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Joseph juggles many responsibilities as magistrate judge

By: David Ziemer, [email protected]//June 23, 2011//

Joseph juggles many responsibilities as magistrate judge

By: David Ziemer, [email protected]//June 23, 2011//

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(Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)
(Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

As a United States magistrate judge, Nancy Joseph has many duties: bail hearings; evidentiary hearings; arraignments; initial appearances; reviewing warrant applications and issuing warrants; mediating civil cases; and when the parties in civil cases consent, handling the entire case the same as an Article III judge would.

But one of her favorite duties is presiding over naturalization ceremonies, which is not too surprising since Joseph is a naturalized citizen herself.

Born in Haiti and raised in New Jersey, Joseph was naturalized as a college sophomore in federal court in Newark in 1987. “It’s neat to tell new citizens that I too am a naturalized citizen,” Joseph said. “I show them my own naturalization certificate at the ceremonies. It is humbling to have been in their seat, and now have the privilege to administer the oath to others.”

“The first one I did, I was very caught up in how moving it was emotionally,” Joseph said. “You look across the room and see all those people who want to be part of America.”

Joseph also is involved in the community, serving on the advisory board of a legal education program at Washington High School in Milwaukee. As part of the program, Joseph hosts classes touring the courthouse, introduces them to the different professionals involved, and educates them in the role of the courts.

Sometimes, that even includes attending naturalization ceremonies. “The kids are very moved by it. They say ‘it was cool to see all the immigrants become citizens.’”

Joseph began her career in the Milwaukee trial division of the State Public Defender, in the juvenile division, representing children in delinquency and CHIPS proceedings. In 2000, she joined the newly formed Federal Defender Office, helping build the program from the ground floor.

Calvin Malone, who worked with her as a federal defender, said, “She has always been the consummate professional — very intelligent, patient, and understanding. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Nancy.

She’s probably the best person I’ve worked with as a lawyer in my career; and she is a wonderful mother.”

Among many appeals she handled, Joseph successfully defended a significantly below-guideline sentence in U.S. v. Wachowiak, 496 F.3d 744 (7th Cir. 2007), establishing broad deference on appeal to the sentences imposed by district courts.

In November 2010, Joseph began her current appointment as a magistrate judge. “It has been a major change from the bar to the bench, and I’m still in transition,” Joseph says. “But it has been a positive change.”


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