Evers' judges: Emily Lonergan
"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. WJI also will continue to profile former Gov. Scott Walker's appointees who are still in office.
Name: Emily I. Lonergan
Appointed to: Outagamie County Circuit Court
Appointment date: Aug. 19, 2019. (Elected to a six-year term in April 2020)
Law School – Marquette University Law School
Undergraduate – Marquette University
High School – Xavier High School, Appleton, WI
Recent legal employment:
2017-present – Attorney, Peterson, Berk & Cross, Appleton
2011-2017 – Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, Milwaukee
Bar and Administrative Memberships:
Wisconsin State Bar
Eastern District of Wisconsin – Federal Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
General character of practice before becoming a judge: Current practice is primarily personal injury and criminal defense. Also has handled a wide variety of civil and municipal cases.
Describe typical clients: I represent clients from all walks of life. There is no commonality in terms of age or socioeconomic status. I have represented public figures with large support networks, clients who suffer from serious mental illnesses, and clients who have no family or friends left in their lives. The one thing that most of my clients do have in common is that they are experiencing what are often the worst moments of their lives--whether they have experienced a catastrophic collision, or whether they have been accused of a crime.
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: 10
List up to five significant trials, appeals, or other legal matters in which you participated as a judge or lawyer in the past seven years:
State v. David E. Meyer – 2017 – I represented David Meyer, who was charged with two counts of Homicide by Intoxicated Use of a Vehicle (2nd and subsequent) for an incident that occurred in August of 2017. My client had no prior criminal record prior to this event, and was living a pro-social lifestyle. He ultimately entered a plea.
Janasik et al v. Eckstein – 2012 – Represented the mother of a young man who died in a homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle civil case.
State v. George Steven Burch – 2016 – This case involved the intentional homicide of a young woman. Initially, the young woman's boyfriend was accused of the crime and was incarcerated. I, along with two other attorneys at my prior law firm, represented the boyfriend. We did some substantial investigation and evidence preservation, and had multiple meetings and phone calls with District Attorney (David) Lasee. Our client was innocent and, two weeks after his arrest, I was able to escort him out of the Brown County Jail. Another individual (George Steven Burch} was later accused of the crime and ultimately convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Harrison et al v Eberts MD et al – 2009 – Complex medical malpractice case.
Markuas et al v. Orsburn et al – 2014 – Dog bite case with difficult fact scenario.
Experience in adversary proceedings before administrative bodies: I have only limited experience in adversary proceedings before an administrative agency or commission, which primarily consists of an investigation for a potential disciplinary matter in a professional licensing case with the Department of Safety and Professional Services. My other dealings with administrative agencies or administrative law judges are typically not adversarial in nature, such as administrative suspension review hearings in OWI cases or the approval of a settlement in a case involving worker's compensation.
Previous runs for political office: None.
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization: Volunteered for former Outagamie Circuit Judge Joseph Troy during his campaigns.
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last six years:
Lisa Neubauer, State Supreme Court
Rebecca Dallet, State Supreme Court
JoAnne Kloppenburg, State Supreme Court
Paul Rifelj, Milwaukee County Circuit Court
Jean Kies, Milwaukee County Circuit Court
Ed Fallone, State Supreme Court
Professional or civic and charitable organizations:
State Bar of Wisconsin Public Education Committee, 2013-2019
State Bar of Wisconsin Mock Trial Committee, Chair, 2013-present
Wisconsin Election Protection Legal Coordinating Committee, 2014-2017
Wisconsin Association for Justice, 2011-present
Wisconsin Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2011-present
Special Olympics of Wisconsin, 2013-2014
Marquette University Law School, attorney moot court coach, 2011-2014
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service: While I have volunteered for various other organizations during the course of my career (Election Protection, the Moot Court Program as a coach, and Special Olympics as a coach, for example), undoubtedly the most volunteer hours I have committed to any one project has been to the high school mock trial program. The program helped shape my own decision to become a lawyer when I was a participant in high school, and I am hopeful that by giving back to the program as an adult I can help to shape the decisions for future lawyers in our state.
Involvement in business interests: Not applicable.
Why I want to be a judge – I have been passionate about the law since I was old enough to have something to be passionate about....After earning my law degree I coached mock trial for a Milwaukee Public School charter school for two years. During my first year of coaching and in our very first practice, I asked the students what interaction, if any, they had had with the legal system. The answers varied from juvenile delinquency and truancy to foreclosure cases. Of those that had interacted with the legal system, not one had left that interaction with a positive impression of lawyers and judges. The distinction between the challenges and opportunities those students had during their senior year of high school, as contrasted with the position I was in at the same age, has stayed with me....
Judges can leave positive or negative impressions on litigants, lawyers, jurors and everyone who comes into their courtrooms. These impressions are part of what forms the basis of the public perception of the legal system. Judges are in a unique position to help foster respect and confidence in our legal system. Regardless the outcome of a case, a judge has the opportunity to treat each person with dignity, fairness and respect. If appointed, I would be honored to serve the people of Wisconsin as a judge, and to work hard to leave a positive impression on all those who would enter my courtroom.
Describe which case in the past 25 years by the Wisconsin Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court you believe had the greatest positive or negative impact on the people of Wisconsin or our democracy.
One case that had a positive impact on the people of Wisconsin was Belding v. Demoulin, (2014)....I was acutely aware of this case as it was being heard by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, because my dad, Kevin Lonergan, presented an amicus curiae oral argument on this case. The case involved stacking and the common drive-other-car exclusion found in many automobile insurance policies. In sum, the collision occurred during a time when there was in effect a statute prohibiting anti-stacking clauses in insurance policies. "Stacking” refers to a plaintiff’s ability to access more than one insurance policy for the same claim when recovery under the first policy alone would be inadequate.
The dispute in the case arose over whether a drive-other-car exclusion would stand in light of a statute prohibiting anti-stacking clauses. The drive-other-car exclusion (which was also explicitly permitted by statute) operated to prohibit recovery on a second policy when that a driver was operating a vehicle other than the named vehicle in the policy, which, at the time, was directly contrary to the statute prohibiting anti-stacking clauses in insurance policies.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin unanimously interpreted the statutes in such a way that rendered meaning to all clauses, by finding that the statute prohibiting anti-stacking clauses trumped the drive-other-car exclusion statute. In this way, the statute prohibiting anti-stacking clauses maintained its unambiguous meaning, yet the drive-other-car exclusion would still be applicable in other circumstances.
While the legislature has since changed the statute, this case had a significant impact on victims of car collisions for those claims that occurred during the period of time that stacking was permitted. Although we are currently under an anti-stacking statutory scheme, there is a very real possibility that this could change back again in the future, at which time the Belding case will once again become an important precedent impacting the recoveries of many residents and accident victims of our state.
Beyond the practical impact of the case, it was an important case in another respect: the Belding decision was a unanimous decision made during a time of a fractured Wisconsin Supreme Court. It was a decision that was made without respect to partisan mindsets or beliefs on the Court. It represents a moment in which all seven justices were able to unite in order to apply the law in a fair and impartial manner, without regard for their differences, or for an outcome-based decision.
Identify two or three judges or justices whom you admire and explain why.
One judge I admire who is now in private practice is Judge Joseph Troy. I have a personal connection with Judge Troy; our families have been longtime friends. This relationship has given me the opportunity to get to know Judge Troy as a friend and a mentor, in addition to as a judge. I have followed his career, and had a front row seat to watch Judge Troy’s many honors, including becoming Chief Judge of the 8th Judicial District and ultimately Chief of the State’s Chief Circuit Judges. I was quite young when Judge Troy joined the judiciary at an experience level not far from my own experience level at the time of this application (he had been practicing for seven years when he took the bench; I have been practicing for eight).
I respected Judge Troy as a child on a personal level. As I became more passionate about the law, however, I began to appreciate Judge Troy’s career as a judge. Judge Troy was a dedicated circuit court judge. He was always prepared and willing to put in the work necessary to come to a well-reasoned conclusion. His decisions were absent any hint of partiality. He treated everyone in his courtroom with respect. He held himself to the highest ethical standards, and accordingly expected the same from the litigants practicing in front of him....
"I would argue that the proper role of a judge is to apply the existing law to the facts that are unique to each case, but to do so in a prepared and impartial manner." – Outagamie Circuit Judge Emily I. Lonergan
There are many other judges and justices whom I admire, both those that are currently practicing and those that have retired. On the appellate level, I have always admired the brave trailblazing justices who have paved the path for women in the judiciary. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Shirley Abrahamson (among others) have all done exactly that. These justices have had to put up with years of gender inequality within their own career paths, and their brave decisions to pursue positions on the highest courts despite the obstacles facing them have helped to pry open the door for female attorneys who strive to join the judiciary.
If I were selected by the Governor for the judiciary, I would strive to emulate those qualities that I observed over Judge Troy’s twenty-year career on the bench, and I would work hard to continue to blaze a path for the women and minority judges who would come after me.
Describe the proper role of a judge.
The role of a judge is to fairly and impartially apply the law to the facts of each particular case. Judges should conduct themselves with civility, humility, and diligence. Judges also have the responsibility to be leaders in their communities and to support efforts and initiatives that help the legal system function more efficiently, fairly, and in ways that improve people’s lives....
I think it is essential that a judge be committed to impartiality and equal justice to all, “without respect to persons.” This oath requires the best in all who serve as judges. It requires acknowledging and confronting implicit biases, rather than ignoring them or pretending they do not exist. It requires that judges be aware and sensitive to cultural or language barriers that may impact people’s perceptions and understanding of the law and justice.
Also part and parcel to this commitment is a dedication to put in as many hours as necessary in order to reach a logical and well-reasoned decision. Each litigant deserves the respect of having a judge who is prepared and knowledgeable about the law and how the law applies to the individual’s unique facts.
As such, I would argue that the proper role of a judge is to apply the existing law to the facts that are unique to each case, but to do so in a prepared and impartial manner. If appointed, I would dedicate myself to putting in as many hours as necessary to be prepared for each case and impartial on each matter before me.
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