links to get there. I seriously over-analyze how recent those 8 posts should be. Is it okay to have one from May? Should they all be June and July? Or just July? Can July have a few more posts than June? Or should I evenly space out posts so I don’t post more than 4 a month? 

But when you are used to writing 30-31 posts a month, 4 sure seems weak! 

I think I am going to go stalk all the organizations like us and see how often they post.


Blogging For Work Part II

We’ve run into a bit of a backlog with consistently updating the blog at work. Thus, my main role today involved back-dating posts to reflect updates we previously sent out to our subscribers. 

The thing is, it didn’t occur to me till I was halfway through the project that I don’t follow our blog and I have no idea if everyone who does gets an e-mail when I backdate something. 

In other words, a whole bunch of people might have an inbox right now that looks something like this:

  • Foundation to file join as intervenor in case (January)
  • Foundation submits motion to join as intervenor in case (February) 
  • Foundation receives permission from Supreme Court to join as intervenor to case (March)
  • Foundation files brief as intervenor in case (April)
  • Foundation files reply brief as intervenor in case (May)
  • Update on Foundation case (June)

 

Update: Good news. We don’t actually have subscribers to our blog.
Bad news. Just found out we don’t actually have subscribers to our blog.


Blogging For Work

Boss: “You blog every day, right?”

Me: “Yup!”

Boss: “So you can whip a few posts up about our last case, right? Should be a breeze!”

Me: * thinks about the story of the runaway watermelon that took 5 minutes to write *

Me: * thinks about the complicated civil procedure litigation we just finished that took weeks of research *

Me: “…yeeeeeep.”