With four new judges starting in the northern part of the state this month, Eau Claire County Circuit Court Judge Benjamin D. Proctor is ready to be a mentor.
As the new “chief of chiefs” Proctor, 63, plans to enhance judicial education for incoming circuit court judges and make the transition to the bench as smooth as possible. The Wisconsin Committee of Chief Judges unanimously elected Proctor to the position which rotates annually.
“It is an honor, especially for us grunt circuit court judges,” said Proctor, who has been Chief Judge of the Tenth Judicial District since 2005.
Additional branches in Barron, Chippewa and St. Croix counties received judges this spring and Gov. Jim Doyle recently appointed a successor to the seat previously held by Justice Michael J. Gableman in Burnett County.
“I can’t speak for the other districts, but our new judges are all classy people,” said Proctor, who has been on the bench in Eau Claire since 1988.
One of his initiatives as chief of chiefs is to promote a new mentoring guide for incoming judges. Proctor expects the training will help address weaknesses and provide a better peer review system.
“A district attorney who gets elected judge might be an expert in criminal law, but may not know how to handle a divorce as well,” said Proctor. “The mentoring process helps with that aspect.”
As presiding judge in Eau Claire for the last seven years, Proctor implemented several alternatives to incarceration programs. He is past chairman of the Eau Claire Criminal Justice Collaborating Council and founder of the Assess Inform and Measure (AIM) Treatment Court.
He hopes to expand those initiatives, especially after receiving an endorsement from Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, who visited the area during her tour of all 72 counties.
“She’s been through most of my counties in the last several months and one of the themes we talked about was the importance of treatment courts,” said Proctor. “Most counties in District 10 have those kinds of things and we’d like to take them statewide.”
Proctor said he also plans to address budgetary issues concerning the courts, update municipal court state statutes, and work toward better jury management.