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Two Eau Claire judges selected for top honors

Milwaukee, Wisconsin - February 26, 2010

Reserve Judge Thomas H. Barland

Reserve Judge Thomas H. Barland

Chief Judge Benjamin D. Proctor

Chief Judge Benjamin D. Proctor

The State Bar of Wisconsin has selected two Eau Claire judges for its most prestigious annual awards.

Reserve Judge Thomas H. Barland will receive the 2009 State Bar Lifetime Jurist Achievement Award, while Chief Judge Benjamin D. Proctor will be honored with the 2009 Judge of the Year Award. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Madison in May.

Barland is one of Wisconsin’s longest-serving judges, and his work has had a profound impact on the justice system. He took the bench in Eau Claire County in 1967 and served there until his retirement in 2000. Early in his tenure, Barland helped to reorganize the court system. Court reorganization established a single-level trial court to replace a confusing patchwork of specialty courts that varied from county to county. It also created the Court of Appeals to give litigants a faster, better system for appealing decisions of the lower courts, and established an administrative office to ensure the smooth operation of the courts.

“I have been given opportunities throughout my career to work on issues that have an effect on people’s lives” Barland said. "I have been privileged to play a small role in making the courts more efficient and effective. In individual cases, I have tried hard to treat each person who has appeared before me with dignity and respect, and to decide each case on the basis of the facts and the law – that’s what fair and impartial justice is all about.”

Barland continues to handle a variety of cases as a reserve judge, and also works on projects to address issues such as jail overcrowding. Barland is the first Eau Claire judge to win the Lifetime Jurist Achievement Award.

The winner of the Judge of the Year Award, Chief Judge Benjamin D. Proctor, was first elected to the bench in Eau Claire County in 1988. He was re-elected in 1994, 2000 and 2006. In 2005, the Supreme Court selected him to serve as chief judge for the Tenth Judicial District, which is comprised of the circuit courts in 13 northwestern Wisconsin counties. District 10 is the state’s largest judicial district. As chief judge, Proctor works with a professional court administrator, Scott K. Johnson, to manage the flow of cases, supervise personnel, develop budgets, and implement programs designed to improve the justice system.

“I am honored to have been selected for this award, and I share it with my colleagues in Eau Claire County and across the Tenth District who work tirelessly to improve the justice system for the people of Wisconsin,” Proctor said. “The number of initiatives that began in District Ten and have been replicated across the state is just astounding,” he said. “One good example is our program to help self-represented litigants navigate the court system. Another is our effort to improve how the state courts and tribal courts work together on matters where they share jurisdiction.”

Initiatives that Proctor is currently spearheading in Eau Claire County include a veterans’ treatment court program and a foreclosure mediation program. In addition to his chief judge duties, Proctor continues to handle a caseload in Eau Claire County Circuit Court.

“These two outstanding jurists were nominated by their peers because they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to improve the quality of justice in our state,” said Atty. Kelli Sue Thompson, chair of the Bench and Bar Committee that selected Barland and Proctor for the awards. “The State Bar welcomes this opportunity to recognize the essential work that the judiciary of Wisconsin performs for this state and the exceptional contributions these two judges have made toward the betterment of the justice system for citizens not only in Eau Claire County but across Wisconsin.”

Amanda K. Todd
Court Information Officer
(608) 264-6256

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