By Steve Schuster
While the national spotlight remains on the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, other elections will also be on the April 4 ballot in Milwaukee including, Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ District I and Milwaukee Municipal Court Branch 2.
The two candidates running for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ District I seat are Milwaukee Attorney Sara Geenen and the incumbent District 1 Court of Appeals Chief Judge William Brash.
Geenen said although the race is technically non-partisan, “my opponent calls me the progressive candidate. I don’t think that’s far off.”
She has more than 30 endorsements including from labor organizations, Clean Wisconsin and Planned Parenthood.
Judge Bill Brash also a very long list of endorsements. His endorsements include, but are not limited to, The Milwaukee Police Association, dozens of other judges, as well as well-known Milwaukee attorneys.
Geenen graduated from University of Wisconsin Law School and has been practicing labor and employment law for the past 16 years in both state and federal courts.
Judge Bill Brash has been on the bench since 2001, first serving the community as a municipal judge in Fox Point. He then moved on to be a Circuit Court Judge in Milwaukee County and then as an Appellate Judge since 2015. He was named the Presiding Judge for District 1 in 2019, and has been the Chief Judge for the Court of Appeals since 2021.
Although Brash attended law school at Marquette University and has served the larger Milwaukee community for more than 37 years, he also studied comparative legal systems at the London School of Economics.
Geenen said she grew up in a “blue collar family” and both her parents worked in paper mills.
Brash said both of his parents were in the military and that really inspired him to be where he is today. Brash said that both of his parents were strong supporters of education and his mother immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island.
Geenen said she wanted to become a lawyer so that everyone’s voice could be heard. Geenen said she wants to become a judge because “the legislature is enacting laws the undermine not only democracy, but also the judiciary.”
Brash said he always wanted to be an educator, advocate for justice and now a jurist.
Geenen specifically referenced gerrymandering and Act 10, and said, “people’s voices are being taken away.”
“I am a firm believer in equal protection under the law. It is important to me to do my part to stand up for democracy. That’s what ultimately shaped my decision to run for court of appeals,” Geenen said.
“We have a court that doesn’t have a much diversity of perspective,” she added.
Brash said, “As a jurist you take an oath to follow and apply the constitution of The United States and Wisconsin, and current laws that currently exist. I think most people I know have positions (on Act 10, etc) and they are entitled to have them, but I don’t believe you should be ruling on a case based on an individual position you have taken or expressed,” Brash said.
Brash said, “if you understand the nature of the Appeals Court, it’s referred to as an error correcting court.”
“We don’t make policy. We review decisions of the Circuit Court to make sure they have fully complied with law,” Brash said.
Brash said he does not believe it is proper to express those views publicly, “because what if that case comes before you and you’ve expressed your position … you’re supposed to just apply facts during the underlying case. We don’t make finding of fact during court of appeal. It’s based on record of the underlying court, applying laws and making decisions, he said.”
“We are here to correct errors if they exist, we are not setting the law or the policy and that’s the nature of this position,” Brash said.