“It’s a real shame what’s happening with the politicization in the state of Wisconsin Supreme Court races. People are growing cynical about politics, about judges, and that’s a very dangerous thing. We have an obligation as attorneys and judges to foster respect for the process and to encourage people to understand that the judiciary is independent,” Attorney Michael Brose said.
He has been practicing civil litigation with an emphasis on plaintiff’s personal injury at Doar, Drill & Skow in New Richmond since 1991. Brose earned his Bachelor of Arts from Ripon College in 1987 and law degree from William Mitchell College of Law.
He has been asked to continue serving on Governor Tony Evers’ Judicial Selection Advisory Committee during the governor’s second term. Brose was initially asked to serve on the committee at the start of the governor’s first term in 2019. The committee is responsible for interviewing and recommending candidates to the governor for consideration when he fills judicial vacancies.
Although there is no formal procedure for selecting members of the legal profession for the committee, the intention is to populate the committee with reputable professionals who are both practice and geographically diverse.
In addition to civil litigators, the governor recruited defense lawyers, a prosecutor, a law professor and a number of people who had an office practice, who knew something about employment law or about contracts.
“Even though some of these people are not in the courtroom and don’t have exposure to trial judges and appellate judges, they are very smart about what is necessary about the law and rely on published decisions in whatever they do,” Brose said. “The governor wanted that diverse input. It’s an impressive group.”
All of the members of the committee serve at the pleasure of the governor.
As to how Brose came to be invited, he feels it was more a matter of happenstance.
Brose believes there was a deliberate effort to increase representation on the committee from northern Wisconsin to counterbalance the more densely populated and lawyer-friendly south of the state.
Christine Bremer Muggli, a Top Ten Wisconsin Attorney and former co-chair of the committee from 2019-22 reached out to law professionals across northern Wisconsin including Dana Wachs of Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs in Eau Claire for recommendations. Wachs and Brose have known each other for more than 25 years.
“They were sharing names and that’s how I got in,” Brose said.
Along with his 14 colleagues on the committee, Brose is responsible for vetting, interviewing and recommending to the governor candidates for open seats at the circuit and appellate court level across the state.
No taxpayers dollars are used. Members of the committee volunteer their time.
“It’s a good idea if the governor uses it and this governor does. He takes it seriously which means we take our job seriously,” Brose said.
Anything that creates a vacancy midterm, for instance, an appellate or circuit court judge retiring or moving up to a federal position, triggers the need for an appointment and sends the committee into action. Otherwise seats on the bench are determined by an election.
Depending on how many seats are open, the initial wave of applications are narrowed down to no more than eight candidates per seat by the governor’s legal staff.
The remaining applications are assigned to members of the committee, typically based on geography, to do some “boots on the ground” vetting. Brose researches candidates from northwestern Wisconsin.
“I’ll call around to attorneys I know and say, ‘Tell me some more about this candidate.’ It's possible I might know the candidate, in which case, I relay my personal insight,” Brose said.
The committee has just begun meeting in person again to interview candidates following several years of Zoom meetings necessitated by the pandemic.
“The in person interviews in the governor’s boardroom in Madison at the Capitol building are really the better way to do it,” Brose said.
There is no set number of recommendations expected for any given seat. There may be a single candidate sent forward or several candidates depending on the consensus of committee members.
“When we show up for the interview, the person who is responsible for that vetting will be asked at the end of the interview after the candidate has left the interview, ‘what does vetting tell you?’ So we share that and then everyone deliberates. We recommend who we think is the most qualified candidate,” Brose said.
Throughout his experience serving on the committee, Brose has been impressed with the professionalism, thoroughness and fairness of the committee members.
Discussions about each candidate's qualifications and experience are open and frank.
“At every appointment process we have remarkably well prepared people. A lot of useful ideas and strong feelings are shared respectfully with some give and take. Nobody pulls rank. Everybody, no matter how young they are or how long they have been practicing, their insights are given the same weight,” Brose said.
If members find themselves at an impasse, then legal counsel and the chairman may share how they are leaning or some other thoughts to prompt additional discussion.
“Then by consensus, there’s never been a vote taken to my memory, we arrive at a decision,” Brose said.
However many names the committee recommends to the governor for a specific appointment, they are then given a final interview by the governor and his legal counsel.
“He’s generally gone along with our recommendation but he hasn’t rubber stamped anything,” Brose said. “The final decision is his.”
Brose feels a certain satisfaction with his pro bono work on the committee but even more than that, the substance and comportment particularly of the younger members on the committee reinforces his confidence in the future of our legal system.
“When I get off my Zoom calls or I’m driving home from Madison, particularly with respect to the younger attorneys, I’ve been at this for 30 some years now, but with respect to the input from the younger attorneys I’m just so gratified. It’s very encouraging,” Brose said. “ That alone has made me feel so good about this process. I think to myself, we’re in good hands.”
During his first term, Gov. Evers appointed 43 judges to vacancies on circuit courts and appellate courts across the state. More than half of Evers’ appointees have been women and more than one-third have been people of color.
“These members were instrumental in ensuring that our judiciary reflects the experiences and diversity of our state. With their help, Wisconsin’s judiciary is better empowered to administer justice for all Wisconsinites,” Evers said.
Brose at Doar Drill & Skow
Brose applied at Doar Drill & Skow as a second year law student. Hired on Memorial Day weekend in 1990, he started as a clerk and has worked there his entire 32 year career, but he never tossed his hat into the ring for a judgeship.
“There were a couple open runs at it, but the time wasn’t right or the candidates were excellent so ultimately I think I decided that I didn’t have that much interest,” Brose said.
An even stronger reason, the satisfaction he derives from the clients he serves and the support he receives from his colleagues at Doar.
A recent case symbolizes why Brose got into law and his dedication to secure justice for his clients.
Winning a complicated civil case can be an arduous endeavor often taking multiple efforts and several years. It is not an easy undertaking and requires persistence, patience and conviction.
A young mother was shot accidentally while deer hunting.
A separate criminal case addressed the reckless conduct of the person and people he was with who shot her. Broses’ case sought monetary compensation for her injuries from the defendant’s insurance companies.
Two of the insurance carriers argued they were excluded from an obligation to make payments. Brose lost at trial when the circuit agreed with defendants. On appeal, the appellate court upheld the decision and Broses’ petition to the supreme court was not accepted.
Undeterred, Brose pursued two other insurance policies connected to the case and received favorable rulings from the circuit court judge in Polk County and just kept pushing on behalf of his client. He could not share the specifics of the settlement but felt gratified with the result.
“She was this young lady, young mother, who was walking across a hayfield after having crawled out of her deer stand on a beautiful September evening just happy to be alive when a bullet passed through her abdomen. The people responsible ran away and left her to die. It was a long slog but she was as deserving as anybody I have ever known of compensation for her injuries. That case has been on my mind maybe because of its recency, but that was a battle we won and I feel good about it,” Brose said. “That was a battle that took many years and a lot of work and the assistance of my partners who are very smart about things. We got it done and we got a favorable result for our client.”
Brose prevailed on behalf of another client in a lengthy civil suit, Dostal v. Strand, recently decided in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on January 26. Read “New Richmond law firm wins state Supreme Court case” at hudsonstarobserver.com.
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