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Milwaukee judge among legal community honored by State Bar

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//June 24, 2024//

Milwaukee Municipal Court Branch 2 Judge Molly Gena receiving a State Bar of Wisconsin Award June 20, 2024 in Green Bay. Staff Photo Steve Schuster

Milwaukee judge among legal community honored by State Bar

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//June 24, 2024//

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On Thursday, the State Bar of Wisconsin honored Wisconsin’s legal community, including judges, attorneys and various other legal professionals.

According to the State Bar, attorneys were recognized for making Wisconsin’s legal system more accessible.

Judge Molly Gena received the Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney award Thursday. The award recognizes “a lifetime commitment to working in the public interest, a hard worker with a commitment to volunteerism beyond employment responsibilities, a selfless commitment to helping others, and working to help the community at large, either one client at a time or more globally.”

In a statement to the Wisconsin Law Journal Monday, Gena wrote, “It is such an honor to receive this wonderful award for my career as a public interest law attorney. I am pleased to be a Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge now and to continue to serve my community. I truly believe my public interest work has made me a more compassionate and patient judge. I am honored to received this award in Dan Tuscherer’s name, as he was committed to securing funding for free legal services for low-income people. My job in the courtroom would be much easier if this state had more robust funding for civil legal aid.”

As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, the former Milwaukee non-profit attorney defeated Sen. Lena Taylor in the Milwaukee Municipal Court Branch 2 race on April 4, 2023.

In January, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers then appointed Taylor to be a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge.

Municipal Court judges serve four-year terms and handle non-criminal cases including, moving violations, parking citations, and ordinance violations. Since Wisconsin is the only state in the entire country where a first-time conviction for drunk driving is not a crime, Municipal Court judges also handle first-time drunk driving offenses.

Also as previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, Gena said she wanted to become the next Branch 2 judge because, “I want to serve the city of Milwaukee that I love.”

During a Milwaukee Bar Association campaign event, Gena said she would make it a priority to ensure public safety and hold people fully accountable, including for reckless driving.

At that time Gena said she is a proponent of community service and court accessibility.

Gena said, “Access to justice is incredibly important, noting that some people don’t realize that the court can order community service. (As a defense attorney) we ask for that frequently. It’s very effective and reduces fines.”

“Punishing people through non-payment sanctions only creates more problems for the city,” Gena said.

On Thursday, Judge James P. Daley received the 2024 Lifetime Jurist award, which recognizes “a jurist who has served more than one (1) full term as a circuit court judge, who is an example of a fair and impartial jurist, has demonstrated high ideals and personal character, and has demonstrated outstanding, long-term judicial service during his or her years as a sitting judge,” the State Bar noted.

Daley is a retired Rock County Circuit Court judge and also served as U.S. Marine, according to the Janesville Gazette Xtra.

Attorney Ann Marie Molitor also received recognition Thursday from the State Bar. Molitor received the Government Lawyers Division Grant F. Langley Service Award.

That award is presented to an attorney who is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin Government Lawyers Division with at least five years of service as a government lawyer, according to the State Bar.

“The recipient has accomplishments in the legal profession, provides services not only to the government and citizens, but also to other government attorneys, and is involved in activities that increase the public’s respect for government lawyers while promoting government legal work as a rewarding career choice,” the State Bar noted.

Also on Thursday, Attorney Jesse B. Blocher received the Charles Dunn Wisconsin Lawyer Author Award. According to the State Bar, “Each year the Communications Committee, which serves as the Wisconsin Lawyer Editorial Board, recognizes writing excellence in the publication. The Wisconsin Lawyer author award was named in honor of Wisconsin’s first Supreme Court chief justice.”

Other awards given out Thursday:

Pro Bono Attorney of the Year and Pro Bono Organization of the Year – Attorney Philomena Kebec and Community Justice Inc.

Diversity & Inclusion Trailblazer Award – Attorney Iris Christenson

Outstanding Public Interest Law Students – Morgan Gulledge – Marquette Law School
Shruti Pandey – UW Law School

Wisconsin Law Foundation Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence – Attorney Cassel Villarreal

Nonresident Lawyers Division Founders Award – Attorney Viet-Hanh Winchell

Senior Lawyers Division Leonard Loeb Award – Attorney Mary Lynne Donohue


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