Gov. Scott Walker will appoint a new Walworth County judge by end of the year

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Andrea Anderson
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ELKHORN — In the 29 years John Race has been a Walworth County judge, he has issued rulings in two Elkhorn courthouses, seen a change in divorce laws and witnessed the implementation of specialized courts.

Now, Race, is ready to retire and awaits Gov. Scott Walker's decision on who should fill Race's bench seat when he leaves Monday, Dec. 30.

“A judge must be quick, must be kind, must be right,” Race said.

The attorneys who applied for Race's position are:

-- Kristine Drettwan, who has been the county's family court commissioner since 2010. Earlier, she was a part-time court commissioner and worked as an assistant district attorney for 10 years, seven of those in Walworth County.

-- Jeffrey Hahn, a court commissioner and a lawyer at Hahn Law Office in Delavan.

-- Daniel Necci, the Walworth County district attorney. Before being appointed DA in 2012, Necci had his own law firm in Elkhorn.

-- Ed Thompson, a lawyer at Clair Law Offices, Delavan. He has been a lawyer in Walworth County for 35 years and has been town of Delavan municipal judge since being elected in 1983.

Walker hopes to fill the position with one of the candidates by the end of the year, said Tom Evenson, governor press secretary.

Walker is looking for someone with “unimpeachable integrity and who is an exceptional lawyer,” Evenson said. The start date is to be determined.

The governor's office is in its third and final phase of the selection process.

Walker is scheduled to conduct interviews with candidates this month. It was not clear if all four applicants were being considered.

In an email, Thompson wrote that he did not receive an invitation to be interviewed by Walker.

Thompson was disappointed he was not given the opportunity to use his legal and judicial experiences, but wishes whoever is appointed the best of luck.

“I certainly wish whomever Governor Walker ultimately selects to fill the vacancy, the judicial wisdom to earn the respect of the position,” Thompson wrote.

Race has endorsed Drettwan but said any of the candidates could fill his shoes.

“She's had the experience,” Race said about Drettwan. “Her decisions are well received and she's well regarded in the legal community. That doesn't mean someone else doesn't qualify.”

Race said he is retiring at the end of the month because he is in good health, wants to relax, and does not want to run another re-election campaign.

Race said jurors on questionnaires have commented about the uncomfortable chairs in the courtrooms and complained about waiting times for hearings, but he has seen no comments suggesting he should retire because of his age.

“I've never heard or read a juror say 'Judge Race ought to retire,'” Race said. “I think if I read that I'd say, 'Alright, that's it.'

"But, I don't want that to happen.”

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