"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: Ronnie V. Murray II
Appointed to: Milwaukee County Circuit Court
Appointment date: July 20, 2023 (effective Nov. 19, 2023, to term ending July 31, 2024)
Law School – University of Wisconsin-Madison
Undergraduate – University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
High School – Edgewood High, Madison, Wisconsin (earlier Madison West High)
Recent legal employment:
March 2015-present – Associate federal defender, Federal Defender Services of Wisconsin, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
June 2012-March 2015 – Assistant state public defender, Wisconsin State Public Defender, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Bar and administrative memberships:
State Bar of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
General character of practice:
I represent criminal defendants in federal court at both trial and appellate level. I also represent clients in supervised release revocation matters.
Describe typical clients:
My practice is exclusively criminal defense, though clients are quite diverse. My practice requires particular specialization in constitutional law, including the Second, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments and I am likewise specialized in trial and pretrial motions practice. Beyond legal specialization, my practice requires strategic mitigation work, theory development and narrative formulation, in addition to relationship management and rapport building with clients and other stakeholders.
Number of cases tried to verdict: 11
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:
In United States v. Walker, 931 F.3d 576 (7th Cir. 2019), I argued that my client's conviction for failure to register as a sex offender should be vacated due to a Sixth Amendment violation. Justice Amy Coney Barret authored the opinion granting vacatur, which has now been cited numerous times as support for employing a categorical approach when comparing state statutes to federally-defined offenses. I was trial and appellate counsel in the Eastern District of Wisconsin and in the Seventh Circuit.
In United States v. Wade, 962 F.3d 1004 (7th Cir. 2020), I argued that my client's conviction for impersonating an officer should be overturned for failing to require proof of fraudulent intent at trial. Although the appeal did not prevail, the Seventh Circuit pattern jury instruction was modified in response to this case to include intent as an element, thereby heightening the burden of proof required for conviction under that statute. I was trial and appellate counsel in the Eastern District of Wisconsin and the Seventh Circuit.
In United States v. Brown, 459 F. Supp. 3d 1171 (E.D. Wis. 2020), I argued that the jury's guilty verdict for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a bank robbery should be overturned because the firearm was left in the vehicle during the robbery. Notwithstanding the "nearly insurmountable" burden, the trial judge entered a judgment of acquittal on that count, thereby relieving my client of exposure to a mandatory minimum, consecutive sentence.
Experience in adversary proceedings before administrative bodies:
As a state public defender, I represented clients in supervision revocation hearings before an administrative law judge. As a law student, I handled an unemployment benefit appeal case and appeared before an administrative law judge. Also as a law student, I participated with a senior attorney in administrative driver's license revocation hearings.
Describe your non-litigation experience (e.g., arbitration, mediation). N/A
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization: N/A
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:
May 2018-present: Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association, Executive Committee, treasurer
2020-present: Milwaukee Bar Association, Diversity Clerkship Selection Committee
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service:
I regularly volunteer to speak at youth events and programs at the federal courthouse, including career panels and informational sessions regarding internship or mentor programs.
Why I want to be a judge –
Criminal justice reform is my passion. I entered the legal field to stem the tide of mass incarceration we are currently engulfed in. In the United States, we imprison more of our citizens than any other country in the world, and the racial disparities in Wisconsin rank among the nation’s highest. Milwaukee County in particular has one of the highest incarceration rates for black males. A determination to address these disparities has led me to practice criminal defense, and now to seek this judicial appointment.
Although a county judge cannot correct all the ills facing his or her community, I would have the opportunity to positively affect more lives from the bench than I do as a defense attorney. I believe being smart on crime is preferable to merely being “tough,” even though the latter may be more politically expedient. Over-incarceration is harmful to communities and does not make the public safer. Upholding the constitutional rights of our citizens is just as important as promoting public safety, and the two are not mutually exclusive. I would seek to achieve both from the bench.
I believe Wisconsin needs more judges from diverse backgrounds, particularly with criminal defense experience. Many judges are former prosecutors; few come from the defense table. I think we need more balance on the bench—people from both sides of the spectrum. Judges routinely make decisions that affect the lives of many people, and representing criminal defendants affords a degree of perspective that can contribute to more measured judgment in adjudicating cases and imposing sentences. My experience representing a diverse array of Wisconsin’s citizens will help inform my decisions as a judge. I believe that I would grow well into this position and would be an asset to Milwaukee County’s residents.
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 United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, the Supreme Court rendered the federal sentencing guidelines advisory in its landmark 2005 decision. Before then, the sentencing guidelines were mandatory, and federal judges had little discretion in determining an appropriate sentence for offenders who appeared before them. The impact on sentencing practice in the Eastern District of Wisconsin has been remarkable. Before Booker, our judges had almost no discretion to make an independent judgment about a particular sentence. Now, our district ranks among those with the highest rates of downward sentencing variances. In other words, because of Booker our judges are now able to impose far more reasonable sentences, and they do. While the fraction of Wisconsin’s population directly affected by federal sentencing practice in this district might be small, the impact on those affected can be life changing. Having seen first-hand the effects of this decision, I would rank it among the most important for Wisconsin’s citizens over the last 25 years.
Two or three judges whom I admire and why:
Justice Thurgood Marshal
From successfully arguing the case of Brown v. Board of Education, to becoming the nation’s first black Supreme Court member, Justice Marshal was a pioneering trailblazer whom I’ve looked up to for some time. His record speaks of a person committed to fighting for the rights of “little guy,” which I’ve hoped to emulate as my career has progressed. I have always been impressed by the justice’s resilience, determination and intellect. He took the fights that mattered and didn’t back down, even where the odds were against him, and he was hugely successful. It is difficult for me to imagine a more impressive legal career than that of Justice Marshal, and I can only hope for a fraction of his success.
The Honorable Everett Mitchell
I attended law school with Mr. Mitchell, who is now a Dane County circuit court judge. He was a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office when I interned with the public defender in Madison, and I had the opportunity to work a case with him. He was fair and reasonable, and it was obvious that he genuinely cared about the defendants he charged. When I learned that he’d become a judge, I knew Dane County would be lucky to have him. Mr. Mitchell has set an example that I hope to follow. To me, he represents achievement in the face of significant adversity and affirmation of the notion that, no matter where you came from, you can overcome your circumstances. Moreover, I admire his commitment to public service and community involvement in the city where I was raised (Madison). I hope to substantially model my career after his.
The proper role of a judge:
I believe the primary role of a judge is to adjudicate disputed issues fairly, impartially and according to applicable law. The judge sets the tone and decorum of the proceedings. A judge should inspire confidence in the judicial process and treat its litigants with respect and dignity. A judge should ensure that each party appearing before the court has a meaningful opportunity to be heard. Judges should be excellent listeners and agile thinkers. Judges should be open-minded and humble because they carry a great responsibility and wield significant power. A judge also should be principled and willing to make tough decisions that may not be popular.
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