Graham Kilmer

Race Is On For Circuit Court Branch 30

Two young attorneys vying for a seat held by same judge for more than 20 years.

By - Aug 18th, 2020 04:14 pm
Susan Roth and Travis Schwantes

Susan Roth and Travis Schwantes

Another race is taking shape for a judgeship on Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

Two criminal defense lawyers are running for judge of Milwaukee County Circuit Court’s Branch 30. Judge Jeffrey A. Conen currently presides over Branch 30 and he’s held the seat for more than 20 years. But, as the Journal Sentinel reported in July, Conen is retiring.

Depending on when Conen decides to retire, with the election for the seat in Spring 2021, Gov. Tony Evers may have to appoint someone to fill the seat in the meantime, potentially turning it into a three-way race.

The attorneys that announced their candidacy for the seat are Susan Roth and Travis Schwantes. Roth is a partner at Kohn Smith Roth, a firm specializing in criminal defense. And Schwantes works for the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office (SPD).

Adding another layer to the contest, the candidates graduated from the state’s two competing law schools, Roth from Marquette Law School and Schwantes as a graduate of the UW-Madison Law School.

Schwantes has worked his whole career as a public defender. He works as a State Public Defender and is homicide case coordinator for the Milwaukee Trial division, assigning cases to other attorneys in the office. Schwantes has worked for the SPD in Racine and Elkhorn and as a Chief Public Defender in Minnesota.

Roth has worked in criminal defense at Kohn Smith Roth since 2007. She practices statewide in both state and federal court. She’s represented clients in a variety of cases, including homicides, sexual assaults, drug cases and gun cases. She’s also represented victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. Roth plans to “bring this wide degree of experience” to the court,” she said in a statement.

Both candidates made statements affirming their commitment to the impartiality of the court. Roth said, “It’s time we continue to move Milwaukee County’s judicial system forward in a fair, balanced, and impartial manner for everyone.”

Schwantes said he’s devoted his career to “ensuring that every person is afforded equal opportunity under the law, regardless of their race, gender, creed or socioeconomic background.” And he took aim at some members of the bench, saying, “For too long, many of our judges have punched a clock and gone through the motions, passively allowing injustice.”

Schwantes and Roth aren’t the only attorneys running to replace a judge that has held a seat for more than two decades. Another state public defender, Katie Kegel is running for Branch 3, currently occupied by Judge Clare Fiorenza.

Fiorenza has held the seat for 24 years. Like Roth and Schwantes, Kegel is much younger than the judge she’s running to replace. And she’s also running on making the court more just and equitable.

In a statement announcing her campaign Kegel said the courts are failing to provide justice for “too many.”

“People coming to the courts needing help are instead being harmed,” she charged. 

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Categories: Politics

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