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Hon. Derek C. Mosley

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//March 8, 2010//

Hon. Derek C. Mosley

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//March 8, 2010//

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A few years ago, a juvenile defendant’s mother broke down in tears during her son’s court appearance before Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge Derek C. Mosley. He talked to her afterward in chambers.

Turns out her son’s legal issues paled in comparison to his other troubles: A gang had issued a death threat against him. Its members were frequently driving by the home looking for opportunities to take his life. She was fearful for the safety of the entire family.

Mosley offered to mentor the teen and get him placed at the Wisconsin Challenge Academy, a National Guard school at Fort McCoy, where he’d be safe. He’s now completed high school and is applying to colleges.

He’s one of seven teens, some former defendants, whom Mosley has taken under his wing. At any given time, Mosley is mentoring about that number of kids.

In addition, Mosley is a frequent speaker to youth groups, high schools and colleges, Goodwill employees and other groups serving the disabled. Sometimes he educates about the law, while other times he’s hoping to keep them motivated to pursue their dreams.

That’s when he isn’t serving on a number of boards related to helping children, marrying a couple, or preparing law students at Marquette in its Street Law class to teach at urban high schools.

Mosley’s extensive community involvement stems from his love for Milwaukee, plain and simple, and a desire to help its most vulnerable citizens, some of whom he meets from the bench.

He’s seen the recession’s impact from that perspective, and it has necessitated greater creativity on the part of court staff and himself.

“The economy’s hurting everybody, but for some people, the fines are just crushing. They’ve lost their jobs, they have mounting tickets: parking violations or tickets for not renewing their registrations. Then they get their licenses suspended, and that limits their job prospects. It just snowballs. Many times we’re trying to give people other options or giving them more time to satisfy their debt to the community.”

He continues, “The days of just sitting back and saying, ‘Guilty, $100, next case,’ are long gone. Now we spend a lot of time just trying to think of ways to keep the same people from coming back over and over. We can’t always change behaviors, but we can change attitudes about the justice system.”

Mosley is married to administrative law judge Kelly L. Cochrane. They have two daughters and live on Milwaukee’s northwest side.

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