"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: Steven H. Gibbs
Appointed to: Chippewa County Circuit Court
Appointment date: Dec. 14, 2016 (up for election in Spring 2018)
Law School – Hamline University
Undergrad – University of Wisconsin-Platteville
High School – Chippewa Falls Senior High School
2012 - present – Chippewa County district attorney
1996 - 2012 – Managing partner, Hertel & Gibbs, Eau Claire, WI
1995 - 1996 – Attorney, Hertel & Gibbs
Wisconsin District Attorneys Association
Wisconsin Bar Association
Minnesota Bar Association
Eau Clair County Bar Association
Legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, administrative proceedings: Hertel & Gibbs, S.C. – Shareholder – 1996 to April 2, 2012: Practicing in the area of Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, Second Amendment Litigation (including criminal, civil and appeals), Civil Litigation, Appeals, Business, Municipal and Corporate Litigation, Probate, Family Law, Juvenile Law, Creditor & Debtor Law, Land Lord Tennant (sic) Law, Real Estate, Adoption, Will Contests, and General Practice.
Elected District Attorney - Appointed by Governor Scott Walker April 2, 2012, Elected November 2012 to present. Chief Prosecutor of all Criminal and County ordinance violations. 4 Assistant ADA’s.
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Jury, 50+; non-jury, 200+; arbitration, 10+; administrative bodies, 50+.
Cases on appeal: 14 Wisconsin cases listed.
List and describe the three most significant cases in which you were involved:
1. State v. Christopher L. Caple – The Defendant was sentenced to 10 years in prison when I got involved in post-conviction motions. I filed a Machner hearing and got the court to reopen the case for ineffective assistance of counsel. The State appealed. Court of Appeals Affirmed. A week long jury trial was held, the Defendant was found not guilty in 45 minutes. The reason this case was significant to me was the 6th Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. Once Mr. Caple got competent counsel, his case was tried and a not guilty verdict was rendered after only 45 minutes. An innocent man was convicted and the system corrected the error.
2. State v. Brandon W. Harris – Defendant hired me after he was convicted of a felony. I filed a Machner Hearing motion and got the court to reopen the case for ineffective assistance of counsel. … A plea bargain to a minor misdemeanor was agreed to instead of retrying the case, for financial reasons. Once again an innocent man was convicted and the system corrected itself.
3. As for a third case, it would be hard to choose. … Each one of these acquittals are significant to my clients and me.
Have you ever held a judicial or quasi-judicial office?
Hennepin Country District Court System – Minneapolis, MN, Juvenile and District Court Referee, 1988-1991.
Describe the two most significant cases you have heard as a judicial officer.
There were no significant cases as it was simple pleas with fines and forfeitures rendered.
Involvement in judicial, non-partisan or partisan political campaigns in the last six years:
2009 - Candidate for Branch II - Chippewa Country Circuit Court. Second in primary by 37 votes, lost the election by less than 1% of the vote.
2012 - Chippewa County District Attorney - ran unopposed.
2016 - Chippewa County District Attorney - on the ballot for November 8, 2016 election. Running unopposed.
Volunteer for the Judicial Campaigns of Judge Thomas Sazama and Judge Steven Cray in Chippewa County.
Candidates endorsed in the last six years – Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices: Patience Roggensack, Annette Ziegler, Michael Gableman and Rebecca Bradley; District 3 Court of Appeals Candidate Judge Christina Bourget; District 3 Court of Appeals Justice Thomas Hruz; Eau Claire Judge Brian Wright; Eau Claire Judge Jon Theisen; Barron County Judges Michael Bitney and Maureen Boyle; Jackson County Judge Anna Becker; Lafayette Town Supervisor Sharon Gibbs Mcllquham.
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:
Organizations listed include Reach, Inc., providing human services to people with disabilities in Eau Claire County – board member – volunteer (past chair); youth hockey, softball, baseball and football groups; NRA Foundation, Inc., State Funds Committee chairman; NRA state shooting camp coordinator; NRA certified firearms instructor; NRA certified training counselor; and Walker’s Judicial Selection Advisory Committee.
Describe any pro bono legal work in the last five years:
Chippewa Free Legal Clinic – volunteer.
Eau Clair Free Legal Clinic – volunteer.
Why I want to be a judge --
I applied for appointment to the Chippewa County Circuit Court because I want to serve my community. I was raised on the belief that public service is the epitome of citizenship and bringing my knowledge, experience and dedication to bear in service of my community would be very fulfilling. Equally important, I have found that the intellectual challenge is the most rewarding aspect of my career in the law. As a judge I will face new and different legal issues, all in the context of real-world stakes for those presenting them. Finally, I want to serve the country where I was born and raised and the citizens who I have served as District Attorney over the past five years.
Best Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years — McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010)
Twenty Seven simple words. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Analyzed and over analyzed. The US Supreme Court got this correct, in a five-four split decision, by holding that an individual’s right to keep and bear arms in incorporated and applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito observed: “It is clear that the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.”
Twenty Seven simple words. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Analyzed and over analyzed. The US Supreme Court got this correct, in a five-four split decision, by holding that an individual’s right to keep and bear arms in incorporated and applicable to the states through th14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. -- Chippewa County Circuit Judge Steven H. Gibbs
Worst Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years — Kelo v. City of New London (2005)
I feel this way because the decision did great violence to an actual, clear provision in the U.S. Constitution (as contrasted with other precedents that have enforced “rights” far less clearly an actual part of the Constitution) all in order to aggrandize governmental interests and certain private party interests over those of other private property owners.
To be sure, legislatures can, and often do, enact public policies that limit private property owners’ rights or that properly involve the doctrine of eminent domain. … But in the Kelo case, the governmental bodies at issue plainly, in my opinion, exceeded constitutional bounds. The notion that a governmental body can exercise its eminent domain power to take property from one private party to give it to another private party, merely because such a taking might (emphasis on “might”) be in the furtherance of a general “economic development plan,” simply does not satisfy the constitutional requirement that there be a “public use” in such a taking.
What’s more, the precedent established by the majority in Kelo could be used against any and all types of property owners, to benefit only those private parties best able to gain favor with the applicable governmental body. In the context of the (otherwise) very strong American tradition of private property rights, this is quite a dangerous paradigm. Beyond the foregoing, I would just point to Justice O’Connor’s summation of the error in the majority’s decision as found in the powerful introduction to her dissent.
Judicial philosophy —
My Judicial philosophy is straightforward and founded on years of litigating cases in many jurisdictions before many different judges: I am a judicial conservative and will apply the law as written and as interpreted by established precedent and will do so impartially, without regard to the parties involved. I understand the limited role played by judges in a constitutional democracy, and will not succumb to pressure to broaden my role nor shrink from my responsibility to perform it.
Over the course of my career, I have appeared before numerous judges. Many were, in my opinion, good judges. A good judge is one who is prepared and who takes the time to read the materials and understand the area of law at issue; who is respectful to the litigants and the attorneys representing them; who recognizes that professionalism and collegiality are essential to the proper functioning of any judicial panel; who realizes that justice delayed is justice denied and therefore strives to render decisions promptly; and who appreciates that the law extends beyond the case at bar and the clarity in decisions will guide future conduct and perhaps avoid future disputes. I commit to be a good judge for this State.
Any other information you feel would be helpful to your application:
I was born and raised in Chippewa Falls. I presently live two miles from by (sic) childhood home. I am very active in my community as were my parents. I have the support of the courthouse staff, of Chippewa County Law Enforcement and community leaders.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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