"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.
Name: Joseph R. Wall
Appointed to: Milwaukee County Circuit Court
Appointment date: June 2, 2017 (Unopposed in April 2018 election)
Law School – Marquette University
Undergrad – Marquette University
High School – Brookfield East, Brookfield, WI
2007 - present – Assistant U.S. attorney, Eastern District of Wisconsin
2001 - 2007 – Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge
1986 - 2001 – Assistant U.S. attorney, Eastern District of Wisconsin
1984 - 1986 – Assistant district attorney, Milwaukee County
Seventh Circuit Bar
Legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, administrative proceedings: Criminal Prosecutor as Assistant District Attorney, Milwaukee County, May 1984 through November 1986; Assistant U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Wisconsin, Criminal Division, November 1986 through July 2001 and November 2007 through present
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Jury, 75+; non-jury, 3-5; arbitration, 0; administrative bodies, 0.
Number of cases litigated on appeal: More than 35.
Three most significant cases in which you were involved:
United States v. Abdullah Rafeia (1994) – In the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Criminal Division prosecutors rotate and every week we have a different "Duty" AUSA. One week in mid-1994, I was the Duty AUSA. I received a call from our receptionist that a woman was up front who needed help. They brought her to my office and she told me that she had three children with a Qatar resident named Abdullah Rafeia. The two were estranged, but they shared custody of the boys. Rafeia had the boys for the summer. She said that when it was time to bring them back to Wisconsin, he called her, said that he was going to keep them in Qatar, and that “you will never see your sons again.” (That remains the most chilling sentence that I ever heard from a witness or victim.) I typed out an affidavit and a criminal complaint for three counts of International Parental Kidnapping in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1204. We went to the Magistrate, she swore to the affidavit, and we issued a criminal complaint naming Rafeia. I called the State Department and fortunately found an attorney there who became as upset as I was. Through Interpol, she put out a “Red Notice” which some countries will recognize as an arrest warrant. In our favor was that Rafeia had to travel often due to his job. As I recall, he flew to a country that did not recognize our red notice, but did notify us that he was in their country. A couple days later he flew to Madrid, Spain, where law enforcement authorities arrested him on the Red Notice, put him in a jail cell, and so informed us that they had him. After much back and forth with the Spanish authorities, and the State Department attorney pulling some strings, the Spanish authorities let me speak to Rafeia. I told him that unless he returned the boys to their mother, he would stay in that Madrid jail and if he ever did bail out (or whatever), I would continue to have him arrested. He told me if I withdrew the Red Notice, he would return the boys as soon as he flew back to Qatar. At my request, the Spanish authorities released him. Rafeia kept his word and flew the boys back to Wisconsin where their mother picked them up. I withdrew the Red Notice and the arrest warrant. I never heard from the mother again.
The second most significant case I prosecuted was that was charged against Alderman Michael McGee, Jr., (2007) … This was the case I was hired from the bench by the U.S. Attorney to take to trial. The case was a mess. The U.S. Attorney's Office had indicted McGee in May or June 2007, the investigation had ended, and the investigative reports and wiretap recordings were strewn across various bankers' boxes. So, after reviewing everything, and understanding the case as charged, I reinvestigated the case. Initially, there were eight victims, all of whom were named victims in the indictment. I found eight more, and the judge allowed all eight to testify as Rule 404(b) witnesses. Along with an officer with the Milwaukee Police Department (not the FBI), we went through all the wiretap conversations and the body-wire records made by an informant and picked out the best.
This was the highest profile public corruption trial in Milwaukee's recent history. It was politically charged with citizens wearing “Free Michael” t-shirts and carrying “Free Michael” signs. Milwaukee newspapers were running editorials consistent with those sentiments. McGee, a crooked politician, was seen in many quarters as a liberal firebrand who was a rising star in Democratic circles and the spokesman of his generation and his race.
I tried the case alone with only a paralegal at counsel table working the trial presentation software on the computer. (When I started playing the wiretap recordings, all of the “Free Michael” demonstrations stopped.) After eight or so days of trial in June 2008, the jury convicted McGee of all counts in the indictment. A colleague wrote the government's response brief to McGee's appeal and argued the case in front of the seventh circuit.
The third most significant case I have prosecuted is the first of 13 sex traffickers (pimps) that I have convicted and sentenced since 2008 under the federal sex-trafficking statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1591. The case is also significant because it was the first use of the federal sex trafficking statute in Wisconsin. Additionally, it woke up the Milwaukee D.A's office, who had not prosecuted pimps previously, to the reality that it could be done. The defendant was Todd Carter … Carter was a long-time pimp who started specializing in minor females in 2007. After his house was targeted with a search warrant in 2008, his minor females scattered. We were able to locate them, separate them from Carter and his lies, gain their trust, and get them to tell the truth about their association with Carter. After that, we put them into the grand jury to testify about Carter's activities. I charged Carter in January 2009 with several counts of “Sex Trafficking of Children or by Force, Fraud, and Coercion.” He eventually pled guilty and was sentenced to 25 years prison. Carter did not appeal. By no means was Carter the worst pimp that I have prosecuted. But, he was the first. His conviction and sentence kicked opened the door and began the creation of what we now see as the “Human Trafficking Task Force” and a consortium of non-government entities working to assist trafficking victims regain their lives.
Prior judicial experience:
Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Branch 40, circuit court judge – 2001 - 2007
Number and nature of cases you have heard during your judicial or quasi-judicial tenure: More than 2,000, probably much more. I heard cases at Milwaukee County Children's Court and Milwaukee County Felony Drug Court. Some days at Children's Court I would hear 15 or so cases.
Two most significant cases you have heard as a judicial officer:
Termination of parental rights (TPR) case, In re Diane F. I heard the case while on the bench at Children's Court beginning on February 17, 2003, and lasting for four days. … This was a trial to the court.
The State filed a TPR petition naming Diane's two youngest children. Diane's major problem was a cocaine addiction and it led to the neglect of her children -- the youngest of whom was born cocaine positive.
In addition to her addiction to cocaine, Diane was unable to secure a residence to which her children could be safely returned. She had been laid off her job; then evicted from her residence; she had to go to the courthouse and obtain a restraining order on her former boyfriend; and she was fighting depression, for which she was taking medication. She testified that she used cocaine because of all the pressures in her life.
At various times, Diane would abstain from cocaine -- once for 16 months, once for six months, and once for four months. Because of the pressure and stress of her upcoming TPR trial, Diane went back to using cocaine almost up to the trial date.
I found grounds (reasons) for termination of her parental rights. The dispositional hearing was scheduled for March 19, 2003. I heard two more days of testimony from the two foster parents of Diane's children, among others. When I entered a dispositional order finding that termination was in the best interest of her children, Diane let out a howl of pain such that I had never heard before.*
All contested TPR cases are sad, but this case has stayed with me for the last 15 years, so it was obviously significant to me. And to Diane F.
*See Jeremiah 31:15 “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
State v. Manuel Perez, et al., (2008). There were approximately 30 defendants charged. …The trial began on August 29, 2005, and ended after ten trial days on September 12, 2005.
The case was significant because it was the longest trial I presided over on the felony drug court bench, it involved wiretaps on 18 phones, and the amount of drugs associated with these defendants, and others, was more than 100 kilograms in total. The charges lodged against these defendants included Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine, Distribution of Cocaine, and Racketeering.
Of additional significance was that the leader of the conspiracy, Samy Caraballo, in five separate statements to Detective Jerry Stanaszak, named his brother-in-law, Manual Perez, as the source of all the cocaine. When Caraballo was called to the witness stand, he testified that Perez was never involved with cocaine. Detective Stanaszak had to impeach Caraballo with his prior inconsistent statements (unlike the Federal Rules of Evidence, those are substantive evidence under the Wisconsin evidence code).
Additionally, the State introduced 137 exhibits and the defense four. Among other testimony, was that these and other defendants used a kilogram press to rerock cocaine (squeezing it into kilogram squares) and among other items seized by law enforcement pursuant to search warrants, was a 15 kilogram scale. One witness testified that he and others rerocked 15 kilograms of cocaine in one week.
Additionally, it woke up the Milwaukee D.A's office, who had not prosecuted pimps previously, to the reality that it could be done. – Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph R. Wall
Involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization: Volunteer worker on two judicial campaigns – Kevin Martens and Audrey Skwierawski. Nothing formal.
All runs for elective office:
April 2, 2001, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge -- won the election, 60%
Judicial or non-partisan candidates that you have publicly endorsed in the last six years:
Christopher Dee (Gave $500 contribution)
Michelle Havas (Her first run, gave $250 contribution)
Scott Wales (Gave $100 contribution)
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:
1. Member, Friends of the Benedict Center, 2017.
2. Member, Board of Directors, Benedict Center for Women, 2008-2016.
3. Member, Board of Directors, Coalition for Children, Youth, and Families, Inc. (formally Adoption Resources of Wisconsin), 2008-2017.
4. Member, Justinian Society of Lawyers, (currently and in various years).
5. Participating Attorney, Magistrate Judge Nancy Joseph's "Kids, Courts, & Citizenship Program," approximately 2011-2012.
6. Member, Governor's Advisory Council on Early Childhood Development, 2008-2011,
Certificate of Appreciation, Governor Scott Walker.
7. Member, Thomas E. Fairchild Inn, Inns of Court, 2011-2017.
8. Judge, High School Mock Trial Tournament (2006, 2007, various years)
9. Member, National Italian American Bar Association (2004, 2006, various years)
10. Wisconsin Juvenile Court Jury Instruction Committee, 2002-2007.
11. Established Pro Bono Program at Children's Court that Gave Parents Named in TPR Petitions Legal Representation.
12. Seventh Circuit Criminal Jury Instruction Committee, 1998.
13. Site Coordinator, Youth Crime and Violence Task Force (Safe & Sound Initiative), 1999 to 2001.
14. Milwaukee Public Schools Reading Tutor, 1998-2000.
15. Volunteer Attorney (and Founder), St. Benedict the Moor Indigent Legal Clinic, 1983-1990 and 1999 -2001.
Describe any significant pro bono legal work in the last five years: None recently...
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 the application: None
Pro bono work in last five years: None
Why I Want to Be a Judge - I was a circuit court judge for more than six years. I was a very good judge, engaged in my work, and respected and enjoyed by those who appeared in front of me. This is especially true of my four years at Children's Court. When I run into those attorneys now, I often hear them say, simply, “come back.”
I know the job well and know that, if approached correctly, every day it is an opportunity to make a significant, positive contribution to our justice system. I felt that I did that previously, and know that I can do that again and be that again. Only better.
Most of my professional career has been in public service and I want to continue that. So, when I look forward to the next 12 to 15 years, I believe that I can make the best contribution to the community on the Milwaukee Circuit Court bench. That's the analysis: it really comes down to where I can make the best contribution in the coming years. In 2007, after several overtures from U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, and much thought, I felt that I could make a bigger contribution to the community as a federal prosecutor, doing the type of cases that the U.S. Attorney felt I was uniquely qualified to do. And what he needed me to do.
That was almost ten years ago. I have made my mark there once again. I have done what I was hired to do and much, much more. Among other things, as a federal prosecutor (in the Financial Crimes unit) I initiated the prosecution of sex traffickers (pimps) in Wisconsin and showed the various state prosecutors - most especially those in Milwaukee - that these master manipulators could be indicted, convicted, and sentenced to the long terms that their conduct called for.
I seek to work with the attorneys and parties that everyday appear in our civil and criminal courts, and the people who find themselves under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. I want to write decisions again. I want to preside over trials, where I think I was at my best, and I want the opportunity to again talk to the children and defendants who would appear in front of me. I want to make those connections again, and despite the circumstances, encourage those people that a better future awaits them if they just start making better decisions.
Again, I did all these things in my six years on the bench, and I did them well. I want to do all of that again and do all of it well again, or almost certainly, even better.
More simply, I just want to serve. And the circuit court bench is the position where I can best do that in the coming years.
Judicial philosophy - As a prosecutor it is naturally conservative. Because of the discretion we have there is no need to stretch, manipulate, or reinterpret a statute or prior case rulings on the meaning of the statute or the meaning of an established point of law. This is a luxury, again, because of our discretion. So, as a prosecutor, I see some amazing motions, pretrial memos, and appellate briefs from opposing defense attorneys that bear little resemblance to the facts of the case or the relevant law. Again, I have the luxury of not having to do anything of the kind.
While I was a circuit court judge, I had numerous opportunities to interpret and apply statutes - especially from my time in Children's Court beginning in 2001. …
Because the Children's Code had been overhauled and rewritten five years earlier, many statutes in the juvenile code had not been interpreted and were not necessarily clear on their face. As a result, many nights and weekends I found myself at Marquette Law School sifting through their microfiche stacks that sometimes reflected the original drafting material of a statute or any comments from the legislators that would shed some light on their intent or purpose in drafting a particular statute. I often referenced those items in my written decisions.
As to the unstated question as to whether I was or would be, an “activist” judge, or if I believe that the Constitution is a “living document,” or whether unwritten “penumbras” extend “the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause,” the answer is “no.” There is no need to stretch the Constitution or well-established case law. The pathway is already paved; why create a new one in uncharted dirt and mud?
Best Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years – Crawford v. Johnson (2004)
Among the very best, and most important, of the United State Supreme Court's recent decisions is Crawford v. Johnson … a right-to-confrontation decision that punched a medium-sized hole in every prosecutor's toolbox.
Writing for the Court, Justice Scalia's sprawling, historical-based opinion and analysis is a delight to read.
The facts leading to this decision are brief: at Petitioner's trial the state introduced an inculpatory recorded statement from Petitioner's wife who did not testify. In holding that the use of the wife's “testimonial” statement violated the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause, the Crawford Court abrogated its 24-year-old decision in Ohio v. Roberts … (1980).
The Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause provides in relevant part: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have the right ... to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” Initially, Justice Scalia found that this wording can have different meanings. 541 U.S. at 42-43. He then turned to the historical background of this Clause to determine what its drafters meant.
He began by noting that “the right to confront one's accusers is a concept that dates back to Roman times.” … He then moved to the reign of Queen Mary in the 16th century, contrasting civil law, which allowed witness examinations to be read in court, with the common law “tradition of live testimony in court subject to adversarial testing.” Id. He called the civil law practice “notorious” and profiled Sir Walter Raleigh's 1603 treason trial. This was a death-penalty trial. There, crucial testimony from a witness was read to Raleigh's jury. Raleigh demanded that the judges bring that witness to court to testify “before my face,” and likened his trial to those of the "Spanish Inquisition." The judges refused, Raleigh was convicted, and then sentenced to death. … This civil law practice eventually caused some regret for Raleigh's judges.
Justice Scalia then traced the turn to the common law practice through 17th and 18th century England up to 1791 (which J. Scalia notes was the year that we ratified the Sixth Amendment), when the common-law confrontation rule became widespread in England. Id. at 46-47. Justice Scalia, creating a clear path from 18th century American documents and proclamations, demonstrated that there could not be a different meaning: the right to confront your accusers in court means just that.
Summary: Justice Scalia's historical analysis is not only compelling but dispositive. Despite his previous concerns about the wording of the Confrontation Clause, Justice Scalia came to an unimpeachable result at the end of his decision. See Crawford, 541 U.S. at 51-55 ("The text of the Sixth Amendment does not suggest any open-ended exceptions from the confrontation requirement ..."). This decision does raise at least one question: What took so long?
As to the unstated question as to whether I was or would be, an “activist” judge, or if I believe that the Constitution is a “living document,” or whether unwritten “penumbras” extend “the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause,” the answer is “no.” – Wall
Worst Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision -- Termination of Parental Rights to Max G.W. (Jodie W.) (Wis. 2006)
This is a terrible decision for a number of reasons: 1) as precedent, it creates confusion among those who prosecute and defend TPR cases; 2) in order to reach a due process analysis, the court distorted the facts about Jodie's “no contest” plea on the grounds phase of her TPR; 3) its fact-finding process was outcome determinative; 4) stylistically, the court's footnotes dominate its analysis and decision and 5) this is another example in which “hard cases make bad law.”
The facts are quite straight-forward. Jodie was the birth mother of Max, born on July 10, 2000. She was Max's sole caregiver for the first two years of his life. In July 2002, Jodie was incarcerated based on convictions for operating while intoxicated (fourth offense) and fleeing an officer. Jodie arranged for her mother to care for Max. However, shortly after Jodie's incarceration, her mother was unable to care for Max and called social services. They placed Max in a foster home on November 25, 2002. On April 22, 2004, while Jodie was in prison and facing two more years of incarceration, the state filed a TPR petition under Wis. Stat. 48.415(2) ("continuing CHIPS"). In re Max G.W., 293 Wis.2d at 537.
On September 20, 2004, the day set for her jury trial, Jodie filled out a "no contest plea" questionnaire for the "grounds" phase of the proceeding.* Jodie was represented at the time, filled out the questionnaire, and modified some of the questions as they pertained to her position at the time. She modified the form to make it clear that she was pleading no contest to just the "grounds" phase, not the "best interest" phase. The circuit court found that she made this decision voluntary, knowingly, and intelligently. That court subsequently determined that termination of Jodie's parental right's was in Max's best interest. The court of appeals affirmed in a one-page decision. Id. at 540, 543.
In a tortured, incomplete, and cherry-picked recitation of the facts, the majority found insufficient evidence to support a determination that Jodie's no contest plea was valid. That finding was crucial because a valid no contest plea waives a party's “right to challenge the constitutionality of a statute ...” Id.at 545. At that point the court invoked “substantive due process” and found that the statute as applied to Jodie was unconstitutional since she was in prison, and as such, it was impossible for her to complete the necessary conditions for the safe return of Max to her home. Id. at 554-63
The dissent, whose factual findings were more complete, determined that there was no question that Jodie's no contest plea to the grounds phase was knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligent made. Id. at 563-66. The dissent quite accurately stated that “now children of incarcerated parents will be serving a concurrent sentence in limbo.” Id. at 563.
* Under Wisconsin TPR law there is a two-step process involved. The first step is a determination of whether "grounds" (reasons) have been proven. At this stage the parent's rights are paramount and the parent is entitled to a jury finding as to whether grounds have been proven. If proven, or stipulated to, the second step is a determination by the judge whether termination of the parents' rights is in the best interest of the child. Id. at 566-67.
Help WJI advocate for justice in Wisconsin