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Milwaukee County sheriff’s lawsuit against commission to get new judge

Judge John Siefert

A lawsuit filed by Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke against the Milwaukee County Civil Service Commission over the layoffs of three captains is changing courtrooms.

After the commission filed a substitution request against Judge Dominic Amato on May 25, the case was transferred to Judge John Siefert on Friday.

A motion hearing had been scheduled for Monday, but the transfer postponed further action on the case. No future activity has been scheduled, and commission attorney Ronald Stadler, of Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan LLP, Milwaukee, said the substitution request was simply “trial strategy.”

He declined to comment on the reasoning behind the substitution request, but said it wasn’t a case of judge shopping.

“I don’t think the fact that it is now in front of Judge Siefert is any particular advantage, one way or another,” he said. “I think any judge has some awareness of the ongoing efforts by the sheriff to flex his muscle a little bit.”

The suit, filed March 26, stems from the layoffs of three captains – Kerri McKenzie, Darlene Goodlette and Michael Rewolinski – mandated by the 2012 county budget.

The captains appealed the layoffs and the commission reinstated their positions. The captains were rehired, but at a lower rank.

Clarke’s suit claims the commission had no legal authority to regulate hiring practices and he is seeking a reversal of the commission’s ruling.

His attorney, Michael Whitcomb of the Law Offices of Michael A.I. Whitcomb, Milwaukee, said the transfer likely means that the case won’t be resolved prior to Siefert rotating out of the civil division on Aug. 1.

“He goes to criminal court,” Whitcomb said. “So I don’t see getting a resolution in front of him as an eventuality.”

Judge Daniel Noonan is slated to rotate into the civil division and take over Siefert’s calendar.

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