"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: Mark G. Schroeder
Appointed to: Outagamie Country Circuit Court
Appointment date: March 19, 2021 (elected to a six-year term on April 5, 2022)
Law School – University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
Undergraduate – University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
Associate – Mid-State Technical College, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
High School – Lincoln High, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
Recent legal employment:
May 2014-present – Family Court commissioner, Outagamie County, Appleton, Wisconsin
March 2011-May 2014 – Assistant corporation counsel, Outagamie County
March 2003-May 2011 – Assistant district attorney, Outagamie County
Bar and Administrative Memberships:
State Bar of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
General character of practice:
Immediately after law school my practice was primarily civil litigation in nature while I worked with a firm then called Coyn Niess Schultz Becker & Bauer in Madison. That firm specialized in insurance defense in personal injury, medical malpractice, and worker's compensation cases. While there I also represented a few clients who were plaintiffs in personal injury cases and contractual disputes on an occasional basis as those cases came into the firm. I left that practice in part due to a desire to move into a criminal legal practice and in part due to my own experiences working in an industrial setting where coworkers were injured and on one occasion killed and my resulting personal discomfort with defending woker compensation cases.
I spent a little less than nine years in criminal practice as a trial prosecutor, maintaining a primarily felony caseload for all but the first few months of that period. I spent two of those years as a sensitive crimes prosecutor working on sexual assault and child abuse trials and the balance prosecuting violent or weapons related offenses. During that time frame I participated in somewhere between 40 and 50 jury trials and was in court nearly every day.
In 2011, I took a position in the Outgamie County Corporation Counsel's office, where my practice consisted of representing the County in civil litigation, mental health commitments, guardianships, child support enforcement, collections, while providing legal advice to the County Executive, the Sheriff and various county officials. During that time I was in court nearly every day. I also appeared on behalf of the County in both the Court of Appeals and on one occasion before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Since 2014, I have served as Family Court Commissioner. I preside over family law cases, civil injunctions, small claims actions, guardianships and mental health commitments. In the past seven years I have presided over thousands of contested post judgment family law hearings and evidentiary hearings in civil injunction cases.
Describe typical clients:
My typical clients have ranged from insurance companies and their insured parties during my civil practice early in my career to the State of Wisconsin and Outagamie County during my years in the public sector.
As a prosecutor I had frequent contact with victims of crimes, and while they were not my clients, I did often represent interests that mirrored theirs as I represented the interests of the State of Wisconsin.
My areas of specialization have changed over the years as I moved into different practice areas. As a prosecutor I initially specialized in sensitive crimes prosecution and then violent and weapons related offenses, as well as conspiracy cases related to violent or weapons related offenses. While I was in the Corporations Counsel's office with Outagamie County, I specialized in mental health committment cases both at the trial level and on appeal before the Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. I also advised county officials in municipal law issues.
Number of cases tried to verdict: Approximately 45
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:
Mental commitment of Melanie L. – 12AP99, 2013 WI 67 - Court of Appeals Dist. III, Wisconsin Supreme Court …. While I was not involved at the Circuit Court hearing, I handled the case befor the Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The issue on appeal was whether the County had met its burden of proof regarding the involuntary medication order at a hearing to extend an existing commitment. I drafted appellate briefs before the Court of Appeals without upheld the involuntary medication order. I also drafted briefs before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and appeared for oral argument on February 26th, 2013. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals on a 4-3 vote and attempted to clarify the evidence necessary and the evidentiary standard trial courts should apply in determining whether to issue an involuntary medication order. The Supreme Court ruled that the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard and that the evidence introduced at trial was insufficient to sustain the involuntary medication order. That case, and its progeny, have helped clarify for counties and committed persons the circumstances in which medication may be involuntarily administered. This cases is routinely cited by counsel and courts since it was issued and was relied upon by the Wisconsin Supreme Court as recently as October 2020.
Diane M. Stumph vs. Oneida Tribe – Outagamie Case No.: 15CV1036…. This case was a harassment injunction petition brought by Ms. Stumph against the Oneida Tribe as a corporate entity, specific agencies for the Tribe including its Police Department, its Zoning Department, as well as individual officials with the Tribe including zoning officers and police officers. While harassment injunction cases are extremely significant to the litigants themselves they are rarely complex or significant from a legal perspective. In this instance, however, the Petitioner sought to enjoing the Tribe and officials of the Tribe from engaging in activities they were otherwise authorized to engage in on the allegation that the Petitioner, while she owned property within the bounds of the Oneida Reservation, was not a tribal member and was therefore not subject to tribal regulations. The case continued over multiple hearings and required repeated rulings on summary judgment motions brought on grounds ranging from procedural jurisdictional defects to sovereign immunity. It also ultimately involved analyses of whether the Tribe had unintentionally waived its sovereign immunity defense, whether Petitioner had modified the ownership structure of her business specifically to avoid regulation by the Tribe, and if so, whether that action was timely and effective for that purpose, and whether the specific officials named individually were acting in a personal or official capacity during their interactions with the Petitioner. Over the course of multiple hearings the cases against individual Respondents were dismissed on varied grounds on jurisdictional defects, summary judgment at the close of Petitioner's case, and then ultimately on my conclusion that the Tribe had not waived its sovereign immunity, that it had the authority to issue zoning orders against the Petitioner's business property, and that the individuals named were acting in their official capacities rather than as individuals. My decisions were upheld on appeal.
Mental commitment of Michael H. – 2013AP1638, 2014 WI 127.… I represented Outagamie County before the trial court and the Court of Appeals in this matter which again went on for review before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The Court in this matter attempted to clarify the evidence required for a person to be found "dangerous" pursuant to Wis. Stat. s. 51.20, and area of law it continues to attempt to develop and clarify as recently as this year. I prepared and submitted briefs for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals which then upheld the decision of the trial court. While the case was pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court I began preparing briefs for that Court. I was appointed Family Court Commissioner before the briefs were finalized and filed and the case was taken over by a colleague in the Corporation Counsel's office. Over the course of the next few months I consulted with co-counsel on a repeated basis as he revised the briefs I had begun preparing and in anticipation of oral argument before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The Court ultimately upheld the trial court and Court of Appeals. This case continues to be cited by courts and counsel on issues of dangerousness in mental commitment cases.
Experience in adversary proceedings before administrative bodies:
While in civil practice early in my career I appeared before Administrative Law Judges in worker's compensation cases on several occasions from 2002 - 2003.
Describe your non-litigation experience (e.g., arbitration, mediation).
I participated in court ordered mediation sessions related to ongoing civil litigation involving Brown County during a period where I was employed by their Corporation Counsel's office in 2008 before returning to criminal practice in Outagamie County.
As Family Court Commissioner in Outagamie County, I serve as the department head and supervisor of the Family Court Services office with the county, which administers and conduct mediation processes in family law actions.
During my time in the Outagamie County Corporation Counsels office I participated in various non-litigation legal activities including advising county officials, employees and in the negotiation and administration of Intergovernmental Agreements, parliamentarian work for the County Board, and appearing before administrative boards and agencies related to the County's involvement in Intergovernmental Agreements.
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization: None
Previous runs for public office: None
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last ten years:
Jeff Froehlich, Calumet County judge, 2012
Edmund Jelinski, Winnebago County judge, 2011
Edmund Jelinski, Waupaca County judge, 2014
Carey Reed, Calumet County judge, 2021
Greg Gill Jr., Court of Appeals, 2021
Christian Gossett, Winnebago County district attorney, 2006
Professional or civic and charitable organizations:
Family Court Commissioner’s Association, 2014-present, including as president
Family Law Section Board-State Bar of Wisconsin, 2016-present, board member and Legislative Committee member
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service:
I manage a free legal clinic for unrepresented family law litigants in Outagamie County. As part of that work recruit and attempt to retain attorneys and paralegals for the clinic, schedule clinic sessions, reserve meeting space and perform other administrative duties for the clinic. In addition, my service on the Family Law Section Board includes meetings and work on weekends and off hours, including written and occasionally in person testimony before the legislature since 2016.
Why I want to be a judge:
I went to law school with the intent to work as a public servant. At one point I intended to work as a prosecutor for my entire career but when life intervened, I looked for other ways to help and serve the people in my community with the skills I’ve been given. While I am not an Outagamie County native, I have resided there for a period of 18 years and come to see it as my home, and I believe my life experiences provide commonalities with the people of various parts of my adopted home county. Like the residents of the various Outagamie County townships, I grew up in the country and lived in farm country as a child, bailing hay and picking apples for spending money as a teenager. Since 2003 I’ve lived in Appleton, the County’s largest city, near the same city park where residents come to use the public pool in Summer and sled down hills in Winter. After high school I attended a tech school not unlike Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, and I worked swing shift in a plant for a few years afterwards to support my family, not unlike what many Outagamie County residents have done for generations in places like Kimberly and Kaukana. While I am now an attorney and a Family Court Commissioner, I believe those life experiences, provide me with experiential insights into the lives of those that come into my courtroom every day, and that insight would serve me well as a judge.
It has been my great honor to serve the people of Outagamie County for the past 18 years in various ways, and it would be a culmination of decisions I made all those years ago to continue that service on the Circuit Court bench. I believe my legal experience in various areas of the law leaves me well qualified to serve the county well as a judge in ensuring access to the court system and a fair and impartial application of the law to those cases that come before me, consistent with the manner in which I preside over hearings as Family Court Commissioner.
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.
While there are many cases that come to mind that I’ve relied upon and come to value as I studied and practiced law since 2002, the case I’ve chosen was a source of joy for many in Wisconsin when it was decided, including for close friends of mine whose commitment to each other was affirmed as a function of their constitutional rights in April 2015. Obergefell v. Hodges 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015), relying and expanding on the legal principles underpinning the decision in United States v. Windsor 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), ruled unconstitutional any ban on same sex marriage that remained in the United States. My observation of the impacts of that decision come second hand, but it deeply affected people that I care about and others all across the State of Wisconsin. In 2010 my wife and I attended the wedding of one of our dearest friends whom we have known since our days in High School in central Wisconsin. There was a ceremony at a place of worship, a dinner and a reception, similar to the dozens of weddings I’d attended before. Unlike those weddings, this ceremony, while incredibly significant to our friend and his new husband, was legally meaningless. In the wake of the ceremony, I gave advice to my friend and his husband about legal documents they could execute to try to capture some of the same benefits that legally married couples enjoyed by the mere existence of their marriage. They took some of that advice, but ignored some as well, deeming it too troublesome or expensive to pursue further. Within a few years the issue of same sex marriage and the constitutionality of its prohibition were percolating before the United States Supreme Court first in Windsor and later in Obergefell. There were conversations between my friends and I about which way the Obergefell decision would fall in 2015, and it became obvious to me that while this committed couple did not need the affirmation of others to give their marriage meaning to themselves, there was a fear that came with knowing that the legal validity and recognition of that commitment could be reversed by political forces outside their control. Obergefell ended all of that, and the day it was released became a day of celebration for our friends.
As Family Court Commissioner I have had the opportunity to preside over many marriages in my courtroom since same sex marriage became legal in Wisconsin on October 6th, 2014. By sheer numbers, most of the couples who marry in my courtroom could have married long before that date, and for them Obergefell might have little meaning, but for those who could not Obergefell meant they never had to worry whether a move to another state or the next election cycle would render their marriage a legal nullity again. It’s for that reason that I’ve chosen to Obergefell v. Hodges as a case that brought significant positive impact for many in the State of Wisconsin.
Two or three judges whom I admire and why:
I’ll start with Judge Richard Niess, who recently retired from the bench in Dane County after 16 years. I worked for Judge Niess when I first graduated from law school and learned quite a bit from him in that time. When he was appointed to the bench by then Governor Doyle in 2004 I was already living and working in Outagamie County and didn’t practice in front of him. As luck would have it, Judge Niess seemed to repeatedly end up on cases that gained statewide attention and over the years made rulings on topics such as voter ID laws, the need for special elections, the constitutionality of laws passed in a lame duck session in 2018, and massive open records requests brought against state agencies, sometimes by state legislators. Judge Niess handled these cases efficiently and, even knowing appeal was inevitable, issued decisions that were both prompt and well developed. I followed his career from afar based on my experience working in the firm he led after graduation and recognized his voice in his writing. His thinking was incisive and his good humor was evident both in and out of court. Over the years he spoke about how he saw the work of the judiciary that have helped me think more clearly about the manner in which I do my work as a Commissioner: “Just because you believe a lawyer is being unreasonable doesn’t mean that they don’t have a viewpoint that you should consider.” In Family Court the emotional nature of the topics involved are such that it’s not unusual for parties or their attorneys to become heated during the course of their arguments in hearings, and once that occurs it would be easy discount the possibility that aspects of their arguments could be soundly based in fact or law. Reflecting on what he’d say to new judges as he neared retirement, Judge Niess said “the most important thing for these judges to keep in mind is that they are trustees of rule of law,” Niess said. “They are fiduciaries to the public for whom they serve.” This is what I try to make the focus of my work as a Commissioner and what I try to remind myself of when the conduct I see in my courtroom starts to try my patience. When I was a new Associate Attorney in his firm long ago there were a lot of things I tried to emulate in the way Judge Niess practiced law, and, though he was somewhat surprised to hear it when we spoke before his retirement, I found myself doing the same when I became a Commissioner in 2014 and in the years since.
The second person I’ll speak about is Justice Thurgood Marshall. As a history major with an interest in law, I spent a good portion of my undergraduate years studying legal history in the context of broader cultural and political history. During those years I, like many, came to admire and be continually amazed by the life and work of Justice Marshall. The impact of his work as an attorney fighting against segregation in schools and elsewhere are both obvious and profound, but his work as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court continued his work as an attorney in recognition of the equal protection clause as more than mere words, but as a fundamental mechanism for limiting attempts by governmental entities to restrict the individual liberties of the people they were intended to serve. I do not agree with all of the legal arguments and analysis that Justice Marshal in his opinions for the court or his masterfully written dissents, but I admire his reason, his legal acumen, his dedication and passion for his point of view and the power of the law to serve as a check on governmental infringement on life and liberty and a guarantor of the rights of the people.
The proper role of a judge:
It’s a judge’s duty to ensure access to the legal system, to provide litigants with the opportunity to be heard, and to apply the law while maintaining an impartial demeanor at all times. In preparing for this process I consulted with a number of attorneys and others whom I have met in my professional capacity and take great pride in the number of times I’ve been told over the last few weeks that they are unaware what political party, by way of example, I might tend to support with my votes. This demonstrates, I hope, the pains I have taken to maintain that impartial demeanor and exercise restraint in my comments from the bench and in my life since I was appointed Family Court Commissioner in 2014. Additionally, through my supervision of a volunteer legal clinic in Outagamie County and the Self Help Center to assist unrepresented litigants I have tried to fulfill a jurist’s duty to ensure access to the legal system during my time as a Family Court Commissioner.
I believe that it is the duty of a judge to exercise restraint in the application of the law and precedent to the cases that come before them instead of taking those cases as an opportunity to try to upend existing law merely because it conflicts with my personal opinion or beliefs. These principles should be and will be the primary directives of my work as a judge should I have the privilege of serving the people of Outagamie County in that capacity.
Those directives, however, only go so far, which is something I’ve come to realize over the course of my legal career. In many areas of the law statutory authority and precedent provides factors for judicial officers to weigh, but little or no instruction as to how they should be weighed against each other. An example of that is Wisconsin Statute Ch. 767.41, which lists the factors a court should consider in resolving disputes over custody and placement of a minor child and directs judicial officers to resolve them in the child’s best interests. In doing so, the law provides the judicial officer with a destination, the “best interests” of the child and tells it what categories of facts to consider, but the map on how to get to that destination remains blank. Inevitably, a judge must in those moments utilize their judgment to traverse the space between the legal factors the court must consider to the legal “destination” the law provides. A judge cannot hope for universal approval, but they can and must demonstrate clearly how the law is being applied to limit the chances that the litigants, or the general public, will view the legal process as arbitrary exercises based on the personal beliefs of a randomly selected jurist.
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