Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Donald V. Latorraca recently sent a letter to a Dane County Circuit Court judge. He was answering some motions filed by my attorney that were recently argued in a pretrial hearing. I was cited for disorderly conduct in September, 2012. The police report says I was seen walking in a circle in the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda and that is why the Capitol Police mailed me a ticket for disorderly conduct a few weeks later.
In his letter, Mr. Latorraca attempts to explain why the state believes the Capitol building is a "designated" public forum rather than a "traditional" public forum. The technical reasons for this slight difference have to do with the need for obtaining permits, which may or may not be relevant if this case ever gets in front of a jury, but I had to read this sentence in Mr. Latorraca's letter twice:
While the Capitol has been a property where people have engaged in expressive activity, it is not a property which has a long history of devotion to assembly and debate.
Really, Mr. Latorraca? I know that your boss (Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen) and the Scott Walker administration have put you in an embarrassing position having to prosecute a $260 ordinance violation against some guy who looks like an accountant walking in a circle, but you actually signed your name to that statement?
That is really sad, because that sentence is not only insulting to the current citizenry of our state, it's a desecration to the memory of our ancestors who built that beautiful building, mostly with manual labor.
Perhaps it's appropriate that I received my copy of your letter the same week that the Republican legislature jammed through a bill requiring any woman seeking an abortion to undergo a mandatory, medically unnecessary ultrasound procedure first. Remember how that ended in the State Senate?
Certainly that day there was a lot of "expressive activity" by Senate President Mike Ellis, and no debate, but that is NOT the way things are traditionally done in the Wisconsin Capitol. The Republican sit-down-and-shut-up method of rule is very new. In fact, here is what the committee that successfully nominated the building for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places had to say about our sacred space:
With the Rotunda’s verticality culminating at the Edwin Blashfield painting, 'The Resources of Wisconsin,' the space was intended to be morally uplifting and inspirational. ... The soaring rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol is designed to induce its citizenry to be, as individuals, among the 'resources of Wisconsin.' ... The Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda functions, both literally and symbolically, as a city center and is fully utilized as a public space to which all have claim.
I don't wish anything but the best for you, Mr. Latorraca. Like a long list of government bureaucrats before you, you are just following orders. I imagine you want this farce to be over just as much as I do. Just don't be surprised if the ghost of Fighting Bob pays a visit to your bedside one of these evenings, Jacob Marley-style.