The contrasting backgrounds of the candidates vying for a spot on Milwaukee County’s Branch 47 were on display Thursday, as the candidates answered questions on topics ranging from how they would handle a busy docket to how their life experiences would shape their judicial philosophy.
Throughout Thursday’s forum, organized by the Milwaukee Bar Association, Scott Wales touted his 29 years of practice and eight years of experience as a municipal judge in Fox Point. Asked by the moderator what else differentiates him from his opponent, Wales pointed to the substantive areas of his law practice.
“This responsibility … will take us to either children’s court or criminal court, areas in which I work,” he said. “For the past 30 years, that’s what I’ve done.”
And while Kashoua Yang acknowledged that she had not been practicing as long as Wales, she argued that judges tap not only their legal experience but their life experiences.
Yang noted that she had been a child refugee, worked her way through school and worked for Kohler Co., managing various projects before going to law school.
“I have a wealth of life experience,” she said. “All of those experiences have taught me how to communicate, how to understand and engage the public.”
There was some friction between the candidates. Wales accused Yang of not doing any trial work or taking any public defender appointments.
Yang criticized Wales for a comment at an event about refusing an appointment to the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
Yang and Wales were asked several questions, including whether the state’s judicial elections are appropriately designated as being non-partisan.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to the individual to demonstrate impartiality,” said Yang.
Wales said he agreed in part with Yang, who also said it may be impossible to dispel the general public’s perception that judicial elections are partisan.
Voters will head to the polls for this election on April 4.Follow @erikastrebel