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In this Aug. 31 photo, Molly McGrath, who works for VoteRiders to help people get the required photo identification needed to vote, assists Mike Battles with questions about early voting in Madison, Wisconsin. (AP file photo)

Across the Region: Judge orders hearing on Wisconsin voter ID

Judge orders hearing on Wisconsin voter ID

A hearing has been scheduled in federal court less than four weeks before the election to consider a motion calling for suspension of Wisconsin’s voter ID law.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson has scheduled the hearing for Oct. 12 in Madison. Peterson says he will consider a motion filed late Tuesday by the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Institute calling for suspension of the law.

The group argues that the state has not complied with Peterson’s earlier ruling to ensure that voters missing key documents needed to obtain a voter ID can still get credentials to cast a ballot.

The judge says both sides may offer evidence at the hearing to show whether the state has been complying with the order.


DNA exonerates man serving 120 years

A Milwaukee man is due to be released from the Green Bay Correctional Institution after spending more than 20 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit.

A Milwaukee County judge signed an order Tuesday vacating Daryl Dwayne Holloway’s 1993 convictions on sexual assault and armed burglary. The 48-year-old Holloway was sentenced to 120 years in prison. He’s was released Wednesday.

New DNA testing conducted after the Wisconsin Innocence Project worked on the case found he couldn’t have committed the crimes.

The Innocence Project’s co-founder Keith Findley tells WISN-TV hat Holloway has maintained his innocence since he was first accused of the crimes.


Court: District can release teacher’s file

A state appeals court says a school district can release the personnel file of a former teacher accused of having sex with a minor two decades ago.

St. Croix County prosecutors charged Thomas Woznicki in 1994 with having consensual sex with a minor but later dismissed the case. Citizens for Responsible Government made an open records request for Woznicki’s New Richmond School District file last year. Woznicki sued to block release.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the public interest in disclosure outweighs keeping the file private. The long-running fight over Woznicki’s records led to a state law in 2003 that requires public employees to be notified if their agency plans to release records mentioning them.



More South Dakota law graduates flunk bar

The percentage of University of South Dakota School of Law graduates who fail to pass the state bar exam has increased from about 10 percent in 2013 to about 50 percent this year.

The trend is prompting fears that a shortage of lawyers in rural South Dakota could get worse. Most lawyers in the South Dakota hail from the university, which is the state’s only law school.

The Argus Leader reported the South Dakota Board of Bar Examiners’ decision to increase the minimum core needed in order to pass the bar contributed to the failure rate. South Dakota’s minimum score is equal to or greater than the score required by 30 other states.

According to Law School Transparency, the demand for law schools declined nationally during the Great Recession. In order to keep the schools running, administrators began accepting “higher risk students,” students with lower grade point averages or LSAT scores.

The group published a report last year that stated 30 law schools in 2010 admitted classes with at least 25 percent “higher risk” and by 2014 the number rose to 74 law schools and 37 law schools had admitted at least 50 percent of classes with students considered high risk.

“I think law schools need to take a look at their decisions to take these risks and ask why they’re doing it,” said Kyle McEntee, the executive director of Law School Transparency.

Law school dean Thomas Geu said USD is stepping up admittance requirements, updating curriculum and hiring a director of academic support and bar preparation.

According to McEntee law schools have to meet certain passage rates however no school has ever lost accreditation for not meeting them.

The Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will meet next month to discuss a proposal that would require ABA accredited schools to meet bar passage rates.


‘Ghost claims’ complicate water rights

A looming dispute over water rights near Rapid City highlights a thorny issue facing South Dakota: How to handle claims so old or outdated that one expert calls them “ghost claims.”

The case at hand involves a stretch of Rapid Creek where local rancher, Richard Rausch, who leases nearby land, wants to keep water rights first claimed there more than a century ago.

The state Water Management Board will likely have a hearing on Rausch’s case later this year.

David Ganje, an attorney who specializes in natural resource cases, has used the phrase “ghost claims” to describe water rights before 1907, the year the Legislature passed laws requiring state-issued permits for future water rights.

The state has more than 400 sets of water rights filed prior to the adoption of state water-use laws in 1907 that are technically still in force. Many of the rights are for large amounts of water, and some are attached to famous names like Seth Bullock, the legendary lawman of the Deadwood gold-rush era who still technically owns a water right on the Redwater River in Butte County.

Ganje said state regulators have to be careful how they treat the old claims because water rights are property rights and anyone with a claim to property is entitled to certain protections.

Eric Gronlund, who works in the modern Water Rights Program of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said his office tries to chip away at the ghost claims when it can. But the office has an even bigger backlog of modern permits, which constitute permission for an applicant to develop a water right. If development occurs, the state is supposed to conduct a re-inspection for the potential issuance of a water license.

There are now nearly 2,000 permits lingering in the state water-rights database, including modern permits and the pre-regulatory ghost claims. Gronlund said the state has hired two water-rights inspectors to attack the backlog.

Rausch, who has rented his land since 1982, hadn’t known of the old water rights when he was visited by a state water-rights inspector in August, according to the inspector’s written report. That report said Rausch consented to their cancellation. A water management board hearing for that purpose had been scheduled for Oct. 8.

Then, on Sept. 8, Rausch notified the state’s Water Rights Program that he had changed his mind.

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