"Walker's judges" is our effort to present information about Gov. Walker's appointees to the bench. The information is taken from the appointees' own judgeship applications.
Name: Nicholas J. Brazeau, Jr.
Appointed to: Wood County Circuit Court
Appointment date: Sept. 16, 2011; ran unopposed in 2012.
Law School – Loyola University Chicago - School of Law
Undergrad – University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee (attended 1991-1993)
Universit of Wisconsin-Madison (attended 1987-1989)
High School - no information provided by applicant
1997 - present – Partner in Brazeau, Wefel, Kryshak & Nettesheim
State Bar of Illinois
State Bar of Wisconsin
Wood County Bar Association
Legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, administrative proceedings: Experience in criminal litigation, civil litigation and administrative proceedings; handled family law, guardian ad litem work, business cases.
When I first started practicing law in Wisconsin Rapids, I accepted public defender cases as a private attorney. That practice brought me to the courtroom for a variety of criminal proceedings for a large part of the start of my career ... It also allowed me to experience a difficult clientele not motivated by the cost of your service. Those clients taught me about the value of treating everyone with equal respect.
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Jury, 10; non-jury, 100+; administrative bodies, 5+.
Number of cases on appeal: Five cases listed.
Professional or civic organizations, volunteer activities, service in a church or synagogue, or any other activities or hobbies that could be relevant or helpful to consideration of the application:
Fortunately or unfortunately, any appointed judge is going to have to run in an election shortly after the appointment. ... I have also already taken steps to begin to prepare for that election, which I am confident that I will win. -- Wood County Circuit Judge Nicholas J. Brazeau, Jr.
Involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization: Informally supported two friends, District Attorney Gregory J. Potter and Richard Weymouth, who sought judicial seats, Potter through appointment and Weymouth through election.
Pro bono legal work:
I have engaged in a large amount of pro bono work in my practice, primarily for previous public defender or otherwise disadvantaged clients who have returned to me with the ability to pay.
Why I want to be a judge – I want to become a judge because I believe I can make a difference to my community and help to guide it in a reasonable and respectful manner. …
I am aware that the position of judge requires a tremendous amount of work. I have watched the three judges that currently serve in Wood County, and I am amazed at the tireless work that they put in both in the courtroom and in chambers. All of them are also involved beyond their regular work in Circuit Court...
Once I have had a chance to establish myself after the next election, I look forward to serving as a leader in the community and participating in the positive development of the courts. ...
Best or worst Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years - Santosky v. Kramer
I cannot say with certainty that it is either the best or worst Supreme Court case in the last thirty years. Santosky v. Kramer is a case that has had a strong impact on me. I believe the case is important because it draws a line between the inalienable rights of a parent and the inalienable right of a child, as they are addressed by our legal system.
Santosky stands for the idea that our children are not just a parent's physical property, but something far more important, and entitled to special protection in the courts. -- Brazeau
In Santosky, the State of New York sought to terminate the parental rights of the Santosky's. Under New York statutes at the time, a parent's unfitness could be determined by a showing of neglect. The burden of proof for showing that neglect was the preponderance of the evidence. New York courts made such a finding and on appeal found that the burden of proof used was appropriate. The United States Supreme Court accepted the Santosky's appeal and reversed, requiring the New York court to use the "clear and convincing" burden in determining unfitness of a parent for purposes of termination of parental rights.
I believe this case is important because of the tremendous change in the rights afforded to a parent by the use of a different standard regarding the burden of proof. If only required to use the preponderance standard, the Supreme Court pointed out that parental rights would be treated no differently than money sought by one party versus another in any common civil case. The court noted that the right of a parent to enjoy the company and closeness of their children is far greater than any property right. …
Santosky upholds the tradition in this country that we tolerate differences and are willing to allow parents to raise their children in a number of different ways. However, it also sets the bar in determining when a state may take the extraordinary step of terminating the parent-child relationship.
Santosky stands for the idea that our children are not just a parent's physical property, but something far more important, and entitled to special protection in the courts.
Other information you feel would be helpful to your application – While I believe that the appointment process primarily considers the qualifications of the applicants, I know there are times when there are many qualified applicants for the same position. Fortunately or unfortunately, any appointment judge is going to have to run in an election shortly after the appointment.
My family has a long history in the State of Wisconsin, the county of Wood and the city of Wisconsin Rapids. I believe that I have good relationships across a wide range of residents in my county. I have also already taken steps to begin to prepare for that election, which I am confident that I will win.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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