The Third Branch
Education tops agenda at 50th conference
Jean Bousquet, chief information officer for the court system, takes a moment at the Judicial Conference to show Judge James A. Morrison, Marinette County Circuit Court, some of the resources available through the Consolidated Court Automation Programs.
About 350 judges, court staff and faculty attended the 50th annual meeting of the Wisconsin Judicial Conference at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton Nov. 19-21.
The conference provided judges with educational opportunities, including presentations and discussions, on topics such as brain research, immigration, family law, approaches to judicial decision-making, and the role of judges in drug courts, among other topics.
Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson delivered the State of the Judiciary Address, entitled "Our Mission." The speech examined the legal evolution and principles embodied in the court system's mission: "The mission of the Wisconsin Court System is to protect individuals' rights, privileges and liberties, to maintain the rule of law, and to provide a forum for the resolution of disputes that is fair, accessible, independent and effective."
Abrahamson traced how the principles of due process and equal protection from the Magna Carta 800 years ago were carried forward to Wisconsin law through documents such as the Northwest Ordinance and state constitution. The principle of judicial independence referenced in the mission statement can be traced to the Declaration of Independence, the Chief Justice said.
Focusing on the word "effective" in the mission statement, Abrahamson highlighted five court system programs:
- treatment courts;
- evidence-based decision making (EBDM);
- Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD);
- the Children's Court Improvement Program (CCIP); and
- Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP).
Abrahamson also asked judges as community leaders to help promote understanding among legislators and the public of the important role courts play, how the courts are funded, and why it is important for courts to have sufficient budget resources to live up to constitutional obligations.
Abrahamson highlighted the importance of five key budget items in the court system's state budget request, including:
- an additional $8.6 million annually to the counties to help pay for court services;
- one-time start-up funding for statewide eFiling;
- increased compensation for judges;
- a statewide problem-solving court coordinator; and
- funding to improve the court interpreter program.
The conference also provided judges with an opportunity to serve on various judicial conference committees, which provide guidance to judges and the court system.
Judicial district luncheons held during the Judicial conference provided an opportunity to explore issues in a less formal setting. Here, Judge Barbara Hart Key, Winnebago County Circuit Court, discusses Winnebago County's 24/7 Sobriety Program during a District Four luncheon held Nov. 19. Winnebago County Sheriff John Matz and Lt. Lara Vendola-Messer, standing, presented on the program. Seated next to Key is District Court Administrator John Bellows.
Judge Mary Triggiano, Milwaukee County Circuit Court, co-presented the session Childhood Trauma: Essential Information for Judges during the Judicial Conference. Tim Grove, chief clinical officer of SaintA in Milwaukee, co-presented the session, which addressed the long-term effects of acute stress on children.