REELZ Channel Documentary “Slender Man Stabbing: The Untold Story” Premieres on January 26th

RCS President, Rob Rosenberg, will be featured in the new documentary “Slender Man Stabbing: The Untold Story” on January 26th at 8pm Eastern/7pm Pacific.

Slender Man Stabbing: The Untold Story

Should children be tried as adults? Can a mentally ill person premeditate a crime? Can a psychopath be rehabilitated? Can an attempted murderer also be a victim? Where is the line drawn between compassion and retribution? The Slender Man Stabbing: The Untold Story asks the viewer what they believe. A two-hour exploration of this polarizing case, the documentary focuses on details from the day of arrest to the sentencing of Morgan Geyser. Going beyond the headlines to get perspectives from those closest to the plea deal that lead to her sentence, the evidence sited by both sides of this gripping ordeal will challenge what you know about this case… and what you think is just.

Another RCS Victory: Jury Sides With Ill. Lawyer Over Sham-Investment Claims

Law360 (December 14, 2018, 6:43 PM EST) — An Illinois federal jury sided with a lawyer and his law firm Friday over a man’s claims that the two participated in a scheme to defraud him out of more than $10 million in sham film investments.

The seven-member jury’s verdict was that investor Bill Busbice failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that Illinois lawyer Adrian Vuckovich and his law firm, Collins Bargione & Vuckovich, either participated in or aided and abetted a conspiracy to defraud him of the money, which he claimed was shuffled through the firm’s and lawyer’s bank accounts before it landed in accounts belonging to an alleged co-conspirator. The jury’s decision caps a 10-day trial over Busbice’s claims.

Busbice’s lawsuit claimed he was approached in 2013 by Gerald Seppala, who held himself out as a film industry insider, about an opportunity to invest in the film “Made in America.” He says Seppala then introduced him to David Williams, who Busbice also believed was well connected in the industry and promised to match a $500,000 personal investment in the film if Busbice made a commitment as well.

Busbice says that he relied on those representations in wiring his money, but that Williams never matched the investment and instead transferred $450,000 to another account the day it was received. Williams withdrew more than $112,000 of the transferred money in cashier’s checks from an account he controlled, including more than $87,000 made payable to Steven J. Brown, another alleged co-conspirator, and the Noble Group, whose checks were deposited in the law firm’s retainer account, according to the lawsuit.

From there, and after an additional withdrawal from Williams’ account, Vuckovich wrote a $75,000 check from one of the firm’s accounts to Stuart Manashil, an agent at a prestigious Hollywood talent agency, Busbice alleged.

The scheme continued over about 10 months, with Williams persuading Busbice to invest $2 million to publicize the film “The Letters” in June 2013, $2 million to help publicize the film “Angels Sing” that October and a further $4 million on “The Letters” that November, Busbice claimed.

While details of the purported investment opportunities would change slightly each time Busbice was approached, the basic concept was the same, he claimed. He would wire his money and then receive falsified documents and bank statements indicating that his investment had been matched, but the money would be transferred into other accounts from which thousands of dollars would be deposited in the law firm’s client trust accounts and used to pay the alleged co-conspirators for their work in the ploy, according to the lawsuit.

Busbice claimed he lost about $10.9 million to the alleged scheme.

Vuckovich claimed throughout trial that he never knew Busbice, or what kind of scheme the men had concocted. But knowing Busbice and the scheme “wasn’t his role,” Busbice’s attorney Paul Gale told the jurors during closing argument Friday.

“His role in this conspiracy was to make the money disappear,” he argued. “Who best to help you launder money than a very good longtime friend who happens to be a lawyer in control of a bank account and a trust account?”

The financial accounts used to transfer Busbice’s money were frozen in April 2014 by the bank holding those accounts, and Busbice sued Williams, Seppala, Brown and the companies associated with those accounts in California federal court two months later.

He settled that case in 2015, and the three have since pled guilty along with Manashil to criminal charges over similar sham film investment claims. And while his case in Illinois federal court seeks to hold Vuckovich and his law firm liable for their alleged role in the claimed conspiracy, Vuckovich’s attorney Daniel Konicek told the jurors in his closing argument that Busbice had not come close to meeting the standard to prove his claims with clear and convincing evidence.

“Accidental, negligent participation is not enough, and maybe we can say thank God, right?” Konicek said. “We don’t want to pull innocent people in like Adrian, and the law protects that. Sometimes our clients may be bad people, but we still represent them. And simply by virtue of that, that doesn’t make us bad people.”

U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood cleared the parties’ path to trial in November, when she rejected their dueling bids for summary judgment.

Counsel for Busbice declined comment Friday.

Counsel for Vuckovich and his firm told Law360 in a statement that “the jury reached the right result.”

“Adrian was very grateful to have his day in court,” the statement continued.

By Lauraann Wood

Originally published at on Friday, December 14, 2018 on Law360

Another RCS Case In The News: MillerCoors, Pabst settle lawsuit over brewing contract

After 3 long weeks at trial, these two brewing giants agreed to settle this matter.  RCS was hired by MillerCoors to provide consultative services throughout the trial up until settlement (which happened on the 2nd day of deliberations).  See AP article below:

MILWAUKEE (AP) — MillerCoors and Pabst Brewing Co. settled a lawsuit Wednesday in which the hipster’s brand of choice claimed the bigger brewer lied about its ability to continue brewing Pabst’s beers to put that company out of business.

The settlement came as jurors were ending their second day of deliberations after a two-week trial in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Details of the settlement were not disclosed.

“We have reached an amicable settlement in the case and are pleased to resolve all outstanding issues with Pabst,” MillerCoors LLC said in a statement.In a separate statement, Pabst said it “will continue to offer Pabst Blue Ribbon and the rest of our authentic, great tasting and affordable brews to all Americans for many, many years to come.” Since 1999, Chicago-based MillerCoors has made and shipped nearly all of Pabst’s beers, which include Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee, Lone Star and Schlitz. Pabst’s lawyers argued in the company’s 2016 lawsuit that MillerCoors worried that Pabst would cut into its market share and devised a plan to stop brewing for the smaller competitor. MillerCoors’ attorneys called Pabst’s claim a conspiracy theory and said the company was simply deciding what makes economic sense.

The agreement between MillerCoors and Pabst, which was founded in Milwaukee in 1844 but is now headquartered in Los Angeles, expires in 2020 but provides for two possible five-year extensions. The companies disagreed on how the extensions were to be negotiated: MillerCoors argued it had sole discretion to determine whether it can continue brewing for Pabst, whereas Pabst said the companies must work “in good faith” to find a solution if Pabst wanted to extend the agreement but MillerCoors lacked capacity.

However, Pabst said internal documents from MillerCoors showed the company was worried about competition from Pabst and went as far as hiring a consultant to find a way to get out of the brewing agreement.

“They decided upon the solution before determining their sufficient capacity,” Adam Paris, one of Pabst’s lawyers, said during closing arguments Tuesday. “Their problem wasn’t a capacity problem. Their problem was a financial problem.”

Pabst needs 4 million to 4.5 million barrels brewed annually and claims MillerCoors is its only option. Pabst’s lawsuit sought more than $400 million in damages and a court order for MillerCoors to honor its contract.MillerCoors’ attorney, Eric Van Vugt, told jurors that Pabst presented them with “a tale of conspiracy and deceit that frankly is pretty compelling,” but not true. “Most of what you heard is a complete distortion of the evidence. It was taken out of context, the facts were distorted, keywords dropped,” he said.

MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch, which have the biggest U.S. market share at 24.8 percent and 41.6 percent, respectively, have been losing business to smaller independent brewers, imports, and wine and spirits in recent years, according to the Brewers Association, a U.S.-based trade group. Overall U.S. beer sales have declined, with shipments down from 213.1 million barrels in 2008 to 204.2 million in 2017, according to the association.

Anheuser-Busch doesn’t do contract brewing, leaving MillerCoors as the only U.S. brewery with the capacity to make Pabst’s beers.

During contract-extension negotiations in 2015, MillerCoors announced it would close its brewing facility in Eden, North Carolina, and that it eventually might have to shutter another facility in Irwindale, California. Pabst contended that MillerCoors refused to provide any information to substantiate its claim that it would no longer have the capacity to continue brewing Pabst’s beers.

MillerCoors’ attorneys said at trial the company was obligated to project its future capacity to determine whether it could continue its partnership with Pabst, and that it always intended to keep brewing for Pabst until the expiration of the contract, which included a two-year wind-down provision. That meant MillerCoors would still brew for Pabst through 2022.


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Originally published at Associate Press on Wednesday, November 28, 2018

RCS Victory: Firm Beats $5M Malpractice Claim, Wins $150K For Fees

Law360 (October 2, 2018, 9:49 PM EDT) — An Iowa federal jury held on Monday that a Nebraska law firm didn’t commit legal malpractice while representing a man in a suit over ownership of an insurance marketing company, awarding the firm $150,000 on its cross-claim for unpaid fees.

The late Douglas M. West’s son Douglas J. West and brother Mark West, as co-executors of his estate, had alleged that Domina Law Group PC’s shoddy representation during a dispute over the ownership of life and health insurance marketing company Western Marketing Associates Corp. left the senior West stuck with a reduced value when selling his stake in the company.

After deliberating for less than three hours following a five-day trial, the jury returned with a verdict fully in favor of Domina Law and its attorneys David Domina, Christian Williams and Brian Jorde, finding that they were not negligent in their representation of West, and that the firm is entitled to $152,037 in damages on its breach of contract claim over unpaid fees.

The estate was seeking over $5 million in damages, said Thomas I. Henderson of Whitfield & Eddy Law, who represented Domina Law.

The law firm’s lead trial counsel, Daniel Konicek of Konicek & Dillon PC, told Law360 on Tuesday that the jury had given a clear indication about how it felt about the case by sending out a note during deliberations asking if it could award Domina Law’s attorneys’ fees for defending the case. That wasn’t allowed, but it indicated that the jury felt the legal malpractice claim shouldn’t have been brought, Konicek said.

“I think it was pretty loud and clear by the jury that the Domina Law Group not only didn’t do anything wrong, but also concluded that they frankly did an excellent job,” he said.

An attorney for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The suit, filed by West’s estate in July 2016, alleged that Domina Law — a Nebraska-based firm that specializes in trial practice in a variety of areas including personal injuries, product liability and medical malpractice — had been retained by West in September 2013 to represent him in a pair of Iowa District Court suits between himself and his Western Medical co-owner, Mark Finken.

The co-owners had previously entered into a buy-sell agreement that provided a framework for each of them to transfer shares and retire from the corporation, but Domina Law advised West not to use it and to pursue a judicial dissolution of Western Medical instead, according to the complaint.

As a result of Domina Law’s advice, a court ultimately issued a judgment that resulted in West getting a much lower value for his share of the company than he would have received by using the buy-sell agreement, according to the suit.

In its answer and counter-claim filed in March 2016, Domina Law alleged that the estate still owed roughly $150,000 in legal fees and that the estate couldn’t sue for legal malpractice because West had accepted the benefits of Domina Law’s representation, accepting the judgment in the ownership dispute without appealing it and taking the payments he got from it.

West died in November 2015, according to case documents.

David Domina, the firm’s founding partner and defendant in the suit, was the Democratic nominee for one of Nebraska’s U.S. Senate seats in 2014, losing to Republican Ben Sasse.

West’s estate is represented by Matthew G. Sease and Scott M. Wadding of Kemp & Sease.

Domina Law is represented by Daniel Konicek of Konicek & Dillon PC and Thomas I. Henderson of Whitfield & Eddy Law.

The case is Estate of Douglas M. West v. Domina Law Group PC LLO, case number 1:16-cv-00030, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. 

–Editing by Haylee Pearl.

RCS Case Featured on ABC’s 20/20

Slender Man stabbing: Parents recall what happened that morning; 12-year-old survives being stabbed 19 times by her friends; What is Slender Man, the figure that motivated two girls to stab their friend

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RCS Receives Wisconsin Law Journal Reader Rankings Awards

RCS received the 2018 award for “Best Courtroom Presentation Provider” and “Best Jury/Trial Consulting Services” by the Wisconsin Law Journal.

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Rosenberg helps lawyers get in touch with tech

Rob Rosenberg has seen his job become more important than ever, as evidenced by the technological upgrades that can be seen in courtrooms throughout the country.

Rosenberg, president of Hartland-based Rosenberg Consulting Services, said he helps law firms organize their messages, evidence and presentations in a way that can break down complex ideas and make them more understandable to members of a jury.

Throughout his roughly 20 years in the business, Rosenberg has seen technology become used much more widely to present information and make arguments in the courtroom.

Using Waukesha’s county courts as an example, Rosenberg said every courtroom there is wired for multimedia technology, including videos and animations.

“That has happened nationally that courtrooms are more wired,” he said, noting that he used to have to lug equipment with him when presenting information at trials.

Beyond that, juries and others have become much more used to working with technology, he said. Even so, the need for explaining often-complicated legal ideas and court cases is as important as ever.

Rosenberg said lawyers sometimes forget, when talking to jurors and others, that they take for granted knowledge of certain details that might not be immediately apparent to everyone. His services help them explain things in a way that others would understand.

“Essentially, you have lawyers that are working with complex issues and facts over the course of years,” he said. “Unfortunately, what happens is that they get into the mind frame of a lawyer and not a factfinder.”

Rosenberg’s connection with law firms reaches even further back than the 20 or so years he has been providing consulting services. He said that he was first introduced to the industry at the age of 12, when he was delivering deposition and trial transcripts during the summer months to law firms across Chicago.

From there, he started recording video of depositions for a family firm. He also worked with some of the leading providers of legal services throughout the country and has worked on several high profile/high stakes cases.

Technically speaking: Rosenberg helps attorneys craft their cases visually

Robert Rosenberg sees himself as a translator between attorneys and jury members.

The president of Rosenberg Consulting Services, he organizes information, electronic evidence and exhibits into easily accessible electronic files that can be accessed at any point during a trial.

“Attorneys have a lot of evidence and information they want to share with juries and that needs to be conveyed to juries in a way they can easily understand,” he said. “One way to do that is using a visual format.”

Rosenberg’s business covers a broad range of services, from putting together those easily accessible presentations for attorneys, surveying a courtroom in advance and installing the appropriate equipment to creating 2-D and 3-D illustrations or quickly producing the necessary documents for attorneys.

Rosenberg has been around the legal profession for most of his life. His family owned a court reporting business in Chicago that was later sold to Esquire Deposition Solutions. His first job with the firm was videotaping depositions.

“Honestly that was kind of boring, so I looked for other things to do, and as technology evolved I saw that as a way to help attorneys present evidence,” Rosenberg said. “Attorneys have the information and we just take that information and make it so anyone can understand it. By putting evidence in a visual format you can really connect with jurors.”

Nearly all of Rosenberg’s work involves civil lawsuits, particularly those involving intellectual property. Presenting evidence in a way that’s easy for jurors to understand is paramount in those cases.

“The presentations are put together in a non-linear format, so at any point in time an attorney can access what they are looking for,” Rosenberg said. “I really enjoy the trial phase of the law and how all that legwork comes together into a great evidence presentation.”

Rosenberg admitted that 95 percent of what he does is “self-taught. There’s not a lot of people who do what I do, but people hear about you and what you’ve done and the word spreads. Word of mouth is always the best form of advertising.”

Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes your work important to you?
Robert Rosenberg: Knowing that the work I do and service we provide help make a difference in the outcome of a case. I often get approached to help bridge the communication gap between the legal world and the average person using visuals. Being able to do that and help achieve great results in the courtroom makes it all worth it.

WLJ: Who is your hero in the legal field?
Rosenberg: I’ve had many people that have influenced my career. Two in particular have shaped who I am and helped me and many others get a jumpstart on our careers. Kim Taylor, whom I worked for early in my career, would never let me say that I had a problem — only challenges. That paved the way for a particular set of ‘challenge-solving skills’ that I use to this day. The second was attorney Robert (Bob) F. Coleman. His sense of humor, class and unwavering devotion to his family and the law made me believe that no matter what we were working on — that it had to be fun. Otherwise, what’s the point? These two individuals helped shape the philosophy of our organization: Work on good cases for good clients and have fun doing it.

WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Rosenberg: I like to volunteer at my children’s schools, play tennis and have unyielding passion for tinkering with electronic toys. My wife and I also like to travel quite a bit. We have learned over the years that it is important to detach ourselves periodically from our routines.

WLJ: What’s one thing many people get wrong about what you do?
Rosenberg: Most people don’t even realize that my type of job exists. When I tell people that I am a trial consultant, they often mistake me for a jury consultant. Our work, while having some overlaps, is very different from that of a jury consultant.

WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Rosenberg: The case that stands out to me the most would be the Gaylord Chemical matter related to the chemical release in Bogalusa, La. Our team spent the better part of six months down in Franklinton, La., for Daubert hearings and for a two-phase trial. I was consulting for one of the world’s largest law firms and had a trial team of over 30 people. It was an amazing collection of talented people. My favorite part was when the senior partner in charge of the case said to the team that he expected that everyone from partners to secretarial staff be treated with respect. That set a tempo for a positive attitude in our war room throughout the entire trial.

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How to win more trials in 2016

Reach the mountaintop more often with these tips

For lawyers who want to learn to make the most of those little opportunities that always come along to further a client’s case during trial, there is no replacement for time in a courtroom.

So says Patrick Dunphy, a Brookfield lawyer with more than 30 years of trial experience and various record-setting verdicts to his name. But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope for those with far less trial time.

Even the most green, Dunphy said, can take certain steps to make sure they present the best-possible arguments on behalf of their clients.

Perhaps the simplest is preparation. Know your facts, know the law and try to gain an understanding of whatever sort of complicated subject matters you are likely to encounter in the case — whether it be medicine, engineering or something more technical.

“That is the only way to get the jury’s confidence so that they can trust you because you know what you are talking about,” Dunphy said, “and it allows you to simplify things for the jury so it can better understand the more complex parts of the case.”

Also, lawyers should know their audience, said Rob Rosenberg, president of Rosenberg Consulting Services, which specializes in courtroom technology and trial graphics. He has been consulted in thousands of cases, including the infamous Slender Man trial and the Laurie Bebo fraud case.

“I think the biggest thing is probably knowing your audience in advance and starting to think visually earlier,” said Rosenberg.

If it’s a bench trial, he said, try to understand the way the judge likes to see information presented. With a jury, in contrast, things are not quite so easy.

“One of most important things for lawyers to do is to stop thinking like a lawyer and start thinking like a trier of fact,” Rosenberg said.

Chris Stombaugh, a trial attorney, agrees. The longer lawyers practice, he said, the less likely they are to understand how people outside the profession think. Yet it’s those everyday people, and not the professional colleagues whom lawyers often spend most of their working hours among, that are most important to be able to communicate with.

Stombaugh, a trial lawyer who started his career in Platteville and now runs a law firm partially dedicated to teaching trial attorneys, said there are primarily two things attorneys can do to understand how jurors think.

The first, he said, is to take arguments that you are considering using in a trial and try them out on focus groups. This procedure should help a lawyer gauge how a jury is likely to respond to a particular argument.

Stombaugh’s second piece of advice also stems from his belief that the most important thing lawyers can do is to know their audience. Legal professionals, he says, should do their best to get up to speed on developments in fields such as social psychology and behavioral economics.

Researchers, he said, are constantly finding that people make decisions for reasons other than those that were usually invoked in the past. Jurors tend, for instance, to pay less attention to the content of an argument than they do to the attorney presenting the argument.

Thinking like a juror also means that lawyers need to communicate like a juror — like a layperson, in other words.

Above all, Dunphy said, they should avoid legalese.

Also helpful is anything that will make arguments simpler, whether that be analogies or visual aids. Care should be taken to make sure whatever you choose fits well into the bigger picture of your argument.

“Bad analogies don’t work,” Rosenberg said. “As a matter of fact, they make your case harder to try. What does work is strong, concise meaningful and deliberate visuals. … Often times people don’t know why they want to have a visual other than to prove one little thing.”

View original article here:

Panel rules south side districts must be redrawn, approves all others. But other maps met requirements of law, U.S. judges rule

Madison – New election maps that Republican state lawmakers drew last year for Milwaukee’s south side violated the voting rights of Latinos and must be redrawn, a panel of three federal judges unanimously ruled Thursday.

The court found other maps the Republicans drew met the requirements of federal law and the U.S. Constitution but blocked the state from using any of the maps for the Legislature until changes are made to two Assembly districts in Milwaukee’s Hispanic neighborhoods.

Nonetheless, the decision signals that – barring a counter-ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court – the GOP-friendly maps will largely be in place for the next decade, starting in November.

While upholding most of the maps, the court criticized lawmakers for the secretive process they used to draw them, saying it was not in keeping with Wisconsin’s history of open government.

“We find that although the drafting of Act 43 was needlessly secret, regrettably excluding input from the overwhelming majority of Wisconsin citizens, and although the final product needlessly moved more than a million Wisconsinites and disrupted their long-standing political relationships, the resulting population deviations are not large enough to permit judicial intervention under the (U.S.) Supreme Court’s precedents” for claims other than those involving the two Latino districts, the court wrote.

The three judges found the maps for Assembly Districts 8 and 9 violate the federal Voting Rights Act and said legislators should quickly redraw them. The judges said legislators must not change the maps for other districts as they redraw the two on Milwaukee’s south side, but Democrats noted the same court in an earlier ruling said the Legislature has free rein to alter any of the maps.

Who will draw new maps?

Regardless, lawmakers probably won’t take up the maps at all, leaving it to the court to set them. Senate Republican leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau said there was “not a chance” senators would return to the floor to take up the maps.

Republicans lost their majority in the Senate on Saturday, when. Sen. Pam Galloway (R-Wausau) resigned. Galloway, who was to face a recall election, said she left because of illnesses in her family. Her departure leaves the Senate evenly divided, and both parties would need to agree to come back in session.

The court did not set a timeline for lawmakers to make changes, but observers said maps must be put in place by April 15, when candidates can start circulating nomination papers. Democrats said they want the Legislature to take up the issue and were distressed that Fitzgerald would not agree to return to the floor.

“It is ridiculous that Republicans would ignore a court order to fix an unlawful map. Maybe they should sleep on it,” Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller of Monona said in a statement.

“We need to immediately begin to redraw the maps in a manner that is fully open and transparent and does not, in the words of the court, ‘needlessly move’ more than a million citizens of Wisconsin,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said in a statement.

State says it’s vindicated

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who defended the state, hailed the court’s decision.

“The judgments made by the Wisconsin Legislature have largely been vindicated,” he said in a statement. “No constitutional defects were found and what began as a scattershot attack on every aspect of these laws has come down to a single finding that one line between two districts should be adjusted.”

The court’s order enjoined the state from implementing the law that created the new 99 Assembly districts and 33 Senate districts, the plaintiffs noted. But Steve Means, Van Hollen’s executive assistant, said he thought there was ambiguity in the order and only the two Latino Assembly districts were blocked.

The lawsuit also challenged the makeup of the newly drawn congressional districts, but the court found they were configured in an acceptable way and did not block the use of those maps.

Once every 10 years, states must draw new districts to account for changes in population identified by the U.S. Census Bureau, and how those lines are drawn can give one party tremendous advantage over the other.

In past decades, for the most part, Wisconsin’s Republicans and Democrats could not agree on maps and courts established the lines. But last year, Republicans controlled all of state government and approved maps that favored their party.

Even before they revealed their maps, a group of Democratic citizens filed suit over them in federal court in Milwaukee. The immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera later filed a separate suit, and the two were consolidated.

The plaintiffs contended the Legislature violated the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of Latinos by dividing them into two Assembly districts on Milwaukee’s south side instead of concentrating them into one, and the court agreed with them.

The group of Democrats argued the maps were also improper because they make too many people wait six years, instead of the usual four, between their chances to vote in a state Senate election.

State senators serve four-year terms, and this fall half of them are up for election, with the other half up in 2014. Nearly 300,000 people who had lived in a Senate district that is up in 2012 have been moved into ones with elections in 2014. That means they have to wait six years, instead of the usual four, between elections.

The plaintiffs contended that shift violated those voters’ constitutional rights and that lawmakers could have minimized the number of affected voters. The court said it was sympathetic to those voters, but the issue did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.

Judges jab Republicans

The judges took digs at the Republicans throughout their decision, as they have in past rulings. They said they had trouble believing the sworn testimony of Tad Ottman and Adam Foltz, two Republican aides who drew the maps for lawmakers and insisted that partisanship played no role in where the lines were drawn.

“We find those statements to be almost laughable,” the court wrote.

The judges – two appointed by Republican presidents and one appointed by a Democratic president – said the maps were clearly motivated by partisanship and contrasted that with the almost even divide in the state between Republicans and Democrats.

“Regrettably, like many other states, Wisconsin chose a sharply partisan methodology that has cost the state in dollars, time and civility,” the court wrote. “Nevertheless, our task is to assess the legality of the outcome, not whether it lived up to any particular ideal.”

The critique of the Republicans’ practices – which included having nearly all GOP lawmakers sign secrecy agreements about the maps – comes after even more scathing rulings. Earlier this year, the panel ordered Republican attorneys to pay about $17,500 to the plaintiff’s attorneys for filing frivolous motions trying to prevent information from becoming public.

The three judges in the case repeatedly have said lawmakers, rather than judges, should be the ones to draw the lines. A trial over the maps was delayed for two days as the judges urged majority Republicans to revisit the maps taking into account the issues raised by Democrats and Latinos. The Republicans declined to reconsider them, and the trial was held in February.

The case appears headed back to court now that Fitzgerald said senators would not return to the floor. That would likely mean attorneys in the case would present maps to the court on how to reconfigure the two Assembly districts. Republicans could be at a disadvantage in that process because the Legislature is not a party to the case, and thus does not have attorneys advocating for it in the courtroom.

Which maps for recalls?

Thursday’s ruling could also play a role in looming recall elections of state senators.

The plaintiffs had also asked the court to rule that old maps must be used for those elections, expected this summer. The court said using the old maps for recall elections would be constitutional. The federal panel left the matter to state courts but said it could review any decision on which maps to use.

Two lawsuits have been filed by a group of Republican citizens asking that the new districts be used for recalls, and those cases have been tied up for months in the state Supreme Court.

Federal redistricting cases are unusual in that they are heard by a three-judge panel. Any appeals go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, which must rule on them. Both sides said they were considering appealing.

The decision was written by J.P. Stadtmueller of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Diane P. Wood of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Robert M. Dow Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois. Stadtmueller was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan; Wood was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton; and Dow was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush.

Thursday’s ruling may mean taxpayers have to spend more on legal fees. Voces attorney Peter Earle said he would seek more than $100,000 in legal fees, and Doug Poland, who represents the Democrats who sued, said he would probably ask for attorneys’ fees as well.

Means, of the Department of Justice, said he did not believe they would prevail because the court ruled Thursday that other costs would not be shifted.

Already, Republican lawmakers have committed $400,000 in taxpayer money to pay for help they sought in drawing the maps from Michael Best & and the Troupis Law Office. Separately, Gov. Scott Walker hired Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren to assist the Department of Justice with the litigation. Its contract with the state caps its fees at $925,000; as of last month, it had billed the state $288,000.

Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

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