"Evers' judges" is our effort to present information about Gov. Tony Evers' appointees to the bench. The information is taken from the appointees' own judgeship applications.
Italics indicate a direct quote from the judge's application.
Name: Mario D. White
Appointed to: Dane County Circuit Court
Appointment date: June 2, 2020 (elected April 2021)
Law School – University of Wisconsin
Undergraduate – Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma
High School – Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Recent legal employment:
March 2018-present -- Dane County Circuit Court commissioner
September 2008-present -- Adjunct faculty, University of Wisconsin Law School
June 2008-March 2018 -- Assistant state public defender, Wisconsin State Public Defender
General character of practice:
Circuit court commissioner, primarily for family, small claims matters, and criminal cases.
Earlier worked as an assistant state public defender representing indigent clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies, during initial appearances, bail hearings, trial and sentencing hearings. Also represented clients facing revocation of probation or extended supervision.
Describe typical clients:
Prior to becoming a commissioner, my practice area was criminal defense. As a public defender, all my clients were indigent. Many of my clients had difficulty reading or had limited education. Many struggled with substance abuse, mental health issues and homelessness. Some of my clients did not believe they would be treated fairly by the court system.
I had many clients who were in jail or in prison. I would regularly go to the jail to meet with those clients to give them updates on their case or just talk with them about things. Sometimes they became frustrated, which required me to use the patience and listening skills I developed as a teacher. Remaining calm under pressure, being patient, and listening were things I did in order to help foster a healthy attorney-client relationship. These are critical skills that I have honed over my years of practice.
As a circuit court commissioner, I do not represent clients. However, I have become knowledgeable in areas of civil practice. I routinely preside over small claims matters, which cover a wide range of civil law, from contract dispute to torts. Many of the litigants in small claims are unrepresented and lack familiarity with the legal system. I have become skilled at explaining the legal basis for my decisions.
Number of cases tried to verdict: Approximately 30
List up to three significant trials, appeals, or other legal matters in which you participated as a judge or lawyer in the past seven years:
State of Wisconsin vs. Tyrone Flood
I represented Mr. Flood, an Army vet who struggled with homelessness, who was charged with False Imprisonment, Strangulation and Battery. His female friend alleged that he assaulted her late one night when they were staying in an abandoned house. Mr. Flood maintained his innocence, stating that she had been assaulted by other people. The complainant went to the hospital for examination and DNA was collected from her neck area. Male DNA was detected, but none of it was Mr. Flood's. Despite this, the case went to trial. The complainant testified that Mr. Flood assaulted her. He testified that did not. In the end, the jury acquitted Mr. Flood of all three charges. This was a significant case because it illustrates the power that an accusation can have on someone. Mr. Flood spent months in jail waiting for this trial. The initial complaint was filed January 5, 2015. He was. released from jail on April 6, 2015 and he was acquitted August 19, 2015.
State of Wisconsin vs. Bobby Eleby
Trial date: May 23, 2017
Mr Eleby was charged with 13 different offenses: 3 counts of Strangulation, 5 counts of Battery, 2 counts of Felony Bail Jumping, 2 counts of Disorderly Conduct and one count of False Imprisonment. It was alleged that on two separate days he assaulted his girlfriend. The case required extensive investigation on my part. Mr. Eleby was convicted of 6 of the 13 counts. The case was significant because there was a great deal of investigation and advocacy involved. The jury heard evidence that Mr. Eleby assaulted the same woman on two different days. My fear was that the jury would convict on all counts simply because of the number of allegations. Instead, the jury listened carefully and believed only one of the assaults took place.
State of Wisconsin vs. Victor Spidell
Mr. Spidell had several cases filed against him related to his struggles with addiction. He was a young college freshman who had a great deal of potential. Because he was deemed 'low-risk' for drug use, he did not qualify for the drug court program. Since he had a prior conviction, he could participate in the deferred prosecution program through the DA's office. Our only option was to proceed with probation. Sadly, this case took a tragic turn when he overdosed and died in May of 2017. This case continues to haunt me. It illustrates the shortcomings in the criminal justice system's handling of addiction.
Experience in adversary proceedings before administrative bodies:
As a public defender I regularly represented people facing probation or extended
supervision revocation. These hearings were conducted in the Dane County Jail before an administrative law judge… If the client was facing revocation because of alleged criminal conduct, the hearings gave us an opportunity to test some the evidence and gain useful information.
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization:
Volunteer: Lanford for Judge
Volunteer: Berz for Judge
Volunteer: Fair Wisconsin
Previous runs for public office: None listed
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last ten years:
Judge Ellen Berz, Dane County Circuit Court judge, 2012
Judge Rhonda Lanford, Dane County Circuit Court judge, 2013
Professional or civic and charitable organizations:
Out Professional Engagement Network, 2009-Present
Dane County Bar Association, 2013-present. Co-chair, Criminal Law Section, 2013-2015
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2016-2019
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service:
Helping to train lawyers has been the most significant pro bono work I have done…. My love of teaching and my strong desire to improve legal practice drive me to continue to train and mentor young lawyers. In many of these training programs. the participants work on their own cases. We are able to formulate trial strategies, including theories of defense, develop avenues for more investigation and examine potential weaknesses in their case. Participants leave the program with a better understanding of their case, which has resulted in acquittals or a reduction in charges for their clients….
Why I want to be a judge —
Throughout my career, I have been an advocate and an educator. From classrooms in Texas to courtrooms in Wisconsin, I have strived to improve the lives of those I encounter. As an attorney and court commissioner, I have seen the enormous influence judges can have on an individual and on society. I want to be a judge so that I can bring my passion for equal justice and education to the bench.
During my years as a public defender, I had many clients who felt the system was biased against them because of their race. Like me, many of my clients were African-American. Generally, they were arrested by a white police officer, charged by a white prosecutor, tried before a white jury and sentenced by a white judge. The best tool I had to convince them they could be treated fairly was to be a strong advocate for them. To that end, I challenged prosecutors to prove their case, implored judges to see the client’s humanity, and worked to convince juries of my client’s innocence. In addition to being my client’s advocate, I was also their teacher. I counseled them on the best ways to present themselves before a judge and jury. I explained the reasons for our defense strategy. In order for them to begin to feel the system would treat them fairly, they had to see someone stand up for them and had to understand as much as possible.
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