Walker names new Walworth County judge

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Gina Duwe
Monday, January 6, 2014

ELKHORN--Family Court Commissioner Kristine Drettwan said she hopes to be the same type of judicial official after she takes over as Walworth County's newest judge.

“I've always strived to be tough but fair. I've always strived to listen to people, to try to figure out what are the facts, what's important and apply those facts to the law and then make my decision (and) clearly explain it,”  Drettwan said

Gov. Scott Walker announced Monday he chose Drettwan, 45, to replace Judge John Race, who is retiring after 29 years on the bench. 

“As a former prosecutor and a family court commissioner, Kristine Drettwan is incredibly prepared to handle the work of a circuit court judge,” Walker said in a news release. “She is an active member of her community in Elkhorn, and I know she will serve the people of Walworth with diligence and a firm commitment to the rule of law.”

Drettwan said her tentative schedule includes a private swearing-in ceremony Friday and then mentoring with other judges in the district for a couple weeks, which is standard procedure for new judges.

Her court calendar will start Jan. 27, she said, and she will take over Race's family court cases. She said that's a good transition because she has been the family court commissioner since 2010.

From 1993 to 2003, Drettwan was an assistant district attorney, first in Douglas County and then in Walworth County. Her caseload included sexual assault, child abuse, domestic abuse, animal abuse, other crimes against people, property crimes and drug offenses.

In 2000, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recognized her for “outstanding contributions in the field of drug law enforcement.” She has also been an instructor in the police science program at Gateway Technical College. 

Drettwan served as law clerk to the Walworth County judges until 2010 and served as a court commissioner and assistant family court commissioner from 2005 to 2010.

When she graduated from law school, she said, she wanted to be a prosecutor.

“As I developed as an attorney and as a person through the years, it's (becoming a judge) kind of something I've started thinking about,” she said.

During her time as family court commissioner, “I've discovered it's something that I feel I'm good at, and I've received a lot of support and encouragement from others in the legal community.”

Heidi Lloyd, executive director of the Association for the Prevention of Family Violence, wrote in support of Drettwan: “She has a well-deserved reputation for being direct, fair and efficient in getting cases resolved. She is always professional and clear. She explains the law in words that make sense to those who don't regularly set foot in courtrooms.”

Local attorney James P. Martin echoed those comments in a news release.

“She is everything that a judge needs to be: even tempered, firm yet compassionate, intelligent, and hard working,” he said. “Win or lose before her, attorneys find her to be tough but fair. In my experiences with her, she does the right thing, not necessarily the easy thing. … Kristine Drettwan is a great example of how an attorney should practice law and how a court commissioner should exercise her duties. We would be fortunate to have her serve in Walworth County as a circuit court judge.”

Drettwan is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota School of Law, where she was on the dean's list. She lives in Elkhorn with her husband, Matthew, and their two school-aged children and attends Sugar Creek Lutheran Church. 

Drettwan's court commissioner position will be posted, and the Walworth County judges will review applications and make the appointment.

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