Evers' judges: Tricia L. Walker
"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: Tricia L. Walker
Appointed to: Fond du Lac County Circuit Court
Appointment date: Nov. 24, 2020 (elected to a six-year term in April 2022)
Law School – Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Undergraduate – University of Wisconsin-Platteville
High School – Northern Ozaukee High, Fredonia, Wisconsin
Recent legal employment:
July 2010-present – Attorney/owner, Law Office of Tricia L. Walker, LLC, Campbellsport, Wisconsin
January 2010-June 2014 – Adjunct professor, Bryant and Stratton College, Madison, Wisconsin
August 2010-January 2011 – Adjunct professor, Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College, Platteville, Wisconsin
August 2010-January 2011 – Adjunct professor, Fox Valley Technical College, Appleton, Wisconsin
February 2010-June 2010 – Associate attorney, Mum and Martin, SC, Waukesha, Wisconsin
September 2009-December 2009 – Attorney, Friends of Abused Families, West Bend, Wisconsin
June 2006-August 2009 – Associate attorney, Dahlberg Przybyla Law, Jackson, Wisconsin
Bar and Administrative Memberships:
State Bar of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
General character of practice:
I am a solo practitioner. I handle the practice areas of criminal defense, family law, basic estate planning, CHIPS, restraining orders, guardianship, small claims, evictions and Guardian ad Litem. I have previously worked on matters including personal injury, contract, intentional torts, life insurance, business and LLC organization, general business law and pharmacuetical legal work.
Describe typical clients:
I work with a variety of people due to the diverse nature of my practice. My focus areas are criminal defense, CHIPS, family law and guardian ad. litem work. I work with everyone from children to prisoners. I am particularly well known as a guardian ad litem for Fond du Lac County due to my thorough work in this area.
Number of cases tried to verdict: 13 (approximate)
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 trial case that stands out to me is In RE the marriage of [redacted] (it is sealed on CCAP by order of the court) …. I became attorney of record on 10/10/2014 and my most recent appearance occurred in 2019. I remain attorney of record in this matter. The original trial was bifurcated; the issues surrounding the children were heard on April 9, 2015 and the issues surrounding finances were heard on June 24, 2015.
I became involved in this matter as a pro bono appointment through Legal Action of Wisconsin. I took this case on due to the husband's severe level of abuse towards both the wife and the minor children. My client was … a lovely person who is one of many people who have managed to escape an abusive marriage. Her bravery in facing a man who had beaten her and her children is both heartbreaking and inspiring. This case is significant because her case is the worst level of child abuse I have ever had to work on. I also handled it while pregnant and I had to fight to remain on the case due to a disagreement with the judge on how my pregnancy would affect the scheduling of the case.
Experience in adversary proceedings before administrative bodies:
My primary experience with administrative work is as a defense counsel for revocation of probation matters and OWI administrative suspension. I have handled dozens of revocations, whether we go to a full hearing or if we manage to resolve prior to a hearing. I have handled a few OWI administrative suspension hearings. The limited amount of OWI administrative hearings is due to the short time limits on the same.
Describe your non-litigation experience (e.g., arbitration, mediation):
I have participated in mediations as a family law attorney and a GAL for the minor children on multiple occassions. I represented parties in a number of mediations when I practiced personal injury law. I handled one case as an attorney mediator for a divorce.
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:
Michael Kenitz, Circuit Court judge, 2020
Professional or civic and charitable organizations:
Mahala’s Hope (substance abuse facility), board member, August 2020-present
Campbellsport Theater, board member, 2009-present
Campbellsport Library, board member and treasurer, 2011-2018
Peace United Church of Christ, member and service on committees, 2014-present at various points
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service:
I volunteer at the family law legal clinic in Fond du Lac, which is a monthly clinic. I volunteer approximately three times per year. During this volunteer work, I give general advice and help direct pro se litigants to the correct paperwork for their matter. I have also worked with Legal Action through their referral service.
As a private attorney, I have viewed it as my duty to take lower financial value cases, such as State Public Defender appointments and participation in the modest means program through the Wisconsin State Bar.
Why I want to be a judge:
I wish to serve as a Fond du Lac County Circuit Court Judge because I bring a wide knowledge base due to my practice of law that will positively serve both the community and litigants. I also believe that my diversity in both life and legal experience brings a different viewpoint to the bench.
Our courts are currently filled with judges who have had very similar life experiences. This is even truer in rural Wisconsin. As an attorney, I know what it’s like to be the only person in the room that looks like me. I have been mistaken for a court reporter, client or interpreter over the years, despite carrying my briefcase filled with legal files and being appropriately attired at courthouse. I have spoken English to an attorney only to receive the short retort that he “does not speak Spanish” (which is probably weirder since I am Asian). I have experienced discrimination in its most blatant and insidious forms.
One might ask why does diversity matter on the bench? It matters in all the ways representation matters. When we help amplify voices for people from differing backgrounds, we help achieve justice through understanding and compassion. People from differing backgrounds bring a varied insight to the bench that can lead to a positive public enrichment. It means that I also recognize discrimination from my seat and that I would do my very best to make sure that our judicial system will not tolerate injustice. It means that I would want to make sure that every voice has an opportunity to be heard in the courtroom.
I wish to elevate to being a judge so I may run a fair bench with an academic approach to deciding matters. I am a former adjunct lecturer and the daughter of two educators who taught me to carefully explain and defend my positions. I will be the teacher’s child even on the bench. This means I will speak carefully and plainly to litigants without condescension or careless words. We have all had amazing educators in our lives and the best teachers rarely had to yell to get their point across. I would bring that type of academic approach to the bench. I would require litigants and attorneys to engage in respectful discourse. I would be properly prepared for court. I would remain open to learning new areas and expanding my knowledge base.
I want to be a judge who makes careful decisions based on the legal record. I want to continue the local drug court program, which is in jeopardy of being eliminated if the new judge will not continue it. I simply believe we cannot incarcerate addiction out of people and that if a person can endure the rigors of drug court then they have a better chance of success in sobriety.
I want to be a judge because I believe that I can do the job well.
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 I feel that had the most positive affect on the people of Wisconsin is Obergefell vs. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015). As the panel and Governor Evers will know, this is the case that determined that same sex marriage is legal in all fifty states.
Marriage equality has long reaching legal ramifications. Obergefell had the impact of legitimizing thousands of same sex unions. The majority decision noted that “[n]o union is more profound than marriage” and the litigants simply asked for “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.” The impact of this decision resonated in an immediate change of legal issues within family law, estate planning, adoption, foster care, and health care law. As an attorney who has addressed family law issues and estate planning, this had an obvious effect on my clients and their lives. It also had an effect on criminal matters where domestic violence victims in a same sex relationship were now mandated to be treated with equality instead of derision by some courts.
Prior to Obergefell, we were treating LGTBQ Americans as second-class citizens. It was the “separate but equal” for a new millennium with an appalling Plessy v. Ferguson sensation to it. With the patchwork quilt of states determining that a marriage will not be recognized in State A but recognized in State B and other states recognizing civil unions but not marriage, we created a shocking and dehumanizing standard in our country. Wisconsin was part of that legacy as we did not recognize same sex marriage. More than that, Obergefell is a case that amplified the holding in Loving v. Virginia. Without the holding in Loving, my own life would be very different. I would not be married to my husband and I would not be the mother of three biracial children. I see how Obergefell will affect my children’s generation through my own experience.
Obergefell is not safe from attack. As recently shown in the dissents by Justice Thomas and Alito in the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the Kim Davis appeal, there are justices that wish to scale back equality. As Americans and as people who should care for each other, we should be judged on how we treat people who hold different principles and life experiences. We should not view that our experiences are the only ones with value. It is only when we can recognize that all people deserve equality under the law that we are truly a country that lives up to the premise that all people are created equal.
Obergefell is a case that touches us all because equality in the law touches us all.
Two or three judges whom I admire and why:
The obvious answer is that we all stand on the shoulders of the notorious RBG. She helped women open the door to equality. I adore her ability to reach across the political aisle to befriend Antonin Scalia, which caused RBG to sharpen her own dissents. There are so many accolades that could be heaped upon her that I could not possibly stay within the word limit and therefore I shall simply state it is an honor to walk the path she helped forge for all people.
I also admire Judge Jean DiMotto, judge emeritus from Milwaukee County. When I was a young attorney, fresh out of law school, I had the privilege of being in her court. The hearing would now be a cake walk, but at the time I’m sure I was slightly terrified. When we were done with our hearing, she took me into chambers. She welcomed me to the profession and kindly engaged me in a lively discussion. She discussed her own experiences as both a woman and an attorney and how it affected her career. In short, she took the time to explain to a baby attorney that we have all been there. In her time on the bench, I saw the same person who brought a sense of warmth and understanding. Her character shone through both on and off the bench. I followed her blog when she was undergoing chemotherapy and her eloquence continued with a self-deprecating fighting spirit. I found her to be a wonderfully effective judge and a person who deserves my utmost respect. I am simply sad that I did not appear in front of her more often.
I have an enduring admiration for Justice Sonia Sotomayer. She’s a person who will never tone back her true self for policy or appearance. As the first Latina on the Supreme Court, she has adopted retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s pet project of civics education. She goes beyond the standard law school visits and takes the time to even visit elementary schools. This is a beautiful way to engage the average person in a discourse on important issues. Her background as an educator provides her with insight on direct engagement with the public and introduces these foundational ideas to possible future litigators and future decisionmakers. I prefer her “of the people touch” to an ivory tower mentality. I believe that judges best serve our public when they do not forget what the average person comprehends and would interpret the law. While I don’t always agree with the “hot bench” mentality she brings forth, I appreciate that the best judges ask insightful questions and forces the litigants and attorneys to be properly prepared. I think she has more than earned my respect through her rigorous defense of the Fourth Amendment. She and Justice Gorsuch often join forces to address Fourth Amendment issues. This is important because it shows that our Constitution is not for playing politics but for enforcing protections provided to all people within our borders.
The proper role of a judge:
A judge is to be physical manifestation of justice in a courtroom. It is his/her/their job to establish order, maintain procedure, determine evidentiary propriety and weigh the standards of each case.
A judge should take the time to be properly prepared. This can mean requiring information prior to hearings or at minimum reviewing the court record/filings prior to a hearing. No one should have to endure the judge who is first reading the filings while seated at the bench. A judge should not unreasonably delay decisions. People need finality and the legal process is expensive for most people.
A judge should be wary of even the appearance of impropriety. It is incumbent upon judges to enter the courtroom with an open mind and a listening ear. A judge should treat all with respect. A circuit court judge sets the tone for all following hearings and should be aware that the decisions of the court affect individuals directly and can bend the course of an individual’s life.
A judge should be compassionate. This is not to say lenient but rather to be conscious of the distress that a decision can render towards litigants. I have been in front of judges who can send a person to prison with compassion. I have been in front of judges who feel that screaming about a minor infraction is a worthwhile venture. I think a judge should reserve harsh words for the litigant who will not respond to any other method. I think a judge should remember that the strict rules and procedures still have a human element to it. I do not think that a judge should treat litigants or attorneys with disdain over human conditions.
A judge is bound by the laws and the precedents and should view cases through that lens. It is particularly important that a judge adheres to those requirements to make a proper record to avoid appellate congestion. A judge who disregards the law does no one any justice or civil service.
I believe that attorneys who have spent time doing litigation will best understand that a judge should take the time to explain the reasoning for each decision. It creates the best record but more importantly, it helps the litigants understand the decision and feel heard. Many litigants will never return to court and this is the only impression they will have of our justice system. A litigant should walk away from the court feeling that a judge understood the facts even if he/she/they disagreed on the application of those facts to the law. I believe that where a judge engages in this behavior, the litigants and attorneys walk away with a more thorough understanding of the experience.
In short, a judge will be the line of defense to prevent an unjust result. A judge should be mindful of this great honor and utilize his/her/their words carefully to provide for a proper functioning courtroom.
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