By Brandi Makuski
Local defense attorney Jared Redfield met with City Times staff in the City Times office, 73 Sunset Blvd., for this interview on Tues., Jan. 19. Redfield, 74, is running as Portage Co. Circuit Court Branch II judge.
Redfield and his wife live in Stevens Point.
The following is a verbatim transcript of Redfield’s interview.
Q: Why are you running?
A: “Why am I running? That’s a good question. It’s interesting, because I’ve been practicing law for 30 years here, and I have some other credentials of course, both here and in Washington [D.C.] and New York. I could go way back on that. My first job in high school was, I went to farm houses in all weather, and I drove a truck all summer long, and I stopped at every farm I thought was worthy of being stopped at, and said, ‘Mel Laird would like to put a sign up on your lawn’. And it was great. When he had meetings in central Wisconsin, he went to the Silver Coach, and there were some pretty lively discussion about community interests there. Mel got me into politics, in that respect. He also sponsored me to go to Georgetown Law School. From there I was a White House intern and met President Kennedy, who was a remarkable man. He always said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for the country’. Just imagine a politician, a Democrat, saying that kind of thing. It was quite remarkable.
“I know what a good judge is like because I’ve been practicing law in this state for many years. I know there’s serious examination into the judiciary at this point. I just read a book called ‘Just Mercy’…it’s heartbreaking to think that kind of laissez-faire attitude exists in our judiciary. By the way, if you’ve read ‘Just Mercy’ you’ll know there’s a lot of upper echelon in the judiciary who are from Georgetown. There’s a real spirit of law there.
“The judicial process is being scrutinized thanks to cases like the one involving Steven Avery, and rightly so. The Stevens Point Journal’s articles on how judges are evaluated, I would say, are really good. The judiciary has to respond to alternative forms of courts…you’ll hear a lot from candidates on a veterans court, which I think is absolutely a right thing to do. I see it all the time, where these veterans are self-medicating and suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome; domestic abuse is on the rise, drug and alcohol issues are coming to the floor, so these are things we need. We can use the judiciary in a way that is very, very sensitive to those issues. And I want to be a part of that process.”
Q: How does being a defensive lawyer prepare you for hearing and judging cases?
A: “I’ll give you a very candid answer to that. The most important thing in the process is to know how the criminal justice system works. Know how the judiciary works; know how the prosecutor’s office works. When I do a case as a defense lawyer, I have to understand thoroughly what it is a prosecutor’s looking for and what’s the possibility of resolving it and what defenses I have. The prosecutor has to have the same kind of sense about where I’m coming from, and we both have to know what the judge’s inclinations are. I find that political philosophy does not play a role in it at all. We understand each other’s roles.I don’t think there’s any great advantage going on the bench just having proprietorial experience. I don’t think there’s any great advantage to going on the bench with just having defense experience.
“Candidly, it’s been difficult for some judges who have only done one part to make the adjustment. As a defense attorney, I’m an advocate; I try to present the truth in favor of my client. The prosecutor is doing the same in favor of the state. Some judges have been criticized by the bar for having gone on the bench and having the same positions as when they were a defense attorney. You have to learn, as a judge, you’re going to have to take different positions.”
Q: But as a judge, should you really be an advocate for anything?
A: “No, no you shouldn’t. Our job is to interpret the law. One of the hardest things to people to understand is, I’ve had judges look me in the eye and say, ‘This is what the legislature has dictated, and this is the way I’m going to resolve this case’. If it were me, I would not do it that way. I’ve heard judges say the penalty may be too severe in terms of crimes and OWI cases and in terms of restricting licenses.”
Q: Too severe?
A: “Oh yes; if you’re 18 years old and get hit with an OWI, it’s going to be a burden on you for a long time.”
Q: But isn’t that the point of the law?
A: “Well, yes. They’re very harsh.”
Q: How would you hold yourself accountable to the voters?
A: “You just get out there.”
Q: What does that mean?
A: “Out in the community. Out, participating. One of my things I think is the greatest benefit to the judiciary is my involvement with community organizations. I’m the chairman of the board for the Salvation Army. What are the problems at the Salvation Army? Drugs and alcohol and mental illness: those are issues there. And 50 percent of the time, a school bus stops there. So we deal with these family issues, domestic abuse, alcohol and drugs, we’re working with the city on a warming house. Those kinds of problems I deal with are the same kinds of problems I work with. So that shows you where my heart is.
“The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau; I’ve been on that board for a long time. So I understand the need for economic growth and the need for business. I also work with the humane society. So I know what goes on in the community. How can the community evaluate me? Look at what I’m involved in outside the practice of law.”