"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: Laura A. Crivello
Appointed to: Milwaukee County Circuit Court
Appointment date: March 13, 2018 (up for election spring 2019)
Law School – Marquette University
Undergraduate – UW-Milwaukee (earlier attended Belmont University, Nashville, TN)
High School – Mary D. Bradford High School, Kenosha, WI
Recent legal employment:
1995 - present – Assistant district attorney, Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office
Courts of the State of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court-Eastern District
State Bar of Wisconsin
Legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, administrative proceedings: Assistant district attorney for 23 years. Cases handled include traffic, misdemeanors, children in need of protective custody, firearms, domestic violence, gangs, community prosecution, drugs, and homicide cases.
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Jury, 100+; non-jury, 100+; arbitration, no answer given,; administrative bodies, 5+.
Cases on appeal: 20+
Three most significant cases:
East Side Mafioso Investigation and Prosecution – Back in 2014, the heroin epidemic was coming into full swing. The east side of Milwaukee was experiencing an increase in violence and overdoses. HIDTA decided to target a gang with a history of violence who was accurately believed to be supplying this area with this poison. This gang called themselves the East Side Mafioso. Our goal was to not only eliminate the suppliers, but to also to see if we could do something to help the people addicted to heroin. Our investigation developed into a … State run wiretap which spun into two other successive wiretaps resulting in six lines that were ultimately tapped.
On the day of the take down, HIDTA executed ten search warrants which resulted in the seizure of eleven firearms, $21,000 in U.S. currency, nine assorted vehicles, approximately one half kilogram of heroin, one half kilogram of cocaine, as well as substantial amounts of cocaine base and marijuana. Furthermore, forty-five individuals were arrested … We also were able to place many of the users who were selling to support their habit into drug treatment court. …I know we saved lives by putting the supplier in prison for extensive periods of time and I know we saved the lives of a number of the addicts which I why I know this investigation and prosecution were significant.
Violent Crime Tint Crew (Blessed Team/Big Money Addicts)
In 2015, heroin dealers modified how they sold heroin in Milwaukee County. The market changed from drugs being sold from stash house (a closed market) to drug being sold out of tinted out cars (an open market). These individuals worked off of phones which were shared by groups. … These dealers loved social media and tended to post video clips of themselves driving through the community with vast amounts of drugs, firearms with extended magazines and stacks of money. …
Our investigation was a multi-jurisdictional effort that resulted in approximately twenty higher level suppliers being arrested, prosecuted, and ultimately placed in prison. Confidential informant information, controlled purchases of drugs, under-cover buys, multiple search warrants, and other lawful means were utilized to build cases … One of the most frustrating parts of the whole investigation was that as soon as one member was arrested, we would seize the phone. This group was technically advanced enough to realize that the phone line was what provided the money, so they would port the phone line to a different device immediately after an arrest … We decided to employ a tactic that had never been used in the United States. A warrant was drafted which ordered the phone company to freeze all data going into and out of a particular line that was utilized by the BMA, thereby rendering the line useless for a thirty day period. …We were thereby able to disrupt the drug trafficking continuum and hopefully save some lives. Since this was accomplished, I have heard from prosecutors and law enforcement across the United States seeking copies of our documents to replicate what we did in Milwaukee to affect the heroin trafficking trade on our soil.
Willie Jordan and Mario Wood – In 2014, I was aware of a homicide that occurred where the victim was found with duct tape, pistol whipped, beaten, shot in the head and dumped in an alley. The suspect for this crime was Willie Jordan. He was charged with False Imprisonment by a different prosecutor. On the day of trial, the case was dismissed. I had followed this case and watched this matter transpire … and it didn’t feel like justice was served.
Then in December of 2015. I learned of a young stripper who was the girlfriend of Willie Jordan who had been bound with duct tape, pistol whipped, beaten, branded repeatedly with a red hot fork, injected with heroin – twice and left for dead. The perpetrator before stealing the victim's dog, turned on the gas on the stove causing great risk to the entire neighborhood. ...Ultimately, the victim's relative found her near death and called the paramedics. The case was initially reviewed as an overdose. No evidence was taken from the scene. ...
The reviewing prosecutor ultimately no processed the case because she felt the victim was uncooperative and her medical records reflected that she had marijuana in her system. There was no physical evidence to corroborate her statement due to the case not being properly investigated and the perpetrators wearing gloves. … Again, I felt that justice had not been served. Six weeks after the incident, I decided to meet with the victim. ...
[Despite difficulties the victim ultimately testified..]
The victim’s testimony was the most powerful testimony I have ever heard. … Ultimately, the jury convicted Jordan of Attempted 1st degree Intentional Homicide, False Imprisonment, Armed Robbery, and Delivery of Heroin. Jordan is presently serving an 80 year sentence in the Wisconsin Prison System broken down into 50 years of initial confinement followed by 30 years of extended supervision. …
All previous runs for office: NA
Pro bono legal work in the last five years: Due to my position, I am unable to do pro bono legal work.
Involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization: NA
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last six years: NA
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: Redacted
WJI note: Nicholas J. Korger, assistant legal counsel in Gov. Scott Walker's office said in a cover letter accompanying applications submitted by Crivello and two other judicial appointees that "certain information for one applicant is redacted due to ongoing security concerns." While Korger did not identify the applicant, it is presumably Crivello.
Why I want to be a judge – I am seeking where I may do the greatest good. For the last twenty three years, I have sought to do what is right and what is just. I have tried to be fair and to the best job that I could do. I have prayed for remedies or made recommendation as to what I believe is just. I am turning fifty this year, and I am at that point in life where I am ready to be the person making the decision, not just the person asking for the right thing to be done.
I also believe that I would be a good judge. I am well studied and experienced. I have a proven track record of trying hard cases and prevailing. I also try the right cases for the right reasons. I have demonstrated that I exercise sound judgment and I am devoted to seeking justice. I believe that the law was created for the common man and the law should apply equally to all. I believe that the law should be carried out in a fair and impartial manner. … I belief in speaking the truth even if your voice shakes and accepting responsibility. ... I believe I possess the qualities that I would want in a judge…compassion, humility, and common sense.
I consider myself to be conservative in my judicial philosophy. I do not believe that someone is placed on the bench to legislate from this platform or to have their personal agenda fulfilled. – Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Laura A. Crivello
Best United States or Wisconsin Supreme Court opinion in the last thirty years – State of Wisconsin v. Charles Matalonis (2016)
I enjoyed the case … authored by Justice Annette Ziegler. Here, the Supreme Court reversed an unpublished court of appeals decision that reversed Matalonis’s conviction in Kenosha County Circuit Court for manufacture/delivery of THC.
This case involved officers making contact with Matalonis’s brother, Antony, who was battered and bloody. When officers spoke to Antony, his accounts were inconsistent. A trial [sic] of blood was followed to Matalonis’s residence, where officers observed blood on the door and heard banging sounds coming from the inside. Upon knocking, Matalonis answered the door, at which time officers observed blood on the floor. Subsequently, the officers advised that they wanted to ensure that no one else was injured. Matalonis let the officers into the house.
Upon walking through the house, officers observed blood on the wall leading upstairs and on a locked door. Marijuana and drug paraphernalia were also observed. After obtaining a key, police entered the locked room and found a marijuana plant and a grow operation.
The Supreme Court found that the community caretaker doctrine made admissible the evidence recovered from the room. …
This decision abounds with common sense. When law enforcement was confronted with inconsistent stories, a blood trial, odd noises, and smears of blood through a house, it would be reasonable for law enforcement to believe an injured person may be present based on these objective factors. There was no indication that law enforcement conducted an investigation or sought evidence. Law enforcement acted reasonably in seeking to care for the community which is what they are charged to do.
The dissent was authored by Justice David Prosser and joined in by Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Anne (sic) Walsh Bradley. The dissent argued that the community caretake exception was expanded in this case beyond what was intended, without any compelling justification. This argument fails in that the objective facts presented to law enforcement provided the reasonable basis for the bona fide community caretaker function. Justice Abrahamson then wrote a separate dissent complaining that because this case was argued before Justice Bradley joined the court, the court should have not have decided the case without first determining whether it should have been reargued. This argument seems trivial and more about personalities than about the matter at hand.
Worst Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision – State v. Mitchell (1992)
One of my least favorite cases issued by the Wisconsin Supreme Court is State v. Mitchell … This was a case that arose out of Kenosha County from an incident that occurred on October 7, 1989. Here, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a state statute which enhanced the penalty for a defendant if the victim was chosen on the basis of race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry. Ultimately, on June 11, 1993, the United States Supreme Court reversed the Wisconsin Supreme Court finding that the Wisconsin statute providing for enhancement of the defendant’s sentence whenever he intentionally selects his victim based on race did not violate the defendant’s free speech rights by purporting to punish his biased belief, and the statue was not overbroad.
The facts underlying this case involved Mitchell, a 19 year old black man, that instigated an attack against a fourteen year old white child after discussing a scene from the movie “Mississippi Burning” where a white man beat a young black boy who was praying. Mitchell and approximately ten others observed the fourteen year old approach an apartment complex, at which time Mitchell said “you all want to fuck somebody up? There goes a white boy; go, get him.” Mitchell pointed at the victim. The victim was beaten to the point that he remained in a coma for four days and suffered extensive injuries including possible permanent brain damage. The question before the court was whether an increase in Mitchell’s sentence based on his bigoted motives violated his First Amendment rights? The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” This Amendment protects not only speech but thought as well.
In a unanimous opinion drafted by Justice Rehnquist, the Court found that the Wisconsin statute paralleled the antidiscrimination laws which had been found to comply with the First Amendment. The Court reasoned that the consequences for the victim and the community tend to be harsher, when a crime victim is chosen based on race. Thereby, when the Wisconsin statutes increased the sentence for such crimes, it wasn’t punishing the defendant for his beliefs, but rather for the predicted ramifications of the crime. Ultimately, the Court reasoned that the Wisconsin statue did not violate the First Amendment because an average person’s bigoted comments would be used against him in a legal proceeding so infrequently that he or she would not feel forced to suppress them. Thus, there is no chilling effect and the statute is not overbroad.
Judicial philosophy – I consider myself to be conservative in my judicial philosophy. I do not believe that someone is placed on the bench to legislate from this platform or to have their personal agenda fulfilled. A judge should not enforce views as to what is desirable public policy over following historical precedents. A judge’s roll [sic] is to construe as objectively as possible the Constitution of the United States and the law’s that pertain to the matter. The Constitution is an amazing document that forms the basis for our legal system. Every day, I argue relative to different amendments and how different people interpret the amendments. I believe that the Constitution should be construed in the light of the drafters’ intent.
I also believe in historical precedents. The law should apply equally to all. In order for this to transpire, all people need to believe that the courts will follow the laws that are in place. By following precentral (sic) authority there is a guide in place as to what each member of society may do or not do. If a judge chooses to place his or her own views above precedential authority, then that judge would be creating chaos for the members of that community and the laws would no longer apply equally to all.
When looking at statutes, I am a strict constructionist. The clear reading of a statue should act as a road map. If there is a vague or confusing portion, then legislative intent should be reviewed. I believe in judicial restraint. Judges should hesitate to strike down laws, unless they are clearly unconstitutional.
Describe any other information you feel would be helpful to your application – Redacted
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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