Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Is Judge Dorow Hiding Her Biography?

Supreme Court candidate’s years defending criminals could be fodder for attack ads.

By - Feb 7th, 2023 10:28 am
Waukesha County Circuit Court Chief Judge Jennifer Dorow. File photo by Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Watch.

Waukesha County Circuit Court Chief Judge Jennifer Dorow. File photo by Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Watch.

There’s something missing from the Waukesha County Circuit Court website listing information about its judges. Click on the names of most judges and you get a biography of them. But click on Judge Jennifer Dorow and you get nothing, only that she began as a judge in 2012.

There is no LinkedIn profile for Dorow and her campaign website bio tells us only that she has had a 26-year legal career and has “prosecuted, defended, and judged a wide array of cases and issues.”

News accounts announcing her run for the Wisconsin Supreme Court noted that she served in private practice and as a prosecutor for Waukesha District Attorney’s office, but how many years she served and when is unclear. The Wikipedia entry on Dorow offers some information about this, but it is inaccurate.

The Wisconsin Justice Initiative provides the most accurate information, provided by Dorow in 2011 when she applied to be considered for appointment as a judge by then-Governor Scott Walker: Dorow said she worked for four years as an assistant DA for the Waukesha District Attorney from 2000-2004. And Paul Bucher, who was then the District Attorney has been quoted saying Dorow worked for him for four years.

But a check of cases handled by Dorow through the Wisconsin Court System‘s CCAP website shows she was working as a prosecuting attorney for the Waukesha District Attorney (perhaps not as an assistant DA) from 1996 to 2000.

After eight years in the office, she took a job, no doubt at a higher salary, at a private law firm run by Matthew Huppertz, where she worked for nearly six years before becoming a partner in the Huppertz and Dorow firm and then worked two more years as a partner for the firm.

Dorow’s experience in handling cases as a prosecutor, and her insider’s knowledge of how the Waukesha DA’s office worked, would have made her an attractive candidate to join Huppertz’s office, someone he could sell to prospective clients. Even today, the Huppertz website notes the firm “has extensive experience defending clients throughout Southeastern Wisconsin accused of sex offenses such as:

  • Rape/Sexual Assault
  • Statutory Rape
  • Date Rape
  • Child Sex Crimes including Child Molestation
  • Internet Sex Crimes including child pornography and solicitation of minors for sex”

CCAP shows Dorow defended such clients, including those charged with domestic battery, harassment, sexual assault, using a computer to facilitate a sex crime, sex with a child age 16 or older and third-degree sexual assault. Some of those clients are registered sex offenders.

One of those offenders, Terrence L. Greenwald, was charged “with three counts of repeated sexual assault of a child, one count of sexual assault of a child under 13, four counts of child enticement and one count of causing a child older than 13 to view/listen to sexual activity,” the Journal Sentinel reported in 2010.

Greenwald faced dozens of years in prison but Dorow was able to get him a plea-bargained deal whereby he would plead to six misdemeanors and serve no time in prison.

Dorow also defended clients charged with second-degree reckless homicide, causing bodily harm, drug trafficking, burglary and other offenses.

Should Dorow win the primary, she may face ads targeting her for this case and possibly others. The best-funded candidate in the race, Janet Protasiewicz, has released an ad declaring that “I’ve locked up murderers, rapists, and child sex predators.” Perhaps someone in her campaign has already reviewed all the cases on CCAP — some 180 — Dorow handled as a defense attorney.

Huppertz, her former law firm partner, described Dorow as caring and compassionate. “Jennifer has one of the biggest hearts of any individual that I have ever known,” Huppertz said. It would not be surprising if Dorow, over the course of six years defending clients, developed some sympathy for them. That’s human nature. Our system of criminal justice depends on attorneys taking on such cases.

But campaigns for the high court have become cartoons of simplistic claims and judges promising to get tough on crime. Protasiewicz, seen as one of the two liberals in this race, is already following that script. And Dorow’s first ad touts her handling of Waukesha parade killer Darrell E. Brooks and calls her a “Wife, mother, prosecutor… Judge Dorow’s life’s work is keeping Wisconsin families safe.”

There was no mention, of course, of her work as a defense attorney, of her success reducing the sentence of a man charged with nine sexual offenses, or the many other criminals she defended. That must be kept a secret during this campaign.

Categories: Murphy's Law, Weekly

8 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Is Judge Dorow Hiding Her Biography?”

  1. Polaris says:

    I hear ya, Bruce, and suspect most or all of what you are saying is true.

    That said, I am at very least of two minds when it comes to this: I hate rape, child molestation and Internet sex crimes. And, I live in a democracy in which the 6th Amendment guarantees that everyone accused of a crime in this country has the cherished right to legal defense.

    So, is Dorow an awful person/lawyer/candidate for defending people accused of crimes? What would this article say if the candidate were liberal leaning?

  2. mkwagner says:

    Polaris isn’t that kind of the point of the political double standard? It’s OK for a conservative to get sex offenders, rapists, and child mollesters off. However, if a liberal or Black judge (let’s say Louis Butler, for instance) has a questionable case, he is demonized and vilified by right wing opponents (let’s say Michael Gableman.)

    As much as I hate the current 30 second sound bite review of judges entire careers, it is the campaign system we have. It was bought and paid for by the right wing, white supremacists, wealthy oligarchs. So, until we can return our state government back to its representative roots, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  3. Swblackwood says:

    In fact, tonight (7th February), the first ad attacking Dorow for this ran on Channel 4 Milwaukee. It was not from a candidate but I suspect that it’s aligned with the male Conservative whose name escapes me at the moment.

  4. nickzales says:

    There is more to Judge Dorow’s record as an attorney. It is puzzling why she does not disclose it. It is available online through the Clerk of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

    She has a record as an appellate attorney. As the Wisconsin Supreme Court is an appellate court, it seems odd to not mention it. Between 1997 and 2012, she was counsel of record, often with others, in seventeen appeals. That is not many for an appellate attorney, but it shows she is familiar with the appeals process in Wisconsin. That would seem to be an advantage.

    Anyone can look at the seventeen cases here:
    Or just type “WSCCA” into any search engine and it will lead you there. CCAP holds the court’s circuit court records. WSCCA holds the records of the Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. To access them, you need an attorney’s bar number for CCAP (available at the State Bar of Wisconsin’s website – WSCCA only requires an attorney’s name.
    Today, all appeals briefs are e-filed with the Clerk’s office and can be read online at WSCCA. CCAP does not have briefs that can be read online. Only an entry describing what was filed. Because her appeals are older they are not online but they may be found are on the shelves at the U.W. Law School library in Madison. She did not have a significant appellate practice but she did have one and understands the appellate process from participating in it. I would think that a positive but that’s up to her.

  5. Andrew B says:

    “Lawyer defends criminals” isn’t really the criticism liberals think it is, to the right.

  6. danlarsen7007 says:

    I think Dorrow’s past, once publicized, will work against her. Her race is based on one trial, that of the Waukesha parade killer. Her past is littered with a vast array of trials where she sat on the other side of the table and defended similar sorts. The big difference was that they were probably all white and able to afford her fees. I doubt she took pro bono cases.

    Her running for the SC is, in effect, her grabbing at the golden ring on the carousel of her career. Just scraping a bit at the surface of her defending attorney history will show how hypocritical she can be. Personally, I don’t trust her enough to be a Supreme Court justice. She will not get my vote.

  7. blurondo says:

    Our judicial elections have become a sorry, ugly victim of the divisions that plauge our political landscape and system. It’s time to change the selection process; many other states have.

    For example, judges in Alaska face retention elections in November of even-numbered years.
    Alaska is one of six states that use retention elections to determine whether judges should remain on the bench without using another type of election as an initial selection method.

    Other states use other methods as well. They are detailed here:

  8. dnarvey says:

    The fact that Judge Dorow worked as a criminal defense attorney is one of the least objectionable things about her candidacy. Do better, Bruce.

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