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Lafayette Co. judge dies of cancer
Jorgenson remembered as a fair judge and devoted public servant
Duane Jorgenson took 897 voted in the recent primary for Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge.

MONROE — Friends, family and the legal establishment in southwestern Wisconsin are mourning the loss of Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge and attorney Duane Jorgenson.

Jorgenson, 71, died Sunday night, April 21, following a long bout with cancer, said Liz Jorgenson, his wife of 47 years.

“He’s been really battling cancer for 18 months,” said Jorgenson. “He worked as often as he could.”

No stranger to public service, Jorgenson has been on the bench for nearly a decade. In 2015, Jorgenson ran for the Lafayette County Circuit Court judge’s seat to replace the retiring William Johnston. 

Jorgenson edged out Lafayette County District Attorney Kate Findley to win the job.

“Judges are given a lot of discretion in the way they handle cases, and how decisions they make are fashioned,” Jorgenson said in a candidate profile published in The Times in 2015. “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.”

Jorgenson attended Darlington High School, graduating in 1970; followed by Valparaiso University, where he graduated in 1974. He graduated from Northern Illinois University College of Law in 1991.

His career wasn’t limited to serving on the circuit court bench — he was an administrative law judge for five years, handling hearings throughout the state of Wisconsin. He also served as Lafayette County Corporation Counsel for 21 years; and as one of three attorneys on the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Improvement Project for Children’s Court. Jorgenson also was one of 19 family and children’s attorneys from across the United States to be invited to be a member of People to People delegation to the People’s Republic of China, a U.S. State Department initiative.

Liz Jorgenson said her husband took his role as an impartial judge to heart.

“He always remembered to be kind and thought to judge fairly,” she said. “He always looked at both sides and he never went into court with his mind made up.”

Among his many accomplishments on the bench, Jorgenson was especially proud of creating the drug/alcohol treatment court in Lafayette County, which gave offenders struggling with addiction another chance at building a meaningful life, she said.

Jorgenson also made headlines when he first ruled in 2017 that a statewide ban on selling home-baked goods was unconstitutional, with Wisconsin being the second-to-last state in the U.S. to make such a move. At the time, Jorgenson said there was no scientific evidence to indicate that selling the goods posed a risk to public health, and that the law merely protected existing commercial entities from competition.