The Third Branch
Judicial college sets foundation for judges
By Hon. Lisa K. Stark, Eau Claire County Circuit Court
Harvey Firestone, founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, once said: "The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership." As judges in Wisconsin we have the opportunity to embrace that calling through our participation in judicial education, particularly at the Wisconsin Judicial College.
The Wisconsin Judicial College has been in existence for 45 years. It is unique among judicial education programs nationally in several ways. First, the college is offered live, allowing the participants to learn in an interactive, stimulating environment with immediate feedback provided on topics of interest to all involved. Judge Jennifer D. Dorow, who joined the Waukesha County Circuit Court bench in 2012, indicates she particularly enjoyed the breakout session discussions and the hands-on experience offered in the family law and maintenance sessions at the college.
Second, new and experienced judges participate together. We have found judges learn best when they learn from each other as well as from instructors. Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Mel Flanagan has taught at the Judicial College since 2004 and is currently an associate dean. She notes, "I enjoy working with a mix of excited new judges and experienced judges. The interplay is fun and challenging as you work to draw out the new judges and allow the experienced judges to share some of their vast knowledge."
Finally, the college is managed by deans and taught by faculty comprised of Wisconsin judges. As a result, the college provides timely information to the participants on issues that confront Wisconsin judges on a day to day basis.
"The dean and associates all work closely together to ensure that we provide the best week of programming and activities possible to give the new judges a solid foundation to their judicial careers, and remind the experienced judges just why they took on this difficult and demanding job in the first place," said Flanagan.
Dorow found "it was evident the faculty cared very much about our profession and they inspired us to achieve greater competence as well as to become involved all aspects of being a judge."
There is a flow to the courses presented which is designed to help judges learn to live life on the bench. The college starts with a discussion on comprehensive topics such as case management, ethics and making a record, and transitions into more substantive areas such as criminal pretrial problems and procedure, evidence, jury issues and sentencing. Throughout there is as much emphasis on how judges do things as what they decide.
Of course, we have some fun along the way. Each year the new judges must prepare some form of entertainment for the attendees on "graduation" night. This year was no exception. The "Class of 2012" is shown above after providing their renditions of "Stupid Judge's Tricks" and "The Top Ten Reasons People Know You Are a New Judge."
One final benefit achieved through Judicial College participation is opportunity to form and nurture lifelong professional relationships and friendships. Many judges over the years have remarked that they formed close friendships with others in their first "class" as a new judge at the college. This year's new judges have formed a listserv to exchange ideas and information. Many judges act as mentors and all are resources to one another as a result of their college interaction, thus assisting with our continued growth and development.
The Judicial College class of 2012 included: front row: judges Barbara W. McCrory, Rock County Circuit Court; Carolina M. Stark, Milwaukee County Circuit Court; Ellen K. Berz, Dane County Circuit Court; Tammy Jo Hock, Brown County Circuit Court; Rebecca Rapp St. John, Dane County Circuit Court; Jon M. Theisen, Eau Claire County Circuit Court; James A. Morrison, Marinette County Circuit Court; Jennifer D. Dorow, Waukesha County Circuit Court; Thomas B. Eagon, Portage County Circuit Court; John P. Zakowski, Brown County Circuit Court; Phillip A. Koss, Walworth County Circuit Court; Mark A. Sanders, Milwaukee County Circuit Court; and John M. Yackel, Lincoln County Circuit Court; back row: judges Jason A. Rosell, Kenosha County Circuit Court; JoAnne F. Kloppenburg, District IV Court of Appeals; Timothy B. Boyle, Racine County Circuit Court; Lindsey Grady, Milwaukee County Circuit Court; Michael J. Piontek, Racine County Circuit Court; Frank D. Remington, Dane County Circuit Court; and Michael H. Bloom, Oneida County Circuit Court.