The Packers. Jeffrey Dahmer. “Back to the Future.”
Whoever said law was boring was clearly not privy to hearings like the one I attended Thursday morning.
The end result was Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge David Hansher denying a change of venue to a defendant in a lawsuit against the city of Milwaukee.
But on the way, the court heard pop culture references, football analogies and a reprimand of an attorney who said “with all due respect” to a judge.
Rather than relate the whole story, let me follow Hansher’s football lead and take you through the highlights:
• Hansher kicked off by saying, prior to being assigned to the case, he had not read past the headlines any of the media coverage the defendants said was “inflammatory” and bound to influence potential jurors. “It’s a boring case,” he said, “to be truthful.”
• Milwaukee Assistant City Attorney Miriam Horwitz said she agreed, and said the case was not “sexy” enough for jurors to break the rules about doing outside research.
• The judge then asked the defendant’s attorney, Doug Palandech, if he was a football fan. When Palandech answered in the affirmative, he asked whether this motion was a “Hail Mary.”
• In justifying his denial of the motion for change of venue, Hansher cited multiple high-profile cases that stayed in Milwaukee County, including the Jeffrey Dahmer case.
• Another attorney for the defendant, Matthew Falk, began a statement with the phrase “With all due respect …” This did not sit well with Hansher, who said he heard a judge on television object to it too; he said it implied that the attorney needed to “set the judge straight” since he did not know what he was talking about. He asked that no one use the phrase in his courtroom.
After saying he was reminded of “Back to the Future” when reviewing the case, since a document mentioned the City Hall clock tower, Hansher went back to football.
“‘Hail Mary’s can happen,” Hansher said, “as Green Bay found out in Seattle.”
I cannot say I was surprised that the judge referenced the surprise Packer defeat last year. After all, he is the only judge I know who has a collector’s edition photo of Lambeau Field hanging on the wall of his courtroom.