In your mind, what qualities make a strong municipal judge?
The Municipal Judge should be impartial, fair and independent. I would demand respect and honesty in the courtroom. A judge should give everyone their day in court by thoroughly preparing for hearings and accurately determine facts. The judge should be prompt and issue decisions that are based on the proper application of the law. I would be tough but fair when dealing with people. As a lawyer, I appreciate judges that provide well-reasoned decisions, even if I do not agree with those decisions. In addition, I think that it is a judge’s role to develop strategies to improve our legal system. As the Municipal Judge, I would work to help people get their driver’s license if they are currently revoked or suspended. I think that our lack of public transportation options requires us to find creative solutions for those without a license. I would also work to provide greater access to the court.
What are the three biggest challenges the city faces and how would you work to address them in the courtroom?
Judges have specific ethical obligations that they are required to follow. One of the issues that the city faces is the perception of a conflict of interest between Judge Mason and Mayor Mason. Because she is married to the Mayor, I think that the judicial ethics rules require Judge Mason to either recuse herself or obtain a waiver for every case that involves the City of Racine. I am running in this election to give the voters another option on April 3. In general, however, it is not the job of the Municipal Judge to create policy or legislate from the bench. I am not taking a position on any issues involving the city. I do not have any political affiliations or special interests. As a judge, it would be my role to determine the facts and properly apply the law in each case that appears before me.
Many City of Racine residents struggle with poverty, don’t have a driver’s license or a GED. How would that factor into your decisionmaking as a judge?
As a judge, I would act with humility and respect for everyone. I understand that people face many challenges and will listen to their concerns. I would give everyone their day in court and will decide their cases fairly and impartially. While I would be willing to give people extra time to pay a fine or provide a monthly payment plan, I understand that I am not an advocate for the people that appear in court. As the judge, I would be responsible for deciding if someone violated a law and their appropriate punishment. I have a great deal of experience working with a wide range of people. My first job after law school was with Legal Action of Wisconsin. I gained experience representing veterans, victims of domestic abuse and the homeless. When I was a private attorney in Racine, I was active in the community and had a diverse clientele. I served as a board of director for many organizations including HALO, Society’s Assets, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Racine Housing and Neighborhood Partnership. I was also a Commissioner with the City of Racine Affirmative Action Human Rights Commission, and a member of the Office of Lawyer Regulation District 15 Committee. Currently, I am a supervisory attorney in an administrative hearing office.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I have developed strong leadership and management skills over the past eight years as a Supervisory Attorney working in an administrative hearing office. My duties include managing the workload of 13 full-time Administrative Law Judges and supervising a staff of 45 employees. I believe it is my role to set clear expectations, inspire my staff to do their job and effectively communicate. I help my staff to independently perform their job and offer my assistance whenever needed. I believe in being a hands-on leader.
Why should people elect you?
I love Racine and want to see this city thrive. I have spent much of my career working to improve our community. I believe in the rule of law and an independent judiciary. I am not involved in partisan politics and have no special interests. I have extensive legal experience in the courtroom and as a supervisory attorney in an administrative hearing office. I decided to run in this election because I believe that the relationship between the incumbent Municipal Judge and the Mayor presents the perception of a conflict of interest. I want to give the citizens of Racine a better choice for Municipal Judge. I believe that I am the candidate that is best suited to improve our court and our city’s image.
The Spring election will be held on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018.
Find your polling location here.
Learn about John Buchaklian’s opponent, Rebecca Mason.