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Wisconsin’s newest circuit court judges undergo judicial training, take bench

The majority of newly elected and newly appointed circuit court judges in Wisconsin have officially taken the bench.

On Aug. 1, six newly elected circuit court judges took office in Chippewa, Dodge, Marinette, Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. Each won a competitive race in the April 7 election. They are:

  • Judge Brett Blomme, Milwaukee County Circuit Court
    • Former CEO of the Cream City Foundation, a nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy organization
    • Won the race for Branch 5 with about 58% of the vote
    • “I look forward to joining justice partners working to make our justice system more equitable, fair and open for everyone in our community,” Blomme said in a statement after his election.
  • Judge Rebecca Kiefer, Milwaukee County Circuit Court
    • Previously served as a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney for more than 15 years
    • Won the race for Branch 29 with about 71% of the vote
    • “We will find better solutions to make our community stronger, together. I look forward to serving you,” Kiefer said in a statement after her election.
  • Judge Jack Melvin, Waukesha County Circuit Court
    • Formerly worked as an attorney with the Labor and Industry Review Commission and Division Administrator for Gaming for the State of Wisconsin
    • Won the race for Branch 5 with about 56% of the vote
    • “I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be a judge in such a critical county facing so many critical issues,” Melvin said in a statement after his election.
  • Judge Benjamin Lane, Chippewa County Circuit Court
    • Former Chippewa County Small Claims Court commissioner
    • Won the race for Branch 3 with about 57% of the vote
    • “Our residents have trusted me to make decisions regarding their cases when appearing before me. I will strive to meet your expectations by handling all cases fairly and impartially,” Lane said in a statement after his election.
  • Judge Jane K. Sequin, Marinette County Circuit Court
    • Former Marinette County Court commissioner and Register in Probate
    • Won the race for Branch 1 with about 51% of the vote
    • “Thank you so much to the voters of Marinette County for the trust and confidence you have placed in me in electing me the next Circuit Court Judge in Marinette County,” Sequin said in a statement after her election.
  • Judge Kristine A. Snow, Dodge County Circuit Court
    • Lawyer, formerly of Snow Law in Waupun, with 28 years of experience practicing law
    • Won the race for Branch 4 with about 51% of the vote
    • “I know you put your trust in me to be a fair judge and to put my experience to good use. Every day I will remember the reason I am on the bench is because of that trust you have placed in me,” Snow said in a statement after her election.

The six newly elected judges join seven additional first-time judges appointed by Gov. Tony Evers since the beginning of the year. Each filled a vacancy in his or her respective county. These new judges are:

  • Judge Larisa Benitez Morgan, Kenosha County Circuit Court
    • Worked as a state public defender from 2008 until her appointment
    • Practiced real estate, intellectual-property and family law prior to joined the public defender’s office
  • Judge Jack L. Dávila, Milwaukee County Circuit Court
    • Worked as a partner a Previant Law Firm prior to his appointment, representing clients in personal-injury and workers’ compensation cases since 2011
    • In a statement, Dávila said he pledges to work hard to ensure everyone who enters his courtroom is treated with dignity and respect, regardless of background.
  • Judge Jacob Frost, Dane County Circuit Court
    • Former Boardman & Clark partner who specialized in civil litigation and family law
    • Frost said he looks forward to ensuring the courts remain fair and impartial, and improving access for all.
  • Judge Mario White, Dane County Circuit Court
    • Formerly was a Dane County Circuit Court commissioner, handling family, criminal and other proceedings, and an adjunct professor at UW Law School
    • White said the need for a compassionate, impartial, and independent judiciary has never been greater. He said he looks forward to bringing his perspective and experiences to the bench to ensure equal justice for all.
  • Judge Christine Taylor, Dane County Circuit Court
    • Previously served as a Democratic state representative for Madison for nine years
    • In a statement, Taylor said she’ll use her experience to ensure equal access to justice in an impartial, independent forum.
  • Judge Sandra Jo Giernoth, Washington County Circuit Court
    • Previously served as deputy district attorney for Washington County and had been a prosecutor since 2010.
    • She also helped establish the Washington County Drug Treatment Court.
  • Judge Suzanne O’Neill, Marathon County Circuit Court
    • Former Wisconsin State Public Defender of nearly 30 years
    • O’Neill is a founding member of the Marathon County OWI Treatment Court and has served on dozens of committees, including the Marathon County Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee and Marathon County Criminal Justice Advisory Committee.
  • Kori Ashley, Milwaukee County Circuit Court (effective Sept. 13)
    • Worked as an attorney at Legal Action Wisconsin since 2016 and was in private practice for four years prior
    • She successfully prevailed before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in a case requiring the State’s Crime Information Bureau to remove from background reports arrests that do not result in a charge or conviction.
  • Katherine Sloma, Shawano County Circuit Court (effective Aug. 17)
    • Elected as the city of Shawano attorney since 2018 and was re-elected this year
    • Since 2004, Sloma has maintained a general practice in Shawano, including handling family law cases, divorces, guardianships, wills and estates, real estate transactions, juvenile matters and guardian ad litem appointments.

New circuit court judges are required to participate in judicial-education training programs. The Wisconsin Supreme Court court information officer said the new judges attended an orientation program from July 29 to 31, at which their fellow judges and attorney experts gave presentations on topics such as Evidence-Based Decision Making, family law, criminal law, civil law and jury trials.

Their orientation also helped make them familiar with CCAP applications, the CCAP judicial dashboard and Zoom, the online-meeting systems many judges are using to conduct court proceedings amid the COVID-19 pandemic. New judges also learned about the administrative side of the courts and resources available through the Wisconsin State Law Library.

Next up for the new judges is a mentoring program and the Wisconsin Judicial College in the fall.

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