Monday, July 26, 2010

Rotation into the Juvenile Division

By John DiMotto
Today, I am going to divert from my series on Impeachment and Rehabilitation Evidence in Wisconsin to briefly discuss my upcoming rotation to our Juvenile Division. I will return to the I/RE series next week.
In Milwaukee County, because of the high volume of cases of every sort, a judge serves in a special division and handles only one type of case during a rotation. We have six divisions: Civil, Probate, Juvenile, Family, Misdemeanor and Felony. Every four years our judge in Milwaukee County must change his/her assignment.
I am currently in the midst of a transition from my Civil/Probate assignment at the downtown Milwaukee County Courthouse to my new assignment in the Juvenile Division at the Watertown Plank Vel Phillips Children's Court Center. The new assignment officially begins on Monday, August 2nd. However, I have been going to the VPCCC over the past week to sit and mentor with the judges who are presently assigned to that Division.
I have served in every division except the Juvenile Division during my 20 year tenure on the bench. I made the decision to serve there because I would like the opportunity to serve children and families in crisis. I know that it will be a daunting challenge but I look forward to it.
There are three types of cases that are handled at Children's Court: Delinquency, CHIPS and TPR cases. Delinquency are the juvenile equivalent of criminal cases. CHIPS are cases where a child is at risk and is in need of protection and services. TPR cases are termination of parental rights matters. I will be assigned to a TPR court. These cases can be very intense because of the stakes involved. Many, many TPR cases go to trial. I know I will be busy but I do enjoy jury trials. They are very challenging and bring out the best in a judge.
During my mentoring days, I have had the chance to see the law "in action." I am big on outlines and checklists to make sure cases are handled properly. (I believe in "crossing the t's and 'dotting the i's") What I have learned is what I read in the statutes and the case law sometimes plays out a little differently in real time. Mentoring is a must -- even after 20 years of judging.
I had my choice of divisions when our rotation selection process arose earlier this year. I knew I could get whatever choice I wanted based on my seniority. I chose the Juvenile Division for the chance to help children and families. After just a few days of mentoring, I know it was the right choice.
I will return next week once I am settled in my new position to take up the issues of Impeachment and Rehabilitation once again.

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