By John DiMotto
Milwaukee County is the largest county, population wise, in the State. Not surprisingly, it has the largest caseload in the State. In Wisconsin, there are 72 counties with a total of about 250 judges. Milwaukee County has 48 of those judges, roughly 20 % of the total number of judges, and it handles about 30% of the case filings statewide. As a result of the workload, our judges are assigned by Division. This means that no judge handles every type of case. There are 4 Divisions: Criminal, Civil, Family and Juvenile, and each Division has subdivisions.
Criminal Division has a misdemeanor subdivision which has Domestic Violence courts, Gun court and general misdemeanor courts. It also has a felony subdivision which has Drug courts, Homicide/Sexual Assault courts and general felony courts.
Family Division handles all contested paternity actions as well as divorce cases.
Civil Division has a Small Claims court, general civil courts and a Probate subdivision with two courts.
Juvenile Division has a TPR (termination of parental rights) court and general juvenile courts.
Each judge serves either 3 or 4 years in a Division and then must rotate to another division. This type of specialization increases productivity.
In my 19 plus years on the bench, I have served in every Division except Juvenile - but that is coming in the summer of 2010 when I am due to rotate. I am looking forward to this new assignment. It will be a new challenge but one that will be rewarding.
The law is not "one size fits all" and the approach in Milwaukee County recognizes this reality.