The Third Branch
Judge Gerald P. Ptacek
The Johnson Foundation selected Racine County Circuit Court Judge Gerald P. Ptacek as one of its "Heroes for Health" this summer, sharing an interview with Ptacek on its website. Ptacek discussed mental illness in children and families, and the importance of early identification and treatment.
"We need to prioritize early intervention," he said. "Otherwise, we are at risk of criminalizing people who need care - turning prisons into hospitals and paying for incarceration when we could instead be focusing on treatment. I have come to realize over the years that the best, most cost-effective approach is early intervention."
Ptacek went on to describe Racine County's approach to working with people who have mental illness.
"I am keenly aware of the value that coordinated services bring to the overall advancement of mental health awareness in the community. In particular, a committee made up of representatives of the Racine Police Department, mental health treatment providers, corporation counsel, the district attorney, public defender and NAMI provides the training referred to as Crisis Intervention Training for our police officers so they can be equipped with the knowledge and skills to better handle cases that might be a result of mental illness," he said.
Justice Annette K. Ziegler, left, recently hosted Dolores Keane, a Dublin barrister-at-law, for a tour of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and a discussion of the differences between the U.S. and Irish court systems. When asked for her business card, Keane revealed that Irish lawyers are ethically prohibited from distributing cards as this is viewed as advertising.
Barrister of Law Dolores Keane, who practices law in Dublin, Ireland, was visiting her sister in Madison recently and was escorted to the Supreme Court by Attys. Joseph Owens and Debra Riedel. Keane and the others were introduced by Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson prior to the hearing and then met with Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette K. Ziegler, who is a law school classmate of Riedel. Before she knew it, Keane was sitting in on two oral arguments, touring the Capitol with Ziegler's staff, and sharing stories with Ziegler and her law clerk, Nathan Imfeld, about the practice of law in Ireland – where barristers still wear wigs and gowns.
The July 22 edition of the Superior Telegram featured a story about the launch of Justice Ann Walsh Bradley's statewide tour to promote civics education as part of her duties as co-chair of iCivics in Wisconsin. Bradley is focusing on connecting with students and educators across Wisconsin to discuss iCivics, the free online gaming site developed by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to engage students in learning about government. A number of the games focus on the courts, including Supreme Decision, which invites students to cast the deciding vote in a high-stakes Supreme Court case. As state co-chair for iCivics, Bradley shared with the audience at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Northland a few sobering statistics about the state of civics education.
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley engages Boys and Girls Clubs members in a spirited discussion of government as part of her statewide campaign to promote iCivics, the free online gaming website developed by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Photo credit: Jed Carlson, Superior Telegram
District Three Court Administrator Michael Neimon, center, fearlessly led a Boy Scout troop on a 95-mile adventure in the New Mexico mountains this summer. Neimon's son Joey, 14 (right, holding log), is a member of the troop. Along the way, the group stopped at a camp and participated in an impromptu lasso contest. To their shock, they won – beating, among others, a crew from Montana. Here, they covet their award, a bag of chips to break the monotony of a diet that consisted of dehydrated food, nuts and granola bars.
"There was a recent poll and only one-third of those polled could name the three branches of government, let alone what they could do," Bradley was quoted as saying. "More people can name the judges on American Idol than can name the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts."
"New Jersey Courts Offer Texting Service to Jurors" headlined articles that appeared in national media in August. New Jersey's new program provides texts and e-mails to jurors reminding them of summons dates and letting them know if they'll be needed. Information on how to sign up to receive text messages is included when jurors respond to their juror summons online. In the first six weeks, about 30,000 jurors opted to receive the text messages. Wisconsin enabled text messaging for jurors with the latest release of Jury Management software, but because cell phone number are not usually collected on the Juror Questionaires, the use of this feature will not be robust until 2014, after they summons and question new jurors and collect the cell phone numbers.
District Three Court Administrator Michael Neimon courageously faced 10 days in the New Mexico mountains with a group of teenage boys this summer. Neimon took a crew of Boy Scouts from Troop 49, based in Summit, Wis., on a 95-mile adventure through the mountains of Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Wearing 45-pound packs, they started out at 6,000 feet and climbed two mountain peaks including Mt. Baldy at 12,441 feet. They weathered three lightning storms, carried their food, slept in tents and used facilities that, Neimon said, were not fit to describe in print.
Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer R. Dorow spoke to the Waukesha Freeman in July about her first 18 months on the bench. Dorow spoke about being honored by the Wisconsin Law Journal as one of Wisconsin's outstanding women in the law, and how she balances her role as a judge with her role as a mother. Dorow, who attended the National Association of Drug Court professionals' conference in Washington, D.C, also talked to the newspaper about preparing to preside in drug court.
Judge Jennifer R. Dorow
"The drug court model is an evidence-based model. So there's a lot to learn," Dorow told the Freeman. "I am very excited about it because many people on my docket have drug or alcohol issues and there are a lot of reasons why people use."
Dorow told the paper she has witnessed firsthand the toll that drugs and alcohol take.
"One of my former clients was one of the overdose deaths in 2012. It happened right after I took the bench and I look back on the case and go, 'Oh my gosh, what could I have done differently?'" she told the Freeman. "I didn't know the true level of his dependence. He was 19. I keep his memorial card on my bench as a reminder."
Manitowoc County Circuit Court Judge Mark R. Rohrer told the Herald Times Reporter that the transition from district attorney to judge has taken some getting used to. Rohrer, who told the paper he was a little nervous his first few days on the bench, recalled one day when he noticed everyone in the courtroom seemed to be standing for too long after he had entered.
"It finally dawned on me that I had to tell them to be seated," he said.
Rohrer said has noticed a few differences now that he is on the other side of the bench.
"One of the things that has been different as a judge versus (being) DA or a lawyer in private practice is I find myself doing a lot more reading than before," he was quoted as saying. "I find it very invigorating mentally. It makes for a very interesting day."
Rorher told the paper he first became interested in pursuing a career in law when he visited the Manitowoc County Courthouse when he was in middle school and took part in a mock trial. That visit led him to attend law school, then enter private practice, and finally to the district attorney's office before being sworn in as a judge on June 3. Rorher said he has been grateful for all the guidance he has received along the way.
"I'll miss the relationships I had upstairs in the District Attorney's Office," he said, "but I'm enjoying the new relationships I am forming in my new office."
Judge Richard O. Wright
"Judge Richard Wright retires from novel-worthy career" headlined an article in the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen. Former Marquette County Circuit Court Judge Richard O. Wright, who retired in July, discussed his legal career, from how he decided to go to law school, to some of the stranger cases he presided over.
Wright told the paper that while earning his undergraduate degree in physics he realized he did not want a career as a physicist. Instead, he said, he decided to follow the path of his roommate, future Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.
Judge Eugene A. Gasiorkiewicz
"I figured if he could, anyone could, so I went to law school," Wright told the Daily Citizen.
Wright's memorable courtroom moments include an assault case in which a woman brought a live chicken into court, and a wedding in which he officiated – only to preside over the bond hearing for members of the wedding party a few days later.
Racine County Circuit Court Judge Eugene A. Gasiorkiewicz, one of Wisconsin's representatives to the American Bar Association's National Conference of State Trial Judges, reported that the ABA House of Delegates took action in August on a series of issues that might be of interest to Wisconsin judges. Among them is a resolution to support the establishment of access to justice commissions in all states, and another in support of full funding under the Affordable Care Act for mental health and addiction services. Gasiorkiewicz invites judges and court staff with an interest in the details of any of the resolutions to e-mail him.