"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: Lisa A. McDougal
Appointed to: Richland County Circuit Court
Appointment date: June 2, 2022
Law School – University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
Undergraduate – University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
High School – West High School, Madison, Wisconsin
Recent legal employment:
June 2011-present – Assistant state public defender, Wisconsin
June 2005-June 2011 – General practice, McDougal Law Office, Avoca, Wisconsin
Bar and Administrative Memberships:
State Bar of Wisconsin
General character of practice:
Currently I serve as a public defender. I represent hundreds of clients each year primarily as defense counsel in criminal matters, both misdemeanors and all levels of felonies. I also represent clients in administrative revocation of probation and extended supervision matters, involuntary civil commitments, protective placement and guardianship matters, child protective services cases, termination of parental rights cases, paternity/child support matters, juvenile delinquency cases, and criminal extradition matters.
Describe typical clients:
Prior to working as a public defender, I worked extensively as a guardian ad litem in all types of cases (divorce, paternity, guardianship, protective placement, adoption, termination of parental rights). Now, as a trial attorney for the public defender, my typical client is an indigent criminal defendant. However, I also regularly represent juveniles and individuals (not necessarily indigent) subject to Chapter 51 proceedings.
Number of cases tried to verdict: 10+
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:
The first case of significance I have chosen is a criminal jury trial in which I acted as defense counsel. It happened to be a trial that my client won, but that isn't why I see it as significant. It struck me at the time, and it continues to impress me today, that this is a great example of why our criminal justice system is as good as it is. Any time a criminal defendant indicates that they want a trial by their peers, the system should, and in my experience, does make room for it. It doesn't matter whether the case is a garden-variety misdemeanor or a case with issues of high societal importance. In this instance, my client demanded a jury trial. Without hesitation, the court scheduled the trial in a timely manner, the parties prepared their cases, the clerk assembled a jury, and the prosecution was put to its burden. This right is enshrined in our Constitution whenever jail or prison is a potential outcome. In Wisconsin, we take that right extremely seriously. Every court and every judge I have ever appeared in front of has agreed that preserving and facilitating the exercise of that right is paramount.
The second matter of significance I recount is actually a series of matters. These are cases where I have brought pre-trial motions asking the Court to determine whether there has been a violation of my clients' fourth amendment rights. This is very familiar work to a public defender like me. … By and large, every circuit court made a careful review of the facts related to each motion and made thoughtful determinations as to the legality of (what is usually) police behavior. In a day and age where police action is under the microscope, the everyday work of attorneys and judges who carefully review, litigate, and ultimately act as a check on state-sanctioned power and authority is important. I am persuaded that when the lines of authority are clearly and correctly drawn by our courts, all Wisconsinites are safer. This type of careful and thoughtful scrutiny benefits everyone and the significance of such motion practice should never be underestimated.
(Due to client confidentiality, I will not be submitting identifying information for these cases. I can address this with the committee if requested)
Experience in adversary proceedings before administrative bodies:
Most of my experience before an administrative agency is as defense counsel in revocation of probation and extended supervision cases. In this context, I have participated in many contested hearings in front of an administrative law judge. I also have limited experience representing clients in administrative health and human services substantiation of child abuse matters.
Describe your non-litigation experience (e.g., arbitration, mediation).I have limited experience participating in mediation as guardian ad litem, typically in child custody situations.
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization: Not applicable
Previous runs for public office: None listed
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last ten years: None listed
Professional or civic and charitable organizations:
Iowa County Bar Association, president, 2008-2016
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service: None listed
Why I want to be a judge -- I want to serve as a judge because I want to help people from all walks of life achieve correct and just results in their legal disputes. I want to do so while affording those same people the opportunity to be heard and for their positions to be respected. I believe my natural strengths coupled with my experience as a trial lawyer make me well-suited to fulfill the obligations and duties of that role.
I have spent the last sixteen years litigating cases in many courtrooms and in front of many different judges. I have observed firsthand what is required to be a good trial court judge. I believe that I possess the temperament, skills, and experience to preside over a court in a way that will advance justice, create and maintain a forum where litigants can be fairly heard, and maintain a respectful and efficient environment. I am very comfortable in a courtroom setting and enjoy interacting with others. I am articulate and able to express myself well both orally and in writing. I have been described as collegial and friendly. I am able to adapt to different scenarios, and to handle criticism and difficult situations.
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.
I believe the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Arizona v. Gant had a significant positive impact on the people of Wisconsin. Gant is a Fourth Amendment case involving the search of a vehicle incident to lawful arrest. The Supreme Court held that exceptions to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement in the context of a traffic stop culminating in an arrest and subsequent search of a vehicle must be justified by concerns for officer safety or the preservation of evidence. The decision distinguished and effectively overruled a previous Supreme Court decision (New York v. Belton). Belton led to an expansion of the so-called “automobile exception” in practice, whereby officers were searching vehicles upon arrest of individuals without reason. Gant stated there must be a reasonable belief that the vehicle must contain evidence of the crime or that there is a threat to officer safety in order for a search to occur.
While the vast majority of Wisconsin citizens will never be subject to an arrest or to a law enforcement search of their car, this case nevertheless has a positive impact on our citizens. Gant is just one example of a case that reinforces the right we all possess to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, redrawing the line of what is legally permissible in this situation in favor of individual privacy interests.
Vigilance by the courts surrounding individual privacy interests is of positive significance for Wisconsinites. The obvious overarching purpose for the Constitution’s warrant requirement is meant to provide an extra layer of protection for the average citizen. While carving out exceptions to the requirement is an expected and necessary occurrence over time as particular fact situations necessitate, nevertheless creating blanket exceptions that swallow the rule imperil the safeguards intended under the fourth amendment.
The average Wisconsin resident may not ever have the opportunity to directly apply Gant to their situation. Regardless, the Court’s willingness to address and halt the slippery slide toward all-encompassing exceptions to the warrant rule is good for every citizen. The privacy interests implicated by warrantless searches in general ultimately affect us all and the permissible exceptions should be narrowly drawn.
Two or three judges whom I admire and why:
I particularly admire Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Both were not only brilliant jurists in my opinion, both of course made history in their own right and forged a path for women lawyers and women in general. In a profession dominated by men, it is all but impossible to learn about each of them and be anything but moved by their courage and tenacity. Their determination to practice law in the face of so much opposition and criticism speaks to the exceptional qualities each possessed, including the singular focus required to excel in their fields.
Their perseverance, work ethic, longevity, and impassioned dedication to the law were hallmarks of both women’s careers and lives. They served as champions of equality for all, advocates for the marginalized, and a direct inspiration to me to do more to better the lives of others through my work.
The proper role of a judge:
First and foremost, the role of a judge is to decide matters fairly and impartially. Additionally, judges have an obligation to know the law, competently analyze fact situations and apply the law to those facts. This requires intelligence, integrity, and independence. When issues are unfamiliar, a judge must research the law to find answers and/or effectively employ the parties to do so. When cases involve issues that require discretion and equitable results, a good judge must utilize common sense and good judgment guided by sound reasoning, understanding that every decision affects human beings and is therefore important.
Judges must be mindful that their position is one of public trust, and must comport themselves publicly and privately in a way that promotes confidence in the independence of their decisions specifically and the judiciary generally.
Extending courtesy and patience toward others is no less important to the role of a trial court judge. I have witnessed judges that are patient and courteous, and others that are less so at times. All of these experiences have left an impression on me about the importance of extending civility and thoughtful regard to all as a matter of habit.
A judge is also a manager, having to administer a court schedule that balances the ability of litigants to be heard while promoting the prompt resolution of matters. I have spent the last decade managing my heavy public defender caseload. Though not a comprehensive court calendar, I have nevertheless had to learn how to keep up with the demands of many, many cases at once. The ability to work well with the clerk of court is equally critical in achieving the most efficient and fair schedule possible.
Finally, a good judge is also an engaged member of the community, helping to address, in a larger sense, some of the ills that intersect with the court system. In Richland County, like so many rural Wisconsin counties, there are issues of poverty, mental illness, and alcohol/drug abuse that are prevalent themes in the court system. Additionally, economic, racial, and social disparities consistently play a role in undermining fair and equitable outcomes in a courtroom. Raising and maintaining awareness about the existence of and solutions to these problems is the way to achieve consistently fair and just outcomes. Utilizing evidence-based decision-making whenever possible helps to address historical and systemic bias. Likewise, developing a rapport with local law enforcement agencies so as to promote public safety in a way that addresses dangerous and unwanted behavior while protecting the vulnerable and disadvantaged is critical.
Enthusiastically supporting programs like treatment courts is one concrete way to help to bring some meaningful change to the community. I have a firm belief in the efficacy of the treatment court model. Additionally, understanding what resources are available in the community and how to utilize those resources helps judges find solutions to problems and disputes. Regular dialogue with stakeholders in these areas helps connect those needing resources with those providing them.
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