On Tuesday April 7, 2009 for the first time in thirty years, voters will have a choice in a contested election for judge for our Ozaukee County Circuit Court, which is the first stop in the judicial system for civil and criminal legal matters under state law. I urge that you help get out the vote for Darcy McManus. I have several reasons.
While both candidates have law degrees, and have practiced as attorneys, I believe Darcy (as a National Merit Scholar and graduate, with honors, from a state University law school) is the most intelligent candidate. She is also the only candidate with any actual judicial experience. Darcy has served 15 years on the bench as the Ozaukee County Court Commissioner. She has served as President of the Wisconsin Family Court Commissioner’s Association, and member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Planning and Policy Advisory Committee. She also comes across, in person, as the least arrogant judicial candidate, and the one most sensitive to the essential fact that the law is meant, first and foremost, to serve and protect people. Darcy has a heart, and our Ozaukee County Circuit Court and Justice Center needs that.
See http://www.darcymcmanusforjudge.com for Darcy McManus’ profile of professional and community service and experience, and to offer your needed help and support.
In recent years, the Ozaukee County District Attorney has prosecuted several cases of teenagers or pre-teens for alleged “sexual assault” in Circuit Court, where the supposed “victims” have been close to the same age as the individual charged, and it is a stretch to describe the alleged conduct as either “sexual” or as an “assault”. The prosecution itself can be fairly characterized as over-zealous, and the consequences have been contrary to the interests of justice, and harmful to the people directly involved and the community. I believe Darcy McManus would take steps to ensure that criminal matters brought to a courtroom for which she is responsible would be carefully considered to protect the community and the people, and not just the sometimes imperfect letter of the law. I believe Judge McManus would help to make the Justice Center a more helpful and humane place than it is now. See the footnote at the end of this for more on prosecutions of this nature in Ozaukee County.
In the past thirty years, new judges taking office in the Ozaukee Circuit Court have been appointed after service in a District Attorney’s office. An appointment occurs (instead of an election) when a vacancy occurs mid-term, and that “just happens” to be how each vacancy has occurred and been filled for thirty years. When election time comes around, we voters have then been presented with a “fait accompli”, and an unopposed “incumbent” who easily wins “re-election”. This has been especially “convenient” in Ozaukee when vacancies occur while the sitting governor is a member of the local Party in power. In the past, the Governor has appointed a successor, pleasing to the local Party, right out of the partisan political office of District Attorney.
Darcy McManus’ opponent has long experience as a prosecutor, but that is Sandy Williams only professional legal experience. Darcy herself has 15 years judicial experience as Court Commissioner, besides previous professional experience as a prosecutor for the City of Port Washington, as a defense attorney, and in private practice.
Darcy’s opponent has been a campaigner and a very active member of a partisan political party. Darcy, in contrast, is not and has not been a member of any political party. A Judge can be expected to have personal opinions, including political points of view, but a Judge should certainly not be a partisan politician.
If Judge McCormack had resigned mid-term (like all predecessors did), and if the sitting Governor had been a Republican, you can safely bet that Sandy Williams would have been appointed to fill the vacancy, as in the past, and the people would again have had no choice in who would be the next judge, as has been the case for the last thirty years.
So I’m voting for Darcy McManus because I think she has the:
• most qualification (15 years on the bench as a Court Commissioner),
• most intelligence, combined with the most genuine humility,
• best melding of judicial firmness, discipline, temperament, compassion,
• least partisan political bias,
• will to bring proper judicial perspective to punitive, harsh criminal prosecution and punishment of Ozaukee County children who have perhaps been foolish, but are not (yet) dangerous or incorrigible, and who still have a future worth preserving.
Disclaimer: This letter was written at no expense, entirely and only by Clyde Winter of Cedarburg, unaffiliated with any candidate or political party or interest group, to express my concerns and opinions about the current and unique contested Ozaukee County Circuit Court non-partisan election.
While the teen-age sexual assault cases referred to above are not at all identical, there are a couple of things that leap to mind when learning about each and every one of them. First, there is the unavoidable question, “Where is the “assault”, here?” The alleged behavior may be, or border on, unwise, ill considered, and/or foolish. In some eyes, it may even be excessively so. The alleged behavior may require parental or societal guidance or correction, with the possible help of teachers, counselors, or spiritual advisers. But whether you are Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, strict or permissive, the circumstances of these several cases do not call out for criminal prosecution for “sexual assault”, and all the life-long consequences.
Behavior identical or similar to that alleged in these cases has been very common in youthful behavior – and misbehavior – for many, many generations. Even if not fully accepted as ideal or even acceptable, it is extremely rare that such behavior is prosecuted under criminal law – at least in my lifetime and in America. But in Ozaukee County, we have been seeing a consistent pattern of such atypical prosecution and persecutions of working class youth by our Circuit Court.
Our current Circuit Court Judges, and the District Attorney’s office, have done nothing to arrest this trend and pattern. Instead there are expressions of denial, asserting that such prosecutions are merely following “the letter of the law”, and there is no room for discretion. But that is untrue. Prosecutions have been pressed on these strange cases despite the unanimous opposition of the supposed “victims” as well as parents of the “victim”. Excessive bail has been charged, out of proportion with much more serious, dangerous cases. Young people who have fully cooperated with investigators, and who have never been in trouble with the law before, have even been jailed, even without bail, and prosecuted as an adult, despite being a minor at the time of the alleged incident.
These are cases involving children of the same age, or nearly the same age, engaging in romance, games, or horse-play. But if the person named by the court as the “victim” is a minor under the law, the person named as the perpetrator (even if also a minor) can be charged with “sexual assault on a minor” (subject to the court and prosecutor’s discretion), which can carry a sentence on conviction, of 40 years in prison, and reporting requirements with public notice as a sex offender for the rest of ones life.
How is the Circuit Court learning of these “cases”. Are local doctors or clinics and hospitals reporting pregnancies they suspect to be out of wedlock to courts or the police? Are local teachers or school administrators or religious zealots directly informing the police, the D.A., or the courts when they suspect children are playing inappropriately?
These cases should never be prosecuted, unless there are accompanying seriously aggravating circumstances. But harsh injustice and unfairness results when teen-age romance and hi-jinks are prosecuted, like they are now in Ozaukee County, partly because the cases that surface are highly unlikely to ever involve prosecution (much less conviction) of children of very wealthy or well-connected families. And those kids can be just as unwise, and fool around just like all children can.
Inappropriate behavior of teenagers should be corrected, and punished, if appropriate, but that does not have to mean initiating a felony prosecution, affixing a “sex offender” label, and issuing draconian court orders.
Two of these cases are further discussed in the first two articles below: