State. Rep. Marlin Schneider lost his bid for re-election last week to Scott Krug for the 72nd Assembly District. As many of you know I am not a big fan of “Snarlin Marlin.” Besides being voted one of the worst legislators in Wisconsin byMilwaukee Magazine, he also was a persistent thorn in the side of landlords due to his wishes to either restrict information that appeared on CCAP or to restrict who could access such information. I have blogged about Schneider more times than I care to admit, but each term he kept proposing new legislation to restrict CCAP. He was like the Energizer Bunny — he just kept on going . . . and going. The rabbit’s batteries have finally been drained.
With Schneider gone from Madison, what does this mean for CCAP? Will this valuable database of information finally be left alone? Not a chance. While Schneider was the loudest proponent for restricting CCAP there were other politicians in Madison that seemed to always jump on Schneider’s bandwagon.
In fact there is already a committee fromed to debate the subect. Called the Special Committee on Review of Records Access of Circuit Court Documents, this committee has already held meetings about CCAP restriction issues. There is not one representative from the rental industry on this committee. When the AASEW and other rental organizations attempted to be included on the committee they were told that there was no room. When we asked to speak at an upcoming meeting of the committee to give our two cents, we were told that all speaker slots were filled. Thus, the rental industry was relegated to submitting a written comment to the committee.
Retired Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Nancy Ettenheim wrote a very well argued opinion piece in the Journal Sentinel against the restriction of and/or the elimination of information on CCAP. NOTE: It takes a long time for this link to load but it is worth the wait — all jsonline pages take forever for me to download.
Opponents of CCAP often argue that landlords use the information on CCAP to discriminate against potential tenants. Such comments upset me because – at least in Milwaukee – individuals that have been evicted or who have been sued for eviction even if the case was later dismissed, are not members of a protected class, and thus a landlord is legally entitled to refuse to rent to that person. One cannot be discriminated against in a legal sense if they are not members of a protected class.
Ms. Ettenheim cogently addresses this argument in her opinion piece by pointing out that “informed decisions” do not constitute discrimination. Making a decision to not rent to someone based on their behavioral history is legitimate information upon which to base a decision. Ms. Ettenheim was much more artful in her wording than I was and I will most likley be reiterating her statement on this issues as long as this debate continues.
The State Supreme Court has also weighed in on the topic of CCAP recently. Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser has indicated that he thinks CCAP should be restricted to the public.
Here is another recent article about CCAP in which the author states that some counties are unilaterally removing data regarding criminal charges if those charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal. Milwaukee is not one of the counties doing this.
So while Marlin Schneider is no longer around to propose new laws trying to keep public records out of the hands of the public, that does not mean that CCAP will be left alone. With Schneider’s friends on the new special committee mentioned above, the Wisconsin Supreme Court jumping into the fray, and some counties deciding to unilaterally remove information regarding some criminal charges, we will continue to hear about attempts to curtail CCAP in the future.