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Four-Way Race for Municipal Court Judge

Primary to be held on Tuesday, Feb. 21

Feb. 7, 2017
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Believe it or not, Wisconsinites will be heading to the polls on Tuesday, Feb. 21, for primary elections for nonpartisan offices. (Early voting is already underway.) In the City of Milwaukee, only two primaries will be on the ballot: the state superintendent race, where incumbent Tony Evers faces two challengers, and Municipal Court Branch 1, where Judge Valarie Hill faces three attorneys: William Crowley, Kail Decker and Brian Michel. The top two vote-getters will appear on the April 4 general election ballot. All four Municipal Court candidates filled out the Shepherd’s candidate questionnaire. Here are their full responses.

Jump to responses from each candidate:

William Crowley | Kail Decker | Valarie Hill | Brian Michel


William Crowley

CrowleyForJudge2017.com

Occupation: Family Care and IRIS Ombudsman at Disability Rights Wisconsin

Tell us a little about yourself, such as your career, education and personal life.

I am originally from Chicago and made the journey up to Milwaukee to attend law school at Marquette University. After graduation, I chose to remain in the city and make Milwaukee my home. You can often find me venturing to new establishments around town and attending many of our festivals and local events. I am also an avid competitor in one of our local trivia leagues.

I have spent many years as an advocate for people with disabilities. When I was 2 years old, I was critically injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, killing my step father and mother, who was eight months pregnant at the time. The crash left me paralyzed from the chest down, but did not injure my resolve to carry on with life and strive for success.

My professional experience:

After graduating, I worked at Chase Bank on a foreclosure review project, identifying cases where foreclosures were improperly performed for the bank to reach a settlement with the owners. Currently, I work at Disability Rights Wisconsin as an advocate for people who utilize Wisconsin’s long-term care programs. I investigate individual concerns and employ extensive negotiation skills to resolve concerns informally whenever possible, and provide extensive technical assistance for preparing them for a variety of grievances, appeals, negotiation meetings or ongoing care planning processes.

Why are you running for Municipal Court Judge?

As a Milwaukee resident, I have remained informed and have closely followed the developments in our municipal court system and have grown disheartened by the direction the court has been moving in (or in some cases, remaining stagnant or moving backwards). The citizens of Milwaukee deserve a more just municipal court system and I believe that I can bring the change we are ready for.

If you are elected Municipal Court Judge, what do you see as your role in the local criminal justice system?

My role in the local criminal justice system would be that of a mediator. I would see my job as to find the most appropriate and just sentence to each individual before the court, taking into account the circumstances of the violation and the person.

Do you think that it’s proper to send indigent Milwaukeeans to jail or suspend their driver’s license when they can’t pay their fine?

While cases need to be examined on an individual basis, unnecessarily sentencing indigent Milwaukeeans to jail or license suspensions does not serve their best interest or the city of Milwaukee’s. By imposing jail or license suspensions, it merely increases barriers to finding or maintaining employment, thereby reducing their ability to afford municipal fines. Furthermore, needlessly incarcerating individuals also costs the city additional resources that could be better utilized elsewhere.

What are your thoughts on offering community service as alternative to paying a fine?

I think that in appropriate circumstances, offering an alternative of community service is an effective method for dealing with municipal violations. An indigent defendant would not be unduly burdened with a fine that they cannot afford, and the community would benefit from the service the individual would provide.

If elected, how would you reach out to the community to improve access to Municipal Court?

I would continue to strengthen ties between the Municipal Court and community organizations that can provide appropriate services to some individuals who come before the court. JusticePoint is not only able to connect indigent defendants with community service alternatives, but can also provide access to programs for those living with substance abuse issues. I am also interested in exploring alternate scheduling for court appearances to enable individuals to be able to attend court without conflicting with their employment or school schedules.

What’s your assessment of the recent Warrant Withdrawal Wednesdays?

While I think it was a step in the right direction to alleviate the ongoing issue of outstanding warrants, a more practical approach to sentencing would reduce the need for such a program in the first place.

How would you ensure that all who come before you are treated with respect and dignity?

Ensuring that respect and dignity are observed in the courtroom begins with the example set by the judge. While maintaining an orderly court room is important, for justice to truly be served, all defendants need to receive equal treatment. For individuals dealing with mental illness or substance abuse, their particular needs would be taken into account when conducting proceedings and determining appropriate sentencing. These ideals have unfortunately not been adhered to under the current judge presiding over Branch 1 of the Municipal Court.

Why are you the best candidate for Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge?

Based on my background and professional experience, I will bring a different and unique perspective to the bench. Through my advocacy work, I can easily relate to marginalized people who often appear before the Municipal Court, and this will better enable me to find solutions to best serve the community at large. My determination and willingness to stand up for justice (figuratively speaking) will ensure that justice, respect and dignity are restored and upheld in our municipal court system.


Kail Decker

www.facebook.com/KailDeckerForJudge/

Occupation: Milwaukee Assistant City Attorney

Tell us a little about yourself, such as your career, education and personal life.

I started practicing municipal law over 10 years ago while still a student at Marquette University Law School. I prosecuted over 2,000 cases for the City of West Allis by the time I graduated in 2008. After that, I moved to Green Bay to work as an assistant city attorney and city prosecutor. During nearly six years in Titletown, I handled almost every area of municipal law and prosecuted about 10,000 cases. In early 2014, I was hired by Milwaukee City Attorney Grant Langley to do nuisance abatement and litigation. My role has expanded to include real estate and defense work, but I still focus primarily on work that improves and helps our most disadvantaged neighborhoods. I have handled some significant cases such as the demolition of the old Solvay Coke buildings (saving the taxpayers $200,000) and the $1.25 million racketeering lawsuit against local landlord Mohammad Choudry. As for me, I live in a nearly century-old bungalow on North 57th Street with my fiancée, Brianne, and our cat, Kirby. I am thankful for every day, live life to the fullest, and particularly enjoy sports, music, science, and aviation.

Why are you running for Municipal Court Judge?

I want to bring respect, fairness and justice to the court. First, in this particular branch, there is very little attention paid to treating defendants, witnesses, court staff, the public or attorneys with respect. It’s the decent thing to do, and the ethics rules under SCR 60 require it for good reason. I was raised with the belief that, no matter the circumstances, you always treat others with respect, and I would carry that attitude to the bench. Second, fairness is at issue because the current court doesn’t follow some municipal court laws, doesn’t follow some evidentiary rules, dismisses certain cases for arbitrary reasons, and refuses to dismiss some cases upon the motion of the prosecutor. Municipal Court is not a court of record, so it is very important to put someone in that position who will remain accountable to the city. Finally, any orders after a guilty verdict must do substantial justice. I follow the utilitarian philosophy of punishment, so the focus is on deterrence and rehabilitation. Issuing warrants and license suspensions should only be utilized if necessary, not by default. Indigent defendants must be offered community service. Those who consider municipal court a business expense must face harsher consequences in order to deter undesirable behavior. My goal would be to create specific and meaningful orders rather than issue one-size-fits-all orders.

If you are elected Municipal Court Judge, what do you see as your role in the local criminal justice system?

Municipal Court is often a place where good people go when they have veered off the path; the infractions are often minor (it is not criminal court). The court’s job is to nudge them back in the right direction, not permanently change their lives. By utilizing creative options like wage assignment, specifically scheduled community service, deferred prosecutions, and treatment options, Municipal Court can be used to help individuals who are struggling rather than add to their struggles. At the same time, there are instances in which Municipal Court can issue orders that change or deter future bad behavior by using forfeitures, contempt, arrest warrants, license suspensions and victim restitution. If someone is guilty, the goal is to find the root cause of why the person violated an ordinance and focus the order on addressing that cause.

Do you think that it’s proper to send indigent Milwaukeeans to jail or suspend their driver’s license when they can’t pay their fine?

No. Municipal Court cannot operate a debtor’s prison, the law requires community service options for indigent defendants, and doing so is contrary to my utilitarian philosophy.

What are your thoughts on offering community service as alternative to paying a fine?

Community service is a good option for those who can’t afford to pay a forfeiture or those who will benefit from specifically approved work or service. For example, the city may benefit more if a juvenile is ordered to work for a local nonprofit organization rather than simply pay a forfeiture. With the right kind of community service, that young person will have the opportunity to feel connected to our city and observe positive role models, which benefits everyone.

If elected, how would you reach out to the community?

I would reach out to the organizations I’ve worked with as an assistant city attorney, such as Common Ground, various neighborhood associations, the Harbor District, Reclaiming our Neighborhood, Washington Park Partners, etc. In addition, I would seek to build relationships with other stakeholders that are working to improve the city, such as the Running Rebels, Pathfinders, Urban Underground, Public Allies, etc. I would ask local nonprofits to allow defendants to perform community service for them and refer defendants who will benefit the most from the specific focus of that nonprofit. By pairing with other community organizations, the court can fully utilize the tools at its disposal rather than simply ordering a forfeiture and calling the next case.

What’s your assessment of the recent Warrant Withdrawal Wednesdays?

It appears to have addressed a problem in the system, but that means thousands of our neighbors unnecessarily dealt with the stress of living with an arrest warrant. A more thoughtful approach to using warrants in the first place would avoid or reduce that problem. In addition to the stress caused to those who had their warrants lifted, a public warrant forgiveness day likely reduces the effectiveness of a warrant in other instances in which it is intended to have an impact.

How would you ensure that all who come before you are treated with respect and dignity?

Ensuring that anyone who is in court is treated with respect and dignity is one of the main focuses of my campaign. My demeanor as a judge would be the same as it is every day: I would not talk down to others, seek to humiliate them, or make fun of them. I would listen for the purpose of hearing the speaker's arguments, not for the purpose of ridiculing them. If a defendant has a question or appears unsure of something, I will take the time to explain the circumstances. I agree with my fellow challengers and the legal community that there needs to be a change in Branch 1 if Milwaukee expects those who appear in court to be treated with respect and dignity.

Why are you the best candidate for Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge?

My municipal law experience, reputation for fairness, steady demeanor, desire to innovate, dedication, and practical approach make me the ideal candidate for municipal judge. Additionally, my unbiased approach has earned me endorsements from a wide variety of people and groups such as the Milwaukee Police Association, the Milwaukee Fire Department Chief Officers Association, defense attorneys, prosecutors, public health professionals, business owners, educators, contractors, and health care professionals. For the first time in 12 years, Milwaukee voters will be able to decide if they want more of the same or if they want to bring fresh ideas and energy to the bench. I would be honored to be that change and serve our community as municipal judge.


Valarie A. Hill

valhillforjudge.com

Occupation: Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge, Branch 1

Tell me a little about yourself, such as your career, education and personal life.

I was elected to Milwaukee Municipal Court, Branch 1 in 2004. Prior to this position I was appointed by the Chief Judge of Milwaukee County Circuit Court to serve as a judicial court commissioner which is a position I held for six years. Before serving the last 18 years in judicial positions, I was a supervising attorney in the Office of the State Public Defender for six years. Prior to my legal career, I worked a full-time job as a mental health case worker while attending law school at night. I received my law degree from the University of Akron School of Law where I received the Black Law Student Association Highest G.P.A. award. My undergraduate degree was awarded by the Ohio State University where I majored in criminology and criminal justice. I am a member of the Wisconsin and National Bar Associations, National Association of Women Judges, Wisconsin Municipal Judges Association, and the Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers.

I am a caregiver and patient advocate for my mother. I have two children, Ivy and Ava, and they have paws. I rescued Ava from Northcentral Maltese Rescue, which is one of the organizations to which I volunteer my time. I am also a member and/or volunteer with the following organizations: Christ The King Baptist Church, Milwaukee Public Schools, American Red Cross, NAACP, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, UNCF, Milwaukee Urban League & Guild, The Links, Incorporated, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Why are you running for Municipal Court Judge?

I am seeking re-election because Milwaukee needs judges with experience, intelligence, and the courage to pursue justice consistently, fairly and efficiently. I am well aware that the courts are for the public and the litigants and not the judiciary. I love what I do and I try to do it humbly.

If you are elected Municipal Court Judge, what do you see as your role in the local criminal justice system?

Municipal Court cases are not criminal but civil. My role has been and will continue to be to ensure the impartial adjudication of ordinance violations such that the legal rights of individuals are safeguarded and the public interest is protected.

Do you think that it’s proper to send indigent Milwaukeeans to jail or suspend their driver’s license when they can’t pay their fine?

No I do not. The court does not knowingly jail or suspend the license of indigent individuals. Indigent individuals have non-payment options available to them; however, they must appear in court so that the court can know they are indigent and that those options can be offered to them. At sentencing, individuals are asked if they have the ability to pay and are advised that if they do not have the ability to pay now or in the future they need to advise the court of that information so that non-payment options can be offered to them. It should be noted that Milwaukee Municipal Court provides at least two written notices to every individual, who has been convicted of an offense, notifying them that if they don’t have the ability to pay, they must advise the court and they can request community service. These notices are provided at the time of conviction and approximately two weeks before the fine is due. The court also provides a notice to individuals who walk in for unscheduled court appearances that advises them that if they don’t have the ability to pay they can request community service. The court also has a policy wherein when an individual is arrested by Milwaukee police on a warrant, they are released and given a future court date for an indigency hearing. An individual has to fail to appear for four indigency hearings before a commitment warrant is issued for them to serve any jail time associated with a case. This long-standing “arrest and release” policy has resulted in a limited number of individuals serving jail time solely on Milwaukee Municipal court cases. For example, in 2015, 50 individuals were jailed solely on Milwaukee Municipal Court cases and through November of 2016, 24 individuals were jailed solely on Milwaukee Municipal Court cases.

What are your thoughts on offering community service as alternative to paying a fine?

Community service is an option offered by the court to individuals who do not have the ability to pay their fines but it is not the only non-payment option available for the court to utilize. For example, individuals who have mental health challenges are offered a mental health treatment option. I also utilize non-traditional non-payment options such as having individuals pursue educational or employment opportunities.

If elected, how would you reach out to the community to improve access to municipal court?

The court has always been accessible, but during the 12 years I have served the citizens of Milwaukee as their Municipal Court judge we have had significant improvements to operations, efficiency and accessibility. We are an electronic court which allows the flow of cases into court to be much smoother and far more efficient resulting in less waiting time for individuals to have their cases heard. As part of the court’s automation individuals may now access the court online and conduct some of their business online such as submitting a not guilty plea and scheduling a pre-trial court date. We are the only municipal court in the state with walk-in hours Monday-Friday where an individual can walk in and see a judge the same day about their cases. We have also instituted a calendaring change such that it minimizes the number of branches/judges an individual with multiple cases has to see when they appear as a walk-in. The calendaring change also minimizes the amount of time an individual spends at the court. We partnered with Milwaukee Public Schools to take court to the schools thereby minimizing the amount of time a child misses from their educational experience to handle their court matters. We also have scheduled night court appearances once a month and we participate with veterans’ groups and churches to bring the court to the community. We also attend aldermanic public safety and town hall meetings to answer citizen questions about the court. The court has begun to utilize social media to convey information to the public as was done in the Warrant Withdrawal Wednesday project. The court also receives and responds to correspondence from individuals about their court matters.

What’s your assessment of the recent Warrant Withdrawal Wednesdays?

It’s a great start. The event was extremely well received by the participants and the community. 2,400 individuals with more than 15,000 cases had warrants, license suspensions and car registration suspensions lifted during the project. A significant number of these individuals were making their first appearance to handle their business with the court. The full success of the project won’t be known until the court has completed a review of the last piece of the project, which is compliance with payment and non-payment arrangements individuals made with the court.

How would you ensure that all who come before you are treated with respect and dignity?

In an effort to maintain the dignity of the court and the individuals appearing before me, I offer the common courtesy of a greeting, address individuals with the title of Ms. or Mr. before their last name, actively listen, and look individuals in the eye. I always operate with integrity and strive to do what is just, fair and right for the individuals who appear before me. I am straightforward and honest with the individuals who appear before me. I take pains to remain neutral such that no one side has an advantage over the other. I try to ensure that individuals understand the court procedures by not using legalese in my discussions with non-attorneys and when I do, I make an effort to clarify the legal language. At the end of the day, my goal is to ensure that individuals have their day in court and know that they received a fair shake.

Why are you the best candidate for Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge?

I have 18 years of judicial experience having served as a Judicial Court Commissioner for six years and a Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge for 12 years. As a member of the judiciary, I have presided over thousands of municipal ordinance violations, traffic, health code, building code, juvenile, small claims, domestic violence, felony, misdemeanor and administrative matters. As an attorney with the Office of State Public Defender I litigated thousands of felony, misdemeanor and administrative matters and supervised a team of 12 attorneys and support staff.

As the first and only woman ever elected to serve as a Milwaukee Municipal Court judge during the court’s 42-year history, I bring a diversity of thought, perspective and invaluable life experience to my role. I am creative and innovative in my approach to serving as a judge as demonstrated by the MPS “court in schools,” Warrant Withdrawal Wednesdays and calendaring changes which were my initiatives and projects in which I was fully immersed.

I have lived in and been an active member of this community for nearly 25 years. I belong to a number of community service-based organizations and have volunteered for a host of nonprofit organizations where I have installed smoke alarms in people’s homes, restored playgrounds, assembled lunches, distributed food and clothing to the homeless, participated in reading fests, career days, mock courts, etc.



Brian Michel

michel4mke.com

Occupation: Staff Attorney, Legal Aid Society

Tell me a little about yourself, such as your career, education and personal life.

I was born in Milwaukee, and was raised by a union carpenter and a mother who dedicated her career to primary education. The value and importance of living to serve, and to work for your community, seems to be ingrained in my DNA. My desire to see social justice and to learn about the role played by our government was awoken in me when I was in high school, and learned of the tragic murder of a mohawk-donning punk from Amarillo, Texas, named Brian Deneke. I was moved so much that I organized local benefit shows for his memorial fund. It was around that time when I was given a job shadow assignment, and I shadowed a local city attorney.

My undergraduate education was completed at UW-Milwaukee, after I began my degree at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. I received my degree in marketing while working at Milwaukee Harley-Davidson, including during the legendary 100th Anniversary celebration. I supplemented my income with bartending gigs, and eventually made the decision to enroll in law school a year or more after my position at MHD was eliminated due to changes in management. I attended Notre Dame Law School, completing internships during the summer and studying abroad for the summer of 2010, watching the World Cup Finals from the Museumplein in Amsterdam.

My career has been one continually focused on public service. When deciding to enroll in law school, I reached out to Legal Aid Society to learn of volunteer opportunities. The mentorship I received from such dedicated public servants and warriors of justice solidified my commitment to serve Milwaukee, so I attended the school which I saw as giving me the best opportunity to do that. The focus of education at Notre Dame Law School was always to keep serving the public and disadvantaged in your view. I was a program director of our public-service immersion project, where groups of students choose a city to travel to over winter break and develop their own itinerary for meeting various pro bono and public service organizations and performing a service project. Also while a student, I had the opportunity to brief and present oral arguments in a habeas corpus case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and I wear the honor of being grilled by Judge Posner about the meaning of the word “credibility,” and holding my own.

Since graduating and completing the Wisconsin Bar Exam, I worked with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office before starting my own practice of tenant’s rights defense and public defender appointments. In December 2013, I joined the staff of Legal Aid Society, with a dedication to “do all things necessary for the prevention of injustice.” Such is our motto, and I will carry that mission to the bench of Milwaukee’s Municipal Court.

In my personal life, I enjoy cooking and experimenting with new techniques and flavors. Some would say culinary school was on the flipside of the coin I tossed to determine my career path. Just as I appreciate those willing to push against conventions in the realm of food, I likewise enjoy that style and perspective in music, in film and other media. I live with my partner, who shares custody over her teenage son, and we have a home in the Airport Gardens neighborhood with our dogs, Justice and Norman.

Why are you running for Municipal Court Judge?

I view this position as a community service, not as a political gain. The current judge in Branch 1 has consistently failed the people of Milwaukee and has disrespected those who appear before her. As a staff attorney for Legal Aid Society, I have dealt extensively with the municipal court system and have seen Branch 1 waste the resources of Milwaukee by denying opportunities for treatment and community service, and refusing to protect basic rights. I’m running for a very simple reason: The people of Milwaukee deserve better than what they’ve been getting. I bring to the bench a deep understanding of the law and how it interacts with our community, along with a scorching passion for social justice.

If you are elected Municipal Court Judge, what do you see as your role in the local criminal justice system?

I believe any judge’s role is to apply the law to the facts of each case and protect constitutional due process while informing every defendant of their available options to resolve their judgment. While holding people accountable for their actions, the court also has a duty to recognize and help a sick person when those people can be helped by community resources. I will ensure that Branch 1 takes affirmative steps to protect the rights of the disadvantaged, but we must also develop restorative justice programs to improve the communication between parties. The Municipal Court is not a criminal court; it is our community court. Its outcomes and practices should complement the community it serves.

Do you think that it’s proper to send indigent Milwaukeeans to jail or suspend their driver’s license when they can’t pay their fine?

I absolutely do not, but the current practice of Branch 1 apparently does. Suspending a driver’s license is appropriate in cases where someone is driving unsafely, or has been irresponsible in owning a vehicle. But all too often, an unpaid parking ticket can result in a vehicle registration suspension, which often results in traffic citations for driving without registration, later turning into a license suspension. Suddenly, a $20 ticket which might have blown off or been buried in snow has become a $750 nightmare. Our lawmakers must sort that mess out in the books, but in court, judges must use their discretion in a way that does not destroy a person’s ability to get medical care or keep employment. As for jailing a person who is poor or living on public assistance, that practice is specifically prohibited under Wisconsin law. However, Branch 1 conveniently neglects to determine if someone does have the ability to pay, and instead sends out a warrant telling local police to snatch this person up and give them a notice telling them to attend a court date in words many of them cannot comprehend. The ripples of this waste of police and court resources reverberate across the justice system, and are a significant cause of the problems and tensions plaguing Milwaukee.

What are your thoughts on offering community service as alternative to paying a fine?

I think that every defendant should get an equal opportunity to do community service or other appropriate alternatives regardless of which branch processes their case. Milwaukee contracts with a company which evaluates defendants and makes recommendations for alternatives based on that evaluation: community service, mental health treatment, addiction services, etc. They aim to reduce the probability of this person committing further infractions, while also trying to improve lives and give people hope. Branch 1 denies the recommendations of this organization at rates which are completely unreasonable and without justification in logic or law.

I think community service must be provided as an option for indigent people, and we must encourage its increased use as an alternative while developing other productive ways to hold people accountable when necessary. Not everyone is physically or mentally able to complete community service hours. I believe the Milwaukee Municipal Court could benefit from being creative with its alternatives, such as developing restorative justice mediation programs, accepting food and clothing donations in lieu of monetary payment, and becoming a model of progressive values in local justice.

If elected, how would you reach out to the community to improve access to Municipal Court?

One of the first steps to improve community access to the Municipal Court is to remove the $20 ticket deposit that everyone is required to pay in order to lift a warrant or reopen a default judgment. This practice was denounced by the United States Dept. of Justice last year, but our court refused to remove that requirement when requested. Specifically, in Branch 1, I would ensure it once again become a courtroom where individuals are treated with respect, their time is valued, and they are afforded an opportunity for a fair hearing before a neutral judge. This court must cease treating the people who come before it as criminals, and treat them as fellow citizens. While there have been noble efforts in operating mobile courts in local schools and veterans events, investment in such engagement must be the normal practice, not the headline-making outlier.

What’s your assessment of the recent Warrant Withdrawal Wednesdays?

I feel it that it was an event which required an enormous amount of effort and coordination, and I feel those efforts were largely squandered. For over a year, I personally worked on a committee which was addressing the very problems of the community targeted by WWW. That committee included representatives from ACLU, Milwaukee Police Dept., NAACP, Dept. of Corrections, JusticePoint, and the Milwaukee Municipal Court. One of the primary purposes was to address practices and procedures of the court to improve appearance rates and educate poor people about their rights. The Municipal Court intentionally left every one of those other stakeholders out of the WWW planning process, and instead created something only in consultation with a municipal court in another state which knew nothing about the resources available in Milwaukee.

I observed what took place on WWW, and I can say that Branch 1 failed in its duty to provide meaningful options to people who had no income or lived only on public assistance. The court instead bragged about how many people were given an installment payment plan, without regard to whether these people could realistically keep up with those payments, only to again be stuck in a cycle of warrant fees and police harassment. Many people who showed up for WWW received 90-day extensions to make a payment, even if they told the court that they had zero income. Well, that was approximately 90 days ago. I would be interested to hear how many of those people who waited in line in the cold and the rain for five hours have those warrants coming right back, and how many heard Valarie Hill make community service sound like scheduling a root canal.

How would you ensure that all who come before you are treated with respect and dignity?

As judge, I will inform all defendants of all options available to them under the law. It is imperative that everyone is treated fairly, and they are presented with options on how to pay their debts rather than being humiliated. If they require mental health care, it is my obligation to ensure they receive referrals to the care they need. If they are unable to pay their debts, it is my obligation to inform them of their available alternatives. Branch 1 has consistently been the branch where these options are not presented to defendants, approval rates for those alternatives is far lower than other branches, and it is time we treat people as individuals, not as cattle to be tagged with unnecessary and uncollectible debt.

Why are you the best candidate for Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge?

I have the breadth and depth of experience which is a necessary asset to our court and provide the perspective and community engagement which is desperately lacking in Branch 1. I could begin describing my experience with my first position out of Notre Dame Law School as an ADA at the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, but that would neglect the time spent prior to graduation working with federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Las Cruces, N.M., or the State Public Defender’s Appellate Office in Madison, or even volunteering at Legal Aid Society where I assisted with class action lawsuits while studying for law school entrance exams.

As an Assistant DA, I ran a misdemeanor calendar which frequently saw 50 or more defendants in a single morning, and prosecuted crimes in the Domestic Violence Unit. Since then, my years of experience as a Staff Attorney at Legal Aid Society have included defending hundreds of tenants in evictions, protecting consumer rights from predatory practices, and conducting outreach to improve the legal services of several underserved and undervalued populations, including mental health consumers, American veterans, and our homeless population. I participate in the Community Justice Council, advocating for legal protections for indigent and those suffering from mental illness. I staff outreach clinics at meal sites and at Dryhootch. I contribute my time and knowledge to events where veterans benefit from the mental and emotional relief of getting answers or referrals for their legal troubles.

I am the single candidate with the variety of experience and perspective necessary to effect progressive and efficient reforms to our Municipal Court. One challenger has been only a city attorney in his legal career, only part of that in Milwaukee, after starting his education in kindergarten and remaining a student until graduating with a law license. The other has overcome tremendous obstacles, but lacks the practical experience required by this office. As for the incumbent, she has allowed the quality and respect of her court to degrade while not having a single challenger since 2005. The time is now to elect the candidate who, through extensive collaboration, communication, and dedication, developed the ability to identify the problems of our system and possesses the motivation, insight, and values to fight for those reforms.

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