MONROE — When it comes to the courtroom, Green County Circuit Court judicial candidate Jane Bucher is no stranger.
Her legal career has taken her from a prosecutor’s office in Oneida County to an internship at the Wisconsin Supreme Court and a Madison family law clinic. Each of those experiences helped lead her to the same conclusion.
“What I gained from that experience was just a furthering of my commitment to public service and knowing that what I really wanted to do was find a way to use the law to give back and to serve my community.”
Since 2011, Bucher has given back as a public defender. She has represented individuals in more than 2,300 cases in circuit court, experience that she says makes her an ideal candidate for Green County’s courts.
“As a public defender, I’m in court every day,” she said. “Because I’ve handled so many cases, I have seen what works in a courtroom and what could be improved on.”
But Bucher hasn’t just seen what can be done to improve the county’s courts, she’s worked to bring those improvements to the courtroom already.
She was a founding member of Green County’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council which began during the planning stages of the county’s drug court. The council is a group of leaders and stakeholders in the legal process that meets quarterly to discuss issues in the justice system. Bucher also played an instrumental role in the creation of the county’s drug court, an alternative treatment to drug abuse involving treatment and supervision.
“It was a bi-partisan effort to get the drug court going,” Bucher said. “Drug courts save lives, they save taxpayer dollars and they reduce crime. It’s had a positive impact on the community. Estimates are that for every $1 we spend on a program like drug court, we save $4 in taxpayer money and I think that that shows that it’s about public service. Drug court is just one example of how a public defender can make the community a better place.”
In the future, Bucher hopes to expand alcohol treatment into drug court or explore the possibility of an alcohol treatment court.
Bucher’s work with drug court has been one of the most notable outcomes of her extensive work in the county, but her expertise and dedication span far beyond that.
“I’ve been working to make improvements in the justice system at large,” she said. That work can be seen in her position on two statewide subcommittees to improve children’s courts: the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board Chapter 48 Subcommittee, which convened for the purpose of discussing and proposing changes to the definition of neglect in the Children’s Code and The Department of Children and Families Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument Policy and Document Development Subcommittee.
“The decisions made in the courtroom that affect children are of the utmost importance,” she said. “I’m very passionate about ensuring that children are treated fairly in the court system and that’s why I have worked hard to see where there’s room for improvement there as well.”
Bucher’s passion for law didn’t start in a courtroom or even a classroom. Instead, it started in a rural village in West Africa.
From 2006-08, Bucher served as a rural health education volunteer with the Peace Corps in a rural village in Senegal.
Though she’d initially traveled to Senegal to teach health education, she soon came to realize that the needs of the community could not only be solved through education.
“While I was there, it became clear that the members of the village, their greatest goal was to bring running water to this village because the well would frequently run dry and it was a lot of work to get enough water every day,” Bucher said. “As we explored that goal, it became clear that it was a health problem, but it was also a legal problem, and that’s when I realized that the law was for me.”
Her mud structure didn’t have electricity, but Bucher’s dedication to public service kept her focused on her goal of starting law school after the Peace Corps.
She studied for the Law School Admission Test by flashlight in her mud hut using prep materials that her parents had mailed her. She took the LSAT in Ghana and began studying at the University of Wisconsin Law School immediately after returning from her Peace Corps service.
Though it was in that rural African village that Jane realized the law was for her, her dedication and desire to use her talents to help others is something she has carried with her since childhood.
“My commitment to public service really started as a child growing up with my parents in Southern Wisconsin,” she said.
Her father worked as a school psychologist and her mother a nurse who worked dedicated her career to working with individuals with developmental disabilities.
“As I grew up, I saw their commitment to helping others and it really inspired me to choose a path of public service,” she said.
Through her dedication to public service, Bucher has been able to bring many changes and improvements to the county, one of which is the Green County Multicultural Outreach Program.
The program’s mission is to build bridges among community members and celebrate diversity in the community, a community that Bucher has grown to know and love in her decade as a Green County public defender.
“We love being members of this community,” she said. “And we love exploring new ways to get even more involved in the community that we love.”