For her tireless devotion to family law and her profound understanding of family relations and her thorough knowledge of the law, Sara Quirt-Sann is the Wisconsin Law Journal’s 2017 Woman of the Year.
Selected by a panel of judges from the Association for Women Lawyers, Quirt-Sann was praised for her “dedication to the children and the women she represented was undeniable and shone through in the Marathon County Court System’s nomination,” one AWL judge wrote.
Quirt-Sann was killed during a shooting spree on March 22 in Wausau’s south metro area. She was working in the Tlusty, Kennedy & Dirks law offices, where she rented office space.
She died doing what she loved — working as an attorney and helping others.
In her role as a family law attorney, Sara Quirt-Sann appeared before Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Jill Falstad almost every week.
In fact, all five court branches in that county relied heavily on the Schofield solo practitioner to take on guardian ad litem appointments.
“She was the go-to person because she would help out on any case, even under a time constraint such as a child abuse restraining order,” Falstad said. “She just was willing to help and willing to pick up tough cases and just really work hard. She was a very qualified, exceptional guardian ad litem.”
Quirt-Sann, who graduated from the Valparaiso University of School of law in 1999, ensured children’s counseling needs were met and that reunifications were done in a safe manner, said Falstad.
What’s more, Quirt-Sann had a profound understanding of family relations, keen insights that led to solid recommendations and a thorough knowledge of the law.
“She addressed all of the appropriate statutory criteria and factors and just made very well-reasoned and sound recommendations that a court could give great weight to,” Falstad said.
Quirt-Sann was also willing on to take tough cases and make tough calls.
“She exemplified what we hope to see in attorneys,” Falstad said.
It was perhaps that willingness to go above and beyond that cost Quirt-Sann her life.
Quirt-Sann was shot and killed at her law office on March 22 by the husband of one of her clients. Quirt-Sann had been representing the client since 2015 in divorce proceedings.
Also killed that day were two of the client’s colleagues and a police officer. In Quirt-Sann, the legal profession lost not only a hardworking and skillful practitioner but also a kind and joyful person.
“She was a really kind, insightful, compassionate person — hardworking,” said Falstad. “She was of a high moral character. She had integrity and honesty. She was really just a nice, nice person.”
Falstad and others noted that Quirt-Sann’s work opened doors for women lawyers to areas historically closed to them.
“She was working as a sole practitioner and willing to take on difficult divorces and guardian ad litem work,” Falstad said. “I think she set the bar for taking on the most difficult of cases, that women could do that hard work, work through issues with families and children, and practice at a very high standard.”
Her work on behalf of families earned her the respect and admiration of her clients and colleagues, as well as the judges and commissioners who she regularly practiced in front of. Sara’s genuine caring for children, her depth of understanding of family dynamics, and thorough knowledge of the law made her a role model to all who knew her.
From the AWL judges