Rezoning Protest Petitions Under State Law Become a Thing of the Past as of January 1, 2019

As of January 1, 2019, rezoning protest petitions for cities will become a thing of the past, at least as required by the Wisconsin Statutes. 2017 Wisconsin Act 67 eliminated the statutory rezoning protest petition provisions. Read More… “Rezoning Protest Petitions Under State Law Become a Thing of the Past as of January 1, 2019″

Optimizing Social Security Spousal Benefits

Managing your way through the Social Security system can be a very challenging maze and proper planning can sometimes increase the benefits to which you are entitled.  As the Social Security website states:  “Even if you have never worked under Social Security, you may be able to get spouse’s retirement benefits if you are at least 62 years of age and your spouse is receiving retirement or disability benefits.”  Note that you can also receive the spouse’s benefit no matter what your age is if you are caring for the spouse’s child who is also receiving benefits.  Based upon the way the Social Security system works, both spouses can request benefits based on their partner’s Social Security work record.  When you apply for Social Security benefits based upon your work record, the Social Security Administration considers you as filing for both your individual and your spousal benefits.  You are supposed to receive the higher of your own accumulated benefit or one-half (1/2) of your spouse’s benefit provided your spouse has already applied for Social Security. Read More… “Optimizing Social Security Spousal Benefits”

Important Changes to Litigation in Wisconsin on the Horizon

On April 3, 2018, the Wisconsin legislature enacted 2017 Wisconsin Act 235, which includes several reforms to litigation taking place in Wisconsin state courts.  The changes include a new definition of what is “discoverable” in litigation, limitations and alterations to certain aspects of discovery and changes to several statutes of limitation.  Below is a short summary of a few of the more important changes.  Attorneys practicing law in Wisconsin should be aware of these changes, which will take effect July 1, 2018. Read More… “Important Changes to Litigation in Wisconsin on the Horizon”

Telecommuting and the Americans with Disabilities Act

A recent decision from the United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found that working remotely can be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers should always remain cautious about applying rigid and inflexible rules to requests for reasonable accommodations.

In Meachem v. Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division, the Plaintiff was an in-house employment attorney for Memphis Light. After a history of miscarriages, her physician placed her on bed rest for the last 10 weeks of her pregnancy. The Plaintiff requested that she be allowed to work from home as an accommodation. Her employer denied the request. The 6th circuit found that she could perform the essential functions of her job remotely for the applicable time period. It also found that other employees had been allowed to work from home without objection. Therefore, the Court upheld the jury verdict in favor of the Plaintiff finding that her employer had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The real lesson from cases such as this is inflexible policies simply do not work with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers need to engage in an interactive process to prove and determine whether or not an accommodation is reasonable and does not create an undue hardship. Time and time again employers apply a policy without thought and are found liable. More specifically to this case, working from home with the technologies of the time, could certainly be found to be reasonable in certain circumstances.  Therefore, carefully consider all aspects of any request before deciding whether or not to deny it. If in doubt, discuss the issue with your attorney.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please contact its author, Mark Sauer, at 715-8456-8234 or msauer@mzattys.com.

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Changes to Wisconsin’s Conditional Use Permits May Warrant Revisions To Zoning Ordinances

Without much fanfare or public attention, the Wisconsin legislature recently enacted 2017 Wisconsin Act 67.  One component of this legislation was to create and amend statutes pertaining to conditional use permits (CUPs) at the county, town and city levels.  Given the changes to Wisconsin law in this regard, which became effective November 28, 2017, it may necessitate local governments updating, or wholesale revising, their zoning ordinances.  Such revisions may be appropriate to: (1) ensure the ordinances comply with Wisconsin law; (2) try and retain, to the extent still possible, some discretion over the granting of CUPs; and (3) ensure that the conditional uses listed in the ordinance are still acceptable in light of the possibility of some loss of control and discretion as to where and when these may occur. Read More… “Changes to Wisconsin’s Conditional Use Permits May Warrant Revisions To Zoning Ordinances”

Bitcoin in Bankruptcy: Commodity or Currency?

It is hard to peruse media outlets without hearing about bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency. But what is Bitcoin?  Is it just another form of currency, or is it a commodity? It depends on who you ask, and bankruptcy courts are beginning to weigh in on the subject. Read More… “Bitcoin in Bankruptcy: Commodity or Currency?”

Do I Really Need a Wisconsin Will?

Most people do not like the thought of dying and do not want to dwell on what happens to their assets if they pass away.  Therefore, there is a natural inclination not to want to think about dying, much less, pay somebody to help you set forth a plan on what happens to your assets at death.  Unfortunately, many families find out the hard way the complications that are created upon death by not doing constructive planning before they pass away.  Read More… “Do I Really Need a Wisconsin Will?”

Five Dollars for a Not-Quite Foot Long: 7th Circuit Tosses Subway Class Action Settlement

On August 25, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a settlement agreement entered into between a putative class of consumers and Subway was “utterly worthless” and reversed and remanded the District Court’s Order approving that settlement.  The class had alleged that Subway’s famous Footlong sandwiches often came up short. Read More… “Five Dollars for a Not-Quite Foot Long: 7th Circuit Tosses Subway Class Action Settlement”

Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Decision Of Local Body Denying Permit For Sand Mine

In a recent article on wisbar.org, the author analyzed the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in which Mallery & Zimmerman attorneys Ron Stadler, Aaron Graf and Jon Sacks achieved an important victory for the client.  In AllEnergy, et. al. v. Trempealeau County Environment & Land Use Committee, the Wisconsin Supreme Court renewed its commitment to existing law on certiorari review, deference to local administrative bodies making such decisions and the substantial evidence test used in reviewing such administrative decisions.  Further, the Court rejected attempts to change Wisconsin law such as making an applicant entitled to a conditional use permit.  As the author notes, the decision was certainly a splintered one with Justice Abrahamson authoring the lead opinion and being joined by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley.  Justice Ziegler drafted a concurring opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice Roggensack, which agreed with the result but stated that she would have upheld the ELUC on narrower grounds without addressing the unnecessary constitutional issues.  Finally, Justice Kelly drafted the dissent and was joined by Justices Gableman and Rebecca Bradley.  In the dissent, Justice Kelly would have reversed the ELUC and remanded for additional hearing before the ELUC under new standards which Justice Kelly desired to adopt regarding certiorari review of conditional use permits.

The decision is not only interesting from the aspect of an important decision in the certiorari review and land use area, but it is also interesting to learn how the Justices, and especially the newer Justices, view such issues.  This could certainly foreshadow future decisions on similar issues before the Supreme Court.

The full article can be found here.

If you have any questions regarding this post, please contact its author, Aaron Graf, at agraf@mzmilw.com.

Wisconsin Federal District Court holds Village Cannot “Banish” Sex Offenders from Community

On April 17, 2017, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin struck down an ordinance restricting the residency of convicted sex offenders in the Village of Pleasant Prairie (the “Village”).  In Hoffman v. Village of Pleasant Prairie, No. 16-CV-697-JPS, 2017 WL 1380560 (E.D. Wis. Apr. 17, 2017), a group of convicted child sex offenders (“Plaintiffs”) challenged a Village ordinance (passed on April 18, 2016) regulating residency for sex offenders within its borders (the “Ordinance”).  The federal Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs holding that the ordinance violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution and violated Plaintiffs’ constitutional right to equal protection. Read More… “Wisconsin Federal District Court holds Village Cannot “Banish” Sex Offenders from Community”

Big Changes in Special Education Law

February and March saw big changes in special education jurisprudence.  The Supreme Court recently issued two decisions that clarified aspects of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).  In February, the Court in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, 137 S. Ct. 743 (2017), developed a more clear and definitive test for determining whether exhaustion of administrative remedies is required before a plaintiff files a lawsuit in state or federal court.  The Court issued another IDEA opinion on March 22, 2017.  In Endrew F. ex rel. Joseph F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, 137 S. Ct. 988 (2017), the Court changed the standard that schools must meet in order to comply with their substantive obligations under the IDEA to offer a disabled student a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Read More… “Big Changes in Special Education Law”

Residential Property Owner Entitled to Refund for Unlawful Business Improvement District Assessments

A recent Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision, DJK 59 LLC v. City of Milwaukee, No. 2015AP2046 (Nov. 22, 2016), entitles the owners of Juneau Village Towers, an exclusively residential apartment complex located in downtown Milwaukee, to a refund from the City of Milwaukee for previously paid Business Improvement District (“BID”) assessments. Juneau Village Towers falls within BID No. 21 and the owners paid over $470,000.00 in BID assessments between the years 2005 and 2012. The decision confirms that BID assessments cannot be assessed against property that is used exclusively for residential purposes. Read More… “Residential Property Owner Entitled to Refund for Unlawful Business Improvement District Assessments”

For Wisconsin Businesses In Need of Capital “Crowdfunding” Is An Option

“Crowdfunding:” The practice of raising capital from a large number of individuals by accepting funding in small dollar amounts from each contributor.  Certainly the idea of crowdfunding has been around for ages, but with advances in technology crowdfunding has become a popular alternative way to fund a project or business venture, which can be especially helpful for small businesses.  Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are online crowdfunding platforms for creative projects where investors can pledge money to make projects happen.  The drawback of such websites, however, is that the project creators keep 100% ownership of their work and the websites cannot be used to offer financial returns or equity in a company.  In order to actually offer financial returns or equity in a company, an offering by the company must comply with over 585 pages of applicable SEC rules, which can be cost prohibitive for many small businesses. Read More… “For Wisconsin Businesses In Need of Capital “Crowdfunding” Is An Option”

Construction on Downtown Westin Milwaukee Hotel Commences

M&Z client, JSWD Wisconsin Venture I LLC, recently commenced construction of a 220-room full service Westin hotel located at 550 North Van Buren Street in downtown Milwaukee.  The Westin Milwaukee will include a fine dining restaurant, lounge, fitness center, 9,000 square feet of meeting facilities and a 5,000 square foot ballroom.  The hotel will be connected to the U.S. Bank Center via skywalk, which will also provide access to the new 833 East Office Building.  The Westin Milwaukee is expected to open in 2017.

Jon Herreman and Michael Marx represent JSWD in connection with all aspects of the organization of JSWD and development of the hotel, including land acquisition, entitlement, franchising, financing, capitalization and construction.  M&Z also represents an affiliate of JSWD, JSWD Commerce LLC, in connection with its organization and development of a SpringHill Suites Marriott hotel in downtown Milwaukee.  The SpringHill Suites Downtown Milwaukee is scheduled to open in 2016.

M&Z continues to be actively involved in the representation of clients locally and nationally in the hospitality industry, including the development and operation of the Milwaukee Marriott Downtown and the Aloft Milwaukee Downtown.

John Wirth Publishes Article on the Benefits of Using a Turnaround Consultant

John Wirth authored an article entitled “Turnaround Consultants: Helping Businesses Succeed Again” for the Fall 2015 edition of the Ozaukee County Business Connect.  The article examines the benefits of turnaround consultants, what makes such a consultant, and ultimately the business, successful and provides tips on selecting a good turnaround consultant.  A copy of John’s article can be found here.

Elimination of Municipal Code Compliance Requirements as a Condition of Transfer

As part of the 2015 budget bill, 2015 Wis. Act 55, the Wisconsin legislature created a new law, Section 706.22, that eliminates any code compliance requirements of municipalities as a condition to the transfer or refinancing of real property.  A municipality cannot require that an owner obtain an inspection, make certain improvements or repairs or take any other actions relating to the property complying with building codes or other property condition standards in connection with the sale, refinance or other transfer of title to the property.  Municipalities may still require any of the foregoing if they are not in connection with the sale, refinance or other transfer of title to the property.

While we believe this statute clearly applies to code compliance requirements in a number of municipalities, the notice requirements of other municipalities do not appear to be affected.  A municipal ordinance should continue to be valid under the new law so long as the ordinance only requires notice of a transfer of certain properties and does not relate to code compliance, require an inspection of the property or restrict an owner’s ability to sell or otherwise transfer title or refinance real estate.

We do foresee some future litigation over this statute to determine how far the new law reaches.  We will provide an update if any future litigation clarifies this statute.

If you have questions about this post, please contact its author, Michael Marx, at mmarx@mzmilw.com.