"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 direct quotes from the application. Typos, including punctuation errors, come from the original application even though we have not inserted “(sic)” after each one. WJI has left them as is.
Name: Anderson M. Gansner
Appointed to: Milwaukee County Circuit Court
Appointment date: May 25, 2023 (term ends July 31, 2024)
Law School – Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois
Undergraduate – Pomona College, Claremont, California
High School – Madison West High, Madison, Wisconsin
Recent legal employment:
November 2013-present – Associate federal defender, Federal Defender Services of Wisconsin, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 2010-October 2013 – Associate, Gass Turek LLC, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Bar and administrative memberships:
State Bar of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
Colorado State Bar (currently inactive)
Illinois State Bar (currently inactive)
General character of practice:
I serve as an associate federal defender, representing indigent people in federal criminal cases. My organization does not have divisions, so I handle all types of cases at all levels. I defend clients in many drug, gun, and robbery cases, but also work on child pornography, human trafficking, arson, criminal immigration, postal theft, and mail, wire, and bank fraud cases. To give a few examples, I defended a businessman who lied to his bank about the collateral for a loan, a brain-damaged young woman who robbed several taxi drivers and faced a 31-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, and a married father of two who shined a laser pointer at an FBI surveillance plane. Substantively, I build relationships with my clients and their families, analyze discovery, investigate cases, research case law and my clients' backgrounds, study relevant current events and social science, negotiate with prosecutors, litigate pretrial motions, argue at sentencing and detention hearings, try cases, write appellate briefs and sentencing memos, assist clients in revocation proceedings, and seek post-sentencing relief.
Describe typical clients:
My typical clients are young, low-income men of color from urban Milwaukee. Most do not have a high school education and struggle with substance abuse, mental illness, developmental disorders, or trauma history. I have developed expertise in firearms and fraud cases, sentencing advocacy, and post-sentencing litigation. In 2019, I began helping clients convicted of crack cocaine offenses in the 1990s and 2000s and medically vulnerable clients seek early release from prison.
Number of cases tried to verdict: 5
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:
United States v. Randy Johnson, Case No. 14-cr-25 (E.D. Wis. 2014; Randa, J.). Along with my colleague Juval Scott, I defended Randy Johnson from February 2014 until October 2018. … Mr. Johnson had been sitting in an SUV with four family members and friends outside a liquor store. The SUV was running with its lights on, and the driver, Mr. Johnson's older sister, had just gone inside the store. But she had stopped the SUV a few feet too close to the nearest crosswalk, a loading zone under state law. Four police officers in two cars drove by, saw the SUV for a few seconds, then blocked it in with their squad cars. All four officers ran to the car, opened its doors, shined flashlights in the occupants' faces, and ordered them to put their hands in the air. The officers claimed they did all this to investigate a possible parking infraction. After officers found a gun on the floor of the SUV, Mr. Johnson was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. We moved to suppress, alleging that the police didn't watch the SUV long enough to reasonably suspect that it was illegally parked instead of properly loading or unloading. In addition, we argued that a parking violation is too trivial an offense to justify such a forceful seizure. We lost in the district court and again on appeal, but the Seventh Circuit granted rehearing en banc, which it hardly ever does. At the en banc argument, we thought we had enough votes to prevail. But after Judge Posner retired, the Seventh Circuit ruled against us, again. We filed for certiorari in the Supreme Court, but the petition was ultimately denied. I filed the pretrial motions, examined the officers at a pretrial hearing, represented Mr. Johnson at sentencing, wrote his appellate briefs and the petition for rehearing en banc, argued his case on appeal, and worked on his cert. petition. As far as its significance, we have all stopped in loading zones. No one should be forcefully seized by multiple officers simply for doing that. The stop also occurred in Milwaukee's 53206 neighborhood. Everyone in the car was Black; none of the police officers were. Thus the dissenting Seventh Circuit judges noted that police would never act this way in a wealthier, Whiter area. The case received some media attention, with commentators calling it a case of "parking while black." Although I remain disappointed in the result, I haven't seen a case since where officers conducted similar stops for parking infractions. I hope that the case helped discourage that behavior.
United States v. Trulunda Stenson, Case No. 16-cr-48 (E.D. Wis.; Pepper, J.). I represented Ms. Stenson from March 2016 to November 2017. … The government claimed my client had filed false tax returns: some for paying clients and others using stolen personal information. Trial lasted a week. We showed that other people had used Ms. Stenson's home to file and prepare false tax returns, and that no one had seen her prepare or submit the majority of the charged returns. Yet the jury found Ms. Stenson guilty on all counts. At her two-hour sentencing, the government asked for 54 months in prison, we asked for 25, and the court imposed 30, just six over the 24-month minimum. I was lead counsel at trial and sentencing. Ms. Stenson has since been released from prison. The case is significant because of the length of the trial, the complexity of the trial and sentencing issues, the impact the case had on me (showing how imperfect our legal system can be), and the impact it had on my client.
United States v. Dexter Anderson, Case No. 03-cr-261 (E.D. Wis.; Griesbach, J.). I represented Mr. Anderson from March to June of 2019. … Mr. Anderson was convicted of running a crack cocaine conspiracy in 2003 and 2004. By the time I met him, he had been in custody for 15 years. [Details redacted] I came in to help him with requesting a reduced sentence under the First Step Act: a December 2018 criminal justice reform bill. One of the Act's provisions allows for some defendants who were convicted of crack offenses to return to court and ask for lower sentences. Mr. Anderson had a long history as a pro se litigant, felt that his original case had gone poorly, and didn't trust me at first. At a hearing in Green Bay, where over a dozen of his family members drove up from Milwaukee, the court reduced his sentence from 25 years to time served, cutting several years off of his sentence. A few days later, his sisters threw him a birthday party at the Benihana in downtown Milwaukee. . . . This case was significant because of the impact it had on Mr. Anderson and his family and because it was the first contested First Step Act resentencing hearing in my district.
Experience in adversary proceedings before administrative bodies:
While in private practice, I represented pro bono a single mother sued by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF claimed that my client had received excess childcare benefits—money that had gone directly to her children's daycare providers—and was demanding that she pay back tens of thousands of dollars, more than twice her annual income, even though the overpayment was not my client’s fault. Rather, DCF had misclassified her job. I met with my client several times, filed motions to dismiss DCF’s case, and represented her at a hearing before an administrative law judge where I presented her and several other witnesses. The ALJ ruled against us, we appealed, and the state dropped the case, due to a legal issue that I had raised in one of our motions to dismiss.
Describe your non-litigation experience (e.g., arbitration, mediation).
While in civil practice, I participated in several mediations, with each one ultimately leading to a settlement. These included a contractual dispute between a health insurer and a subcontractor, and the negotiated buyout of a local small business. I have also worked on several commercial arbitration cases—in commercial construction disputes and a financial services matter—taking depositions, reviewing discovery, and drafting pleadings.
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization:
Volunteer for Deb Andraca and Emily Siegrist state assembly campaigns, 2020
Volunteer for Biden/Harris presidential campaign, 2020
Previous runs for public office: N/A
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last ten years: N/A
Professional or civic and charitable organizations:
Menasha Corporation Foundation, board member, 2010-2015
Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association, member, 2013-present
Milwaukee Bar Association, member, 2014-present
Friends of Estabrook Park, member, 2019-present
Friends of the Shorewood Public Library, member, 2019-present
National Association for the Public Defense, member, 2020-present
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service:
Beyond the DCF case described above, while in private practice I represented pro bono a young woman in a direct appeal of a robbery conviction where we challenged her sentence. While in law school, I voluntereed at the Bluhm Legal Clinic in Chicago, where I helped draft a civil complaint on behalf of a wrongfully convicted man who had been tortured into confessing by Chicago police. That case later settled for $5.5 million. Also working at the Bluhm Legal Clinic, I drafted and argued a successful motion to suppress that led to the dismissal of charges against a mentally ill man who was being retried for robbery. He had been convicted of stealing 50 cents and an adult bookstore token from a homeless man, and had already spent a decade in prison. See Brown v. Stemes, 304 F.3d 677 (7th Cir. 2002).
Why I want to be a judge:
Because I care about the people in my community.
I became a lawyer and a federal defender because I knew that our legal system doesn’t always live up to its ideals. The wealthy get one type of justice, while the poor get another; cases take years to resolve, leaving defendants, victims, and the injured unheard and confused; and judges regularly impose long prison sentences without considering their efficacy and their personal and financial toll. Many see the system as rigged and broken. They believe that the court system doesn’t care about and can’t address their problems.
As a public defender in the federal courts, I fight this perception by giving my clients the best defense possible. I do this by listening to and learning from them, showing them that I care about their lives and problems, and doing whatever I can to help them. But at the end of the day, I am just a defense attorney.
So I am applying to serve as a judge because I want to do more. I want to bring the same attention, care, and consideration that I strive to bring as a federal defender to judging. Although judges can’t pass budget bills or make charging decisions, they do have enormous discretion. As a judge I will use that discretion to help my community. In criminal matters, Wisconsin, and Milwaukee in particular, lies at the center of our country’s mass incarceration problem. So our judges have to do things differently. I will sentence defendants in the most cost-effective, sensible, and humane way. I will move cases forward to give victims certainty and to stop defendants from pleading guilty because they can’t get a trial date or make bail. I will fight against unnecessary revocations by keeping probationers in my court. And I will work to create meaningful interactions between victims and defendants, in effort to foster peace, closure, and understanding. In civil matters, I will offer to mediate my cases, hold early discovery conferences to prevent abusive practices, and move cases forward promptly to reduce the parties’ costs.
My overarching goal will be to show the people who come to my court that someone cares about them and their problems. I will do that by issuing timely, thoughtful, and accessible rulings, of course. But I will also show that by treating everyone in my courtroom with compassion and courtesy.
As this question suggests, judges are public servants. I want to spend the rest of my life in service to the community, helping make it safer, fairer, and more unified. And I believe that I can do that best by serving as a judge.
Describe which case in the past 25 years by the Wisconsin Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court you believe had a significant positive or negative impact on the people of Wisconsin.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. 519 (2012), upholding most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The decision’s main holding—that the individual mandate qualified as a tax and was thus constitutional—grabbed most of the headlines. But a second portion, dealing with Medicaid, was just as important.
The ACA expanded Medicaid to millions, by making more people eligible and covering almost all of the expansion’s cost. Each state operates their own Medicaid program, and the law gave states an easy choice. They could either accept the additional funding and cover more people as required, or they could reject the new funding and lose all federal Medicaid funding. But several states wished to keep their current Medicaid funding while turning down the expansion. So they sued, claiming that this choice was impermissibly coercive. And the Supreme Court agreed.
Legally, this was unprecedented. In prior decisions, like South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987), the Court had discussed whether an optional federal program might come with such strong incentives that it interfered with the powers reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment. But the Court had never found a program meeting these criteria. What’s more, Congress has always attached strings to money it gives to states. And Congress certainly had the power to repeal Medicaid and then replace it with an entirely new program. Nonetheless, since Medicaid comprises a large chunk of every state’s budget, the Court held that the expansion provision was too impactful and thus too coercive.
This decision has had serious consequences. Given the ability to refuse the Medicaid expansion, many states did. Studies estimate that nearly two million Americans don’t have health insurance as a result. Prior to the pandemic, more than 100,000 Wisconsin residents did not have access to Badgercare because the state rejected the Medicaid expansion. See Louise Norris, Wisconsin and the ACA's Medicaid expansion, Healthinsurance.org (June 14, 2020). The state instead gives money to help these residents buy insurance on the state’s ACA exchange. Id. Yet this has driven up the cost of all plans sold on the exchange. See Aditi P. Sen & Thomas DeLeire, Medicaid Expansion In Wisconsin Would Lower Premiums For Those With Private Insurance, Health Affairs (June 6, 2019). And not all of the affected residents ultimately buy insurance on the exchange, meaning that this policy choice, enabled by the Supreme Court’s decision, has resulted in thousands of low-income Wisconsin residents not having health insurance.
These uninsured residents may not seek treatment when they should. This leads to worse health outcomes. To be blunt, the uninsured live less healthy, more painful lives and die sooner. When they do seek treatment, they typically can’t afford it, so hospitals pass along or swallow those costs. This leads to higher bills for those with insurance and to hospitals closing or cutting back in poor areas. Plus, since the federal government would pay more of the state’s Medicaid costs if Wisconsin accepted the expansion, not doing so costs the state hundreds of millions of dollars a year. A recent estimate noted that expanding Medicaid would bring in $1.6 billion in federal funding over the next two years. Refusing this funding leads to higher taxes and takes money away from other state functions. In short, the Medicaid portion of the Sebelius decision has had an enormous negative impact on the people in our state.
Two or three judges whom I admire and why:
Many judges reach the right results. But the judges I admire most reach the right results and do so in the right way. They are unerringly careful with the facts, go out of their way to treat the parties and their arguments with respect, and issue clear, timely, thoughtful decisions.
One judge who embodies this is the Seventh Circuit’s Ilana Rovner. She is a career public servant and a legal pioneer. Judge Rovner was the first female supervisor in the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s Office, just the second female federal judge in Illinois, and the first woman on the Seventh Circuit. She and her parents were Jewish refugees who fled Latvia shortly before the Nazis invaded. Many of her relatives who stayed behind died in the Holocaust. But beyond her inspiring life, Judge Rovner is always kind and thoughtful and has a generous sense of humor. She asks questions respectfully, sincerely thanks the parties, and issues careful, thorough decisions. Judge Rovner has explained that she values the work that attorneys do and that she has “a lot of love” for her colleagues and for everyone in her courtroom. That comes through.
Another judge I deeply respect is Pamela Pepper of the Eastern District of Wisconsin. I have appeared in front of her dozens of times and had a week-long trial in her court. While I would run my courtroom differently and I don’t always agree with her decisions, Judge Pepper goes out of her way to explain herself, to treat attorneys with courtesy, and to connect with my clients. Judge Pepper is also willing to take risks. For instance, she is perhaps the only federal judge in Milwaukee who will impose a sentence below the parties’ joint recommendation. She has a tremendous work ethic, is eager to listen and to learn, and has no problem admitting that she doesn’t understand an argument and asking for clarification. These are traits that one must have to be an outstanding judge. Because Judge Pepper is so humble and considerate, jurors, attorneys, and parties appreciate and respect her. Like Judge Rovner, she broke glass ceilings as the district’s first female district judge and first female chief judge. Finally, I went to several trainings on trauma before the pandemic. Presenters explained how prevalent trauma is, especially in Milwaukee, and how going to court can trigger a person with a trauma history, preventing them from understanding and participating in court. The presenters then listed some ways that attorneys and judges can help de-stress traumatized individuals. As I listened to these suggestions, I realized that Judge Pepper already followed them. This shows how much thought and care she puts into her work.
I can’t be a trailblazer like Judge Rovner and Judge Pepper, at least not in the same way. But in terms of how I will act in court and how I will treat others, they are exactly the type of judges I will emulate.
The proper role of a judge:
As far as a judge’s core duties, a judge has to effectively learn, reason, and explain. Learning requires curiosity and diligence in each case, the crucial skill of listening—to the parties’ arguments, to witnesses—and the willingness to ask questions. Next, a judge has to reason fairly and effectively: applying the law to the facts without bias or prejudice. Then a judge has to explain decisions in a clear and accessible way. This allows the parties, the public, and any reviewing court to understand why a judge made a particular decision.
On top of this, a judge must have courage. Sometimes the just result is not what the parties want or what might play well in the newspaper. A judge must be willing to stick their neck out in order to do what’s right. But the job is not just about getting and explaining the right result. What the judge does along the way matters. Interacting with a judge in court is likely the closest anyone ever gets to an elected official. And people come to court because they have problems they can’t resolve, often ones that are humiliating or intensely stressful. The way a judge treats people shows either that our government cares about people and their problems, or that it doesn’t. So to do the job well, a judge has to model concern, consideration, and empathy.
This doesn’t mean giving the parties or attorneys free rein. Being considerate means respecting the time of everyone in court. A judge must be an efficient and creative courtroom manager, finding ways to maximize meaningful interactions and minimize delays and unneeded process.
Also, judges should always search for ways to improve themselves and the court system. This requires questioning established customs and for judges to take hard, regular looks at themselves. A judge has to fight against complacency, has to stay up on changes in the law and procedure, and has to be willing to try new approaches.
Finally, a judge must be accountable and accessible to the community outside of court. A judge should meet regularly with community groups and bar organizations, as well as the attorneys who practice in the judge’s court, not just to answer questions, but to learn and to understand how the judge can improve. This exposes a judge to new facts and ideas, helps the community understand the law and the legal system, and builds trust.
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