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Sutkiewicz helps establish veterans court initiative

Angela Sutkiewicz, Sheboygan County Circuit Court

Angela Sutkiewicz, Sheboygan County Circuit Court

Sheboygan County Judge Angela Sutkiewicz was looking for a way to help military veterans who were suffering from treatable behavioral-health conditions and found their way into her courtroom after committing a crime.

“These are people who have been through so much and have gone off track, but with help they can make changes to get them back on track,” said Sutkiewicz, who spent time talking with representatives of local organizations and law enforcement officials before going on to help establish a Veterans Treatment Court. She also visited another court to see how an institution of that sort might function.

The Sheboygan Area Veterans Court Program was started in 2012 and serves veterans not only from Sheboygan County, but also those living in Calumet, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Ozaukee, Washington and Winnebago counties. Veterans who participate in the program must follow strict guidelines. Staying sober and working on behavioral-health conditions, for instance, are required. It takes about one and a half years for a veteran to complete the program, Sutkiewicz said.

“It was very time-consuming to get off the ground and it takes a lot of time now, but it is so worthwhile,” she said. “We have a great team that works together on this.”

Veterans are paired with mentors to help keep them on track. Sutkiewicz oversees veterans court once a month, but also spends time planning meetings for the next session. “It’s a lot of work, but been very inspirational,” she said.

Sheboygan County Circuit Court Commissioner Rebecca Persick said Sutkiewicz’s work makes a difference. “Her efforts have given veterans, as well as their families and all those who know and love them, a second chance at a fulfilling civilian life,” she said.

Sutkiewicz became Sheboygan County’s first female judge in 2010 when Gov. Jim Doyle appointed her to the post. A year later, she won a highly contested re-election campaign.

“My predecessor retired and I wasn’t even sure about seeking the appointment, but I had so many people encourage me to do it,” she said. “I love the way the Sheboygan County courts are set up – I get to handle a variety of cases from criminal to family law. Being a judge is definitely a balancing act, but I really enjoy it and my days never get routine.”

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