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Wood County court commissioner reprimanded for failing to recuse himself

The Judicial Conduct Panel publicly reprimanded part-time the Wood County circuit court commissioner Kenneth Gorski for failing to recuse himself from several cases.

The reprimand, issued on Thursday, stems from a complaint filed in January 2019. Gorski has been working as a circuit court commissioner for an average of two afternoons a month since 2014. During that time, Gorski said he presided over six or seven cases involving the lawyer Timothy Gerbert, a close friend he has known for about 20 years.

In one small-claims case from 2015, Gorski took a golfing trip to Ireland with Gerbert while the case was pending. He also “lost his temper” twice during the case and made inappropriate comments to the defendant. After Gorski came to a verdict, the defendant complained the decision was the result of corruption, according to the complaint. Gorski groaned and responded, “That’s my middle name … corruption.” The Judicial Conduct Panel wrote that Gorski said he made the comments angrily and sarcastically.

Gorski appeared before the Judicial Commission as part of its investigation into his conduct. The commission said that before the meeting, Gorski had presided over a pretrial conference in another case involving Gerbert and had recently taken a trip to Vietnam with him. Gorski admitted to his misconduct after the complaint was filed.

“Ultimately, the Judicial Conduct Panel stated that Commissioner Gorski’s failure to recuse himself or to disclose his close friendship with Attorney Gebert and his impertinent comments during the small claims trial … had caused a substantial negative impact on the integrity of the judiciary and on the public’s perception of the independence of the judiciary,” the Judicial Conduct Panel wrote.

The Wisconsin Law Journal attempted to reach Gorski for comment. The Wood County Clerk of Courts Office said he wouldn’t return to the courthouse until Feb. 12, but he will receive the message upon his return.


About Michaela Paukner, mpaukner@wislawjournal.com

Michaela Paukner is the legal reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal. She can be reached at (414) 225-1825 or by email at mpaukner@wislawjournal.com.

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