Janesville60°

Attorneys question judicial appointment

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Pedro Oliveira Jr.
May 19, 2010
— The day after David Reddy was elected Walworth County's next judge, the remaining judges appointed someone to replace Reddy as family court commissioner.

Now, a group of attorneys is questioning whether the process should have been more open, giving other candidates a chance to apply for the job.


"Dave Reddy's seat wasn't even cold yet," said Jeff Krebs, managing attorney of the Walworth County Public Defender's Office.


Krebs brought up the issue at the most recent meeting of the Walworth County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, a group that brings together judges, prosecutors, cops and other county officials who deal with law enforcement issues.


"Members of the private bar had approached me because some of them, I think, were curious or perhaps interested in filling that position," Krebs said.


The problem, Krebs said, is not the person the judges appointed, Kristine Drettwan, a part-time court commissioner and judicial assistant to the county's four circuit court judges.


"Apparently, there are no guidelines to fill those positions," Krebs said. "The judges made their selection and that was it. Apparently, that is the Walworth County way of how things are done. If they're done that way, there is no openness to it."


Walworth County's presiding judge, Michael Gibbs, declined to comment Tuesday.


At the Friday meeting, Judge Robert Kennedy said court appointments are up to the judges. They talk, decide on a good candidate and appoint someone, he said.


In Rock County, the process is different. Juelane Teubert, circuit court office manager, said officials in Rock County take applications when a position opens, even the ones appointed by judges.


Kennedy said the four judges in Walworth County knew Drettwan was the best candidate for the job. They all agreed she should be Reddy's replacement and offered her the position, he said.


"It's our job to have the best, and we have the best," Kennedy said.


Drettwan, 42, of Elkhorn has worked as a part-time court commissioner since 2005. She previously worked for 10 years as an assistant district attorney, seven of those in Walworth County. She left the District Attorney's Office in 2003 to care for her young children, she said.


"I'm David Reddy's current backup, so I already do a lot of the duties on a regular basis," said Drettwan, who runs the juvenile court and sets criminal bonds on weekends. "It seemed like the logical step up."


Drettwan's starting date is scheduled for July 12.



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