Spring Election 2021
The spring primary election is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16. The top two vote getters will move on to the April 6 election.
MONROE — With the judicial primary just around the corner, the Green County Bar Association held a candidate forum Jan. 19.
Each of the four candidates for Green County Circuit Court Branch One attended the online forum in preparation for the Feb. 16 election.
Reserve judge Dave Deininger moderated the forum. The contents have been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Your background, education, community involvement, whatever you want to share and why you believe your experience qualifies you to become a circuit court judge in Green County.
Jane Bucher: My name is Jane Bucher and I am running for Green County circuit court judge.
Judges have an important job. They make decisions that impact families and individuals and they make decisions that impact businesses.
I’m running for judge because I want to put my courtroom experience to work on behalf of the people of Green County.
My pledge is to treat every person that walks through the courtroom doors with respect.
I’ve seen the justice system from a variety of perspectives and I am prepared to make the tough decisions that will keep our community safe and strong and to build on what’s working in Green County courts to make them even stronger, more fair and more effective.
Currently, I am an assistant state public defender. That means that I am the lawyer for adults and children who couldn’t otherwise afford one.
I’ve handled a wide variety of cases, the same types of cases that this judge will hear, including termination of parental rights, mental health commitments and cases involving children in need of protection or services.
I’m in the courtroom every day. I’ve handled more cases in the circuit court than any other candidate in this race and for that reason I am prepared to hit the ground running on day one.
Because of that experience, I am also aware that the decisions we make in the courtroom have the potential to change people’s lives for the better.
I will never forget hearing from a drug court graduate who said that the drug court program had saved his life. And I will never forget getting a call from a teenage client who called to tell me that she had graduated high school even though she had been in truancy court just a few years prior.
People often come to me on one of the worst days of their lives and my goal is always that when they leave the criminal justice system, their lives will be changed for the better. And that is why I have worked so hard to improve our criminal justice system.
One example is drug court which I helped initiate here in Green County. Estimates are that 85% of people in the Wisconsin State Prison System have a substance abuse issue. 50% have mental illness. Many people in the criminal justice system struggle with both. Drug court holds offenders accountable and gives individuals access to treatment that can help them turn their lives around and restore them safely to their communities and families. And they save tax payer dollars.
Now to say a little bit about why I’m running for judge, another question that I’m often asked is what made me want to be a judge.
As a Peace Corps volunteer, I saw how the law can change people’s lives for the better. I served for two years as a health education volunteer in rural Senegal where I lived in a mud structure with no running water and no electricity. The members of the village very much wanted to bring running water to their village.
As we advocated for that, it quickly became clear that this wasn’t just a health education problem, it was a legal problem. And that’s when I knew that the law was for me.
I studied for the Law School Entrance Exam by the light of a flashlight in my mud structure and I attended the University of Wisconsin Madison where my legal training included working in a prosecutor’s office and working directly with victims of crime. My first job out of law school was right here in Monroe at the Kittelsen Law firm.
My life and my career have been guided by the values I learned growing up in Southern Wisconsin with my parents. Integrity, hard work, a passion for making the world a better place and a commitment to public service.
My father was a Navy Veteran who worked as a school psychologist for the state of Wisconsin and my mother was a CNA who went back to school to get her nursing degree even though she had four kids at home and she went on to work at the Southern Wisconsin Center in Union Grove.
Now, in addition to being a public defender, I’m also the full-time mom to two boys, Quinn and Xavier and they are 6 and 4. My husband, Ruedi, is a cheesemaker from Switzerland and he feels very much at home here in Green County.
All of my life experiences have taught me that if we work together, recognize good ideas no matter where they come from and put our minds to it, we can achieve great things.
I will decide cases without bias and I will work collaboratively with others to improve how our courts operate. I will serve everybody that comes through the courtroom doors with respect and integrity and I will work hard to make the tough decisions that will keep our community safe and strong.
I hope that I can earn your confidence, your trust and your vote.
Dan Bartholf: My name is Dan Bartholf, I’m 47 years old and I’m a life-long resident of Green County. I’m from Monroe. My parents worked for the School District of Monroe.
I graduated from high school in 1992 and then I went on to the University of Madison and obtained my business degree in 1996.
After I graduated, I went directly to law school to the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
While I really enjoyed my time in Cincinnati, I did miss Wisconsin and always knew that I was going to go back to Wisconsin.
So I went back to Wisconsin in 1999 and I had to take the bar exam. I passed the bar exam in the summer of 1999 and obtained employment at the firm of Voegeli and Ewald. Now, jump forward 21 and a half years later, I’m still there with the exception that the last 15 years, I have been a partner of the firm.
Our firm, as well as myself, we have a wide variety of areas of law that we practice.
We are a general practice law firm. I do a lot of municipal work. For my career, for 18 of the years I’ve been an assistant city attorney for the city of Monroe and of course the last three and a half years I’ve been the lead City Attorney for the City of Monroe where you can handle anything from contracts to procedure questions to advising the council and committees to prosecuting city traffic such as OWIs, disorderly conduct, all those types of charges. I also do a lot of family law: guardian ad litem, custody, placement, child support. I do termination of parental rights, adoptions, including step parent adoptions. I do probate, business incorporation, adverse possession, small claims, collections. I just do a variety of things and this is what a Green County Circuit Court Judge does.
That’s what I believe really sets me apart from everybody else in this field.
One of my philosophies is giving back.
I graduated from this community and I’ve been given so much. And so, I have my whole career dedicated my time to public service.
I’ve been on the school board now for nine years, the Monroe Public Library board of trustees for four. I was a board of directors for the rainbow daycare for 15 years, the Monroe fund for six years, Green County humane society for four years early in my career and then I helped for three years with the new shelter committee to bring the new shelter here and I still answer questions for them today. The Green County Elder Abuse Committee since its inception in 2005 where we help make awareness for elder abuse in our community and try to eliminate that.
Everything that I do, I want to try to make a positive impact, make things better, improve things. And that’s what I’m going to bring as Green County judge. I am going to treat every participant with respect, give them equal opportunity, fairness. I’m going to make a fair decision and have efficient justice.
Peter B. Kelly: Serving as a judge is in part, an academic exercise, so I think my successful record in academics is very relevant to my campaign and I want to start there.
I graduated from University of Notre Dame with a bachelor of business administration degree in business management in 1979 with a minor in environmental sciences. Then I went out and got a job in my home state of Michigan where I began a master’s degree at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. It was a master of science in Natural Resource Policy at what is now called the school of environments and sustainability. I received that degree in 1981.
I then immediately went to Marquette university law school where I earned my juris doctorate in 1984. I was a two-year member of the Marquette law review as a member and staff and editor.
Then I joined the Brennan, Steil Firm in Janesville and still. While practicing law and raising a family, I went back for a fourth university degree. This one in pastoral theology just for the heaven of it because I love the idea. I went to St. Mary’s College of Ave Maria University with a master of theological studies first in my class.
In 2008, I went back to the University of Wisconsin Whitewater to obtain a master’s degree in counselor education. Those last two degrees, I graduated first in my class.
Since then, in 2009, I received a certificate in mediation from UW-Madison division of continuing education department and for the last ten years, I have been a court commissioner so I have been attending judicial education seminars as a court commissioner with other judges.
In my law practice, I’ve been practicing law for 36 years in a general practice, including 34 years out of my Monroe office.
I was hired as a litigator. Defense work, plaintiffs, personal injury is what we did primarily in Janesville. Then moving to Monroe, I began doing also family law, guardian at litem work, real estate work, estate planning, corporate setups, nonprofit 501c3 setups, landlord tenant small claims. I also did criminal and traffic work for 26 years until I was appointed court commissioner by Judge Beer and Judge Vale in 2010.
For ten years, I served as a court commissioner. I was reappointed every year by Judge Beer and Judge Vale. And I did the jobs that a court commissioner does to help relieve time pressure on the judges, sometimes taking the bench when a judge is not available for hearings: bail bond hearings, temporary physical custody requests, conjunction hearings in addition to approving search warrants, probable cause statements from law enforcement. I served as a mediator for Green County Family Court for a few years and for 8 years, I was volunteering with the Wisconsin Supreme court’s office of lawyer regulation, the district 12 committee, investigating complaints of unethical conduct by lawyers.
After earning the master in counseling degree from UW whitewater with special emphasis on mental health and substance abuse counselling, I was then asked to facilitate two groups: one for men charged with domestic violence and anger management offenses and the other for men convicted of domestic violence and anger management offenses.
After that decade of groups, I then began assisting my wife on weekends in her job as a mental health professional at the 400-bed jail for the Washington county jail in West Bend.
I’d be dealing with inmates in suicide watch and with other problems: drug abuse problems and a lot of other mental health issues there. I think that counseling experience will help me become the best judge to handle the drug court, which I even want to expand to have an alcohol court as well.
Faun Marie Phillipson: My name is Faun Marie Phillipson. I’m 46 years old and I have been practicing law for 20 years. I’m licensed to practice in Wisconsin and New York and I have had cases across the country from New York to Detroit to Los Angeles. This exposure to different courtrooms and different judicial styles is a strength that I could bring to the bench.
As I’ve travelled around Green County for the past couple of months, I’m most often asked two questions and one is why I want to be judge.
The short answer is because I was born and raised here; I grew up here, and I will grow old here. I would like to serve my community in the best way that I possibly can, but a better question I think is why are you qualified to serve as our next judge?
I’ve practiced law for 20 years I began my practice in New York City which is arguably one of the toughest and most competitive areas of the country.
I would get on the subway at 7:30 in the morning, often work 12 or more hours a day, often coming home at midnight, sometimes later.
My cases were before the NASD and the New York Stock Exchange, as well as the New York State Supreme Court, which is their trial-level court like Green County Circuit Court, in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
In 2004, my partner John and I started our own firm, Phillipson and Uretsky. At the beginning, we would take almost any case that we could, whether criminal or civil.
In 2007, we opened an office in New Glarus so we now have offices in New York, New Jersey and New Glarus.
In addition to traveling to representing my clients in New York, I also focused on a local practice: wills, deeds, landlord/tenant and employment disputes. I have represented kids with speeding tickets, friends, neighbors, landlords, employers, employees, local businesses and public companies.
This broad range of experience is key because in Green County Circuit Court, the judges hear all types of cases and therefore must be familiar with all types of law.
I have that depth and breadth of experience, but knowledge of the law is only part of the story.
I also know people. As a business owner for the last 16 years, it’s my responsibility to bring in clients, to advise those clients and to represent those clients to the best of my ability. You listen to someone’s story and keep in mind that it’s probably only part of the story. You advise them how the law applies to their case, if they have a case, and what the potential outcomes of that case might be.
I’ve also invested a great amount of time in the community and that’s because the community has given a lot to me.
I previously was on the board of directors of the Swiss Center of North America, the Community Foundation of New Glarus, and the New Glarus Public Library board of trustees. I also previously taught business law at Blackhawk technical college. Currently, I’m on the board of directors of the bank of new Glarus and its holding company. I have volunteered as a tutor for a number of years with the green county literacy council and for over a decade, I have been a coach of the New Glarus high school mock trial team which is a state bar sponsored program which teaches students about the fundamentals of practicing law.
You’ll recall at the beginning I said I’m often asked two questions, and the second one is what party are you with. My response is always, it doesn’t matter. This is a nonpartisan election and a nonpartisan position. As you can probably imagine in this politically charged atmosphere, that response is often met with some skepticism. But as I recently explained to one gentleman, “sir, the speed limit is 55 whether you’re a democrat or a republican.” A judge must be fair and impartial and they must also be perceived as being fair and impartial. You deserve to know that your case is being heard and that it will be judged solely on the facts and the law, not on your political or any other affiliation.
I will treat you as I would like to be treated: intelligently, fairly and impartially.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the courts in Wis. have increased their reliance on technology in order to conduct court proceedings without having to have the attorneys and litigants having to gather in the courtrooms. First, how well do you think this has worked and second, do you believe that anything has been learned or from the experience, there are things that maybe should be carried into the future to make our courts more efficient?
Bartholf: It’s almost been a year that we have not had in-person hearings. We have learned a lot, there have been problems with zoom technology of people having connection problems, people talking over each other, a lot of people calling in on phones, but we have grown to use it.
This pandemic is going to go away sometime, but we will have a new normal. We will get back to a new normal.
The way we get groceries by doing online and the way we bank, our schooling, our practice is going to be different and I think that the technology that we have here will continue in some format.
We will not have Zoom technology for jury trials and those type of hearings, but for those hearings that you can have pretrial conferences, status conferences, zoom technology will be a viable option for people to have. It will save litigants probably thousands of dollars over the course of their case if their attorneys can appear without having to wait in line for a court hearing for delays and the like.
There are times, even before the pandemic started, that we would have doctors and teachers testify by telephone. Before, we had the technology for certain appearances by video, but now everybody has that so we can still have those people still testify by Zoom.
It’s a change and I think that we’ll grow with that and that process.
Kelly: While I recognize the need for the current Zoom processes in light of the concerns about the virus, I really cannot wait to get back into the courtroom with people.
I do agree that a Zoom meeting is fine for what we call scheduling conferences: setting dates for a hearing, something rather mundane and easily handled.
But when it comes to litigation, I want to be in a courtroom with human beings where I can look at exhibits, I can look at witnesses, I can make the evaluations that all trial lawyers make about how things are going on in the process of litigation when people are being questioned. I really miss the time in court hearings where you can lean across from one council table to the other and talk to the other lawyers about ‘maybe we can resolve this in another way based on some information we just heard’. Or being able to stroll over to the clerk of the court there and ask for an alternative date or to get an exhibit marked.
It’s a people business in the trial court, and I do miss that. I think as a culture, we seem to be growing farther apart under this pandemic, understandably so, I just don’t want us to grow apart in the society of the courtroom. I think where there are judges and clerks and attorneys and bailiff, I miss that connection with the other litigants and the other partners that are bringing about justice in Green County.
Phillipson: I think our system has adapted extraordinarily well to the effects of the pandemic and just one example is that this morning, I had a status conference in federal court and all in, it took about 20 minutes.
There’s no way that that could have been accomplished without using technology. Videoconferences, Zoom, telephonic hearings, they’ve all allowed us to keep this system running and keep everyone safe over the last ten months.
With that said, relying on technology definitely has Its pros and cons. What are the pros? We’ve stayed safe, it’s kept cases moving, it’s cost effective and it’s efficient, for the most part.
Also, as an incoming judge, especially during a transition period, one could get up to speed quickly on their case load, utilizing Zoom for status conferences where appropriate, especially in complex matters or cases that may have been lingering in the system a little longer, but there’s also obvious cons.
Not everyone has access to technology and not everyone has access to reliable internet. It’s also more difficult to gage credibility and a person’s demeanor when you’re not in the same room as they are.
I’m in favor of keeping Zoom, especially during the transition period because it’s safe, cost effective and efficient, especially for pretrial hearings.
I’m also committed to making sure than an in-person option is available for any litigants or criminal defendants where appropriate and I would look forward to working with Judge Vale who is our district chief judge on moving forward in this way.
Bucher: There’s not much that I can say good about the pandemic.
It has created a huge backlog in Green County. We haven’t’ had a jury trial I believe since September of 2020 and we are going to have to work collaboratively with judges, district attorneys, defense attorneys, the circuit court staff and the judicial staff to work out way out of that backlog when it is safe and secure to do that.
Now, that being said, I think that having this technology sort of forced upon us has shown us that it can work for some types of proceedings.
I think that going forward out of custody initial appearances for criminal defendants can continue to be held by Zoom for fairly routine cases. The advantage of that is that it allows defendants and victims to participate in these hearings without having to take time off of work and without having to secure childcare.
Obviously, we also have to respect the rights of defendants to appear in person in certain cases and that’s important as well. We have great judicial staff at the Green County Justice Center and we have not had a new judge in branch one in many, many years. I look forward to working with the staff to address any issues of access to justice and I think that other issues of access to justice that we can work on are things such as making sure that all of the forms are available in multiple languages, I think we have to also make sure that individuals who have low or moderate literacy have access to materials that can help them participate in court proceedings effectively and meaningfully and I think that we have to work to make sure that our court calendars are organized in a fashion that allows each case the amount of time that it’s due. Overall, I think that technology can be one tool in the tool kit of making sure that we have access to justice for every member of Green County. Thank you.
Circuit courts in WI are courts of general jurisdiction. That means that everything from probating estates to personal injury cases to felony criminal trials all happen in circuit court. In Green County, a major share of the case load falls into the areas of criminal, juvenile and family law cases. What specific experience do you have in those areas and how would you approach cases that come before you in cases that you have little or no experience?
Kelly: First 26 years of my practice, I was involved in criminal and traffic cases but I had to give that up when I was selected again to be a court commissioner. That allowed me to get involved in the criminal and a lot of the family area from a different perspective. I began approving search warrants, probably cause statements and taking the bench presiding over bail/bond hearings, temporary physical custody requests and injunctions. Aided by my counseling background, I also became very much involved in working with the groups that I had mentioned took with individuals that are charged with criminal offenses in anger management, domestic violence and the ten years of groups that I did have helped me to really understand why these men are in that system and how we can change it so that they’re not continuing on in a revolving door fashion. I’ve been involved in family law from the beginning and in recent decades, I’ve been doing a lot of guardian ad litem work which is a very great assistant to the court I think because both the attorneys for the parties have to be advocates for their party, the guardian ad litem is the advocate for the best interest of a child in a family law case and allows me to make recommendations and push pretty hard on recommendations which helps settle the case and actually helps out the advocate parties too.
There is a lot of experience you get in 36 years practicing law and in Green County, like we’ve all been saying, you do all of it. We all know how these things work and I think these cases are going to be something we’ll see as judges.
Phillipson: I have spent my career in litigation actively handling lawsuits in and out of the courtroom for the last 20 years.
While criminal defense and family practice has never been my primary area of practice, I did take the UW Madison continuing studies mediation program in domestic violence and mediation and I did previously volunteer with the Green County Family Law Clinic giving me a familiarity with the procedures and forms and also myriad issues that can arise in family cases.
Also, every client, like all of us, comes with a constellation of issues and when you build a rapport with a client, you become their go-to person.
Here’s an example: I represented a long-time client and bar owner in negotiating their commercial lease. When that bar’s bouncer was stabbed by a patron, they called me. When a bar fight broke out in the bar and the bar was sued for negligence, I represented the bar in that case. And when one of the bartenders was arrested on felony and misdemeanor charges, I represented him in criminal court.
My practice has led me into all of these areas of the law because my clients are diverse and because their needs are also diverse Whether it’s public companies, businesses or individuals. These clients have brought me into a number of courtrooms over the years, whether for mediation, trial, settlement conferences, status conferences, discovery disputes, evidentiary hearings, injunction hearings or pretrial motions.
This has given me a foundational knowledge to effectively preside over cases.
Bucher: Over the course of my career, I have represented individuals in over 2,300 cases in local circuit court. That’s more local cases than the other candidates combined. I’m in the courtroom every day and I’m working on these types of cases every day of the week. I’ve handled the vast majority of the types of cases that this judge will hear. I’ve handled juvenile cases from truancy to serious felonies, I’ve handled countless criminal cases and I was selected to attend a special juvenile law academy at Georgetown University and I completed that in 2019. In terms of family law, I have helped clients address concerns in regards to child support, paternity and divorce and I’ve also handled restraining orders. All of this experience led me to spearhead the creation of the Green County Adult Drug Court. In 2015, our community was reeling from the impact of the opioid epidemic. And this started us on a two-year journey that culminated in the creation of Green County’s first treatment court.
There is nothing quite like attending a treatment court graduation. Recently, at one of our Drug Court Graduations, the parents of the graduate came and poignantly spoke about how they had prepared to lose their adult child to the opioid epidemic. They thought they had tried everything and they were prepared to get the call that their adult child had died. There was nothing quite like seeing the impact that drug court had on this graduate and the family and I am forever grateful for the hard work that our drug court team does to save lives and to reduce crime. Thank you.
Bartholf: Family law, child support, guardian ad litem probate, guardianship, contract law, OWIs; this is everything that a judge would be expected to handle in a Green County Circuit Court, but this is also everything that I have done just today alone. My practice is every day will be the same. I will be in a different role, of course, but every day, working on all these issues is something that is normal for me.
I also practice bankruptcy and immigration law which is federal law, but sometimes bankruptcy comes into play with the circuit court level cases.
The one area that I don’t have as large of a practice in is criminal law. For the most part, by representing the City of Monroe and Monroe being the biggest community in Green County, we represent the City of Monroe Police Department and there would be a lot of conflicts and so we just have not participated in a lot of criminal cases.
Periodically, I would have a case that would be a family court client that has an offense that wasn’t in conflict with the city. But, I do have experience in the criminal law by participating in the prosecution of criminal cases or prosecution of forfeitures, OWIs, traffic offenses, which are pseudocriminal law.
I also am involved in those court hearings when they also accompany a criminal law matter so I’m aware of the procedures and processes that are happening. So I don’t believe that this is a weakness, I believe it’s the procedures that I can learn and I can bring justice in a fair and equal way.
The right to be represented by an attorney is constitutionally guaranteed in criminal cases, but that’s not true in civil cases. Courts are seeing an increasing number of litigants appearing in court without attorneys. This is especially so in family law. What problems or issues does that present for a judge and how would you handle them?
Phillipson: Thank you, your honor. In dealing with pro se litigants, there are at least a handful of things that we have to be mindful of at all times. One is having a patient and tactful judicial demeanor. As judge Deininger said, we should all have equal access to the court and access to the laws that protect us whether represented by council or not.
But, in reality, the courtroom can be a very difficult place to navigate which leads to another point, preventing the confusion and chaos that can arise from a person representing themselves, especially in an emotionally charged situation.
It requires a balancing act, a big part of which is to inform the person who wants to represent themselves in court of the risks and responsibilities of proceeding without an attorney. There’s also the issue of limited scope representation which I think is a significant tool for addressing the needs of pro se litigants, especially if cost is an issue. And finally, establishing clear guidelines from the beginning and continuously along the way for how the case will proceed. Because really, that is one of the ultimate goals: moving the case forward while simultaneously ensuring that all parties, whether represented by council or not, have a full and fair opportunity to be heard.
Bucher: We know some things about pro se litigants.
We know that their numbers are on the rise, we know that they are more likely to lose than their represented counterparts and we know that they are largely low income.
The challenge of addressing access to justice for pro se litigants is a daunting one.
Obviously, judges cannot give legal advice and they cannot advise on a course of action. Some things that judges can do, though, is to inform pro se litigants of their right to an attorney, direct them to available resources to the State Bar as well as to legal action and local legal clinics and ensure that their rulings and their orders are clear and accessible to pro se litigants. My goal will be that all litigants will leave the courtroom fully understanding the court’s order. I think that in certain circumstances, issuing a written decision can also help.
Now, I am the elected representative for this district on the state bar board of governors and with that work, I have had the opportunity of creating policies that can help better serve pro se litigants. One example is our policy on ghost writing which gets the issue of limited scope representation that attorney Phillipson mentioned. We recently adjusted our policy on ghost writing to make it more lenient so that, for example, volunteer attorneys can provide greater assistance to people in such things as the addiction clinic. I also think that getting people access to legal action, as I mentioned, is important. I personally volunteered in the past. I also think that encouraging our fellow members of the bar to engage in pro bono service is important. In 2015, I organized an event commemorating our inductees into the pro bono honor society and I think that events like that can provide an incentive for local attorneys to take on pro bono cases. Thank you.
Bartholf: There are times when judges can appoint attorneys for people, but many times people choose to represent themselves.
I agree with Attorney Phillipson that you have to set the expectations at the beginning of a hearing, especially when there’s two pro se people.
Two pro se people may not even understand the procedures that are used in court, even certainly as asking questions. Sometimes it becomes a free for all where they talk to each other or they’re testifying when they’re supposed to be asking questions. So, I think it’s really laying out the expectations for them and having them trying to understand the proceedings. Giving clear directions, being calm, not reacting and instructing them along the way. One thing that I’ve seen as a problem is sometimes when there’s one attorney in the courtroom and one pro se client or there’s an attorney in the room and a mom and dad don’t have council is the court sometimes get so wrapped up in what the attorney says that they don’t give opportunities for the other parties that are not represented. We have to make sure that they have their equal opportunity for statements and questions for their input so that they also will have that opportunity. Originally, you made a comment about family law.
What I would do with pro se clients in family law, say a new divorce, I would bring them into the courtroom at the beginning of their case, within the first two or three weeks, and I would lay out the processes they need to comply with to make that process go as smoothly as possible for them so they know their expectations of getting their financial disclosure statement in, getting their agreements in, what happens if they don’t disagree and what happens at the end.
Again, it’s really explaining the process to them.
KELLY: Pro se parties are not going away and they are not all low income. There’s even people that have substantial income but they figure with the computer that they can do anything that a lawyer can do. I’ve been involved in both as guardian ad litem appointed in certain cases, where their children are an issue and I’ve also been involved since the beginning of the Green County legal clinic where we see that almost exclusively.
In a family case, where there is children involved, I have seen judges effectively appoint in Green County a guardian ad litem because settling this dispute is certainly going to be in the best interest of the children and invariably, there is going to be an issue about placement, how to deal with the parenting, the co-parenting issues, and I have been able to work in cases and I would appoint guardian ad litem in cases where children are involved in their double pro se both parents are represented.
The more difficult time comes in when it’s not a family law case but it’ a piece of litigation and I think it’s very important for a judge to make it very clear to the parties that just because they’re not represented by lawyers, it does not mean that the law doesn’t apply to them. They don’t get a pass on the rules of evidence, they don’t get a pass on silver procedure, they are getting themselves into an area that might be uncomfortable for them but I think it’s also important for a judge to say maybe there’s another way through litigation that would be difficult for you, why don’t we look at getting a mediator to try to work out some of these issues and you can share the cost of the mediator so it’s not quite as expensive and I think a lot of times, mediation, shared expense by both parties, can resolve things and there be a fair response, a fair resolution and the parties can get behind that because they’re both giving and both taking a little bit and I think that’s a pretty good way of avoiding the entire litigation fiasco of the unrepresented parties if they can mediate things and get them resolved. I have seen that work out very well.
Lawyers shouldn’t represent themselves and people shouldn’t represent themselves.
CLOSING ARGUMENTS: What do you believe that you bring to the bench, or would bring to the bench, that sets you apart from the other candidates and makes you the best person to become the next Green County Circuit Court Judge.
Bucher: As I mentioned before, this will be the first time in 25 years that branch one will have a new judge. Voters have an important choice. The campaign has been respectful and positive. All of us have chosen slightly different paths in the law and with all due respect to the other candidates, my background and experience sets me apart. I’ve handled more cases in local circuit courts right here than all of my opponents combined. There is no substitute for being in court every day and handling the kind of cases that this judge will hear. I know what will work to make improvements in how our courts operate and I know how to get it done. I spearheaded the creation of the Green County drug court program which is saving lives and reducing crime. I helped create the green county criminal justice coordinating council which is the first coordinating council in green county. Judges need to treat people fairly and make tough decisions. Because of my experience, I am the best prepared to make to make the complex decisions that will serve our community and keep Green County safe and strong. I have represented children in child welfare cases, I have represented juveniles in delinquency cases and I have represented adults in criminal cases. I understand how those systems intercept and because of that deep understanding of the law, I am prepared to make the tough decisions that are necessary to keep our community safe and strong and I am prepared to decide cases fairly based on the information provided in court with integrity and without bias. This is the kind of judge that I will be. Thank you so much for your time.
Bartholf: First of all, I would never say that I am the best. I would never say that I am better than anybody else, but I do believe that I am the right fit not only for this position but for Green County for two reasons: First is my demeanor and how I will proceed with a case. Those that know me, I’m pretty quiet, pretty reserved. I actually do more listening than I do talking. It’s not about me, I actually don’t get a lot of enjoyment in this environment talking about myself. This is not something that I do. I will treat everybody fairly, I will make sure I have an informed decision, everybody has an equal opportunity to make statements. I will take the time necessary to get it right and I will make the best decision that’s available for me. That’s number one. Number two is, again, the goal of the Green County Circuit Court Judge is multi-faceted in all these different areas of the law: family law, criminal law, juvenile law, adoptions, terminations and evictions. These are all areas that I have experience in and I believe that I have more experience in all of these areas than the rest of the candidates here. I think those are the two reasons that I am the best fit for Green County Circuit Court Judge.
Kelly: Thank you, Judge. I am set apart from the other candidates because with 36 years in the general practice of the law, I am by far the oldest but the most legally experienced candidate. With a master’s degree in mental health and substance abuse counseling, I am by far the most professionally educated candidate to preside over branch one drug court. I finished with a perfect 4.0 GPA. That’s why I’m practicing law and raising a family. With ten years conducting psychoeducation groups for men charged with domestic violence and anger management offenses, and my jail cell counseling, I am by far the candidate with the experienced understanding of what can be done to change behaviors with deferred conviction, alternatives to sentencing or what a jail or prison sentence can do to and for a person. Ten years serving as a court commissioner, I am by far the most prepared to take the bench as I have done already many times at the request of our judges for the last decade.
With five university degrees from respective universities, I am by far the most academically qualified to take on the academic nature of the role of judge. With 8 years volunteering on the District 12 committee for the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Office of Lawyer Regulation, I am by far the candidate most knowledgeable about the ethical rules that govern our conduct. As the longest-serving volunteer for the Green County Family Law Clinic in this race, I am the one who understands most the problems of poverty and difficulty in family law matters. And of course, with the most judicial endorsements from judges who have actually seen me work in their courtrooms, I believe I have the ability to start right from ground zero and I think that’s why six years ago, Judge Beer asked me to run for this seat.
Phillipson: Look, I am who I am. I put myself through college, I moved to a city with over 12 million people. I put myself through law school and I started a business there. And when that business became successful enough that I was able to move here, move home, I did. My heart is in the right place and that’s right here in Green County, but my head is in the right place too. You’ve heard me say that I’ve practiced law for the last 20 years. You’ve heard me say that I’ve practiced in courtrooms across the country. You’ve heard me tell you that I have experience in criminal, civil, small claims, employment, and I spent six months volunteering with the Green County Family Law Clinic. I have the years of experience and the depth and breadth of experience to serve. I get up every single day and I do my best. Always have, always will. That’s who I am and that’s what I will bring to the bench.
— Compiled by Shannon Rabotski