"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. Grammar mistakes and 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: Mark A. Huesmann
Appointed to: La Crosse County Circuit Court
Appointment date: July 6, 2023 (effective July 31, 2023, to a term ending July 31, 2024)
Law School – University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota
Undergraduate – University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
High School – Sheboygan Falls High, Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin
Recent legal employment:
April 2020-present – Municipal court judge, Coulee Region Joint Municipal Court, Onalaska, Wisconsin
August 2013-present – Teaching professor, business law, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
January 1996-present – Attorney/owner, Huesmann Law Office, LLC, (earlier Huesmann Law Office, S.C.), Holmen, Wisconsin
I enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1986. I completed ROTC in college and was commissioned in 1990. I was mobilized for a year in 2003 (Fort McCoy) and was deployed to Afghanistan and other areas in the Middle East in 2010-2011. I retired as a lieutenant colonel in July, 2014. Discharge: Honorable. Highest Award Received: Bronze Star Medal.
Bar and administrative memberships:
State Bar of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
Minnesota State Bar (voluntarily lapsed in 2013)
General character of practice:
I am a general practice trial attorney and have tried civil and criminal cases in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Practice areas include, but are not limited to: criminal defense, civil litigation, family law, trusts and estates, guardianship, bankruptcy, real estate, and business law.
Describe typical clients:
I practice in a small town and clients have run the gamut from public defender appointments to business planning and consultation. My law practice is general and the client base is broad and diverse.
Number of cases tried to verdict: Approximately 18-20
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:
Portage County Case 19-CF-259 – The incident occurred in 2012 and the defendant was charged with 2nd Degree Sexual Assault in 2019. This case is significant as it was charged under the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) project. It presented the intersection of complicated issues related to race, sexual assault, and delayed prosecution. The defendant was a Black man accused of raping a white woman in a rural Wisconsin county. I represented the defendant (through SPD) for three years and filed significant pretrial motions. Two weeks prior to the August 2022 trial date, significant conflict developed with the client and I had to withdraw as counsel. The SPD appointed new counsel and defendant was finally acquitted in April, 2023. The successor defense attorney (Gary Kryshak) credited my pretrial work on the case with defendant's ultimate acquittal.
Coulee Region Joint Municipal Court – As municipal judge, our court encountered a difficult 13-year-old juvenile … with a disturbing pattern of behavior. Between March - December 2021 [redacted] accumulated 12 different citations some of which involved threats of violence related to knives and guns. The juvenile demonstrated a complete disregard for law enforcement, failed to show for mandatory court dates, and had numerous open citations. I view municipal court as an early intervention tool for juveniles and my goal is to identify at-risk children and connect them to services in the community. This cannot be accomplished when neither the juvenile nor the parents show for court. The enforcement mechanisms through municipal court are few and limited. Through research, I discovered that circuit court sanctions can be used for juveniles who continue to violate municipal court orders. Accordingly, I petitioned the circuit court to impose additional sanctions such as juvenile detention or electronic home monitoring. This had never been done in La Crosse County, but I obtained the support of the court to proceed with that course of action. This approach allowed all concerned to develop a compliance plan for [redacted] I learned that sometimes a judge should explore different avenues for problem solving.
In the Matter of R.M. (Attorneys Mark A. Huesmann and Michael J. Cohen), Great Lakes Cheese, Inc. GLC (Attorney Erik Eisenmann), and Holmen Cheese, LLC (Attorney Robert E. Shumaker) – This is not a case where a lawsuit was filed. It involved an employee (R.M., a food scientist) who left GLC in 2021 to work for a competitor, Holmen Cheese. The employee did not have a non-compete, but the former company threatened litigation based on the idea the former employee might reveal or use proprietary information in the new job.
I had been teaching about non-competes and circumstances surrounding those for years. This case presented interesting facts. Eventually, we employed a subject matter expert as co-counsel (Cohen) and the case resolved favorably for the client. The matter took months to resolve, and it raised a host of possibilities for causes of action from both the employee, the gaining employer, and the former employer. It was significant being part of a group of attorneys engaging in the problem-solving process and using informal ADR to resolve a complex problem that appeared destined for expensive litigation.
Experience in adversary proceedings before administrative bodies:
I have represented clients in worker's compensation, unemployment compensation, probation revocation, and Social Security disability hearings.
Describe your non-litigation experience (e.g., arbitration, mediation).
I have officiated approximately 70 wedding ceremonies.
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization:
I managed Judge Todd W. Bjerke's first judicial campaign in 2007 in which an incumbent judge was defeated.
Previous runs for public office and appointments:
Coulee Region Joint Municipal Court judge, elected 2020
La Crosse County Court commissioner, appointed 2013
La Crosse County Board, defeated 2003
Holmen School Board, elected 2002 and 2005
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last ten years:
Judge Janet Protasiewicz, Wisconsin Supreme Court, 2023 (financial support)
Professional or civic and charitable organizations:
2002-2008 and 2018-present – Holmen Area Foundation, board member and past president
2022-present – Study Committee on Policing, committee member
2010-2019 – La Crosse Area Veteran Mentor Program, legal counsel and board member
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service:
Study Committee on Policing. One of 18 members appointed by the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors to study issues and make recommendations related to policing in the county. Appointed in 2022 and work is ongoing.
I served as legal counsel for the La Crosse Area Veteran Mentor Program and that work included obtaining 501(c)(3) status for the same.
Between 2000-2002 I was one of two La Crosse Regional High School Mock Trial coordinators overseeing the annual tournament.
Why I want to be a judge —
My parents grew up in Germany under the Nazi regime and Adolph Hitler. They immigrated to America in the mid-1950s. I was raised in a small town in rural Wisconsin. My parents could not afford to send me to college, so 1 joined the Army and the GI Bill helped me get an education. My parents saw the worst of government, and I saw the best of it. My parents escaped a system of oppression and inequality so I could have better opportunities. This background informs who l am. A fair and impartial system of justice is the last line of defense from totalitarianism. This idea was inculcated in me from a young age. I want to become a judge to ensure that everyone - regardless of their station in life - receives dignity and respect as well as equality and equity.
I have worn different hats thus far in my career: municipal judge, court commissioner, lawyer, soldier, academic, and business owner. I have been privileged to meet people from many different, walks of life. The people I have met all want and demand the same thing - a system of justice that encourages accountability and positive outcomes for society. I want to help achieve those goals.
My work with families going through trauma - whether in the context of family law, criminal defense, or juveniles appearing before the municipal court, has provided me with a deeper understanding of the human condition. I have seen the positive and transformative effects of properly addressing the crises surrounding mental health and addiction. I believe in the approach of treatment courts. Focusing on these areas ensures accountability for offenders and considers the impacts on victims. I was a founding member of our Veterans' Court Initiative, which resulted in the creation of the La Crosse Area Veteran Mentor Program and then the La Crosse Area Veterans Court. We are taking greater strides in Wisconsin towards addressing these issues. But significant disparities still exist in our legal system for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color members of our community, those who identify as LGBTQIA, and how victims of crime are treated. I embrace these positive changes toward fundamental fairness and equality, and 1 want to further that work by serving the people of La Crosse County and the State of Wisconsin as a circuit court judge.
As a general practice attorney, I have enjoyed diverse experiences in the law. That background has greatly aided my work as a municipal court judge. I am intellectually curious and would enjoy the challenges of being a circuit court judge.
I have spent a lifetime helping people and want to continue that service to my community and the State.
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.
The case of Mayo v. Wisconsin Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund, 383 Wis. 2d 1, 914 N.W.2d 678 (Wis. 2018) has had a negative impact on the people of Wisconsin. Mayo upheld a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases and reversed a Court of Appeals decision that found the cap "unconstitutional on its face because it ... impos[es] an unfair and illogical burden only on catastrophically injured patients, thus denying them the equal protection of the laws." With its decision in Mayo, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Ferdon v. Wisconsin Patients Comp. Fund, 284 Wis. 2d 573, 2005 WL 125, 701 N.W.2d 440 (Wis. 2005).
The issue of 1egislative caps on non-economic damages has a history stretching back to 1975. Since that time, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has weighed in twice and may revisit the issue a third time. The upshot is whether statutory caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases violates equal protection laws. The issue could be resolved if the legislature would simply allow juries to determine the appropriate amount of damages in medical malpractice cases.
We impanel juries for civil cases under the Seventh Amendment. Those juries have two primary purposes: determine questions of liability and establish the appropriate level of damages for that liability.
Regulating how much a jury can award under the Mayo scenario represents a usurpation and unwarranted intrusion into the powers of the judicial branch and raises a host of Constitutional questions. America has been trending towards corralling more people into binding arbitration and then limiting damages when those litigants can actually access the courts. It represents a concerted effort to diminish the power of a jury to hold bad and wealthy actors accountable and Mayo is illustrative in that regard.
The case has other, far-reaching impacts as it established the rational basis standard would henceforth be used for analyzing the constitutionality of government legislation under similar challenges.
Two or three judges whom I admire and why:
Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson. While a law student at the University of North Dakota, the Law Women’s Caucus brought Chief Justice Abrahamson to speak at the annual Helen Hamilton Day recognition. Being one of the most recognized progressive female jurists in the nation, this was particularly noteworthy and important as North Dakota was and remains a conservative state. Her presentation and question and answer session impressed an entire room of young, future lawyers. Chief Justice Abrahamson's life accomplishments preceded her. Her address to the law school was remarkable and served to inspire the work I would do as an attorney. Eleven years later I had the privilege of appearing before her as I argued a case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. State v. Haines, 261 Wis.2d 139, 2003 WI 39, 661 N.W.2d 72 (2003). I met her several times since law school. Chief Justice Abrahamson was erudite, her legal reasoning was inciteful, and she was inspirational.
Judge Todd W. Bjerke. Judge Bjerke has been a trusted friend and mentor for my entire legal career. We began our relationship as adversaries: he was an assistant district attorney, and 1 was a defense attorney. He was the consummate professional prosecutor and approached his work with an even hand and firm grasp of the facts and law. That personal and professional respect led to me managing his first successful judicial campaign and we defeated an incumbent judge. Judge Bjerke's deliberative approach and his willingness to consider all viewpoints was very evident to me during his judicial campaign. He has brought those same attributes to the bench. I was appointed as one of his court commissioners at his investiture. Judge Bjerke and I are both veterans and share a passion for helping troubled veterans involved with the court system. This led to us working together in forming the Veterans' Court Initiative, which resulted in the creation of the La Crosse Area Veteran Mentor Program and the La Crosse Area Veterans Court. While attorneys and parties might not always agree with his decisions, they leave the courtroom understanding his reasoning and methodology. Judge Bjerke takes pains to ensure everyone receives careful and thoughtful treatment. I will emulate that approach. He is a considerate man with the highest degree of personal and professional integrity.
The proper role of a judge:
Perhaps the most important and proper role of a judge is to listen. Early in my career, a more experienced attorney asked if I wrote out all my questions for a witness. l did. She told me not to do that and said, “When you write out the questions, the focus will be more on making sure you are checking those questions off the list, and you are not really listening to what the witness says. Have an outline or jot some notes and as you ask the questions, you are more attuned to what the witness is saying, and everything then revolves around those answers.” That advice was instructive. but also got to a deeper point: good listening is an art that must be practiced diligently.
Some of the most consequential work by a judge is evaluating what is said in the courtroom. Lives depend on the judge receiving that information, properly.
What makes an effective judge is personal restraint. Much is presented and your job is to sift and winnow. A judge must apply as much objectivity as possible to things and avoid the tendency toward subjective conclusions. Therefore listening - and a good dash of humility - is vital. It takes discipline and self-regulation.
Being a judge is not just about making decisions - it also brings the power of possibilities. It is about marshaling the resources and opening doors that can only be done through a court order. Whether that is treatment, tools for intervention, or using punishment as deterrence, this is within the proper purview of a judge. No other position in our society allows for that sort of gatekeeping, authority, and allocation of assets. The public is best served by a judge understanding how to properly utilize this host of options.
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