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Wisconsin Supreme Court selects chief judges

Madison, Wisconsin - May 26, 2011

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has selected circuit court judges from St. Croix and Fond du Lac counties, each to serve as the chief judge of their respective judicial administrative district. Judges from Dane, Iowa and Milwaukee counties were reappointed to continue as chief judges. Terms run from Aug. 1, 2011 through July 31, 2013.

St. Croix Circuit Court Judge Scott R. Needham was selected to fill the Tenth Judicial District chief judge post being vacated by Chief Judge Benjamin D. Proctor, Eau Claire County Circuit Court. Proctor announced his resignation from the bench effective June 29. Needham will fill out Proctor's unexpired term and start his own two-year term as chief judge on Aug. 1.

Proctor has served on the bench in Eau Claire County for 23 years, including10 years as presiding judge and nearly six years as chief judge of the Tenth Judicial District. The Tenth District encompasses the circuit courts in 13 northwestern Wisconsin counties, including Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Chippewa, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Polk, Rusk, St. Croix, Sawyer, and Washburn. Proctor is a founder and past chair of the Eau Claire County Criminal Justice Collaborating Council and founder of the county's AIM Treatment Court.

Needham is District Ten deputy chief judge and presiding judge in St. Croix County, where he was first elected in 1994 and re-elected in 2000 and 2006. He worked in private practice from 1978 to 1994. In 2010, Needham was chosen Judge of the Year by the American Board of Trial Advocates.

Fond du Lac County Circuit Court Judge Robert J. Wirtz was selected to fill the Fourth Judicial District chief judge post held by Chief Judge, Darryl W. Deets, Manitowoc County Circuit Court. Deets announced his retirement from the bench effective June 25. Wirtz will fill out Deets' unexpired term and start his own two-year term as chief judge effective Aug. 1. The Fourth Judicial District encompasses Calumet, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Winnebago counties.

Deets has served on the bench in Manitowoc County for 23 years. He was appointed in 1988 by then-Gov. Tommy G. Thompson and subsequently elected and re-elected four times. Deets became chief judge of the Fourth Judicial Administrative District four years ago. Prior to that, he served as deputy chief judge for six years under then-Chief Judge L. Edward Stengel.

Wirtz, who is District Four deputy chief judge, was first elected to the Fond du Lac County bench in 1999 and was re-elected in 2005. He served in private practice from 1984-99.

The Supreme Court also re-appointed three circuit court judges to continue serving as chief judges of their judicial administrative district:

  • Chief Judge William D. Dyke, Iowa County, Seventh District (Buffalo, Crawford, Grant, Iowa, Jackson, La Crosse, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, Richland, Trempealeau and Vernon counties)
  • Chief Judge C. William Foust, Dane County, Fifth District (Dane, Green, Lafayette and Rock counties)
  • Chief Judge Jeffrey A. Kremers, Milwaukee County, First District (Milwaukee County).

The Committee of Chief Judges is comprised of Wisconsin's 10 chief judges. These judges are selected by the Supreme Court to handle administrative matters for the court system. Working as a team with a deputy chief judge and a professional court administrator, they manage the flow of cases, supervise personnel, develop budgets, and meet monthly as a committee to work on issues of statewide importance.

With the exception of Milwaukee, where the chief judge is a full-time administrator, chief judges and their deputies maintain court calendars in addition to handling administrative matters.

Districts range in size from one county to 13 counties. A chief judge can serve up to three, two-year terms, which are staggered.

Tom Sheehan
Court Information Officer
(608) 261-6640

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