When it comes to giving, JoAnn Eiring is a tough act to follow.
In June 2016, the municipal judge in the town of Brookfield donated a kidney to her good friend and Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge Derek Mosley, saving him from renal failure.
In 2012, Eiring began helping a high school student, Jasmin, who is now a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With Eiring’s guidance, Jasmin became the first in her family to graduate from high school and college.
And on top of that, Eiring has spent her entire career working in the state’s court system. Currently, she juggles her role as a municipal judge and running the adult pretrial services program in Waukesha County for Wisconsin Community Services.
“It’s really good because it makes me totally well-rounded,” she said. “One job complements the other. I see it from the defendant’s side, the court’s side, the prosecutor’s side and the defense attorney’s side.”
Eiring says her first boss at Wisconsin Community Services, Jill Fuller, has provided the inspiration for much of Eiring’s work.
“She was a very strong, independent woman and very smart,” Eiring said. “She was non-judgmental about anything and good at explaining.”
Eiring’s dual roles give her a slightly different perspective than many lawyers and the ability to shape what people experience when they have their first encounter with the state’s court system.
“Most people that come to municipal court, it’s their first touch with the court system, so it’s important that they aren’t frustrated when they walk away,” she said.
The work Eiring has done with Wisconsin Community Services, primarily with defendants, has had a big influence on how she runs her court. Eiring makes sure she goes step by step and explains what’s going on — especially when a sanction for drunken driving is involved.
“I have handouts,” she said. “I make sure everything is in writing so they know what they need to do to avoid losing their license.”
Eiring has been a municipal judge for nearly three decades, holding court two times a month and watching as her caseload has gone from between 2,500 to 3,000 cases a year to as many as 6,000 cases.
“I love working with people,” she said. “I can’t help everyone, but if I can make a difference here and there, it’s priceless.”