"Walker's judges" is our effort to present information about Gov. Walker's appointees to the bench. The information is taken from the appointees' own judgeship applications.
There are just not that many judicial applicants who point out in their application cover letters that they donated to the governor from whom they are seeking appointment. Brian Wright is one of the rare ones. Here is the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's report on the donations. The $1,000 donation to Walker referenced in the report was made exactly one week after Wright wrote his application letter.
Name: Brian H. Wright
Appointed to: Eau Claire County Circuit Court
Appointment date: July 27, 2015 (lost bid for full term in April 2016)
Law School – Marquette Law School
Master's Degree – University of Denver
Undergrad – LaGrange College
High School – None listed on application
2013 - present – Attorney, Herrick & Hart, Eau Claire, WI
2013 - Attorney, Steiner &Wright, Eau Claire, WI
March 2012 – January 2013 – District attorney, Eau Claire County (appointed by Governor Walker; lost in November 2012 election)
2000-2012 – Partner, Steiner & Wright
Wisconsin State Bar
Colorado State Bar
Minnesota State Bar
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin
Eau Claire County Bar Association
Legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, administrative proceedings: Besides work as Eau Claire district attorney, prosecuted traffic and ordinance cases for the Village of Lake Hallie since 2000, and the Village of Cadott since about 2008; resumed both functions after DA job ended. Prior to DA appointment, represented criminal defendants privately and by county and public defender appointments. After DA job, represented criminal defendants in a handful of county-appointed cases and privately represented two high school students in a juvenile matter. Focus on civil work with Herrick & Hart, S.C., and has represented clients in administrative proceedings in the areas of employment discrimination, wage-and-hour disputes, grievance arbitration, worker’s compensation, and unemployment issues.
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Jury, 30; non-jury, 100; arbitration, 6; administrative bodies, 6.
Cases on appeal: No answer on application.
List and describe the two most significant cases in which you were involved:
The first case involved my representation of a teacher in Racine, WI who the school district terminated alleging a pattern of misconduct in her teaching and communication with students. The teacher had high standards and pushed students to reach their full potential, but, in doing so, was periodically at odds with the administration. The hearing was before an arbitrator and lasted ten days. The arbitrator decided in the teacher’s favor.
The second case involved my representation of a registered nurse … A couple of months into her employment, nurses discovered what they believed was missing oxycontin. The State charged the registered nurse I represented with obstructing a police officer because when the police officer interviewed her, she initially told the police officer that another nurse watched her destroy the oxycontin … In the same interview, the registered nurse I represented voluntarily told the police officer that she has not been truthful when she said the other nurse was present because she was concerned about losing her job if her employer found out she hadn’t followed procedure by having a second nurse present. … The jury agreed with my argument that the registered nurse had not obstructed the officer because she voluntarily corrected her earlier statement to the police officer during the same interview.
Have you ever held judicial or quasi-judicial office?
Summer 2011 – Acting Family Court Commissioner
Approx. 2007 - present – Reserve Court Commissioner
Number and nature of judicial or quasi-judicial cases: 100.
Two most significant cases: In the first case, I presided as acting court commissioner over a small claims contested case … the plaintiff acknowledged the backdated signature. … In the second case, I was presiding over a different small claims action as reserve court commissioner when one of the witnesses … began to express racial opinions about one of the parties. I took the appropriate action of instructing this individual to discontinue his remarks. … We finished the hearing without further incident. The minority party expressed her appreciation for my unwillingness to allow the racial remarks to continue.
Please list all instances in which you ran for elective office. For each instance, list the date of the election (include both primary and general election), the office that you sought, and the outcome of the election. Include your percentage of the vote. Eau Claire County District Attorney, Nov. 2012 (47%).
Involvement in judicial, non-partisan or partisan political campaigns:
My wife, Haley, and I worked the telephone banks at the Eau Claire County republican headquarters for Governor Walker during the recall election. Since our daughter Corelia’s birth we haven’t been as actively involved devoting most of our time to her. I served as a legal volunteer for the republican party for voting irregularities in the November 2014 election.
As I did when I served as district attorney, I would like to play a greater and more prominent role in setting an example as to the correctness of conservative values and principles. - Former Eau Claire County Circuit Judge Brian H. Wright
Please list all judicial or non-partisan candidates that you have publically endorsed in the last six years:
Scott Walker; Warren Petryk; Kathy Bernier; Terry Moulton; J.B. Van Hollen; Julian Bradley.
Describe any additional involvement in professional or civic organizations, volunteer activities, service in a church or synagogue, or any other activities or hobbies that could be relevant or helpful to consideration of your application: Pro bono representation of local veteran’s chapter; parishioner, Saint Raymond’s Church.
Describe any pro bono legal work in the last five years: Free Legal Clinic.
Why I want to be a judge – I have a deep respect and reverence for our judicial system. I have upheld the highest standards of our profession in my work as a practicing attorney as a district attorney. I would like to play a greater role in upholding the rule of law and impart on those who appear in my courtroom, should Governor Walker appoint me, the conservative beliefs and values that I was taught and are the reason I was able to pay my way through college, become the first person in my family to graduate from college and to then go on and earn my M.B.A. and J.D. degrees. …
I have a genuine interest in the pursuit of justice from a perspective that my own unique experiences afford me. As I did when I served as district attorney, I would like to play a greater and more prominent role in setting an example as to the correctness of conservative values and principles.
Best Wisconsin or U.S. Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years – Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010)
I have always felt the more public discourse on political issues the better. As citizens, we are fully capable of filtering out information that is unhelpful or misrepresents the qualifications of a candidate or issue. Structurally, I have always found it interesting how critics of Citizens United have no problem with the influence of unions and special advocacy groups on elections. There will always be individuals and organizations with a louder bull horn. The importance of Citizens United is that it expanded political discourse and left it to us as in individual citizens to make our own decision which is what our founding fathers envisioned.
Worst Wisconsin or U.S. Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years – Virginia Wolf et al. v. Scott Walker et al.
I am going to take some liberty on this question and name a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that is currently under review by the United States Supreme Court … I have named this case because, in the last 30 years, I don’t believe any issue has been more wrongly decided.
At the outset, let me say that, despite my religious beliefs opposing same-sex relationships, I believe the government does have a role to play in prohibiting state-sponsored discrimination against gays or lesbians. However, I believe the Seventh Circuit went to (sic) far when it invalidated the will of the people in the State of Wisconsin to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. I believe this is a case of judicial activism in which the court turned to other constitutional provisions in defining marriage as a constitutional right. It is not. Marriage is a privilege not a right.
I am paraphrasing, but in an early supreme court decision, the court said the following: The constitutional rights of another end where my nose begins. In the case of redefining marriage to include same sex unions, I believe the Seventh Circuit should have made it clear that the decision of two men or two women to enter into a civil union is for those individuals to make with no interference from the government. However, the court’s decision has now taken the lifestyle choices of a minority of citizens and gone beyond the point where my nose begins and the noses of a majority of citizens in the State of Wisconsin begins. In other words, the court has forced upon the majority of Wisconsin citizens who voted in favor of the referendum … a change in one of the most important societal structures and institutions that we and our ancestors grew up with.
This is not a function of courts. Nor is this remotely comparable to the court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education which I fully believe was correctly decided. The reason this is such a bad decision is that it weakens the structure and limitations of the constitution. This was a decision for the will of the people not a federal court.
Judicial philosophy – It is to apply the law fairly and impartially. In any decision, I would begin by looking at stare decisis (sic) to determine if there is precedence for deciding the case. However, in every jury trial I have ever had, there are numerous points in the trial when a judge must exercise discretion in making a decision. When it comes to the exercise of discretion, my philosophy is that a judge can’t lose his or her common sense. This is where my breadth of experience will be valuable.
I now realize after watching some of the decisions in the district attorney’s office that Governor Walker did select the right person when he appointed me. …
I believe we have over-systemized the criminal cases in Eau Claire County by relying on COMPASS evaluations and other components of evidenced based decision making to make charging decisions and sentencing recommendations. (Applicant describes a case involving a defendant who fatally shot his wife, with an early recommendation for no confinement and then a recommendation for three years initial confinement.) This is simply inexcusable. ... Fortunately, this case was assigned to Judge (Kristina) Bourget to ten years initial confinement stating that any lesser sentence would unduly depreciate the seriousness of the offense. In my appearances before Judge Bourget, I believe my judicial philosophy is closely akin to hers.
Any other information you feel would be helpful to your application: My wife, Haley and I, strongly support Governor Walker. I have voted for him in each of the elections he has run because of the good he is going for the State of Wisconsin. In the election for district attorney, I learned just how partisan things have gotten. … when I lost the election, it was a kick in the gut to realize that the quality of my work in the district attorney’s office took a back seat to politics. …
These experiences have hardened me, not in a mean or vindictive way, but in a way that I realize the important of fighting for the values I believe in. … My work at Herrick & Hart over the past one and one-half years has allowed me to regain my confidence. I now realize after watching some of the decisions in the district attorney’s office that Governor Walker did select the right person when he appointed me. …
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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