To the Editor-
A recent letter to the editor claimed that Trish Baker, candidate for Portage County Circuit Court Judge, is one of us. If by “one of us” the writer meant “non-lawyer” he was correct.
Ms. Baker has been serving as Portage County’s Clerk of Courts for over four years and while the Clerk of Courts’ Office performs a vital role in county government, it is a non-lawyer position.
The minimum qualifications necessary to run for circuit court judge are that you must be licensed to practice law in Wisconsin for 5 years immediately prior to the election, be a U.S. citizen who is 18 years old or older, and have lived in the county for at least 28 consecutive days before the election. Ms. Baker barely meets these qualifications.
While she has been licensed to practice law in Wisconsin for the 5 years immediately prior to the election for more than four years of that time she has not been practicing law.
The Clerk of Courts oversees the keeping of records, billing and official correspondence of the courts. The clerk’s office has a sign that states that the staff cannot give legal advice. That is because the clerk and her staff are not practicing attorneys.
Ms. Baker has satisfied the minimum standards for continuing legal education credits in order to keep her law license but has not been actively engaged in the practice of law for more than four years.
During this time, she has been working in other areas of the community but the fact remains that she has not been involved in the daily application of legal principles in a system where the law is constantly evolving.
The legal experience that Ms. Baker lists as qualifications consist of part-time positions as Assistant District Attorney in other counties and a short period of time as a private criminal defense attorney.
While she claimed that her part-time positions were due to having children in middle school and high school, during that time she applied twice for full-time positions with the Portage County District Attorney’s Office but was not hired.
She has claimed that her time as a criminal defense attorney was short because she “has a conscience.”
Is she implying that public servants like Judge Thomas Flugaur who spent over a decade with the State Public Defender’s Office do not have a conscience?
Prosecutors and defense attorneys alike work long hours on difficult cases preserving the right to due process, fairness and justice. Defendants are guaranteed representation by law.
The implication that one side lacks a conscience betrays the principle that a circuit court judge must be fair, neutral, unbiased and impartial.
While Ms. Baker’s qualifications do meet the bare standard for eligibility, she has clearly demonstrated that she is not the right candidate for the job.