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Riek puts the ‘public’ in ‘public defender’

Riek puts the ‘public’ in ‘public defender’

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Amanda Riek | State Public Defender’s Office
Amanda Riek | State Public Defender’s Office

Amanda Riek enjoys rooting for the underdog.

“I always wanted to be a public defender,” said Riek, who joined the public defender’s office in Baraboo following graduation from the University of Wisconsin School of Law. “I’ve always been interested in how people interact with each other and wanted to help people. I view my job as speaking for people who need help speaking for themselves.”

As a public defender covering Columbia County, Riek takes on a variety of adult and juvenile cases, ranging from misdemeanors to homicides.

“I find enjoyment advocating for others. My cases offer a lot of variety, which is what I enjoy most about my work,” she said. “I have a lot of compassion for my clients and I wish my calendar allowed me to get to know them better.”

Last year, Riek secured a not-guilty verdict in a homicide case — a rare feat, said Anthony Cotton, a partner at Kuchler & Cotton Law Offices in Waukesha.

“Many lawyers practice their entire career without such a verdict. She secured the result while still considered a ‘new attorney’ by many people,” he said.

Riek’s advocacy for others began while in law school when she started a student chapter of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. After graduation, Riek ran for — and won — a seat on the WACDL Board of Directors.

“Amanda is likely the youngest person ever elected to that board,” Cotton said. “She is constantly promoting the organization to prospective members. She sets an example for everyone — men and women alike.”

Besides her work with the public defender’s office and the WACDL, Riek also volunteers at the Sauk County Drug Court, where she helps those with drug addictions avoid a criminal conviction.

Just a few years out of law school — she graduated in 2011 — Riek said it’s important to attend training seminars to learn how to better defend and work with her clients.

“I believe everyone deserves a top-notch defense,” she said. “Clients want to know someone is on their side and that’s what I try to do.”

Riek credited Janet Hyde, a psychology and women’s studies professor at UW, for inspiring her.

“She was a great mentor and always encouraged me to be fearless,” she said.


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