The Third Branch
Court Interpreter Farah Elahi spoke with The New York Times during December as part of the newspaper's "Vocations" series. Elahi, who lives in Waukesha, told the newspaper of her work as a court interpreter, which she began when she moved to the U.S. in 2008. She and her family first lived in New York, but moved to Wisconsin when her son started college. Elahi told the Times she practiced law in her native Pakistan, but would have had to go back to law school and earned her degree in order to continue to practice in this country.
Michelle Pinzl, right, interprets for a male defendant at a court hearing, while Adriana Candia, who hopes to become an interpreter, observes. Trempealeau County District Atty. Taavi McMahon sits at a table to their left. Photo credit: Chuck Rupnow, The Eau Claire Leader Telegram
Instead, she looked in to interpreting. Elahi, who speaks Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi, told the paper she interprets civil, criminal, and family court cases.
"People of my background, especially women, appear relieved when they see me," she told the Times when asked what she liked best about the job. "They seem to open up to me because I'm a woman. Also, this job gives me the opportunity to look into people's lives. You realize that no matter where a person is from, we all have the same needs."
Racine County has seen a rise in the need for interpreters, according to the The (Racine) Journal Times.
Judge Charles H. Constantine
Judge John A. Damon
"There is no question the need for interpreters has increased. Primarily Spanish interpreters," Racine County Circuit Court Judge Charles H. Constantine told the Journal Times.
According to numbers provided to the paper by the Director of State Courts Office, 91 percent of the interpreter hours for the first half of 2013 were for Spanish interpreters and 14 different languages were used in the Racine Court Circuit Court in that same time period. Those languages included Arabic, American Sign Language, Gujarati, Burmese, Hindi, Portuguese, Tagalog, Russian, Korean, Serbian and Vietnamese, according to the article.
"I think there's a certain heightened awareness among lawyers," Constantine is quoted as saying on the need for interpreters. "When you think about it, legal concepts – even when you speak English – can be complicated."
The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported on the increase in demand for interpreters in Trempealeau County.
"We've been at this for a number of years, and we've worked courtroom issues out pretty well," Trempealeau County Circuit Court Judge John A. Damon told the paper. "We've always wanted to make sure everyone involved in the process understands what's going on. These interpreters do a great job."
According to the article, the area has a large Hispanic population, but there are only three certified interpreters in the western-central counties.
"Yes, there is a need," Carmel Capati, Wisconsin court interpreter program manager, told the Leader-Telegram. "You are more fortunate in the western counties, as they can rely on a pool of interpreters from the metro area of Minnesota."
Eau Claire County Clerk of Court Kristina Aschenbrenner told the paper that her office makes use of the interpreter list, but having a larger pool of interpreters in the area would make scheduling much easier.
"In some special cases we use a language line with an 800 number, where we can do translations over the phone," Aschenbrenner said.
"Unattended duffel bag evacuates courthouse," was the headline on an article on Channel3000.com. According to the report, the Oneida County Courthouse was evacuated on the afternoon of Feb. 10 after a duffel bag was left unattended in the waiting room of the Department of Social Services. The bag was found not to be hazardous, unless diapers are to be considered hazardous. The courthouse reopened the next day, according to the report.
Washington County Clerk of Court Theresa M. Russell reported her office received more than 100 calls in January regarding an email the callers had received. The email message stated they were required to appear in "the court of Washington" and advised them to open the email attachment. The scam has been reported since late December in jurisdictions nationwide, including Wisconsin.
The website Madison.com reported on a phone call scam after a news release from the Dane County Sheriff's Office said residents were receiving a call from a man claiming to be a lieutenant named William Hall.
"He goes on to tell them they neglected to report for jury duty today, and to avoid an arrest warrant, they need to go to the nearest Walgreens and wire a payment to him within the hour," Dane County Sheriff's Office Spokeswoman Elise Schaffer was quoted as saying.
The sheriff's office urged anyone who received the call to contact the 911 Center.
In December, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist James E. Causey wrote about how he had spent a day at the Milwaukee County Drug Treatment Court to observe how the program works. He also spoke with one of the program's first graduates, Bobby Strickland.
"Before he completed drug treatment, he was a law enforcement nuisance," Causey wrote of Strickland. "He had been arrested 88 times before he entered Milwaukee County Drug Treatment Court two years ago."
Causey uses Strickland as an example of what he writes is the "best grass-roots approach" he's seen to solving the problem of the large population of non-violent drug offenders in the prison system.
Judge Carl Ashley
Judge David M. Reddy
"Since completing the process, Strickland has not been arrested, and now he is helping others who were just like him: drug addicts who became petty thieves to support their habits," Causey continues.
According to Causey, 80 percent of the increase in the prison population in Wisconsin since 1996 is connected to drug and alcohol abuse. While he says he understands there is some controversy surrounding drug court programs, he writes about being able to see first hand the support these programs provide when he visited.
"One of the best things I heard was this: A young man went up to his older brother for advice for the first time in along time," he quotes Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Carl Ashley as saying. "It was something he could not do in the past because of his brother's drug addiction. Now he has his brother back."
"OWI court marks two years, 18 graduates," headlined an article on MyWalworthCounty.com. The article focused on the progress of Joseph Pugh, who entered the Walworth County program in 2012, after his third OWI offense, and graduated Oct. 2.
According to the article, 55 people have participated in the program since it began in 2011. Only four of those who started the program did not continue with it.
For the first six months in the program, participants in the program report every two weeks to Walworth County Circuit Court Judge David M. Reddy for a status hearing. The program also involves regular drug screenings and random home visits. Gift cards and gas cards are given out to participants who have met their objectives.
"It's the use of positive reinforcement," Katie Behl, the program's treatment coordinator told the website.
According to the article, Department of Transportation data shows that in 2012, 34.4 percent of the OWI convictions in Walworth County were repeat offenders.
"If you just take the jail time, you're going to come out of jail with an attitude and go back to drinking and probably re-offend," Pugh told the website.
Justice Annette Kingsland Ziegler shows off the hair she cut off to donate to make wigs for those who have lost their hair while undergoing medical treatments.
Supreme Court Justice Annette Kingsland Ziegler shared her story of making a rather unique charitable contribution with WTMJ radio, Milwaukee. For the past seven years, Ziegler has donated locks clipped from her head to organizations such as "Locks of Love" that create wigs for those who have lost their own hair while battling serious health issues.
"I started in 2007 when I ran for the Wisconsin Supreme Court and I did not have time to cut my hair," Ziegler told the station. A hair stylist friend of hers suggested she donate her hair.
"The idea resonated with me, so I did....I think I have donated my hair about 5 or 6 times now."
Ziegler told WTMJ her family and friends have been very supportive of her efforts, including her son, who thinks it's cool.
Progress on the repairs to the Milwaukee County Courthouse may have hit a speed bump, according the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which reports that a lack of funds may require the county to use some reserve funds to complete the project.
The Journal Sentinel wrote the repairs from the fire in the building last July have to date totaled $13.5 million, but the insurance has only paid $12.5 million so far, with the final bill expected to be over $16.5 million. The money from the county would theoretically be paid back once more insurance funds come in.
But some county officials are not so happy with the idea of picking up the tab, according to the paper.
Gov. Scott Walker arrived to fulfill his civic duty at the Milwaukee County Courthouse this January. According to the Associated Press (AP), Walker was not selected to sit on the jury for a murder trial, but was selected for a personal injury lawsuit trial.
Walker did not get to deliberate with his fellow jurors, though. After informing the court that he had received campaign contributions from the insurance company involved in the case, he served as an alternate juror and was dismissed after closing arguments, according to AP.
Walker told AP that this was the third time he has been called for jury duty, he had previously been called while he was serving as Milwaukee County executive and while he was an Assembly representative. He was not selected to sit on a jury either of those times.
Judge William S. Pocan
U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin have announced their recommendations to fill the empty seat on the Eastern District of Wisconsin bench for the U.S. Federal District Court, according to a press release from Baldwin.
Among the nominees are Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge William S. Pocan. Pocan has served on the circuit court since his appointment in 2006. He is a member of the Planning and Policy Advisory Committee (PPAC), the Wisconsin Trial Judges Association Board of Directors, and the Thomas E. Fairchild American Inns of Court. He has served on a variety of committees for the court system and the State Bar of Wisconsin, among other organizations.
According to the press release, two other names have been submitted by Baldwin and Johnson, including private Atty. Beth J. Kushner and Chief Judge Pamela Pepper, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The three nominees were among those chosen by the Federal Nominating Commission created by Baldwin and Johnson in April 2013.
Some of the couples who showed up at the Milwaukee County Courthouse faced a short delay before saying their vows on Valentine's Day, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The courthouse entrance was closed by sheriff's deputies after a report of an armed man outside the building.
Once the area was determined to be safe, the courthouse was reopened, and wedding plans went ahead.
According to Beth Perrigo, deputy district court administrator for the First Judicial District, 52 couples were married in the courthouse on Feb. 14, up from about 40 couples in 2013.
Director of State Courts A. John Voelker was featured prominently in the cover story of the Wisconsin Law Journal's March edition under the headline: "State courts director makes push for more money."
The article describes his recently undertaken "1-percent tour" to help create awareness and understanding of the court system's budget situation, including a requirement to lapse $11.8 million to the state general fund by the end of the state budget biennium on June 30, 2015.
Chief Judge Jeffrey A. Kremers
Judge John A. Des Jardins
Voelker already has visited with judges, clerks of circuit court, and the State Bar of Wisconsin's Board of Governors, among others.
"I think what we have to do is have a discussion about what happens, Voelker was quoted as telling the Law Journal. "What qualities in your community are affected if the court system isn't strong?"
Also quoted was Chief Judge Jeffrey A. Kremers, Milwaukee County Circuit Court, who told the Law Journal: "We need to be appropriately funded… To impose these kinds of cuts to the courts is unfortunate and not appropriate."
The Appleton Post-Crescent ran an article in its Sunday, March 2 edition entitled, "The Bigger Picture: Court innovation stymied by state budget cuts."
The article quoted Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge John A. Des Jardins raising concerns about budget cuts that have resulted in a reduction in the number judicial education offerings available to Wisconsin judges.
Des Jardins explained the importance of judicial educational opportunities and how they can improve the way courts operate. He cited the recent summit on evidence-based decision making (EBDM) held in Madison as an example.
"In the past, what we relied upon was primarily judges' instincts, knowledge and experience to set bond to assure the person's future appearance in court and the community's safety," Des Jardins was quoted as saying. "But as a result of this seminar, we are trying to implement a new way of handling criminal defendants, and the first step is establishing a different way of setting bonds for offenders based on risk analysis," he told the Post-Crescent.
The number of judicial education day offerings through the Office of Judicial Education has dropped 35 percent this year and is expected to remain near that lower level through 2015, the Post-Crescent noted.
About a half dozen representatives from Madison-based media outlets and about as many Dane County Circuit Court judges gathered for a court-media roundtable discussion Dec. 19 at the State Law Library in Madison.
Chief Judge James P. Daley
|Judge R. Alan Bates||
Judge Juan B. Colás
The gathering, organized by former Court Information Officer Amanda Todd, provided an opportunity for circuit court judges and members of the media who cover Dane County Circuit Court to discuss areas of mutual interest and concern, including online court records, camera coverage and problem-solving courts.
Fifth Judicial Administrative District Chief Judge James P. Daley, Rock County Circuit Court, presided. He discussed firearm surrender protocol and Rock County Veterans Court. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan B. Colás discussed a reorganization of Dane Couty's drug court treatment program, which he said is being re-organized to improve effectiveness and broaden access.
Rock County Circuit Court Judge R. Alan Bates described how that county's OWI Court is designed to promote public safety through alcohol treatment.
Director of State Courts A. John Voelker, right, addresses members of the State Bar of Wisconsin's Board of Governors about state funding concerns at the group's meeting in Madison on Jan. 31. Also pictured, from left to right, are board chairperson Sherry Coley of Green Bay, State Bar President Patrick J. Fiedler of Madison, and State Bar President-elect Robert R. Gagan of Green Bay.
On Jan. 5, 2014, the Court of Appeals, District II, judges braved the below-zero weather to attend a UW-Madison basketball game at the Kohl Center. Chief Judge Richard S. Brown, Judge Paul F. Reilly, Judge Lisa S. Neubauer and Judge Mark D. Gundrum watched the Badgers narrowly defeat the Iowa Hawkeyes.