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Jefferson County’s Koschnick enjoys the drama of a courtroom

Randy Koschnick (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Perry Mason reruns aren’t exactly on-demand viewing these days, but the drama and legal maneuvering of one of television’s most iconic lawyers lives on for Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Randy Koschnick.

“I always was intrigued by the way Perry Mason could get to the truth by using the legal system,” Koschnick said. “And, more often than not, the truth was not what it was originally laid out to be.”

In fact, the judge admitted, Perry Mason directly inspired his career as a state public defender. And his love of trial work led to a campaign for judge in Jefferson County, where he was elected in 1999.

“I enjoy the drama of seeing the story unfold in front of the jury. I enjoy hearing the attorneys argue the law. I love the challenge of making the correct decisions,” Koschnick said.

In 2009, Koschnick unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson for her seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

“It’s probably one of the most difficult things I ever did,” he said, “but I enjoyed being able to travel all over the state for four months and meet thousands of people.”

In July, when he was appointed chief judge of the Third Judicial District, Koschnick made it his goal to continue that tour, this time with the dozens of circuit court and municipal judges in the district, which includes Jefferson, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties.

Wisconsin Law Journal: What was your most useful law school course? Why?
Randy Koschnick:
Contracts, because it helped me to learn how to think like a lawyer: analytically, methodically and objectively.

WLJ: What was your least favorite course in law school? Why?
Federal taxation; very dry and technical. The federal tax code is so large and so complicated that no one person can ever hope to fully understand it.

WLJ: Who are your favorite writers?
I really like Ann Coulter. She’s informative, entertaining and offers unique and, sometimes, provocative perspectives on current events and politics; John P. Kaminski of the UW-Madison History Department for his writings on the founding fathers and the development of the Constitution; C.S. Lewis for spiritual inspiration.

WLJ: What is the best part of being an attorney?
I enjoy jury trials, especially in criminal cases. Trial work, as a lawyer or a judge, can be very stimulating. I am constantly amazed at the wisdom of the founding fathers as I see the constitutional principles that they established over 200 years ago play out daily in my courtroom. We cherish individual liberty in this country. While there is always room for improvement, I truly believe that our legal system does an excellent job of respecting individual liberty while, at the same time, providing protection for the public and maintaining a peaceful, civilized society.

WLJ: If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you have done?
I was a philosophy major in college, so I’m not sure where that would have taken me if I hadn’t gone on to law school. Two possibilities come to mind: philosophy professor and minister.

WLJ: What profession would you not like to explore?
Anything that requires me to work with explosives

WLJ: What are you craving right now?
I love the 49-cent cones at McDonald’s.

WLJ: Finish this sentence: Happiness is …
spending time at home with my wife, Terri, and our two daughters. I can’t think of any place that I’d rather be. After dealing with individuals and families in conflict all day in court, I appreciate how truly blessed I am when I walk through the door at home.

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