The Third Branch
Judge Donald J. Hassin Jr.
Waukesha County Circuit Court
Judge Donald J. Hassin
After serving 20 years on the Waukesha County Circuit Court's Branch 9 bench, Judge Donald J. Hassin retired on Sept. 30.
Hassin was first appointed to the bench in 1994. He had previously served as a court commissioner and assistant district attorney for the county, and worked in private practice. He has served on the Criminal Jury Instruction Committee and Judicial Education Committee. He is a former presiding judge for the criminal/traffic and civil divisions.
Hassin received his bachelor's degree from the U.S. Military Academy and his law degree from Marquette University Law School. He served on active duty with the U.S. Army from 1971-78. He served in the Wisconsin National Guard from 1978-98, when he retired with the rank of colonel.
Hassin followed in his father's military career footsteps and the Hassins have now seen a third generation continue the tradition with Judge Hassin's two children pursuing military careers. His daughter Kelsey graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 2010, and serves as a captain. She served with the 1st Armored Division in Afghanistan. His son Jared graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 2013, and made headlines in 2010 as a standout fullback for Army's Black Knights football team.
Donald Hassin Sr. served as a platoon leader in the 29th Infantry Division, which landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944. The elder Hassin continued to serve until 1971, when he retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of colonel.
Judge Fred W. Kawalski
Langlade County Circuit Court
Judge Fred W. Kawalski
Langlade County Circuit Court Judge Fred W. Kawalski said he always worked to ensure decisions he made were fair to all parties, and that may have been the most challenging part of his job. Kawalski retired on Nov. 28, with a sense of pride that, for the most part, he made the right decisions.
Kawalski said he is also proud of the county's truancy court he helped establish. In a creative approach to trying to help curb repeat truancy, offenders had their electronic devices taken away for up to 60 days.
Kawalski was first elected to the county's only bench in 2005, after the death of Judge James P. Jansen. Then-Gov. Jim Doyle appointed Kawalski to the bench early to begin his term that June. Kawalski was reelected in 2011. He had previously served as corporation counsel for Forest County for 25 years and spent 15 years serving as the family court commissioner in Langlade County. He is a graduate of Illinois State University and Loyola Law School.
For his successor, Kawalski offers this advice: "Call it as you see it, without distractions or motivations. Then move on."
Kawalski said he has noticed a proliferation of self-represented clients in the courthouse over the years, and the court system is working to find ways to respond.
He said he would like to do his part to help during his retirement. He had volunteered to come to the court house once a week to meet with self-represented litigants to help them fill out forms and offer his assistance, without representing them.
Kawalski said he also plans to do other volunteer work, as well as spend some time relaxing.
Judge Dale T. Pasell
La Crosse County Circuit Court
Judge Dale T. Pasell
La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Dale T. Pasell said his decision to retire is like a double-edged sword. While he will miss the challenges the job provides, he is also looking to let go of some of those challenges by retiring.
Among those challenges, he includes trying to be thoroughly prepared for all the cases when entering the courthouse, being patient, and listening so that everyone who appears before him felt like they had their day in court. Since he was first elected in 1999, Pasell said he has tried to do the kind of job expected of an elected official.
"The most memorable moment was the first time I walked in to the courtroom as a judge, and everyone stands up," he said. "You're really in a different role then."
Pasell served in the state public defenders office for 20 years prior to taking the bench. After receiving his bachelor's and law degree from UW-Madison, he worked for a year as an assistant district attorney in Green County. He has served on the Wisconsin Judicial College, National Judicial College, and Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Oversight Committee. In May he was named the American Board of Trial Advocates' (ABOTA) "Judge of the Year."
In 2007, Pasell was selected to attend a training program, The Advanced Science & Technology Resource Program, offered by the U.S. Department of Justice. The program certified judges who attended to design judicial education programs in their own states for understanding complex scientific evidence.
Pasell believes the advances in the use of and reliance on technology has been the biggest change he has experienced in his judicial career.
"When I started, computers were just accessories on our desks, for most judges," he said. "It's impossible to function without them now."
Pasell has also participated in trainings on family court issues. In 2010, he was among the faculty of the Avoiding Tragedy: Keeping Kids and Victims Safe in Family Interactions training offered the Director of State Courts office and funded by the Children's Court Improvement Program and the Violence Against Women Act STOP Grant. In La Crosse County, he has been involved in the unified family court program that uses mediated child protection conferences in abuse and neglect cases. He has also been active in the La Crosse County drug court, and says he remembers all of the graduations because of how important they are.
Pasell said he plans to be a more active grandparent in his retirement. He also would like to travel and learn a foreign language.
And to new judges coming in, he offers this advice: "Everyone has to find their own way. It's hard work, there's work behind the scenes. Be ready to work hard."