Gretchen Schuldt
Court Watch

Four Candidates For Muni Court Judge

Incumbent Judge Valarie Hill faces three challengers and many questions.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Jan 6th, 2017 10:43 am


City of Milwaukee Municipal Court.

City of Milwaukee Municipal Court.

Valarie Hill

Valarie Hill

Four candidates will run for the Municipal Court judgeship now held by Valarie Hill.

They are Hill, a Municipal Court judge since 2004; William Crowley, a lawyer with Disability Rights Wisconsin; Assistant City Attorney Kail Decker; and Brian Michel, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society in Milwaukee. All four candidates filed nomination papers by the 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline.

The general election is April 4. The primary election will be Feb. 21.

Municipal Court judges serve 4-year-terms. Hill is paid $133,289 per year.

Crowley’s LinkedIn page says he is a family care and IRIS ombudsman with Disability Rights, a position he has held since October 2014. In that job, according to LinkedIn, Crowley provides assistance to clients and potential clients of publicly funded long-term care.

William Crowley

William Crowley

He received his law degree from Marquette University in 2011.

Decker has been a Milwaukee assistant city attorney since February 2014. His campaign Facebook page appears to take a direct shot at Hill, known for her caustic approach to those who appear before her.

“A judge should not publicly berate another person, remove a person from court for dubious reasons, or make incorrect legal rulings,” it says. “With Kail serving as municipal judge for Branch 1, every person would be able to walk into a respectful, reasonable environment and leave with dignity and confidence in the integrity of the court.”

Kail Decker

Kail Decker

Decker graduated from Marquette Law School in 2008.

Michel has been with Legal Aid, a public interest law firm that provides legal assistance to low-income Milwaukee County residents with civil legal issues, for three years.

There, he said on his campaign Facebook page, he “provides no-cost representation to low-income residents facing a wide range of issues, from eviction defense and unemployment compensation appeals, to defending against municipal citations and predatory consumer transactions.”

Brian Michel

Brian Michel

Hill has been a Municipal Court judge since 2004. Her law degree is from the University of Akron School of Law.

Milwaukee Municipal Court has been under fire from critics for denying open records requests, for ignoring the law requiring judges to give indigent defendants the chance to work off a fine with community service, and for piling up fines against black defendants who were charged with 73 percent of fines issued by the courts, a study found. Another study found that 25 percent of all residents of the city’s poorest zip code, 53206, owed municipal court fines, which Ald. Michael Murphy called “shocking”.

Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.”

Categories: Court Watch, Politics

8 thoughts on “Court Watch: Four Candidates For Muni Court Judge”

  1. I don’t know. I realize municipal court judge isn’t as important but I would still like to think it takes someone with more than 5 – 9 years of experience as a lawyer to be successful at it.

  2. Tom says:

    Thank goodness to ALL of the fine challengers to Judge Hill. Every one of her challengers would be a HUGE improvement over the disrespectful, antagonistic courtroom antics of Judge Hill. How this charletan EVER got elected (and re-elected) to a judgeship is beyond me.

    Hope she gets her a$$ booted in the primary, but I will definitely be financially supporting whichever of her challengers survives the primary to run against her in the general. All of the candidates would be a HUGE improvement to the way she treats anyone who appears before her in court.

  3. Corey says:

    Judge Hill must go; I am glad to see someone is finally challenging her. There is no place for her authoritarian leadership style. I will be launching my support behind one the gentlemen in the race. I need to do more research on the candidates, so far, I am leaning toward Michel.

  4. Steve says:

    Val Hill should be held legally accountable for every case she manipulated to fall under her ” colorable” rules of law.
    She should be stripped of that 133,000 a year job and kicked out of the country.
    The way she treats people is TOTALLY inexplicable.
    If she wins again I will be moving my business to Waukesha.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am an attorney who rarely makes my may into Municipal Court, however, I recently had to make an appearance there for a pro bono matter. I was frankly shocked and disturbed by Judge Hill’s lack of professionalism and courtesy to the people appearing in her Court. The municipal judge election is not normally on my radar, but I am happy to see that there are other candidates and will definitely be voting (and encouraging my colleagues to vote) because I agree that pretty much anyone would be an improvement over Judge Hill, who is petty, ignores the law, and is disrespectful to the people who appear before her. To say that she lacks judicial demeanor would be a tremendous understatement.

  6. pplr says:

    Is “proves assistance to clients” a typo that should probably be “provides”?

    That said thanks for the article on this race.

    I would ask any of the commenters here to provide more detail or quotes-I looked over the article about judges not letting defendants know they could do community service rather than a fine and did not see anything about Hill in particular.

    As someone who plans to vote this February that would be helpful.

  7. Dave Reid says:

    @pplr Thanks. Fixed.

  8. Steve says:

    I would ask all these qasi-court runners what law are they practicing? Can’t be constitutional….Hence Thier oath and bond is useless, and they are extortionist for whichever municipality employs them

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