Monday, December 14, 2009

Circuit Courts in Milwaukee County

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.

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