Representing Wisconsin in court cases that have captured national interest, Maria Lazar, assistant attorney general for the state Department of Justice, has had an undoubtedly eventful past four years. What comes next for the Brookfield native likely will be no less interesting: judge in Waukesha County Circuit Court, Branch 7.
Lazar, who before coming to the DOJ was a shareholder and civil litigator at Milwaukee’s Galanis, Pollack, Jacobs and Johnson for 20 years, has not yet been elected to the bench, but she is running unopposed in the April 7 election for the seat.
Highly controversial cases related to the state’s Capitol access policy, Act 10, redistricting and the “Capitol Singers” have often made Lazar a missing person at home since she started at the DOJ in 2010.
“(The Act 10 case) was unforgettable because, for a while, I did not get home until long after dark and my family joked that all they saw of me was the back of my head on the news,” she said. “I even slept at the office once, as well. I am proud of how hard everyone at DOJ worked on that case and of the ultimate result.”
During the redistricting case, she even wrote some of the final briefs after the decision in the late hours of the night during a family vacation to Florida, Lazar said.
Regardless of the impact on her free time, however, Lazar said she has loved her tenure at the DOJ.
“It has been the most challenging and interesting work of my career,” she said. “It affirmed in me my respect and love for the rule of law and the constitution.”
Despite her involvement in attention-grabbing, high-profile cases, Lazar said her work for the Department of Children and Families on foster children cases has been just as rewarding.
“These seemingly little cases have had a profound effect on me,” said Lazar, who did a semester-long study and report on child abuse while studying at Georgetown Law School. “They emphasize that everyone deserves their fair day in court.”
Lazar’s supervisor, Charlotte Gibson, said she has been “unflappable” during the department’s many high-profile cases and a “tenacious, enthusiastic and hardworking advocate for her clients.”
“Maria has worked on a number of high-profile constitutional cases, but some of her best work has been on cases involving children in foster care,” said Gibson, director of the department’s Special Litigation and Appeals Unit. “Maria has dedicated just as much passion and effort to those cases as the ones you read about in the newspaper.”
Gibson said Lazar’s legal unit is already sad about her pending departure. For good reason.