Frank Lasee has a strong opinion about Wisconsin lawyers: There are too many.
He's a state representative whose proposal to cut state funding to the University of Wisconsin Law School recently cleared the Wisconsin State Assembly.
His plan would cut the law school's funding by $1 million this year and completely by 2010 -- or about 10 percent of the school's total funding, sparking fear of higher tuitions.
"When a plague of locusts descends on your field, what do you do? Do you help them multiply? Subsidize them? That is UW system's policy," wrote Lasee in a July 19 post on his blog.
Kenneth Davis, dean of the law school, disagreed with the assemblyman's claim, pointing out that nearby Minnesota has a relatively equal population and twice the number of law schools.
Wisconsin has a population of about 5.5 million, compared to Minnesota's 5.1 million. There are only two law schools in Wisconsin; the other is Marquette University, which is private.
"Wisconsin has one-third fewer lawyers per population than the national average," added Davis. There are about 14,500 lawyers in Wisconsin, according to the American Bar Association. The average number of lawyers per state is more than 22,000.
According to Lasee, lawyers are responsible for a flawed court system, a medical system living in fear of lawsuits and an overly litigious society.
"When you have more lawyers than doctors in America and limited tax dollars, I don't see why we would be supporting taxpayers subsidizing the creation of more of them," he said.
Ann Althouse, the Robert W. & Irma M. Arthur-Bascom professor at the law school, was unimpressed with the proposal.
"Lasee's reasoning strikes me as crude," she said in an e-mail. "If he thinks there are too many frivolous tort suits, he can work on tort reform legislation."
The proposal has some wondering if Lasee has a personal vendetta against lawyers. A July 31 column in the Wisconsin State Journal unearthed public transcripts from his 2003 divorce, which indicate that he fired his lawyer before the hearing was complete and accused the judge of having "lied from the bench."
"We see this as an individual legislator lashing out at the legal profession because of a personal chip that he has on his shoulder," said Thomas Basting, president of the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Lasee insisted that his problem wasn't with lawyers but with using taxpayer money to create new ones.
"I have friends who are attorneys," he said.
Lasee was able to get fellow Assembly Republicans to approve the cut. The complete budget package is currently being reconciled with the state Senate's proposals in the conference committee. It must then be signed by the governor.
"My guess is that it will be ignored by the conference committee, and life will go on as usual," said Basting, of the proposed cut.