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Taylor resigns Senate seat for Milwaukee County Circuit Court bench

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//January 26, 2024//

Wisconsin Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, gestures while speaking during debate in a meeting of the Joint Finance Committee at the state Capitol in Madison in 2015. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers appointed Taylor, who has mounted numerous unsuccessful campaigns for local office, to be a Milwaukee County judge. (Michael P. King/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

Taylor resigns Senate seat for Milwaukee County Circuit Court bench

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//January 26, 2024//

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Sen. Lena Taylor has resigned from the Wisconsin Senate effective immediately as Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced Friday the appointment of Taylor to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court-Branch 41. The appointment fills the vacancy created by Judge Audrey Skwierawski’s resignation. Taylor will complete a term ending July 31, 2025.

“Senator Taylor is a committed public servant who has dedicated her life to pursuing justice for her community and the people of Wisconsin,” said Evers in a statement. “I am confident that she will serve the people of Milwaukee County well as a circuit court judge,” Evers added.

As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, Milwaukee non-profit attorney Molly Gena defeated Sen. Lena Taylor in the Milwaukee Municipal Court Branch 2 race back on April 4, 2023. That race was to replace former Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge Derek Mosley, who after more than two decades accepted a position as Director of Marquette University’s Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education.

According to Evers, since 2003, Taylor has served in the Wisconsin State Legislature, first as a state representative representing the 18th Assembly District from 2003 to 2005, and since 2005, as a state senator representing the 4th Senate District. During her time in the Legislature, she has authored and passed into law more than 120 pieces of legislation, chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, and served as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance. Taylor also served on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, the Joint Committee of Criminal Penalties Review, the Judicial Council, the Uniform Law Committee, and the Justice Reinvestment Oversight Committee.

“It is with great honor that I both thank the people of the 4th SD for the opportunity to serve them since 2005 and Governor Evers for the opportunity to take my life experiences, constant quest for the truth, and unwavering commitment to equity and justice for all to the Circuit Court of Milwaukee County,” Taylor said in a statement.

During an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal in April of 2023, Taylor said she is a proponent of restorative justice.

“I want defendants to be able to say to me — judge, I want take responsibility for my behavior and serve the community for the harm I caused,” Taylor said.

“I believe you need to give people the opportunity to take responsibility,” Taylor added, noting that she wants “people to not end up being incarcerated because of poverty.”

Taylor also told the Wisconsin Law Journal she would hold reckless drivers accountable.

Taylor said if elected municipal judge, she would “find innovative ways to take away the negative energy of reckless driving and put into options to move individuals in a different direction.”

Taylor made headlines back in 2011 when she took a stand against then Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on collective bargaining. Taylor was a part of the “Wisconsin 14”— the 14 Democratic senators who left the state in order to break quorum to slow the process of the “Budget Repair Bill” that would strip away the collective bargaining rights of public workers, her website states.

According to Evers, Taylor began her legal career as a public defender in Milwaukee in 1993, representing indigent individuals in both misdemeanor and felony cases. In 1996, Taylor opened a general practice firm on the north side of Milwaukee, where, in addition to criminal law, she gained experience in business and real estate law, family law, personal injury cases, guardian ad litem work and bankruptcy law. Her legal experience led her to run for public office so that she could make positive changes to the law through the development of new legislation.

“Senator Taylor has proven herself to be up to the task of public service and is ready on day one to excel,” said State Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) in a statement.

“Senator Taylor has proven her commitment through her work when the cameras aren’t rolling, and no election is approaching. This is the type of commitment and service I want in our judiciary,” Goyke added.

“As a lifelong Milwaukee resident, Senator Lena Taylor has dedicated her life fighting for equal rights and justice while proudly representing the citizens and residents of her district,” said Attorney Mark Thomsen of Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs in a statement.

“Her life experiences, accumulated knowledge and courage are now needed more than ever in our court,” Thomsen said.

As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, Thomsen gave a speech at the historic swearing in of Pedro Colón as first Latino Court of Appeals judge.

During that speech, the Milwaukee attorney quoted Frederick Douglass and said, “No Republic is safe that tolerates a privileged class, or denies to any of its citizens equal rights and equal means to maintain them,” noting the significance of the first Latino sitting on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in a time when Nazis recently marched in Madison, hate is running rampant on college campuses, and terrorists are kidnapping and murdering civilians.

According to Evers, Taylor is a proud Milwaukee resident who still lives on the block she grew up on. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and the Southern Illinois University–Carbondale School of Law. She is active in numerous community and professional organizations and has been recognized locally and nationally for her work, including receiving the 2022 Regional Legislator of the Year Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.

Taylor’s appointment is effective on Jan. 30, 2024.

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