Primary to narrow judicial field
On the web
The Janesville League of Women Voters has compiled links to local media coverage of candidates for Rock County Judge as well as some of the candidates' written responses. Visit lwvjvl.org for information about:
-- JATV's rebroadcasting of the league's Jan. 25 judicial forum.
-- Links to YouTube videos of the same forum. The league's website features a list of time stamps for the questions asked during the forum. Viewers can choose to watch responses to the questions that interest them the most.
-- Written answers to questions.
-- Links to Local Vision TV's "Meet the Candidates" series as well as video from the Rock County Bar Association's Jan. 24 judicial candidate forum.
JANESVILLE More often than not in recent history, Rock County judges have been appointed by the governor rather than elected to the bench.
This year is an exception.
Six Janesville attorneys are competing to replace retiring Judge James Welker. As a group, they have participated in forums sponsored by local community service groups.
On Jan. 24, the six answered questions in a forum hosted by their peers in the Rock County Bar Association. Among other questions, each was asked: "Depending on the nature of his or her practice, every attorney will experience a conflict of interest at some time. What is the likelihood you will encounter a significant number of conflicts of interest, and how will you deal with it?"
Below are candidates' responses as well as biographical information.
The two top vote-getters in the Feb. 21 primary will advance to the April 3 election.
Address: 4446 N. Connor Road, Janesville.
Job: Attorney. Served with the Army in Vietnam, 1967-69.
Education: Graduated from St. Norbert College, 1964, and from Marquette University Law School, 1967.
Elected positions: Appointed to the Janesville School Board in 1987 and was elected three times. He was school board president in 1996-97.
Community service: None
On the likelihood of conflicts of interest: "I've been basically a sole practitioner and don't have a lot of entanglements. I am quite independent. … I would find it quite rare to be faced with a conflict of interest. If there was one, I would recuse myself prior to anyone having to file a substitution."
Address: 2215 Purple Aster Lane, Janesville.
Job: Trial attorney in Janesville since 1989 and guardian ad litem.
Education: Graduated in 1988 from University of Wisconsin Law School
Elected positions: None
Community service: Member, SpotLight on Kids Board of Directors.
On Facebook: Mike Haakenson for Judge
On the likelihood of conflicts of interest: "Sometimes it's important (to recuse yourself) just for the parties to know you're fair. … If people are concerned about it, let's talk up front. If I see potential problems, I would raise them. Let them discuss it. Let's talk up front. I don't want people finding out later on."
Address: 4155 Eastridge Drive, Janesville.
Job: Attorney in Janesville since 1978.
Education: Graduated from Lawrence University, 1974, and from University of Wisconsin Law School, 1978.
Elected office: None
Community service: Past service on The Salvation Army's advisory board, on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Northern Rock County and as chairman of a YMCA membership drive committee. He coached Janesville area youth and high school teams for more than a decade.
On Facebook: Jack Hoag for Judge
On potential conflicts of interest: "When you run for office, you realize how many people you don't know. If you feel you can't competently do it, or if one of the parties says, 'I have concerns here,' the guiding light has to be the law and when one must excuse themselves."
Address: 507 Apache Drive, Janesville.
Job: Rock County family court commissioner since 1999 and a court commissioner in Jefferson County since 2010.
Education: Graduated from UW-Madison, 1983, and from University of Wisconsin Law School. 1992.
Elected office: None
Community service: Member of State Bar of Wisconsin Family Law Section Board, the Wisconsin Family Law Journal editorial board and the Rock County Bench Bar Committee.
On Facebook: Barbara McCrory for Judge
On potential conflicts of interest: McCrory said she would recuse herself from any case argued by her husband, Marc McCrory. She also said she would be upfront with litigants who were defended by Brennan Steil Law Firm, her former employer.
"What we have to keep in mind," McCrory said, "we have to keep the appearance of a judiciary that is impartial."
Address: 16 Marshall Place, Janesville.
Job: Attorney at McDonald Law Office, Janesville.
Education: Graduated from UW-Whitewater, 2002, received master's degree from UW-Whitewater, 2003; and graduated from St. Louis University School of Law, 2007.
Elected office: Janesville City council, 2008 and 2010.
Community service: Habitat for Humanity of Rock and Jefferson Counties, ECHO, Salvation Army, GIFTS homeless shelter, Janesville Noon Rotary executive board member, volunteer usher at the Janesville Performing Arts Center, Janesville City Council member, chairman of the Janesville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Janesville Alcohol License Advisory Committee, TIF Advisory Board.
On Facebook: Tom McDonald for Judge
On potential conflicts of interest: "The answer to how I would handle it is simple enough. I would recuse myself."
McDonald said his legal work and community volunteerism have built connections locally and around the state.
"I don't foresee a lot of cases in which I would say 'I wouldn't be able to be a judge on this case.'"
Harry C. O'Leary
Address: 2012 N. Granite Drive, Janesville.
Elected office: Janesville City Council, 1991-2002. Served on city and county committees, including the Janesville Plan Commission from 1995-2003, the Janesville Police Department Design Committee and the Rock County Board of Adjustment.
Education: Graduated from UW-Madison, 1984, and from Marquette University Law School, 1988.
Community service: Has been a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader; coach at the YMCA, St. William Parish and Parker High School; Forward Janesville Board; Janesville Riverfront Design Committee; Rock County Board of Appeals; and a member of the Elks Club.
On Facebook: Harry C. O'Leary for Rock County Judge-2012
On potential conflicts of interest: "Based upon current law, there is no conflict of interest, actual or by appearance, unless my brother (Rock County District Attorney David O'Leary) appeared before me or worked on the case in question," O'Leary wrote in an email to the Gazette.
If that happened, O'Leary would recuse himself unless the parties waived the conflict, he wrote.
O'Leary addresses conflict of interest question
When asked, Rock County judicial candidate Harry O'Leary said he would not have to recuse himself from all criminal cases because his brother is Rock County District Attorney David O'Leary. He cites the 1996 Wisconsin Supreme Court case State versus Harrell. Harrell said a Dane County judge should have recused himself from a case because the judge's wife was an assistant district attorney. The Supreme Court disagreed.
According to the court opinion, judges need not automatically recuse themselves from cases because their spouses work in the same office (a private law firm or public defender's office) as an attorney appearing before the judge. Judges might have to consider recusal if their spouses appeared in or helped prepare the case, according to court documents.
O'Leary said he also agrees with the Supreme Court's opinion that being related to a prosecutor would not automatically create the appearance of conflict. A member of a government prosecutor's office does not have a financial interest in the outcome of a case and is not arguing the case to convict a criminal but rather to seek justice, according to court documents.
To read the case law, visit wicourts.gov. Click on the "opinons" tab and search Supreme Court opinions for "Harrell."