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Judge’s journey started later, led from Iowa to Oshkosh

ImageHer husband’s keen insight pushed Winnebago County Circuit Judge Karen L. Seifert toward her future.

Seifert, 55, of Oshkosh, was 30 and a mother of three — a 3-year-old son and two daughters, ages 5 and 7 — when she began law school at the University of Iowa.

She had already earned an undergraduate degree in broadcasting and a master’s degree in educational media. She had worked as an advertising buyer for a television station, and thought her future included time home with her young children.

Instead, her husband, John, an airline pilot, insisted she think about continuing her education.

“He said, ‘You like to speak. You like to write. You like to read. You should go to law school,’” Seifert said. “At first, I guess, I was intimidated by it. Then, he went out and bought the LSAT book for me. He said, ‘Just see how it comes out.’”

Soon, Seifert was commuting 55 miles one way from her home in Davenport, Iowa, to Iowa City, where she enrolled in a 27-month accelerated law program. Looking back, all the work and worry was worth it, even with the late start.

“You can say to yourself, ‘Oh my god, I’ll be 33 or 34 when I get out.’ But you’ll be 33 or 34 anyway, so why not be what you want to be.”

Embracing that philosophy led to a career of legal service that began with the Help Legal Assistance program in Davenport.

Seifert dealt with poverty law, everything from utility shut-offs to Social Security and food stamp appeals. She also ran a project for victims of domestic violence, offering help on divorces and restraining orders.

In 1992, Seifert began work in Winnebago County, first as a child support attorney, then assistant corporation counsel, then court commissioner. She was elected judge in 2006.

The job allows her to indulge her inner academic, while still making a difference.

“When you’re helping people who can’t help themselves, there’s an added component to not just doing the law well, but also being able to make such a big difference in people’s lives,” she said. “… You really do change people’s lives by how you handle them, how you listen to them and how you decide their cases.”

She kept the scope of her position in mind the day she was sworn in. And she thought of her daughters, who watched her work through law school and, later, became lawyers themselves.

A black-and-white print her daughters gave her that day reminds her about the possibilities of life. The photo, taken the day Seifert graduated law school, shows her young daughters with their arms up, index fingers raised, just the way their mom raised her hand in class.

“Of course, we would never have known what they would become,” she said.

— Jessica Stephen


  1. Thanks for the justice for SNOOP!!!

  2. dear judge seifert-

    i am dismayed and disgusted that you would allow a felony animal abuser walk. if you haven’t come to realize that felony animal abuse is epidemic in our society, then you clearly are not paying attention. we on the front lines of animal welfare, can tell you otherwise. our legal system needs to address this wanton criminality, not turn a blind eye to it. we need to start punishing the crime, not based upon who the victim was.

    do you think you served justice?

  3. Judge come on this crazy. What lessons will this person take
    away from this experience. You are continuing to enable this person
    in life like I’m sure this has been done many times in the past because thats
    the easiest thing to do. Shame on you for taking his excuses while this pup
    ceases to live

  4. I find it hard to believe that a woman who has born and nurtured children could dismiss that piece of slime Bryan Hutcherson.
    I can only guess that when he impregnates his girlfriend and she delivers a baby, he will find it too stressful and too expensive to feed.
    When this happens, please remember – Judge – you allowed it to.

  5. Voters remember Snoop

  6. “When you’re helping people who can’t help themselves, there’s an added component to not just doing the law well, but also being able to make such a big difference in people’s lives,” she said. “… You really do change people’s lives by how you handle them, how you listen to them and how you decide their cases.”

    Nice that you can help “people” who can’t help themselves, but what about those that don’t have a voice? And ” doing the law well”, I say you give yourself too much credit because you failed not only Snoop but every other dog that suffers the same injustice in your state. THANKS A LOT for setting that precedent! I’ve got a great idea….how about you take your three precious children and sit them down tonight to read a bedtime story. I know a great one – it’s about a poor, defenseless puppy that was starved to death and frozen on a sidewalk! Then you can tell them all about the bad people that did this. Then you look those kids in the eyes and tell them that the Judge (surprise! It’s Mommy!) found him INCOMPTENT TO STAND TRAIL (= walks off scott free and could do this again, and again.) Oh wait, there was another dog that was almost starved to death by the same person but by the grace of God was saved. Way too go. I’m really proud of your late in life accomplishments. Maybe you shouldn’t have taken those accelerated courses…….

  7. Thank you for adding to the indignity of Snoop’s death. Hope you see the picture of his poor body in front of your eyes forever.

  8. Bryan Hutcherson – “incompetent to stand trial”? He was competent enough to FEED himself, why was he not held accountable for watching a dog starve to death. Starving a dog to death takes time – anywhere from 1-3 months. Here is an account of starvation symptoms:

    Starvation Symptoms

    The symptoms which result from complete starvation are characteristic, If food is suddenly withheld, the sensation of hunger gradually increases at first, becomes extreme, lasts for two or three days, and slowly disappears.It is accompanied by a gnawing pain in the epigastrium, which is relieved on pressure. The pain may disappear with the hunger, but it is followed by a sensation of extreme weakness or faintness, which is both local in the stomach and general throughout the body. The sensation of thirst, on the contrary, when all fluid is withheld, persists until death or until the subject becomes insane or unconscious.

    When food is gradually withheld, urgent hunger may not be felt at all, but the longer and more severe the fast, the more difficult does digestion become. The circulation grows feeble, the heart action rapid, the respiration shallow and possibly slow and irregular. There is apt to be some thirst, even though water be supplied. If it be withheld, the torture becomes unbearable. Constipation may be succeeded by diarrhoea, but it more often remains complete. The facies are typical, the expression is anxious and staring, the orbital fat disappears, and the eyes are greatly sunken and finally become glassy. Corneal ulceration may be present. General bodily emaciation ensues, the muscles are soft and reduced in size by more than one half, and the abdominal viscera to a similar degree, the skin becomes pale, loose, and, from change in the secretion of perspiration, emits a peculiar fcetor and acquires a clay-like colour.

    It is an absolute horror that this man was not held accountable for what he put this animal – a living, breathing, feeling creature – through.

  9. I sure hope your not fortunate enough to own pets. You missed the boat on this verdict!

  10. So, starve a caged dog over a period of months in your home and allow the perpetrator to walk free? What kind of justice is that? You could at least have demanded psychological counseling! What if he starves his baby? Will you do the same again?

  11. What is lacking in this judge’s own soul that would allow her to dismiss all charges against Brian Hutcherson, who let an innocent life starve to death in a cage covered in feces in his apartment day in and day out? What a joke! Saying he was incompetent to stand trial? I think the judge is the one who is incompetent. You just allowed this hideous excuse of a man to walk without as much as a slap on the wrist. The death of his next pet or CHILD is on your hands judge!

  12. This pathetic judge will be JUDGED herself one day and she will have to answer to her actions on earth. How this woman became a judge is beyond my comprehension. Shame on judge Karen Seifert! :( Maybe she should starve to death and see if is an agonizing death!

  13. I think as a judge you’ re incompetent and should step down. No justice for the poor animal that was starved to death, this poor animal suffered a horrible agonizing death and you dismissed the charges! Shame on you judge! Had this been a child would you have ruled the same way? Both are defenseless and NEED judges and law enforcement to step up and STOP THE ABUSE!!!!

  14. How can you feel compassion for poverty, yet allow this poor dog Snoopy to die without any justice? You are a Judge and have failed JUSTICE for an Animal who died with great pain, and as a Mother I would have thought you would have at least held some sensitivity. The owner is not allowed him to be a MURDERER!!!!

  15. Just want to say thank you for adding insult and indignity to the little dog Snoop who died such an awful death. I hope his picture is in front of your eyes forever.

  16. “He said, ‘You like to speak. You like to write. You like to read. You should go to law school,’” Seifert said. “At first, I guess, I was intimidated by it. Then, he went out and bought the LSAT book for me. He said, ‘Just see how it comes out.’” Seriously? That’s your reason for choosing Law as your profession? That could have led to any number of career choices, Marketing for one example. At least as a marketer your poor judgement wouldn’t be the deciding factor in matters of right and wrong. I think you need to go back and review what it takes to be an effective judge, what defines incompetent, and definitely review the facts and precursors of animal abusers and their cycle of abuse that often leads to serious harm and murder of people. RIP Snoop. Your human let you down, starved you to death, and then you were let down again by our judicial system when he was set free without punishment. Know that not all humans are bad, just the ones in your world.

  17. PLEASE tell me that I missed it…..At the very least he is prohibited from ever having another animal. Otherwise, what would prevent this from happening again? And God help their children when he demonstrates evidence of incompetency and gets stressed. Legal travesty in my opinion.

  18. Wait – a judge that does NOT judge??? Hope you get the same when its your turn to be judged…maybe you will have to sit there and starve to death while you wait to be seen!!!! Better yet…hope you lose your job and then when your family starves cause it was to expensive to feed them you can get a real judge that will see you for the two faced human being you are!

    Disgusting… you should be ashamed…Im so upset that I cant even type effectively! You are a sorry excuse for some one that should be representing JUSTICE!

  19. I don’t know how you sleep at night but I hope it is full of nightmares of starving dogs. You really blew it and I hope it haunts you forever.

  20. What a worthless judge. Shameful.


  22. You speak of helping people who cannot help themselves…what about the animals who depend on people to help them? Disgraceful that even in death, Snoops has no advocate.

  23. May you bow down and pray for mercy from God on YOUR decision. We are to treat animals as we would people. I hope the people who live in your jurisdiction remember your decision when they vote next time, and you are removed from office for your choice. Don’t forget to repent!

  24. I think it’s funny that you did not stand true to your own words.
    “When you’re helping people who can’t help themselves, there’s an added component to not just doing the law well, but also being able to make such a big difference in people’s lives,” she said. “… You really do change people’s lives by how you handle them, how you listen to them and how you decide their cases.”
    Hypocrite!…………You disgust me!

  25. You had it in your hands to show the world that ANIMAL TORTURE will be punished….but you let this chance slip right by…So for all the next starved to death animals…it is YOUR fault…I’m glad you are not a judge in my neighborhood…:-(((((

  26. There is absolutely no excuse for this. This judge should be held responsible and forced to relinquish her position as a judge as she is irresponsible and incompetent. To have her make a ruling that this man is not responsible for his actions only shows her lack of objective reasoning and ability to make a proper judgement or just decision.

  27. Another judge who doesn’t feel we should compel people to be responsible for their actions. I am so weary of a society in which nobody seems to be held accountable for anything. Is it not your job to adjudicate. To teach and be responsible for members of society learning and knowing the difference between right and wrong. How do you judge this person not responsible for some very clear choices on his part. I am so tired of living in a world where nobody is accountable for anything anymore. I’m not sure what your actions taught this defendant but I’m pretty sure it didn’t have much to do with responsiblity.

  28. Did you just get lazy, Judge? Dismiss the charges? Come on! How irresponsible. To say that this defendant is not compentent to stand trial for starving and abusing this animal for 4-5 months and another animal also. He is compentent enough to feed himself and make sure to know when to come in out of the rain and cold. He takes care of himself. YES, him-self. He takes care of himself and that’s it. He is selffish. Also, this is typical of someone who will abuse further abuse innocent animals and also people. Thank you Judge for not protecting society. We appreciate it.

  29. Sorry Judge but you got this one WRONG! What a black eye on Oshkosh. How many more little living creatures will he be allowed to torture, starve and kill before someone in your capacity does the right thing and allow the charges to stand? The next victim for this “incompetent” will be some poor child. Even a small child should be and is usually taught to treat creatures with gentleness and caring. I am appalled at your lack of character and poor judgement. I hope you have no animals. I also hope you aren’t a judge much longer. No more harmless, helpless victims should suffer your lack of humanity and ineptitude. This makes me sick.

  30. Not competent? He made the decision to allow the poor baby to starve to death for months, and another dog, as well, yet he looks well fed. He had the sense and the money to feed himself.
    What is wrong with this picture? Why are people not held accountable for their actions any more, Judge? Here is just one more example of our Judicial system failing to protect the innocent.
    He may have been an animal, but he was a living, breathing being created by God. Shame, shame, shame on you, Judge. You definitely dropped the ball on this one. You had the power to stand up and be the voice of the one who could not speak for himself, yet you chose to do nothing.
    The question is not, “Can they reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but rather, “Can they suffer?” ~ Jeremy Bentham
    Do you think Snoop suffered???????????
    We will be waiting to hear who Bryan Hutcherson harms next. Just remember, it will be on your conscience!

  31. Judge Karen Seifert, even if this Bryan Hutcherson was found incompetent to stand trail, he should have been sentenced to counseling/education and prevented from ever owning an animal again. You have failed this poor dog Snoop and failed the system by not seeking help for Bryan also to learn from this. Do you watch Animal Planet and the Animal Cops, Humane or SPCA programing? People who starve, abuse or neglect animals need to be responsible for their actions, and pay through the justice system, time in jail, fines and should be prevented from ever owning an animal again. There are rescues and shelters for unwanted pets and this boy could have easily done the proper thing for this dog. You have failed this dog and all the hard work Animal Organizations do to prevent this sort of thing.

  32. I am sick in thinking that a judge has let this phycho off and no charges were pressed. Not only did Snoop suffer, so did another pup in that hell hole. Shame on you. Is this the way you would like us to raise our children, with no regard towards animal lives, being made to endure cruel and inhuman treatment? I am sorry to say I live in Wisconsin. I am happy I live out of your jurisdiction. You are not admired in the world of Animal Rescue, and those of us who spend our days finding homes for unwanted pups and cats..

  33. If find it alarming that judges have decreed that corporations have more rights(personhood) than animals. To me,there is something not right here. Here’s some wise words for you to reflect upon “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” –Mahatma Gandhi–

  34. Seriously, this man was not competent to stand trial, however he could support himself in a normal life. (i.e. eating, roof over his head, girlfriend…) If there are not harsh enough consequences to fit the crime…what’s to say he doesn’t go out and get another poor animal and try it again? This poor dog died in vain…..with no one to stand up for him. Why couldn’t the guy have called animal control to pick up the dog causing him sooo much stress. I’ll bet you he had a cell phone.

  35. The incompetency lies only with you for not punishing this man. He could have easily surrendered the dog instead of letting him suffer a horrible death. How anyone could watch an animal starve is beyond me. How can you deem that unpunishable?

  36. I saw the picture of Snoop and read that this judge let the man go free because he supposedly wasn’t competent to stand trial. Remember that when he starts torturing people because animals just aren’t enough of a challenge anymore. Almost every single SERIAL KILLER in history started out torturing animals, and most of them probably aren’t ‘competent’ to stand trial either–which is EXACTLY why they shouldn’t be out in society at large. When is the law going to start taking this stuff seriously?

  37. I guess you did not care about the Msg you sent about animal abuse. It is totally reprehensible that you would dismiss charges against this man. It is not as if he was retarded or blind and could not see that the dog was starving to death. This was a total miscarriage of justice and I hope the voters remember this when your term is up.

  38. Karen Seifert – You are a disgrace to our legal system. You are incompetent and should no longer be allowed to hear cases. By your absurd decision to dismiss Bryan Hutcherson, you have encouraged and applauded vicious animal abuse. You are a failure and you should resign. You serve no purpose except to enable criminals. You are a danger to your own field.

  39. This woman is a menace to society. She is inept and unable to render decisions with any sense of logic. She was out witted by a savage beast, bryan hutcherson, who has the IQ of a piece of furniture. Yet sadly he is more clever than this woman who presides over important court cases. Please do your jurisdiction a tremendous favor and resign immediately.

  40. Remember this vastly inept judge at election time!! No doubt she is dismissing all of our comments as coming from crazy animal activists but the fact remains that she is seriously lacking in judgement. You don’t need a law degree to see that. Remember to vote this idiot out of her chambers. How would she like to be locked in a cage in someone’s living room and see her “caretakers” eating in front of her and smell what they cook every day and not be able to move, exercise or eat for the rest of her life? Oh, I forgot – she is a mighty human with a title and a robe and not a “lowly” animal. I tell you that dead puppy had more of
    God’s essence (love and innocence) than either or both Judge Siefert and Bryan Hutcherson.

  41. How in God’s name could you, “Judge”, let a cretin off scot-free after such a reprehensible act. This wasn’t a mistake, an “oops”. This was premeditated murder of a living being commited by a person who EXACTLY what he was doing. He even admitted it, saying it costs too much to feed! He didn’t have the decency to find a different alternative for Snoop, and just watched him die. “Judge” why did you enter this profession if you have no compassion either.

  42. Marsha Marcia Marsha

    I had to read your credentials because all I could come up with is you must be a Districst Justice (in Pa you don’t have to have degree in law to become one) I assumed from your incompetent decision you could not possibly have a degree in law.
    I am in total shock to learn you went to law school were even elected judge, and a Mother to boot. I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around your conclusion that this animal ( so-called human) is incompetent to stand trial.
    with all due respect and I’m sorry I don’t feel you are due any, but I’m trying so with all due respect. you in all of our opinions are not competent to serve as a fair and impartial judge in any level of justice system be it family or criminal.
    Please I beg of you resign from your position before you allow any more competent cold blooded evil heartless killers to walk free.
    What message are you sending to your daughters and the entire human race? Can you honestly justify your ruling? I along with every single person that took time to comment cannot.
    My only conclusion is you were either 1.bribed 2. friend of accused or one of his relatives. 3. threatened 4. raised by animal abuser or 5. suffering from brain damage.
    I pray this man never decides to try his hand at being a dog owner again, seeing how (according to you) he is not mentally competent to make that call himself, and he has no reason to be concerned about consequence for his sick, inhumane behavior.
    I pray he never has the opportunity to starve a child to death? How would you have ruled on that? One can only wonder. I also have to question are your daughters proud of this ruling? If so you all need serious family counseling.
    I have seen my share of corruption and prejudice in every level of the justice system. Honestly with the exception of Federal Judge Jaun Sanchez I don’t believe there is or has been another Judge who can honestly say they have not let personal opinion influence ruling or sentencing at one time or another, but I can’t even address you as your honor because I have no respect for you, so Mam you need to step down before one more innocent life is lost. God help you, cause you really need it.
    I wouldn’t ever threaten you but I pray when you meet your maker it is this poor innocent puppy that suffered a long horrible death (God is Dog spelled backwards) thanks to you then died and received no justice for just being unlucky enough to end up this dangerous killers pet. I pray this puppy is your maker when your number is up and I pray this image haunts and torments you for the rest of your natural life.
    As far as the incompetent asshole you set free. If i see him I will kill him and that’s not a threat, it’s a promise. God have mercy on your soul because you obviously have no heart

  43. I also was curious to read the credentials of the \judge\ who let this COMPETENT, yes COMPETENT guy walk away……..COMPLETELY punishment-free………from his malicious acts of torture and animal cruelty that led to the death of this helpless puppy Snoop that was in his care. I agree with other commenters that if he can do this to a helpless and defenseless animal…………………..well, God forbid that he EVER has a child!!
    He is free to own other animals, free to do whatever he wants. NO justice was served here for the slow, agonizing and torturous death of Snoop. Wrong career choice judge Seifert!!

  44. BLAH BLAH BLAH HER JOURNEY. What lead this worthless human to Allow Animal Abuse? RECALL !! REMOVE !!

  45. May she be treated with the same ‘respect’ as she allows to be shown to other living creatures.

  46. Karen Seifert sure goes hard marijuana “offenses” for someone who couldnt care less about animals. “the job allows her to indulge her inner academic… While STILL making a difference…” yeah I’ll say. Wouldnt want this dog-woman to forget to indulge, while shes pardoning animal abuse, and sentencing kids a fraction of her age to pretend felonies over bags of grass. Give me a break.

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