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The Third Branch

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Judge Todd W. Bjerke
Judge Todd W. Bjerke

On Jan. 1, La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Todd W. Bjerke retired from his military status after more than 30 years of service. He was trained as a judge advocate and spent more than three years on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps before transitioning to the U.S. Army Reserve. Bjerke retired as a colonel and was recognized for his “exceptionally meritorious service” with the Legion of Merit in August 2014. His military experiences assisted him in developing the La Crosse Area Veterans Court in 2010.

Bjerke retired from the Individual Ready Reserve, where he had served since July 2014, following completion of his last assignment as Special Projects Officer for the U.S. Army Legal Command in Gaithersburg, Md. He spent three years as the commander of the 214th Legal Service Organization at Fort Snelling in Minnesota, and had previously served as the Staff Judge Advocate for the 88th Regional Support Command at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

Bjerke was promoted to the rank of colonel in February 2006. He was on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps from 1984 to 1987, primarily as a defense counsel. Following his release from active duty, at the rank of captain, he transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve and served as a judge advocate in a variety of positions until retirement. While in the Army Reserve, he was sent on four overseas missions, twice to Vicenza, Italy and twice to Germany to provide assigned legal services to active duty soldiers.

Husband and wife attorneys have found a way to give back to the community, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Mark Krueger and Michelle Hernandez of Middleton began offering a legal clinic to members of their church, Global Presence Ministries in Monona. On Jan. 23, they opened up the clinic to the community outside the church.

“It’s really rewarding to sit down with someone and help them breathe a little easier, in an environment where no one is worried about having to pay anything,” Krueger told the State Journal.

Judge Andrew T. Gonring
Judge Andrew T. Gonring

The clinic offers basic legal information and directs them towards legal resources, but the attorneys do not represent the individuals who come to the clinic. Krueger and Hernandez are currently the only attorneys staffing the clinic, but they hope to have a few others volunteer their time in the future, according to the paper.

The West Bend Daily News recently reported that while court reporting technology has been advancing with expanded use of digital recorders, some judges still prefer having a court reporter typing the record of the proceedings.

Washington County Circuit Court Judge Andrew T. Gonring is one of them.

“It is a bit of a controversy,” Gonring told the paper. “Some courts have gone to (digital) recorders. I just think it’s far more efficient to have a live person there.”

Third District Court Administrator Michael Neimon told the newspaper that court commissioners around the state use digital recorders instead of real time court reporters.

“With the court commissioners, we’ve been able to demonstrate that with the use of digital recorders (hearings) can be effectively recorded, and transcripts retrieved,” Neimon is quoted as saying.

Judge Joan F. Kessler Judge Paul F. Reilly
Judge Joan F. Kessler Judge Paul F. Reilly
Judge Lisa K. Stark Judge James P. Daley
Judge Lisa K. Stark Judge Judge Lisa K. Stark

Some judges have made the transition to digital, but Gonring told the newspaper that he’s a hold out.

“I’ll go yelling and kicking and screaming into a (court) reporter-less court system,” he told the Daily News.

Before oral argument on Feb. 5, and in the presence of the rest of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson drew from a hat the names of one judge from each of the four Court of Appeals districts to serve on the Government Accountability Board’s Candidate Committee.

Judges Joan F. Kessler, District I; Paul F. Reilly, District II; Lisa K. Stark, District III; and JoAnne F. Kloppenburg, District IV were chosen.

The candidate committee is responsible for reviewing applications by former state judges to serve as members of the Government Accountability Board (GAB), and must unanimously agree on each nominee, according to a GAB news release. For each vacancy, the committee forwards at least two names to the governor. The governor’s appointment must be confirmed by a two-thirds vote of the state Senate.

The new committee’s two-year term begins March 1, after which the candidate committee will meet to review applications to fill the board seat of Judge Thomas H. Barland of Eau Claire, who is not seeking a second term on GAB.

According to the Wisconsin Law Journal’s 2014 Year in Review, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals issued 1,015 decisions last year, 83 percent of which upheld the circuit court decisions. District IV Court of Appeals Judge Brian W. Blanchard told the Law Journal that it’s rare for a circuit court judge to let a Court of Appeals judge know they are unhappy about their decision being overturned.

“I think that it could get complicated for an appellate judge and a circuit judge to communicate about a case in which both have had an adjudicative role,” Blanchard is quoted as saying. “In my experience, it is rare to get any feedback at all.”

District I Court of Appeals Judge Patricia S. Curley told the Law Journal that she anticipates more criminal proceedings to reach the appeals court in the future, as more litigants seek arbitration and mediation in other types of cases.

Judge Brian W. Blanchard Judge Patricia S. Curley
Judge Brian W. Blanchard Judge Patricia S. Curley
Chief Judge Richard S. Brown Deputy Chief Judge Michael W. Hoover
Chief Judge Richard S. Brown Deputy Chief Judge Michael W. Hoover

Curley also said she expects courts will face questions about verifiable experts in the coming year as the state tries to meet the Daubert standard for the admission of scientific and technical evidence.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Richard S. Brown, District II, noticed a decline in civil case appeals in 2014, according the Law Journal.

“But the cases we do get are very complex, and the issues are thorny,” he was quoted as saying. “We spend a lot of time on those cases because we have to find out what the law is and we do our own research.”

Brown said he also noticed a rise in the number of environmental cases.

Deputy Chief Judge Michael W. Hoover, District III Court of Appeals, observed a high number of mortgage foreclosure cases, as well as cases involving warrants for testing drunken driving suspects in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Missouri v. McNeely.

“It just kind of muddied the waters by saying the dissipation of (alcohol) in the blood is not necessarily an exigent circumstance, which turned Wisconsin law on its head,” Hoover was quoted as saying.

Blanchard said the courts will soon be facing new challenges in a future of privacy and digital laws with the growing use of consumer technology.

Madison’s WKOW-TV reported on a proposal that could set a retirement age for Wisconsin justices and judges.

Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) has said he may introduce a bill that could require some current sitting judges to step down.

“Seventy-five is the age that I would set,” Knudson is quoted as saying. “However, there are 132 legislators here. There may be some that would prefer to set that at 77. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s discussion about 78 or 80.”

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), has criticized the idea, according to WKOW.

“When the voters select somebody, they obviously know how old they are, they know what their qualifications are,” Barca told the TV station.

Judge Rebecca F. Dallet
Judge Rebecca F. Dallet
Judge David T. Flanagan
Judge David T. Flanagan

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Rebecca F. Dallet was featured in a section of the Association for Women Lawyers’ November 2014 newsletter. Dallet, one of only 14 women out of 47 judges in the county, spoke about how she decided to go into law, her experiences as a woman attorney and judge, and being a working mother.

Dallet had served as a judge in a mock trial in ninth grade, and then had the feeling that it was a very important job. She went on to say that her father encouraged her to follow in his and her grandfather’s career path and pursue a legal degree.

Dallet told the newsletter that her father knew that one day she would run for public office. She said that her public service does not end in the courtroom. She and her husband volunteer in the community, and they encourage their three teenage daughters to do so as well.

Veterans involved in the justice system in Dane County will no longer have to make the trip to Janesville to participate in a veterans treatment court program, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Dane County has now opened its own veterans court, which will allow qualifying veterans to have charges against them dismissed or reduced if they complete the program.

“We’re looking for people whose criminal problems flow from a treatable condition,” Dane County Circuit Court Judge David T. Flanagan told the paper. “It’s to find people who should be getting treatment but aren’t.”

Flanagan, a U.S. Navy veteran who served as a combat engineer in Vietnam, visited local colleges’ veterans groups to recruit volunteers to serve as mentors in the program, the State Journal reports. Participants in the program meet with the mentors, complete treatment goals, and appear in court once or twice a month.

Previously, veterans in Dane County were able to participate in the Rock County Veterans Treatment Court, but transportation and planning issues made it difficult for some to participate.

Of the 43 veterans who have been accepted into the Rock County program, 15 were from Dane County, Veterans Administration Justice Outreach Coordinator Ed Zapala told the State Journal.

Flanagan told the paper that 35 veterans have applied for the Dane County program. Of those, he said three have been admitted, four are ready to be admitted, and the others are still being evaluated.

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals’ Justice for Vets Spokesman Christopher Deutsch told the paper there are an estimated 220 veterans treatment court programs being offered nationally. The programs cater to the specific issues faced by veterans that may contribute to alcohol and drug abuse.

“What we’re saying is if these folks who volunteered to serve didn’t have these issues before, but come back damaged, then it’s our responsibility to see that they’re treated and can get their lives back on track,” Deutsch is quoted as saying.

Donohue Kautzer Sheboygan Bar Assoc: Attys. Mary Lynne Donohue and Ryan Kautzer were honored by the Sheboygan County Bar Association for coordinating the legal clinic hosted by The Salvation Army.  The recognitions were presented by Bar President Susan McIntosh, and Lt. Cheri Mangeri, Corps officer and pastor. The legal clinic provides free legal consultation throughout the year at The Salvation Army Community Center. The clinic was established in 2001. Former Wisconsin State Law Librarian Jane Colwin (center) talks with Director of Reference Heidi Yelk (left) and Library Program Assistant Tammy Keller at the Law Library’s winter party Dec. 18. Colwin retired in 2011, after 27 years with the law library. The Law Library hosts the celebration each year.
Donohue Kautzer Sheboygan Bar Assoc: Attys. Mary Lynne Donohue and Ryan Kautzer were honored by the Sheboygan County Bar Association for coordinating the legal clinic hosted by The Salvation Army. The recognitions were presented by Bar President Susan McIntosh, and Lt. Cheri Mangeri, Corps officer and pastor. The legal clinic provides free legal consultation throughout the year at The Salvation Army Community Center. The clinic was established in 2001. Former Wisconsin State Law Librarian Jane Colwin (center) talks with Director of Reference Heidi Yelk (left) and Library Program Assistant Tammy Keller at the Law Library’s winter party Dec. 18. Colwin retired in 2011, after 27 years with the law library. The Law Library hosts the celebration each year.

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