Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Dwyer gets personal on the bench

By: Jack Zemlicka, [email protected]//December 9, 2011

Dwyer gets personal on the bench

By: Jack Zemlicka, [email protected]//December 9, 2011

(Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Family law never held much appeal for Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Michael Dwyer during his 22 years of practice.

But once he took the bench in 1997, Dwyer said he gravitated toward the Family Division because of the problem-solving requirement and personal nature of the cases.

He said unlike other areas of law, family cases tend to be messier and involve emotional and sometimes irrational people.

Dwyer, 61, said it is challenging to decide cases that involve things closest to people, such as money and children, especially because parties often have a relationship with one another.

But those variables haven’t stopped him from spending seven of his 15 years on the bench in family court.

Now on his second rotation through the Family Division, Dwyer took time to reflect on his service in this week’s Asked & Answered.

Wisconsin Law Journal: If you could develop one CLE course for credit, what would it be about?
Michael Dwyer: It would be about ways to effectively unbundle legal services in family law matters.

WLJ: What was your least favorite course in law school and why?
Dwyer: Estate and gift tax. It was the only tax course I took in law school. I quickly learned that I had no interest or ability in the field.

WLJ: What do you consider your biggest achievement to date and why?
Dwyer: Becoming a judge. Having inherited the hereditary disease of electoral politics, I always intended to run for public office. By the time I got around to it, a judgeship was the only feasible office left for me to aspire. I like the job very much.

WLJ: What is the one luxury item you cannot live without?
Dwyer: A good road bike. Since biking is the closest I will ever get to human powered flight, I need a good vehicle.

WLJ: What is one thing attorneys should know that they won’t learn in law school?
Dwyer: That the adversary system is a lousy way to resolve family disputes.

WLJ: What is the first concert you went to?
Dwyer: John Hammond, blues guitarist, University of Wisconsin Union about 1969. Perhaps the obscurity of my first concert contributed to my subsequent habit of resisting the urge to attend concerts. Instead of buying a ticket, I took the ticket price and bought the performer’s music.

WLJ: If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be and why?
Dwyer: Meriwether Lewis on the day he crossed the continental divide during the Lewis & Clark expedition. I have always been fascinated at the idea of being the first non-native to arrive in a previously unknown place.

WLJ: What is your motto?
Dwyer: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.

WLJ: What is your favorite movie about lawyers or the law and why?
Dwyer: The first one that comes to mind is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Who would not want to be Atticus Finch? A more obscure choice is ‘Breaker Morant,’ an Australian movie about the trial of Australian soldiers for war crimes during the Boer War.

WLJ: If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
Dwyer: I cannot recall ever having any other specific career aspirations. My ambition as a lawyer was to be a champion of the little guy, so I probably would have come back to Milwaukee to work for a worthy nonprofit.


Should Justice Protasiewicz recuse herself on gerrymandering cases that go before the Wisconsin Supreme Court?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Legal News

See All Legal News

WLJ People

Sea all WLJ People

Opinion Digests