"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: Martin J. De Vries
Appointed to: Dodge County Circuit Court
Appointment date: July 1, 2016
Law School – Valparaiso University School of Law (a Tier 4 law school)
Undergrad – Dordt College*
High School – Central Wisconsin Christian High School**
1999 - present - Sager & Colwin, SC
The State Bar of Wisconsin
Fond du Lac County Bar Association
Defense Research Institute
Legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, administrative proceedings: Primarily civil litigation, which includes some administrative proceedings. Limited criminal litigation. Primarily represents municipalities, school districts, and their employees in civil litigation. Other areas of practice include insurance defense and real estate. Significant experience defending health care providers in medical malpractice cases.
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Approximately 30-40.
Number of cases litigated on appeal: At least 20.
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:
Served on church council and on the boards of Central Wisconsin Christian School and Faith Christian School. Elected Town of Fox Lake municipal judge in 2015.
Why I want to be a judge - As I progressed through my legal career, I did not consider becoming a judge until about 5 years ago. I have always enjoyed my litigation practice and have been very busy. However, as I got older and litigation seemed to involve fewer trials, I began to consider a judgeship. I realized that I have substantial experience and enjoy the courtroom. Throughout my 25 years as a lawyer, I have tried many cases to a jury and the court. A primary focus of my practice is representing law enforcement in Federal Court. Consequently, I have analyzed and litigated many Constitutional claims, including Fourth Amendment issues in law enforcement activities. I have also litigated a fair amount of medical malpractice cases. Medical malpractice is complex and intensive litigation. Thus, I believe my experience to this point in my career has equipped me to be a Circuit Court judge. After concluding that I had the experience to handle a judge position, I considered why I would actually want to be a judge. I grew up outside the village of Randolph in Dodge County. After living in California for a number of years, my wife and I moved back to this area in 1999 in order to raise our family here. I have a sense of concern and care for not only my community, but for the entire county. It is my desire to serve in the judiciary and instill my sense of respect and dignity to the court, which I believe is a tradition in Dodge County worthy of continuing. In 2015 I successfully ran for Municipal Judge for the Town of Fox Lake. Although the judicial experience at the town court is limited, I have come to understand some of the issues and challenges facing our courts. The abuse of drugs in our communities has become a serious issue. As a Circuit Court judge, I would be committed to working with other agencies and organizations to address this matter. Additionally, I believe that if I were to be a judge in the community where I was raised, this would honor my parents for the hard work and dedication they provided to our family. II would be honored and privileged to serve as a Circuit Court judge.
"If it has not already started, I believe Obergefell, as promoted by some sections of the media and other organizations, will be used against religious freedoms and tax exemptions for religious organizations." -- Dodge County Circuit Judge Martin J. De Vries
Judicial philosophy - In general terms, I favor a philosophy of judicial restraint. Our laws were created by the legislature and the courts are to follow these laws in an impartial manner. Our Constitution provides that the judiciary should apply the law with deference to the legislature. I would also strictly follow and respect the Constitution. In more specific terms, my philosophy would be to impartially apply the law after giving full consideration to both sides. An unbiased an impartial attitude is crucial for a Circuit Court judge. As a trial attorney, I appreciate and understand the difficulties a judge faces. I would be committed to efficient and timely resolution to all matters. I also would value the judicial role in evidentiary decision making. There is no substitute for jury trial experience in preparing a judge to make evidentiary decisions. In summary, I believe a Circuit Court judge has been provided with the law. Using his or her experience and knowledge, a judge should work within the confines of existing law and treat all parties equally.
Best Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision – Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
Burwell was a case that pitted the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) against Hobby Lobby and its owners, the Green family. At issue were regulations enacted by HHS to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Specifically, some of these regulations mandated coverage for numerous types of contraceptives. Although Hobby Lobby did not object to providing coverage for most of these contraceptives, there were four types of contraceptives which can or might cause death to a developing fetus if there were conception. The Greens, as Christians, believed that mandated coverage for abortion-inducing drugs violated their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Department of Health and Human Services took the position that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protected only religious organizations, not for-profit businesses. The Supreme Court held that Hobby Lobby and its owners were not required to provide this coverage or pay severe fines. Importantly, for-profit corporations were considered “persons” protected under the RFRA. Thus, Hobby Lobby and other corporations are capable of engaging in an exercise of religion protected by the RFRA. The objectionable HHS mandates substantially burdened the exercise of religion protected by the RFRA. This ruling is important to all people of religious faith. The Supreme Court explicitly stated that it was not for the Court to say that the religious beliefs of the corporation or its owners were mistaken our unreasonable. Without discussing whether the Burwell opinion went far enough or the potential responses by those opposed to this decision, I do believe that Burwell is an encouragement and provides some assurance to businesses and their owners who are concerned about the government mandating religiously objectionable actions that could put them out of business. A particularly encouraging portion of this opinion is the majority’s refusal to substitute their religious beliefs for that of Hobby Lobby’s owners. The Court appeared to simply compare the Green family’s stated religious objections to the HHS regulations and analyzed them under the RFRA. Not only does Burwell provide some level of protection to businesses owned by religious persons, it is an example of judicial restraint which is sadly lacking in many of today’s courts. Although Burwell might have a limited direct effect on Circuit Court cases in Dodge County, the question was directed at Supreme Court opinions which are crucial to our nation and this case reflects my judicial philosophy.
Worst Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision – Obergefell v. Hodges
Simply put, in Obergefell the U.S. Supreme Court held that the 14th Amendment requires all states to license marriages and recognize marriages between people of the same sex. The opinion is long on personal viewpoints of the majority and lacking in any legitimate Constitutional analysis. The majority opinion, which is actually quite brief, is dominated by Justice Kennedy’s personal opinions. Justice Kennedy reviews his interpretation of marriage and how cultural and political developments have evolved to the point where same sex couples have suffered enough and the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment must now require all states to recognize same sex marriages. Justice Scalia’s strongly worded dissent is clear and to the point. Justice Scalia explains that the majority created liberties that the Constitution does not provide. He categorizes the decision as “an opinion lacking even a thin veneer of law.” In his own way, Justice Scalia describes how the Court substituted its own beliefs for that of the people, something no court should have the right to do. The Obergefell decision runs contrary to the principles set forth by the framers of our Constitution. This is a dangerous precedent. The people’s freedom to govern themselves has been removed by this opinion. The decision does not respect or analyze the liberty of the people, but rather focuses on the majority’s personal view on the “principles and traditions” of marriage. Obergefell also has ominous implications for religious liberty. If it has not already started, I believe Obergefell, as promoted by some sections of the media and other organizations, will be used against religious freedoms and tax exemptions for religious organizations. One can also envision courts in the future going beyond using this case against religious freedom and using this case as a vehicle to mandate a court’s personal agenda. One need not be opposed to same sex marriage in order to appreciate the degree to which Obergefell has extended the concept of judicial supremacy in areas where the judicial branch should not be. I believe this case has the potential to divide our country. The people of each state have been denied the right to govern themselves by the personal beliefs of five justices, who may well have been driven to their conclusions by the media and various special interest groups. This is contrary to my philosophy of judicial restraint.
*From the college's website: "Associated with the Christian Reformed Church, Dordt College was founded in 1955 and welcomes all students who are interested in a biblical, Christ-centered education."
**From the school's website: "...where Christ is central! Our school is a very special place where faith and learning combine to prepare students for life. CWC offers you a dynamic learning atmosphere where caring Christian teachers connect each and every subject in a perspective that helps see today's world through God's eyes. When you come to Central Wisconsin Christian, you become a part of our family - an interconnected group of Christian families who want their kids to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Our academic program is one that will challenge each and every student to achieve the potential God has placed in them, while the individual attention we give to God's kids highlights the essence of the body of Christ."
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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