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Attorneys Challenge Walker Appointee for Milwaukee County Judge

Bradley, Protasiewicz and Urfer face the voters in Feb. 19 primary

Feb. 5, 2013
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On Tuesday, Feb. 19, three candidates will vie in the nonpartisan primary for Milwaukee County Circuit Court Branch 45, currently held by Judge Rebecca Bradley. Gov. Scott Walker appointed Bradley to that position in November 2012, when very capable Judge Tom Donegan retired. Bradley will appear on the ballot with Janet Protasiewicz, an assistant district attorney, and Gil Urfer, a private practice attorney. Both of them were finalists for the appointment that Walker gave to Bradley.

The top two vote-getters will appear on the April 2 general election ballot.

All three candidates spoke with the Shepherd about their background, judicial philosophy and political views. Here are excerpts from the interviews.


Rebecca Bradley

Rebecca Bradley took the bench in December 2012 and serves in children’s court. She had spent her entire legal career in private practice, most recently as a business litigator with Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, where she focused on intellectual property and information technology cases, and at RedPrairie Corp. Bradley was a president of the Milwaukee chapter of the ultraconservative Federalist Society and served as secretary and member of the board of governors of the St. Thomas More Lawyers Society.

Bradley, a Wauwatosa resident, has been endorsed by the Milwaukee Police Association; the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters; Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander; Assembly Republicans Dan Knodl, Joe Sanfelippo and Jeff Stone; and attorneys Steven Biskupic, Michael Grebe and Richard Esenberg, among others.

  • Why she wanted to serve as judge: “It’s really a calling to public service. It’s something I thought about for the past year and a half or so. I had a very successful private practice and I was very happy in my private practice. But I truly felt called to serve the community on a full-time basis.… The second motivation I had for seeking the bench is really based on the fact that I think it’s important that we have judges who understand what their role is on the bench, and that is to apply the law and not interject their policy preferences into their decision making.”

  • On her experience as a judge: “It’s going great. I’m in children’s court and the work is very interesting. I’m handling cases involving juvenile delinquency and children in need of protective services. It’s a bit of a different world than what I was used to in private practice. I wasn’t sure going in what I would think about it but it’s a fascinating place to be, very rewarding, very interesting and sometimes sad. A lot of sad cases come across my court.”

  • Her judicial philosophy: “Judges should interpret the law as it’s written and not interject their own policy preferences or beliefs. The Legislature’s job is to write the law. Our job is to interpret it and apply it in the most fair and just manner that we can.”

  • On her longtime membership in the Federalist Society: “I resigned [as president] in May of last year. I was a member when I was in law school and as far as I can remember I’ve been a member during my entire legal career. I think it has helped me to develop my judicial philosophy. The Federalist Society is sometimes painted as a political group. It isn’t. It’s a group of lawyers, non-lawyers and judges who adhere to the principle that it’s the job of judges to say what the law is and not what they may wish it to be. I think that informs my judicial philosophy.”

To learn more about Rebecca Bradley, go to judgerebeccabradley.com.


Janet Protasiewicz

Janet Protasiewicz has been an assistant district attorney for 24 years. She currently prosecutes violent felonies, primarily armed robberies, burglaries and arsons. She began teaching trial advocacy at Marquette University Law School in January.

Protasiewicz, a Franklin resident, has been endorsed by AFSCME District 48; Senate Democrats Chris Larson and Tim Carpenter; Assembly Democrats Fred Kessler, Mandela Barnes and Daniel Riemer; Milwaukee County Treasurer Daniel Diliberti; Milwaukee County Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic (who dually endorses both Protasiewicz and Urfer); Milwaukee Common Council members Jim Bohl, Terry Witkowski and Tony Zielinski (also endorsing Urfer); Hales Corners Village Trustee Donald Schwartz; and former elected officials Barbara Notestein, Vel Phillips, Marvin Pratt, Barbara Ulichny and Sheldon Wasserman.

  • Why she decided to run: “I have absolutely the most experience of any of the candidates. Miss Bradley has had two trials in her entire career [according to Bradley’s application for the judicial appointment]…. Mr. Urfer has had more experience, but nobody has the kind of experience in court that I have across the board, including the appellate court work that I have done.”
  • On the need for more specialized courts within the criminal justice system: “We have a drug treatment court and I think that’s wonderful. We also have a veterans court now. I think that’s good. But my last veteran who really needed help and could have used help through that veterans’ court was rejected due to an old conviction that [prohibited him from qualifying]…. The guy had no resources and needs job training and is pushing 50. He was a perfect candidate for it. A nonviolent criminal, like him, needs the specialized services of that court. I also think there should be a job corps court to help people get trained and find jobs that meet special criteria.”
  • Her judicial philosophy: “There are a couple of cornerstones. One is fairness to all parties so that everybody feels like they’ve been treated fairly. You can take the person accused of the most heinous crime and they need in the courtroom to be treated with respect. That is what our system is based on. Number two is no political agenda. I certainly have my political beliefs and the way I land on the political spectrum may be different from other people in the race. But you apply the facts to the law as the law is written.”
  • Why she is no longer a Democrat: “I had to let my membership to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin lapse in order for me to be in this race. We are not allowed to belong to a political party. I did belong to that party.”

To learn more about Janet Protasiewicz, go to janet4judge.com.


Gil Urfer

Gil Urfer is a private practice attorney in the Nistler Law Office. Previously, Urfer was an assistant district attorney for five years and served as team captain of the office’s domestic violence unit for almost two years. He also worked in private practice for Reinhart, Boerner, Van Deuren.

Urfer, a Wauwatosa resident, has been endorsed by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm; Assembly Democrats Evan Goyke, Jon Richards and Christine Sinicki; Milwaukee County Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic (who dually endorses both Protasiewicz and Urfer); County Supervisor John Weishan; Milwaukee Ald. Tony Zielinski (also endorsing Protasiewicz); Greendale Village President John Hermes; West Allis Mayor Dan Devine and others.

  • Why he decided to run for judge: “In this particular race, it really came down to the fact that I felt that the appointee [Bradley] was not someone who had the background and experience necessary to be a good judge. I thought that it was a mistake. I felt pretty strongly about that. To me it seems like you should have spent some substantial time at those lower tables, those counsel tables, before you end up sitting on the bench.”
  • On the challenges of prosecuting domestic violence cases: “As a prosecutor, these are very challenging cases. There are very few other situations that exist in criminal law where the person you are prosecuting has a tremendous amount of potential sway and influence over your star witness, the victim. It’s very complex. It’s difficult to understand the dynamics in a domestic abuse relationship unless you have spent a lot of time dealing with people who are in one. There are rational reasons for the way [victims] often behave, but they don’t seem rational to people who haven’t experienced it.”
  • His judicial philosophy: “You can have the best theory in the world but if you don’t have the experience to back it up you’re not going to be able to apply it properly. To me the role of the judge is to make sure the proceedings are fair and that everybody has equal opportunity to make their case and make their arguments and that when the law is applied it’s applied in the same manner and consistently and accurately to the intent of the law in every case.”
  • Why he is no longer a Republican: “I would not call myself a Republican. I certainly was a Republican…. I don’t like talking about particular views on particular issues as a judicial candidate, but I would say that there are things that the Republicans have done that seem like they are stepping away from what they had been doing in the past. There are some issues where I just don’t feel that they speak for me. But that’s not to say that I’m wildly progressive, either.”

To learn more about Gil Urfer, go to urferforjudge.com.


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