Two judicial candidates face off in forum
Barbara McCrory and Jack Hoag both say they should be the next Rock County Circuit Court judge. WCLO's Jon Meerdink reports.
Forums to air on JATV
A series of local candidate forums will air repeatedly on JATV, Charter cable channels 98 and 994 in Janesville:
Monday, March 26
-- Noon, 5 and 10 p.m.: Rock County Board District 9 candidates Dave Brown and David Diestler
-- 12:40, 5:40 and 10:40 p.m.: Rock County Board District 25 candidates Dave Innis and Billy Bob Grahn
-- 1:20 and 6:20 p.m.: Rock County Board District 24 candidates Cathy Myers and Rich Bostwick
Wednesday, March 28
-- 11 a.m., 4 and 9 p.m.: Janesville City Council candidates
Thursday, March 29
-- 10 a.m., 3 and 8 p.m.: Rock County judicial candidates Barb McCrory and Jack Hoag
Saturday and Sunday, March 31 and April 1
-- 10 a.m., 4 and 10 p.m.: Janesville City Council
-- 11:35 a.m., 5:35 and 11:35 p.m.: Rock County Board District 9
-- 12:20 and 6:20 p.m.: Rock County Board District 25
-- 12:40 and 6:40 p.m.: Rock County Board District 24
Programs can be accessed at the above times at jatv.org and are also available at youtube.com/jatvmedia.
JANESVILLE Both candidates for Rock County judge agree that experience is important.
What type of experience is where they differ.
Attorney Jack Hoag told voters in a forum Wednesday night at Hedberg Public Library that he brings experience handling all areas of law. Since 2002, he has handled more than 1,500 felonies, 1,400 misdemeanors, more than 1,000 family cases and nearly 300 civil cases, he said.
He said his opponent, family court commissioner Barb McCrory, has never handled a criminal case, handled eight civil cases and, as a commissioner, handles family court filings that make up less than 5 percent of the work in the court system.
"I've handled 100 percent of them," he said.
During closing statements, McCrory responded by saying voters saw that Hoag is a "very good litigator."
"He takes those facts that are important for his case, and he talks about them," she said. "What he fails to say when he's talking about those CCAP (online court) filings is, I stopped being a lawyer and representing people in 1998. I've been a court commissioner since 1999."
While Hoag cited his felony caseload, McCrory said she handled 1,300 hearings last year.
Judges are never going to know all the situations that come before them, she said.
"So you have to ask yourself, who makes impartial decisions? I make impartial decisions every single day," McCrory said.
Voters will decide April 3 who will replace retiring Judge James Welker.
The League of Women Voters and the Rock County Bar Association sponsored Monday's forum, which will air repeatedly on JATV's channels and online. Here's how the candidates answered a couple of the questions, in the order they responded:
Q: Neither of you has practiced in all areas of the law. Sooner or later you will have to decide a case involving issues unfamiliar to you. Other than reading briefs, how will you develop the background necessary to address those issues, either through research, consultation with other judges or lawyers, intense mediation or otherwise?
Hoag: He said he was not sure he agreed with the premise of the question.
"All of the areas that a Rock County Circuit Court judge normally handles, I have dealt with," he said.
There will be times that issues or a position might be novel for you, he said.
"There are resources available for that. There are other judges in this community, all of whom I know, all of whom I deal with on a daily basis that I feel like I can rely upon," he said. "Being a judge does not mean that you have all the knowledge in the world, and that you shouldn't reach out to others who have done this before."
He also said he would go to other people, such as asking a person on the street how they feel about a situation. That might not play into a legal decision, but he said community sentiment is something a judge needs to be aware of.
McCrory: She responded to Hoag's comments about talking to someone on the street.
"Last time I looked, that's something we can't do on the judicial branch," she said. "We have to maintain our impartiality, we have to maintain being separate."
She referenced a Milwaukee judge who was disciplined for asking for help from someone who was not a part of the judicial system.
She said just this week she sought input from a judge, who also didn't know the answer to the situation. Together, they looked at case law.
She said she was taught to start with the statutes, then see what the case law says.
"Those are the things that I have been doing," she said. "I always have novel issues that come into my courtroom."
Q: If elected, how will you work to reduce the racial and gender bias of the judicial system of the advocates and of the parties themselves?
McCrory: She said she wasn't sure the Rock County Court system has racial or gender bias.
"I think our judicial branch are people that work rather hard and maintain their integrity by doing that," she said.
She said she couldn't help but point out the signs for Women's History Month, and noted she would make history, if elected, by being the first female judge in Rock County history. But that's not why people should vote for her, she said, noting they should instead choose her for her judicial experience.
She said she wants to make sure people coming into court have their say before she makes her decision, then it's "what do the facts say, what does the law say? … But we have to make sure that we're also aware that there could be those biases out there, especially when we're dealing with juries."
Hoag: "I think that's probably where the experience that Commissioner McCrory has just isn't significant enough to be aware of the issue," he said. "The notion that gender or racial bias is not present in some point in the courtroom probably is naïve. It exists," but not as much as 30 years ago.
"Is it something we combat on a daily basis? Absolutely. It's something that you have to be vigilant about, that we agree on."
It's difficult for jurors to separate their biases, and he's always asked jurors about a potential racial bias. He's had judges sometimes say they would like to take a lawyer's line of questioning of jurors further.
"That's what I would hope I would do," he said. "The importance of that is, we have to build a community that is racially- and gender-bias free."