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The Third Branch

Three court system staff members say goodbye

Amanda K. Todd, who helped establish the court information office in 1993, has left the court system to become a speechwriter for UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

Court Information Officer Tom Sheehan (center) roasts Amanda K. Todd (right) on her last day in the Court Information Office as Supreme Court Commissioner Nancy Kopp (left) looks on.

Court Information Officer Tom Sheehan (center) roasts Amanda K. Todd (right) on her last day in the Court Information Office as Supreme Court Commissioner Nancy Kopp (left) looks on.

As court information officer, Todd helped improve public understanding of the courts by developing a variety of initiatives and outreach programs that still serve as models for other court systems. Her efforts have helped engage students, teachers, members of the media and the general public.

"Amanda designed award-winning public outreach projects and built an infrastructure for the courts' effective communications with the media, the public, lawyers, legislators and other constituencies," said Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson. "We shall miss her high standards and outstanding work."

Todd managed a multitude of public education projects over the years, including an Emmy-nominated documentary, "Stand the Storm," based upon a famous Wisconsin case involving a fugitive slave named Joshua Glover. She oversaw development of an original play on the Glover case and a script for, "Lavinia," a play about Lavinia Goodell, Wisconsin's first woman lawyer. She also oversaw production of video programs about the Supreme Court and jury service, and she produced a national award-winning traveling exhibit about the Court that was displayed throughout the state.

Other programs initiated by Todd include Justice on Wheels, which brings Supreme Court oral arguments to communities across the state, and Court with Class, a national-award-winning program that brings high school students to Madison to sit in on Supreme Court oral arguments and meet with a justice.

Todd also has run training programs for court systems in developing democracies, including Algeria, Bahrain and Slovakia. In 2003, she was named among the Wisconsin Law Journal's top Women in the Law – the first-ever non-lawyer honored in the category.

Scott Johnson

Scott Johnson

After 13 years of service to the Wisconsin court system, Tenth District Court Administrator Scott Johnson has left to become deputy director of state courts for North Dakota.

Johnson first served as district court administrator in District Six in 1999, and eventually transferred to District Nine. In 2007, he left after accepting a position with the federal court in Iowa, but returned to Wisconsin to serve as the district court administrator for the Tenth District in 2008 after the retirement of Gregg Moore.

In addition to his work with the court system, Johnson holds the rank of U.S. Air Force colonel, commander of the Mission Support Group, 128th Air Refueling Wing. Johnson has served in the military for more than 30 years and has been deployed over 40 times to such locations as Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2008, he was called to active duty for the Iowa Air National Guard to assist with flood relief, and was deployed for several months to an air base in Europe in 2011. In November 2012, his duties included greeting President Barack Obama when he flew in to Milwaukee for an appearance.

During his time with the court system, Johnson has served on committees addressing issues such as interpretation, pro se litigation, caseload management, effective justice strategies, and alternatives to incarceration. In May of 2008, he spoke about Wisconsin's pro se initiatives at the Equal Justice Conference, sponsored by the American Bar Association and National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

"I am personally and professionally saddened by his departure and will miss his expertise, knowledge, practical approach to problem solving, and friendship," said Tenth District Chief Judge Scott R. Needham, St. Croix County Circuit Court. "Scott seamlessly filled the void created by Gregg Moore's retirement and has provided yeoman's service to the district and state. His value to the district and state is immeasurable."

Wisconsin State Law Librarian Julie Tessmer (right) presents Director of Reference and Outreach Services Connie Von Der Heide (left) an original piece of artwork the Law Library staff had created for her, at her retirement party in December.

Wisconsin State Law Librarian Julie Tessmer (right) presents Director of Reference and Outreach Services Connie Von Der Heide (left) an original piece of artwork the Law Library staff had created for her, at her retirement party in December.

At the end of December, Wisconsin State Law Library (WSLL) staff said goodbye to Connie Von Der Heide, director of reference and outreach services. Von Der Heide began her 16-year career at the law library in the fall of 1997, having worked previously in both university and public libraries in Texas, Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Von Der Heide wore several hats at WSLL. As the head of Reference she guided, trained and mentored the seven librarians who provide outstanding reference services to judges, attorneys and the public. In her outreach role she led many tours of the library for new attorneys, law clerks, interns, externs and students. She also gave presentations about WSLL services and materials to groups of state agency staff, librarians, and local bar associations around the state. Von Der Heide also edited and regularly contributed to WSLL's award-winning monthly electronic newsletter, WSLL @ Your Service.

Von Der Heide taught several classes every year, both at the library and offsite. Judges and court staff regularly saw her at Judicial Education seminars and conferences, staffing the library's information table to assist with individual research questions and distribute library cards and occasionally presenting programs on using online legal research tools.

She served the library profession by working on many committees and as an officer in several local, state and national library and law-related organizations.

Von Der Heide and her brother have assumed ownership and operation of their family's business, Gempeler's Supermarket, located in their hometown of Monticello.

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