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Candidate Profile: Duane Jorgenson
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Lafayette County Circuit Judge

Kate Findley and Duane Jorgenson are running for the Lafayette County Circuit Court judge's seat to replace retiring William Johnston.

Position sought: Lafayette County judge

Age: 62

City/town of residence: Darlington, Wisconsin

Family: Married to Liz Jorgenson, 37 years; Children: Duane Jr. (Dewey) married to Christina with three children; Becky married to Kyle with four children; Matthew, attending UW-Richland; and Amy, attending Cardinal Stritch University

Education: Darlington High School, graduated 1970; Valparaiso University, graduated 1974; Northern Illinois University College of Law, graduated 1991

Occupation: Attorney, solo practitioner, 24 years; Lafayette County Corporation Counsel, 21 years

Previous relevant experience: Administrative Law Judge for five years, handled hearing throughout the state of Wisconsin; Lafayette County Corporation Counsel for 21 years; one of three attorneys on the Wisconsin Supreme Court's Improvement Project for Children's Court; one of 19 family and childrens attorneys from across the United States; invited to be a member of People to People delegation to People's Republic of China (People to People is a U. S. State Department initiative. ) Purpose of the delegation was to consult with government and legal reformers on legal system reforms in China; appellate practice - handled a variety of criminal and civil matters on appeal to Wisconsin Court of Appeals and Wisconsin Supreme Court; first Lafayette County attorney to argue before the state Supreme Court; member of Darlington school board for five years; school board president Darlington Community School District, four years; CESA 3 Board of Control; represented various municipalities

What is your judicial philosophy?

My judicial philosophy begins with judicial temperament. I appeared in front of many of judges over the years, and observed the best judges command respect by maintaining their judicial temperament. A judge needs to be steady and balanced particularly when the matters are most complicated and emotional. Above all else, whether it is an attorney, party or witness, it is necessary that those who appear in court have the sense they were heard and what was said was thoughtfully considered. Good judges are thoughtful, impartial, even-handed, and even-tempered. A good judge respects the people who come before him/her and respects the importance of what is being asked of you as Judge.

The court must provide a process which is both legally correct and fair, and permits all parties to be heard. After assuring the process is fair, the court must be prepared to hear and decide the matter. A judge must be able to keep an open mind, listen closely to all of the relevant facts, and make a decision based upon applicable law and the facts in a timely manner, so matters get resolved quickly and fairly. A judge needs to be thorough, patient, impartial, and avoid a rush to judgment.

Judges are given a lot of discretion in the way they handle cases, and how a decisions they make are fashioned. I believe strongly that in making those decisions, a judge needs to know and understand the community and people he serves, so that his decisions can reflect the values and expectations of the community in serving justice. A judge that lacks that understanding of his community decisions are more likely to reflect their own personal agenda.

What personal qualities or characteristics, other than fairness and impartiality, would you bring to the bench?

I am told by everyone who knows me that I am patient. I have a strong belief the most effective way to reach a resolution to a conflict is listening carefully to people involved, including those I may disagree. I always work hard to keep an open mind. I find the best decisions come after careful and thoughtful consideration of both sides of a dispute, which can then be both logical and reasoned in its outcome. As a trial attorney with over 24 years of experience, I have found it necessary to look at both sides of an issue, so I can give my clients' my best objective assessment of their case. As school board president for the Darlington Community School District, I worked to assure those who come in front of the board are given an opportunity to be heard and their concerns thoughtfully considered. I intend to carry that same approach to the bench, if elected judge.

Is there a case you have been involved with of which you are particularly proud? And is there a case you have been involved with that, in retrospect, you wish you had handled differently? Please explain.

This a very difficult question to respond, as attorneys are bound by rules of professional ethics and attorney client privilege, which require matters related to handling of clients cases confidential. That said there are specifics I cannot disclose in responding.

There are two cases that come to mind where I am particularly proud. The first involves a guardianship matter. Guardianships are complicated cases; typically involving extended family members, multiple attorneys representing competing interests. There is an absolute requirement that an evaluation be done by a doctor regarding competency on the person for whom the guardianship is being sought. While I have handled hundreds of guardianships, one case sticks out in my mind. I was contacted at 12:30 p.m. by local authorities who were aware of an individual that had been the victim of a catastrophic event. The person had suffered life-threatening injuries. I cleared my afternoon calendar. At 1 p.m. , and at their request, I met with a battery of law enforcement and quickly determined the victim needed surgery as soon as a guardian could be appointed. Time was of the essence, the longer the delay in appointing a guardian, the odds of survival lessened. I was told that at best the chance of survival was only 10 percent, and the guardian may be needed to make end-of-life decisions. By 3 p.m. , a hastily scheduled temporary guardianship hearing convened. The court was presented by me with a Petition for Guardianship, proposed Letters of Guardianship, and a proposed Determination and Order for Guardianship. The treating physician testified as to the need for guardianship, expressing surprise at the speed with which court action was happening. The doctor expressed the opinion the victim's chances for survival improved to 40 percent because of the speed with which we were acting. By 3:30 p.m. , we had a guardian appointed and court orders were signed. The victim was able to have immediate surgery and survived. The quickness and efficiency with which the matter was handled allowed for a good result.

The second case that I am proud of is the case Kelley H. v. Steven V. , a landmark case I argued and won before the state's Supreme Court; while not my first case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, it was the most complex. This was a case involving the termination of parental rights. In prevailing, I persuaded the high court to overturn, modify, or clarify no less than six previous decisions. The Wisconsin Law Journal listed it as one of the top 10 most significant cases of the year.

Do you believe the current criminal/civil court system is effective, or do you believe our current justice system is becoming ineffective? Are there methods or changes you would like to see instituted to increase the effectiveness and/or efficiency of our court system?

I believe our local court system has for the most part been effective. Generally the most effective change or improvement the courts can make is to improve its response to child maltreatment. Study after study has shown that children who are maltreated, either by abuse or neglect, have a significantly higher likelihood to be involved in the Court system. Children who are maltreated are 50-60 percent more likely to develop alcoholism or use illegal drugs. Children who are maltreated are twice as likely to engage in violent crime either as a juvenile delinquent or as an adult. Combating child maltreatment has been the focal point of my legal career. The correlation between crime and maltreatment was the driving reason the Wisconsin Supreme Court initiated the Court Improvement Project to improve the court system's response to child maltreatment. I was one of three attorneys statewide asked to make up a multi-disciplinary Advisory Board to guide the State-wide Court Improvement project. The court's focus must be on stopping and preventing maltreatment and the children who have been maltreated given the opportunity to heal.

I consider my greatest achievement in my legal career is my 21 years serving Lafayette County as Corporation Counsel for Human Services. Few realize that Lafayette County's handling of child protection and juvenile court matters has set the standard for the rest of Wisconsin. In a recent federally-mandated audit of Child cases of all the counties in Wisconsin, Lafayette County was singled out as ranking the highest, by a wide margin among all the counties in the State of Wisconsin in the management and successful conclusions of Children's Court cases. As the sole prosecutor of these child maltreatment cases, cases have moved quickly and efficiently through the court system. As corporation counsel it has been my responsibility to make sure these matters are handled quickly, children are protected, and children are allowed to heal from the harm they have experienced. Fact is that Lafayette County for the past 21 years has set the standard for the State of Wisconsin in Child Protection. I am proud that I have led that effort. I have not done this alone, Lafayette County has been fortunate to have a judge who understands the importance of protecting our children. I look to continue those efforts if elected judge.

Why are you the best candidate for this office?

My experience, legal expertise, and knowledge of Lafayette County and the people who live here make me the best candidate to be elected circuit court judge.

Besides a strong legal intellect, a judge must know his community, have deep compassion for the community and the people who live in it, caring about the people and the community around him. I have lived in Lafayette County my entire life, as did my parents and my grandparents. I have been active in my church serving as president of the Church Counsel, a 4-H Leader, coached youth sport teams, and currently I serve on the Darlington school board - approaching five years, with four years as board president. I believe my strongest attribute is my knowledge of Lafayette County and our communities, people, and values.

My lifetime commitment to Lafayette County, my 24 years of practicing law in Lafayette County, and 21 years as Corporation Counsel stands in sharp contrast to my opponent, who openly acknowledges moving to Lafayette County for the sole purpose of running for District Attorney, and who now seeks the judgeship, having not completed one term as District Attorney. Prior to running for District Attorney, my opponent handled sporadic Public Defender cases in Lafayette County.

As an Administrative Law Judge, I heard cases requiring the application of complicated rules of procedure, sorting through conflicting evidence and testimony to reach a just decision. Making judicial decisions is something I already have experience doing.

My legal background is well suited for being judge in Lafayette County. I have practiced in all phases of the law. I am the only candidate that has handled criminal, civil and appellate cases. Seventy percent of the cases filed in Lafayette County are civil cases; my opponent acknowledges her sole area of practice has been criminal law with virtually no experience or knowledge in the area of civil law, the most complicated and difficult area of practice. From 1991 till 1994, I handled every Public Defender case heard in Lafayette County, which represented approximately 85 percent of all criminal cases filed in Lafayette County. I have handled everything from small claims to complicated contractual disputes, divorce, child custody, property disputes, boundary disputes, contested probate matters and eminent domain matters and more.

Finally, I have demonstrated over many years of practice a steady and balanced temperament in the handling of difficult, emotional and complex legal matters. Your support and vote would be greatly appreciated on April 7.