Andrew Jones and Danielle Shelton are competing for the Branch 40 judicial seat now vacated by Rebecca Dallet when she was elected to the State Supreme Court in April 2018. Jones has held the seat since August, when he was appointed by former Gov. Scott Walker.
This is the only contested Milwaukee County judicial race this spring. Shelton and Jones agreed to answer a series of questions from WJI to better inform judges about the race.
Question 1: Why do you want to become a judge?
Below are the candidates' responses.
There are a lot of problems with the proposed "Marsy's Law" amendment to the State Constitution.
WJI is introducing a new "Marsy's Flaws" page to track the proposed legislation and to provide crucial information about it. The page is young, and will grow as we expand our analysis and coverage of the proposed amendment
The Legislature has approved the proposal once. If it does so again, the proposed amendment goes to referendum for voters to make the final call on whether it should be adopted.
Wisconsin's "Marsy's Law" proposal includes a package of 16 rights for crime victims. Problem is, some of them trample all over the U.S. Constitution.
It's likely most voters will agree with some of the proposed new rights and disagree with others. Problem is, voters would get only one up-or-down vote.
The proposed "Marsy's Law" amendment would bring significant changes to the way the state's justice system operates, increase costs for local taxpayers, and prevent law enforcement from sharing information that could protect public safety.
Follow us as we follow "Marsy's Flaws."
By Gretchen Schuldt
Gov. Tony Evers is proposing to spend $8.1 million to improve heating and ventilation at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an indication that he won't shut down the facility as its critics demand.
Heat index temperatures can hit more than 90 degrees in much of the 15-story building and 120 degrees in the kitchen, according to state budget documents.
The proposed project, which would be completed in 2023, would improve the situation, according to the Department of Corrections (DOC).
Mark Rice, an ex-MSDF inmate and an organizer of the "Close MSDF" campaign, called for more.
"A true people's budget focused on racial equity, justice, and compassion must include a plan to divest from Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility and other prisons in Wisconsin and redirect resources to the neighborhoods in Milwaukee that have been the most harmed by incarceration," said Rice, now lead national organizer for JustLeadershipUSA, a group working to reducing mass incarceration.
MSDF is a medium-security prison in Downtown Milwaukee that also holds inmates pending investigations into their alleged probation, parole, or extended supervision violations. It has a design capacity of 1,038.
DOC said in its budget request that the facility's population regularly exceeds 1,100 inmates. More than half suffer from serious mental illness and about 75 percent receive daily psychotropic drugs.
"These drugs often create additional health concerns for inmates in high heat index situations," DOC said.
A judge erred when she did not hold a hearing to determine whether it was in the best interests of a child to terminate her father's parental rights before doing so, the State Court of Appeals ruled this week.
District IV Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne F. Kloppenburg reversed Waupaca County Circuit Judge Vicki L. Clussman's decision and sent the case back to circuit court so the hearing can be held.
The case is similar to one decided last month by the State Supreme Court, which ruled that the defense should have been allowed to present a case before a judge terminated parental rights.
In the appeals court case, the girl's father was arrested on child pornography charges less than a week after the girl's birth, Kloppenburg wrote in her decision. He eventually was convicted of nine counts of possession of child pornography and is serving an eight-year prison confinement and eight years of extended supervision.
The girl's mother, identified only as S.D. – who does not want the father to have contact with their daughter – acknowledged that Clussman erred when she terminated the father's parental rights without holding the dispositional hearing. The mother agreed the case should be sent back to Circuit Court for the hearing, Kloppenburg said.
"In light of the agreement between the parties, I reverse the order terminating (the father's) parental rights and remand to the circuit court for it to conduct a dispositional hearing," Kloppenburg wrote.
The judge rejected the father's argument that his lawyer was ineffective.
WJI is partnering with ACLU-Wisconsin, Legal Action of Wisconsin and the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee to provide information about how to navigate municipal courts if you are a defendant charged with an ordinance violation.
A new ACLU video with important tips and information is below. Please watch it if you are dealing with municipal tickets now or you might possibly get a ticket in the future.
WJI and its partners also are developing a special WJI web page to help people figure out who to contact and where to go when they have municipal court dates in Milwaukee County. The Milwaukee County Municipal Courts page is here and is listed in the tabs at the top of this website.
The new page includes a copy of the partners' Municipal Court "Know Your Rights" card. Funding for the card was provided by the Wisconsin Law Foundation.
WJI and its partners will add to the page as we get new or updated information and as municipalities improve the information they provide to the public.
Legal Action attorney Kori Ashley will be the guest speaker at the March 27 Wisconsin Justice Initiative Salon. Ashley is the first lawyer the City of Milwaukee retained to represent indigent defendants in Milwaukee Municipal Court. Her position is new, needed, and funded for only a limited time. Join us to learn about this lawyer's adventures in Milwaukee Municipal Court.
The Salon will be at noon on Wednesday, March 27, at Riverfront Pizzeria, 509 E. Erie St. A lunch buffet will be available. The buffet will include a pasta dish, pizza, salad, and garlic bread. Vegetarian options will be available. The cost of the buffet is $14. Please make your reservation by 5 p.m. Monday, March 25. (Sorry, no refunds for cancellations made after that time.)
Click here to reserve your seat!
The number of felony cases opened in Circuit Court statewide continued its steady upward march last year, while the number of felony cases opened in Milwaukee County rose 5 percent, but still did not hit the total opened in the peak years of 2011 and 2012, according to state court statistics.
Source: Wisconsin Court System
The figures count cases, not individual charges. The statistics reflect the top charge filed in a case.
In 2011, Milwaukee County accounted for 18 percent of all felony cases in the state (6,121 of 33,103); in 2018, Milwaukee County accounted for 14 percent of state felony cases (6,008 of 43,166).
The number of Milwaukee County felony cases opened last year was down 2 percent, or 113 cases, from the number opened in 2011; statewide, the number of felony cases was up 30 percent, or 10,063, over the same time period.
The reported number of 2017 Milwaukee County felony cases may be several hundred cases low due to a coding error that caused guns and weapons cases to be under-counted.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Gov. Tony Evers is proposing to grant a $30-an-hour pay hike followed by automatic pay increases to private attorneys who accept State Public Defender appointments to represent poor defendants in court cases, according to the governor's budget proposal.
"Wisconsin has the lowest reimbursement rate for private bar attorneys that represent indigent criminal defendants," the budget notes. "Under our system of due process, everyone has a constitutional right to legal representation yet the low reimbursement rate has caused major concerns as to whether all Wisconsinites are being properly represented."
The proposed budget would increase from $40 per hour to $70 per hour paid to the private attorneys. The increase would take effect Jan. 1, 2020. After that, the amount paid would be adjusted to reflect inflation.
The initiative would cost $25.6 million over the two years of the biennium, according to the budget.
As expected, the proposed budget would legalize medical marijuana and eliminate penalties associated with small amounts of recreational marijuana. Below are related excerpts from the budget.
The state would, under the budget, do the following (we'll be adding to the list in future posts.):
You can show your support or opposition Evers' proposals by contacting your legislators. Hey, don't know who they are, exactly? You can find out by visiting the Legislature's home page here and typing your address in the box on the right side of the page.
By Gretchen Schuldt
The Department of Corrections would spend an additional $13.6 million annually to imprison fifth- and sixth-offense drunk drivers if the Legislature adopts a measure mandating 18-month minimum prison sentences for those offenders, according to a fiscal estimate from the department.
Under current law, fifth or sixth OWI offenders can be fined up to $25,000 and imprisoned for up to 10 years. The minimum sentence is $600 and six months incarceration.
An average of 438 people per year are sentenced to probation for fifth or sixth offense drunk driving. Assuming that all those people would go to prison under the new bill, the proposal would add an estimated 639 inmates to the state's already jam-packed facilities, DOC said in the estimate.
The estimate includes $1.6 million for new substance abuse disorder programs to serve the additional inmates. Those programs would require an additional 23 full-time staff position.
"These costs do not include remodeling/reconstruction costs that may be needed to create the kind of program spaces that are needed," DOC said.
Because the adult prison system is at capacity, the estimate assumes DOC would step up its contracts with local jails to house prison inmates. The agency would require an additional $12 million per year for the contracts if all 639 inmates were held in jails, according to the estimate.
The Department, in a separate estimate, said that criminalizing first offense drunk driving would cost about $3 million annually to provide supervision, electronic monitoring, and substance use disorder programming. That is just DOC's cost - fiscal estimates for courts, prosecutors, and public defenders are not yet available.
A bill pending in the Legislature would make first offense drunk driving a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days incarceration, and / or two years probation.
The estimate assumes that 13,970 people will be found guilty of first offense drunk driving during the year, and that 1,097 of those people would be placed on one year of probation. The probation rolls would permanently swell by that number about a year after the bill's enactment.
By Gretchen Schuldt
A defendant has the right to present a case at trial even if a judge thinks there is enough evidence to decide without it, the State Supreme Court ruled last week.
“We hold that denying a defendant the opportunity to present his case-in-chief is a structural error, the consequence of which is an automatic new trial,” Justice Daniel Kelly wrote in a 4-2 decision.
Chief Justice Patience D. Roggensack and Justice Annette Kingsland Ziegler dissented, saying that Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Christopher Foley committed only a “harmless error” when he did not allow Mr. K a chance to present a case to contest the state's contention that he was an unfit parent.
Justice Rebecca Dallet did not participate in the case.
Mr. K testified under direct examination by the district attorney’s office and under cross examination by his own lawyer, Roggensack wrote. There is not a reasonable probability that the outcome of the case would have been different if Mr. K had been allowed to put on his own case, she said.
The court’s ruling reverses both Foley and District 1 Court of Appeals Judge Timothy G. Dugan, who upheld Foley’s decision.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Daniel Gabler provided false information on his judicial application about two Milwaukee Municipal Court cases that resulted in financial penalties against him and his wife.
Gabler provided the information in application materials he submitted to Walker's office when seeking appointment to the bench. Gabler did not respond to emails about the matter sent to his office.
Gabler was found guilty twice in the past four years of building code violations at two Milwaukee rental properties he owned with his wife, Marybeth. The couple has since sold at least one of them.
Walker appointed Gabler to the bench in December. Gabler previously was chairman of the State Parole Commission.
Gabler, in his judicial application, acknowledged the two court cases, but laid the blame on a contractor.
"The origin of these most unfortunate actions was the omissions of a once reliable contractor," Gabler wrote. "In these cases I contracted with (the contractor), including a transfer of a substantial down payment, to complete the work as required by the city.
"After months and months of promises and months of delay, I discovered that (the contractor) fled the country with my money in his pocket and without performing the necessary work."
Yet Gabler was fined $280 in one of the cases in May 2015, six months before he hired the contractor in November 2015, according to Municipal and Circuit Court records. The property involved in that case is in the 300 block of E. Wilson St.
The contractor was hired to work at a different property owned by the Gablers. That property, which the couple has since sold, is in the 2200 block of S. Chase Ave.
The Gablers live on North Lake Drive in Bayside.
Gabler, in his judicial application, acknowledged the two court cases, but laid the blame on a contractor. ... Yet Gabler was fined $280 in one of the cases in May 2015, six months before he hired the contractor, records show.
The Municipal Court case stemming from the Chase Ave. code violations involved the housing unit – not the garage the contractor was allegedly hired to fix, according to the city Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) and Circuit Court records.
A small claims case Gabler filed against the contractor said the two reached a verbal agreement in November 2015 calling for the contractor to make several repairs to the garage at the Chase Ave. property. The city had issued a raze order for the structure in April 2015. In its order, the city cited structurally defective walls, structurally defective columns or beams; defective exterior finishes, exterior trim, and door units.
The Gablers were supposed to comply with the order by Nov. 11, 2015.
The contractor was supposed to replace door headers and doors, tuck point the concrete block, replace the roof and paint the garage, according to Gabler's lawsuit, filed in May 2016. The agreed-upon price was $12,500; Gabler alleged he gave the contractor a $5,000 down payment.
Gabler eventually won a $10,388 judgment in the case and settled for $5,500, according to Circuit Court records.
The Gablers had the garage torn down by mid-July, 2016, according to DNS records.
Meanwhile, the city was preparing to take the couple to court over orders inspectors issued for the housing unit at the same address. The Gablers were told in November 2014 to replace defective fascia boards, roof eave boards, and exterior trim boards. The city also ordered the couple to paint wood and metal surfaces.
Building code violations are taken to Municipal Court if the property owner does not correct them within a certain time period.
On Aug. 16, 2016, the Gablers were each fined $440 for the violations, according to Municipal Court records.
The next day, the city reinspected the Chase Ave. property and found additional problems. This time the Gablers were ordered to paint; replace defective and missing boards in the roof eave; replace missing downspouts and connect to gutters; replace defective gutters; replace missing mortar on exterior walls; replace defective trim boards; and replace defective and missing siding.
In the earlier, 2015 building code case, involving the property in the 300 block of E. Wilson Street, Gabler was found guilty in May 2015 of the violations and was ordered to pay $280 in penalties; charges against Marybeth Gabler were dismissed without prejudice, according to Milwaukee Municipal Court records.
Gabler's Wilson St. property originally was cited in May 2013 for 12 violations; four remained by the time the penalty was levied. The Gablers did not meet orders to paint wood and metal surfaces and repair or replace a defective service walk, according to records.
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