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Kenosha Judge Candidates Debate Issues At Forum Hosted By The Kenosha County BAR Association: Video

Court Commissioner Heather Iverson and Judge Frank Gagliardi Tonight At Casa Capris
(Photo by Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye

Lawyers from the private and public sectors, prosecutors, judges, court staff, the Sheriff, other members of the legal community, and members of the public packed into Casa Capris tonight to watch a spirited debate between the two candidates for Circuit Court Judge in Kenosha’s Branch 3. Court Commissioner Heather Iverson and Judge Frank Gagliardi are going head-to head for the position which will be decided by voters on April 2, 2024. Gagliardi was appointed by Governor Tony Evers (D) in November to succeed retired Judge Bruce E. Schroeder. Iverson has served as a full-time court commissioner for the past three years.

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Attorney Andrew S. Wier, Attorney and President, Kenosha County BAR Association (Habush)
(Photo by Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye)

Tonight’s debate was hosted by the Kenosha BAR Association and moderated by its president, local attorney Andrew S. Wier of Habush of Habush, & Rottier. The questions were submitted by members of the bar, and the questions were forward and unfiltered. For, just over two hours, Iverson and Gagliardi answered tough questions and traded a few jabs throughout the debate.

Court Commissioner Heather Iverson and Judge Frank Gagliardi Tonight At Casa Capris
(Photo by Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye)
Court Commissioner Heather Iverson and Judge Frank Gagliardi Tonight At Casa Capris
(Photo by Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye
Judge Frank Gagliardi Tonight At Casa Capris
(Photo by Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye)
Court Commissioner Heather Iverson Tonight At Casa Capris
(Photo by Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye
Court Commissioner Heather Iverson and Judge Frank Gagliardi Shake Hands After Debate
(Photo by Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye)

**The following was transcribed via Please excuse any Errors – Full audio is above**

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[Commissioner Iverson]

I’m Heather Iverson, I’m running for Circuit Court Judge for Kenosha County for Branch 3. I’ve been practicing law for 15 years, and all of those years have been dedicated to public service. I was a Special Prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office, I was an attorney for the Kenosha County Child Support Agency, representing the state of Wisconsin and the residents of Kenosha County.

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In 2021, I was appointed by all eight judges of Kenosha County to serve as Circuit Court Commissioner. They determined that, and they believed that, I was the most appropriate person to sit on the bench to hear the issues of the Kenosha County residents. As Court Commissioner, I’ve heard hundreds of cases each week involving various forms of law.

Criminal law, family law, civil law, traffic cases, restitution hearings, I do a diversion program, I do juvenile cases dealing with bullies and thieves, and I do cases involving children in need of protection and services. Almost every day of my legal career has been spent in the courtroom. I was born and raised here in Kenosha County.

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I was raised by a single mother, and my grandparents lived in the home with me. My mother and my grandparents taught me the importance of honesty and hard work and a good work ethic. It served me well, and it still continues to serve me.

I was educated in the Kenosha Unified School District, and I’m proud of that. I think we have a fantastic school district here. There are some things going on with it now that are hard to see as a former student for Kenosha, but I have hope in our community that things will pick back up.

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I’m married. I have two kids, Ben and Ellie. My husband and I have chosen to raise our children here in Kenosha County because we love this community and because we believe so much in this community.

I believe that a judge should not only be well-versed in the law but also deeply connected to the community they serve. I believe in serving one’s community, and I have shown this both in my professional career and in my personal life. I’ve been on the United Way Board, the legal action board.

I was the president of the Kenosha County Bar Association twice. I think you are now going to be the winner after this. I was the treasurer for the bar, the secretary for the bar, and member of the board of arts for the bar.

I was also a member of the board and president of the Kenosha Symphony Orchestra. I’m also a temperament. I was the vice president of Business and Professional Women’s Foundation of Kenosha.

I’ve been involved with the Alzheimer’s Foundation here in Kenosha. I serve meals at the Ronald McDonald House at Children’s Hospital for families who don’t have the ability to even think about food when their children are in the hospital, and I do that because I have a personal connection to that. My family had to go through that.

And so I give back to others because I can. I play music for community orchestra and nursing homes. I play soccer team, baseball team.

I play hurdy-gurdy. I was appointed by the Supreme Court to the District 1 Committee for the Office of Lawyer Regulation, and I served in that position for six years. When Judge Schrader announced his retirement, I decided it was the right time to run for judge.

I announced this decision to the public, the voters, and the residents of Kenosha County. I did not seek out an appointment from the governor four short months ago because I have served the people of Kenosha County my entire career, and the people of Kenosha County should decide who the next circuit court judge for Branch 3 should be. It should not be unilaterally decided by a politician or by outside special interest groups.

My ethics experience and commitment to Kenosha is verifiable, and I have run my campaign with honesty and integrity.

[Judge Gagliardi]

Good evening. I’m Frank Gagliardi. I’m your judge for Branch 3.

I was appointed in November, and I want to say that it was a very, very tough thing to go through. Not just a tough thing to go through in the vetting process, but it was a tough decision to put yourself in a position where you’re putting yourself out there. And I’ve been putting myself out there my entire legal career, my entire professional career.

I am first a husband, second a father, third I am now a judge and an attorney. But something that you need to know about me is I’m a community member, just like you. I’m a volunteer.

I take pride in being a mentor for our youth. I’ve been dedicating literally thousands of hours to not only Lake England League and different community youth organizations, but right now I’m coaching a team of 17-year-old girls who I take pride in. These girls are not just ballplayers.

They’re family. They’re people that I really enjoy making a difference in their lives. They’re people I’m committed to, like my clients.

I’m an attorney. For 18 years I’ve been practicing law with my father in Paddock Lake, where we had a small business, representing clients from all over Kenosha County, in various counties all over the state, sometimes in Illinois. But I’m someone who is like some of you, who’s owned a small business, who’s represented the client, who’s represented the people.

I’m someone who’s committed. Someone who is committed, not just to their clients, but committed to serving the community, sitting on the bench, and using my opportunity to serve in a judicial manner, with integrity and honor. I’m focused, hardworking, but also you should understand that I’m a fourth or, well, fourth generation, I believe, on my father’s side, fifth generation on my mother’s side, in Kenosha.

I have been in Kenosha. Our family has been in Kenosha. You are sitting in my family’s restaurant.

My nana, Carolyn Gagliardi, was a Stella. This is her restaurant. This is our family’s restaurant.

And we appreciate the Kenosha County Bar for hosting this event at our family’s restaurant. And we appreciate our cousin providing the food for us. I hope that we are in a position that, at the end of the night, you’ve enjoyed your dinner, but you’ve also been informed.

And that’s our job today, to help inform you a little bit about ourselves, and to give you some answers, to give you a little insight about our positions, our character, and our ability to serve you as a judge. It’s not just saying it, it’s doing it. And right now, I am doing it.

And I have been doing it for the past three months. Since January, I have been your branch three circuit court judge. I enjoy it.

I enjoy making a difference. I enjoy serving your court, not my court. So, I hope you enjoy the evening, and I look forward to answering questions.

Thank you.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

Thank you both. And again, I want to reiterate the thank you to Hondo and Casa Capri for hosting this in person the second time they hosted when Judge Meyer was elected as well. That was a great event.

You chose to return. My first question will be for Commissioner Iverson. Both of you talked about your experience with your family and your involvement in the community.

These first set of questions will be specific to your legal experience. Prior to this appointment or the election, talk about your work experience over the last five years and how it prepared you to become a circuit court judge. How does that experience distinguish you from your appointment?

[Commissioner Iverson]

Thank you. So, over the last five years, three of those five years, I have been the circuit court commissioner for Kenosha County, where I hear various areas of law. And I went over those briefly in my opening.

I don’t just do one type of law as that circuit court commissioner, but all of those types of laws that I work with. Two years prior to that, I was with the child support agency, and I was also a special prosecutor at that time with the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office, prosecuting felony cases of failure of non-support. So, I have done in the past five years the following areas.

Criminal cases, both misdemeanor and felony. I’ve done restitution hearings. I have done traffic.

I run a diversion program. I have done civil cases, including small claims. I have done cases involving family issues.

Children in need of protective services and juvenile delinquency cases. I hear every day, unfortunately, which is not something that’s great. You shouldn’t have to hear those cases every day.

So, in the past five years, I have had an incredibly diverse and varied background in laws, and that’s what distinguishes me from my opponent is experience. Not just in one area of law, but all the areas of law.

[Judge Gagliardi]

Over the last five years, that’s the question. Over the last five years, I’ve been representing clients. I’ve been representing people in litigation, in all areas of litigation, in regards to civil litigation, family law, probate law, real estate, property law, trust disputes, personal injury disputes, where we represent people who can’t represent themselves.

They are in a very troubled position where they need help. We’ve represented people in litigation, malpractice, medical malpractice, insurance law. I’ve also had the experience of being a court committee, and doing tickets, and criminal tickets, misdemeanor tickets, small claims, convictions.

I’ve also done intake court. I’ve set bonds. And also now, as a judge for the last year, since the middle of January, I’ve done sentencing.

I’ve done criminal law. I’ve done sentencing after revocations. I’ve done sentencing for plea sentencing.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

I’ve done name-taking. I’ve done all these areas of law as well. I’ve done chips cases as well.

My point is, is I have represented people on the private sector. I’ve been now in the public sector. I have a well-rounded grasp of not just being an attorney that is working with people, or being a judge that has people coming before me, but I’ve sat and had to represent people and deal with them after a disappointing hearing, or sitting with them waiting for the court to hear their case.

I know how to handle that. That’s important. You need to be well-rounded, and that is what I have.

My experience is strong as well. Thank you.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

Thank you. This next question will be directed to Judge Gagliardi. Circuit court judges handle jury trials in both civil and criminal cases. What jury trial experience do you have, and in what context? Do you feel experience with jury trials is essential for a circuit court candidate? Why or why not?

[Judge Gagliardi]

Well, all experience in the courtroom, whether it’s a bench trial or a jury trial, is important. I’ve been on a jury team, and we work as a team in our office. We’ve tried cases in all sorts of counties in the state of Wisconsin.

So I’ve had malpractice cases that I’ve done jury trials in with my partner, Paul. I’ve done personal injury cases where we’ve done jury trials. But here’s the thing.

It’s important. But what’s important is also understanding the process, not just the jury process, but the civil process of procedure, evidence, using evidence in regards to proving your case. Every case, whether you’re in criminal or whether you’re in civil, elements are important.

You have to be able to understand the burden of proof. You have to be able to understand the elements of the crime that you’re trying to either defend or, as a prosecutor, prosecute. And in order to achieve your objective in the courtroom in personal injury cases, we still have to have a burden of proof to show that we’ve met elements of negligence.

Or in a malpractice case, it might be elements of conformed consent. No matter what, whether it’s civil or criminal, the law is the law. Procedure is the procedure.

You have a burden of proof in every action if it has elements that are in the petition or in the complaint. And in order to be successful, you have to have the ability and knowledge to be able to get the evidence into the court record in order for the judge or the jury to be able to consider that in making their ultimate decision. So whether it’s criminal or civil, that is one of the main points that you need to have in regards to experience.

Thank you.

[Commissioner Iverson]

All right. Thank you. My experience with jury trials is in the criminal section.

In those, I have had two criminal jury trials. However, most, if not all, of the felony cases that I prosecuted ended up with a plea agreement. So there’s something to be said for saving the taxpayer some money.

As for is it important for a jury trial experience to be a judge, you should have some trial experience, absolutely. But I think the important thing that you consider when doing a trial as a judge is you’re not the attorney. You’re the judge.

You have to be up to date on your rules of evidence. You need to be up to date on the processes of voir dire. You need to control the courtroom.

You’re not taking a side. So it’s important in the sense that you’re the ringleader for the circuit. It’s not you presenting a case.

It’s not you telling the jury a side of the story. So while jury trial experience is important, the most important thing is that the judge knows the rule of law. They’re experienced in that type of law, that they maintain the courtroom, they maintain the decorum, and they take everything with it.

So they can make decisions and decisions.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

All right, thank you. As a follow-up, and again, this next question, since we’re alternating, we’ll go to you, Commissioner Iverson. Judges during a jury trial are expected to make decisions on the spot in reaction to evidentiary objections.

These decisions can be vital to a claim or a defense and can open the case up to an appeal. How has your training and experience set you apart from your opponent with respect to your mastery of the rules of evidence?

[Commissioner Iverson]

Boy, don’t we all wish we could say we were masters of the rules of evidence. Well, I think this goes to preparation as well. You know what kind of trial you’re going to have in court, whether it’s criminal or civil or family or termination of criminal rights.

You already have had most in-depth things involving evidence and other issues, but you have a basic concept of evidence. Hearsay is all kinds of different ones. You have bench books and things that you’re setting calls for.

Yes, all the lawyers have basic knowledge of the rules of evidence. Did all the judges, no offense to the judges who are here, know every bit about hearsay, rules of evidence, and whatnot? The answer is no, they didn’t.

Just like lawyers, judges have to prepare, and judges should be prepared, and as a judge, I will be prepared.

[Judge Gagliardi]

Well, experience-wise, you’re talking about the rules of evidence and being able to identify and to be able to listen. When I was in law school, I was in litigation. That was my main focus in my law school.

We tried cases in criminal trials. We tried cases in civil. We were well-versed from the beginning of my legal education in practicing the rules of evidence.

The rules of evidence are really important. I can’t emphasize how important knowing rules of evidence, objections, in that aspect, to be able to get your case across, because if you’re a litigator and you come before me, and that’s what I did all of my career was litigate, and when you come before me as a judge, I need to be able to be understanding. I’m not, depending on if I’m a bench trial, then I’ve got to be, not only the trier of fact, but I’ve got to be the gatekeeper to the evidence.

But as a judge in a jury trial, I’m a gatekeeper, and you need to not just be prepared. You need to be well-versed and have experience. I’ve made objections.

I’ve briefed motions eliminated. I’ve done probably 1,000 depositions in my 18 years. I mean, it’s got to be close.

It’s important to understand the rules. It’s important to listen to the people who are before you and listen to the objections that are being made and listen to what reasoning or what rule that they’re trying to get this in over. There’s always people making objections on something that comes in or comes out.

The important part is to listen to them and have the experience because you’ve done this before. And, no, it’s not a perfect system, but it’s a working system, and it’s one that I’ve been in all my career.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

Thank you. Jeff Gagliardi’s next question will begin with you. One of the ways in which the public as a whole have a window into the judicial system seems to be dominated by criminal cases, and more than half of the branches in Kenosha County are dedicated or assigned caseloads that involve criminal cases.

What experience do you have specifically in criminal law, and how has your experience prepared you for this area of the law?

[Judge Gagliardi]

Again, I’ll start with my education. That was at law school. I did an externship with a criminal attorney that did criminal sexual conduct first-degree cases, and that’s all we get.

I also have experience as an intake court commissioner. But here’s the real experience that I’m now getting, which is on the bench. And I’m getting real experience in criminal law on the bench.

And when you don’t know something, what do you do? In life, you don’t know everything. In law, you don’t know everything.

So what do you do? What I do is I rely on myself to be, and my skills of being prepared. I rely on my hard work ethic, and I rely on the fact that I want to get something right, and I want to have the people who are coming before me know that the guy or woman who is making those decisions is a hard worker and willing to be prepared.

Also, I’m willing to be a team member and work and talk to those who are mentoring me so that I understand what they’ve done in the past. How am I catching up on these sentencing? I’ve been reading transcripts nonstop.

I’ve been reading the law nonstop. I’ve been doing those types of things. We have judges that have only come from a civil background.

They’ve done a great job. We’ve got a couple of them right now that are in our branches from just civil backgrounds, and they’ve done a great job in the criminal department. Likewise, we’ve got some judges who have only been state’s attorneys.

What happens when that state’s attorney has to come and try to be someone doing the civil case? It’s the same thing on the flip side. But here’s the thing, for the next 18 months, I’m doing civil.

So I have a little time to learn the criminal parts that I don’t have, but for the next 18 months I’m doing civil and family, and in those situations I have experience, and that is what I’ve been doing all my career.

[Commissioner Iverson]

Thank you. With respect to criminal cases, I have a vast amount of experience in that. I have experience as a prosecutor, drafting criminal complaints.

I have experience selecting juries, trying cases, questioning witnesses, dealing with victims in the case. I, as a court commissioner, have dealt with the intake process, which is when we first hear a case and someone’s been charged, whether they’re in custody or not, setting bonds, issuing warrants, issuing papers, which is a juvenile criminal issue. I do the preliminary hearing.

I do the arraignment hearing, if I’m a court commissioner. I deal with bond motions when they’re made, if somebody wants to reduce their bond. I set conditions of bonds as well, which I think is really important, because that helps protect our community, particularly when we’re dealing with violent crimes or crimes that involve domestic violence as well.

With respect to the majority of cases in Kenosha County being criminal, that’s true. And there are a lot of them. It is an incredible case load, and it’s something that needs to be dealt with by someone who knows how to run a courtroom with a heavy calendar.

And I do know how to run a courtroom with a heavy calendar. I have quite a heavy calendar now as a commissioner during all kinds of different areas of law. So when it comes to criminal law, I have experience both in front of a judge and on the bench.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

Thank you. This last question will deal with experience personally. Can you provide examples of your past experiences or decisions that you’ve made in your career that demonstrate your commitment to upholding the rule of law and protecting individual rights?

[Commissioner Iverson]

With respect to decisions, every time I set issues in bond, my thought is protection of the community. I will say court commissioners do not do sentences, but I’ve never issued a maximum sentence. That is something that judges do.

But in terms of issuing a decision, I can do that in family cases, where we can determine if it’s in a child’s best interest with the assistance of starting a violence, that a child should remain with one parent or another or both parents. In terms of bonds, determining whether a cash bond or a signature bond is warranted, if there should be no contact with a certain person. Sometimes victims can’t or sometimes victims are afraid.

And sometimes you have to make a decision that might be hard for the victim, but you have to make it for the community. So I think when you reflect on what you’re doing, you take the time, you look at the scope, the broad picture of it, you should be able to be proud of the decisions that you’ve made. And I am, because that’s what I do.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

Thank you. Can you provide examples of your past experiences or decisions that demonstrate your commitment to upholding the rule of law and protecting individual rights?

[Judge Gagliardi]

As a litigator in private practice, you’re always looking at what arguments we can make. And one of the things that you should understand is, when you’re in private practice, it’s understanding your clients and what arguments you can actually make that are plausible in the law. I’ll get to decisions that I make as a judge in a second, but there’s real-life decisions that are important that you have to understand.

What client’s case should you take and what client’s case should you advocate? Because every client that comes into your office doesn’t have a case that is worthy or has merit to bring before the court. And you can’t make an argument just because someone tells you, hey, I’ve got a $5,000 retainer or a $10,000 retainer, and I want you to make this argument.

Well, there’s a law involved. And you can’t just go and take every client, and that’s a decision I make. But there’s also decisions that you make as a court commissioner or as a judge that are important, that affect you.

And some of the decisions I’ve been making, which is some of these sentencing after revocations that I’ve been doing, I had to sentence some of the prisoners. It doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel good.

But it’s the right thing to do in certain circumstances. And one of those circumstances is when you’re a judge sentencing someone, when you’re trying to protect the community. And when you also are making decisions in family law cases, which I’m doing now, the decisions affect the families.

Every decision that you make in the courtroom doesn’t just impact the people in the courtroom. It impacts the community. It impacts the people’s families.

And you have to be conscious of that, because every decision that you make is important. And sometimes we want to, or all the time, we want to be conscious of the collateral damage that we can cause by making decisions, and we want to minimize that.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

Thank you. Judge Gagliardi, we’re going to move to a section dealing with more judicial philosophy and character questions. At times, judges will be required to administer the law even when they think the law mandates the wrong result.

What guiding principles will you use when confronted with this situation? Some examples could be, for example, mandatory minimum sentences.

[Judge Gagliardi]

Some of the guidelines, when you talk about sentencing, you’ve got to look at taking a look at all of our… I’ll start with sentencing, and I’ll give you a simple example. I’ll give you two examples.

When you’re looking at the sentencings, we have to look at the crime that was committed. And when we do that, we are balancing that with the character of the defendant and the safety of the community. How do we start to figure that out?

Well, we go back and we read, and we understand all the circumstances. And that starts at the criminal complaint and goes to the PSI report and the felony case report. And we use those tools to make the right decisions.

Sometimes it’s a hard decision, such as putting somebody in jail. Or when we’re in civil court in an eviction, and you’ve got to follow the rules. And it’s a sad situation, and you have to take your emotion out of it, and you have to evict somebody.

It doesn’t make you feel good when you’re putting somebody on the street, but I’ve got to follow the law, and I’ve got to set my feelings aside because the law says I have to do something. Here’s another complicated thing, and I had a sophisticated litigation case that came before me. We had an hour hearing, and I had a case that came before me that wanted to certify a class action.

I can’t talk about this, but it was a very complicated case. And the lawyer who came before me, after I spent about 10 hours on this research and prepping for this case, and the lawyer who was arguing for the class action and the notices put me in a position where he wanted me to rewrite the legislature, the written legislation that the statute said, like Massachusetts did, in order for that person to make their point. And my history was brought up in the case of what I practiced in, and what I did was the right thing.

I dismissed all of his claims because he couldn’t make his point without having me change the law and legislate from the bench.

[Commissioner Iverson]

There we go. So I believe in the rule of law. I believe it’s not to be interpreted by a judge.

And I believe that personal opinions and morals don’t belong on the bench in terms of when you make sentences or decisions, because you follow the law. For example, in criminal cases, there’s a set of factors that comes from State versus Galion of sentencing guidelines. You consider things like severity of the crime, age, criminal history, character of the individual, rehabilitative needs of the individual, protection for the public, any kind of aggravated or mitigating factors.

Those are all things that go into consideration. There is some certain discretion at that point. There is judicial discretion in terms of sentencing for criminal matters.

But in terms of evictions, I hear evictions twice a week. And I hear heartbreaking stories. I hear families who are sick.

I hear families who have had a death. I hear we’ve lost our job, our car broke down. And it’s heartbreaking.

It is. And it does affect you. However, the landlords have a right to their remedy under the law.

And if there is not a legal reason why an eviction should not be granted, I have to uphold the law, and I have to grant that eviction. Does it feel good? Absolutely not.

Is it right to do under the law? Yes. And that is what you make decisions.

Under the law, what is right, not how you feel about the eviction.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

Thank you, Commissioner Iverson, Deputy Gagliardi. Some of these questions upcoming are going to be pointed, but they were a dominant theme in the submitted questions. And so we’ve done our best to distill them in questions that make sense for this forum.

Judicial campaigns can be one of the only ways in which members of the bar and the public are exposed to your work product, particularly if we do not work in your area of practice or you practice in an area that is not publicized. What do you think we as members of the bar can infer from your campaign, including your representations, regarding your endorsements and work experience?

[Commissioner Iverson]

All right. Well, I think my endorsements speak volumes. They have bipartisan support.

And I think it comes from the fact that these people have worked with me for over 15 years. They know me. They know my work ethic.

They know I am trustworthy. They know I run a good courtroom. They know I have integrity.

I have the endorsements of the Kenosha County Deputy Sheriff’s Association. I have the endorsement of the AFL-CIO. I have the endorsement of several law enforcement, current and retired.

I have the endorsement of a current sitting judge, Judge Angelina Gabrielle. I have endorsements from small business owners, from educators, from factory workers, from everywhere. And I think it speaks volumes to my experience, my character, my integrity, and how I’ve been in the community.

Because it’s not just lawyers endorsing, it’s not just judges, it’s not just law enforcement, but it’s everyone in the community. And for me, that is very humbling, and I’m very proud of that.

[Judge Gagliardi]

We both have endorsements from bipartisan groups, organizations, people. I personally didn’t ask a sitting judge for an endorsement, because we’re all on the same team. I personally didn’t ask the police for an endorsement.

I was invited to go up here to talk about it. Maybe it’s an endorsement, maybe it’s what it says. But in regards to endorsements, we both have a lot of people in this community that back us up, for good reason, on both sides.

What I’ve decided to do in my campaign is run a campaign about me. It’s to run a campaign about my war deficit, my background, my involvement in the community, my core family values, my desire to treat people who come before me like I want to be treated. It’s a golden rule, if you will.

I want the people who come before me to be treated like I was when I was a litigator for my clients. One of the top things that my clients would always tell me, I want to be heard. Whether the judge agrees with me or not, I want to be heard.

And I want to be respected. So, I am your judge right now, and I am conducting my courtroom in that manner. I’m making sure everybody is heard.

I am making sure that everybody is respected. My courtroom is efficient, and that is very much in line with what my character is and what my integrity is. Integrity is huge.

Whether I win this election or not, the integrity in how I run this campaign will follow me moving forward. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you. And again, on behalf of the members of the Box, these are direct questions and you don’t need to take the whole two minutes on this one. You don’t have to.

Judge Gagliardi, you’re up next. Have you ever been sanctioned or reprimanded by the OLR or its predecessors?

[Judge Gagliardi]


[Commissioner Iverson]

Commissioner Iverson. No, but I did serve on their committee for six years.

Commissioner Iverson, this next question will be for you first. Judicial elections are nonpartisan, but a recurrent question, a dominant question, I should say, that we have received from the members of the Bar is targeted at outside support. What outside organizations have donated to your campaign and supported you by the publication of campaign materials?

And then the second part, if they have, have any of those organizations published materials in the broadest sense of the term? That includes flyers, direct mail, electronic mail, or advertisements. And then there’s a third part to the question.

I know there’s an objection for a compound question here.

[Commissioner Iverson]

Yeah, I’m trying to get it all. Start it over again so I can write down the numbers of how many questions we’re going with.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

What outside organizations have donated to your campaign or supported you by the publication of campaign materials? Have they published materials in any form in the broadest sense of the term? And if they have supported you in this way, do you believe the representations of you or your opponent are accurate?

Do you repudiate any of the content? And do you believe that any content endorsing you or attacking your opponent is inaccurate or unfair?

[Commissioner Iverson]

All right, thank you. I have not taken any campaign money or any campaign anything in kind from any outside organization, period. There have been some mailers going out that people have attributed to me.

However, they are not mine. I did not approve them. I had no knowledge of them.

I did not even know they were being sent out. They were being sent out by a group called Fair Courts of America, which is a super PAC, which the lawyers in this room should know that I cannot have contact with any of that group, nor can they contact me because that’s illegal. I have a problem with anybody who sets out misleading information or any information that is factually incorrect.

I have no say on what they send out. There is a thing called First Amendment freedom of speech, and they are exercising that, not with my consent, not with my blessing at all. And if there is anything factually untrue, absolutely, I will continue with that.

[Judge Gagliardi]

When we’re talking about accepting money for materials and messages, there is one thing that I chose not to do. Obviously, we use fundraising money to bring a message out, a positive message, a consistent, positive message. I will tell you this.

If someone put negative materials out about my opponent, I would do the judicial thing. I would immediately, and when I say immediately, which is minutes on social media, how fast this can go, I would immediately repudiate them. That didn’t happen in this case.

People have sent materials out about me, and this is the question. I’m going to bring this up so much. This is the question.

People have sent materials about me. At 11.39 on Saturday, I sent Commissioner Iverson a text and told her that people were doing and sending inappropriate messages. I was dismissive.

In response, I got dismissive response. Fifty-eight, fifty-nine hours later, two and a half days, after I made a public announcement, she finally repudiated me. So I understand what she’s saying, and I appreciate her comments.

Fifty-eight hours. So we will continue to take the high road and continue to campaign on our principles, our values. I have consistently said that Commissioner Iverson, Commissioner Phil-Michael are good people, have spouses, have families, and that’s what the judicial campaign should be about.

It’s sickening that outside groups get involved in a judicial campaign, but it has become a reality.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

Judge Gagliardi, this next question will begin with you. Can you discuss any specific strategies you will implement to address the root causes of crime and reduce recidivism rates within the community? I’ll repeat it.

Can you discuss any specific strategies you would implement to address the root causes of crime and reduce recidivism rates within the community?

[Judge Gagliardi]

Well, one of the things would be I would, you know, when they’re younger and we get involved in the juvenile system, I’m looking forward to my turn in the juvenile court rotation because I believe it starts with the youth, and I think you need to be proactive and use all of our resources that we have. In the community, in the court system, all of our resources. That’s important.

Proactive versus reactive. Strong hand, but compassion. We have a rehabilitative system, but we don’t want to have also a revolving door that goes in and out of the jail.

But here, if we use our resources and we start early and we are consistent, I think we have a better opportunity to reduce the repetitive nature of crime. And when we educate families and get involved early and we start in the house, like insurance cases, let me give you an example. Insurance cases.

Some of these kids are out of school because they’re doing other educational things, going to colleges, checking schools out, ACT stuff, and the actual program is great, wonderful. But some of them aren’t. And when the parents get tickets, you know, we’ve got to hold the parents accountable because that’s where it starts in the household.

We want to be strict with that because that’s in the youth and that’s where we start when they’re young. So we want to be proactive, use our resources, use our programs. We don’t want to be reactive.

[Commissioner Iverson]

With respect to crime and recidivism rates and attempts to reduce that, I think there are some things that Kenosha County does really well on the off end. Those are the treatment courts. They’re catered to this type of thing.

They’re hard. They’re not meant to be easy. They deal with mental health issues and addiction issues, which as we know addiction issues are some of the precursors to crime in general, followed by mental health.

And a lot of times those are hand in hand. So I think when we treat an individual as an individual in its entirety, the whole spectrum of the person, instead of just looking at the person who committed the crime, that will help greatly with recidivism rates. The treatment court has excellent numbers when it comes to recidivism rates.

I believe it’s, if I remember right, it’s after seven years 70% have not gone back to crime. That’s amazing. I think in addition to that, education, educating the judiciary about which programs are out and available, what can we offer in services in terms of people who need those things, and education for defendants themselves.

If they don’t have a GED, we can recommend programs and find them programs to do that so they can find employment. Creative sentencing. Community service.

When I have children in front of me who have drinking tickets or other kinds of tickets, I offer them the ability to take a program. And if they take the class, the ticket becomes literate because I think it’s important that they educate themselves on what can happen if they keep going down the path of using drugs or alcohol. And so I offer them a literary position.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

Commissioner Iverson, we’ll begin with you. Both candidates have either served as commissioners or became a judge, but most of the legal experience that you’ve had were either in the public or private sector. How has your views on the role of the judiciary changed since you became a commissioner or a judge?

[Commissioner Iverson]

Thank you. Well, I’ve been a full-time commissioner since 2021, which means every day I sit on the bench and every day I hear these issues, not just a handful of it is. I believe my perception of a judicial official has changed slightly.

The amount of patience necessary is taken to what I would assume would be running a daycare filled with two-year-olds. It’s unbelievable. There’s a saying, and the attorneys in the courtroom will know, that family court is good people at their worst behavior.

And criminal court is sometimes people that are not so great on their best behavior. And sometimes they just aren’t on their best behavior. You have to learn how to keep calm and collected and keep your courtroom under control.

And it is not always easy. It takes patience. It takes listening.

And sometimes that’s all it is. Somebody needs to feel heard, and I think that that’s really very important. And I think when they feel respected and heard and they understand what is happening, they might not like what is happening, but when they understand what is happening and why it happened, it goes a long way in terms of creating the type of environment the courtroom should have, which is one with respect.

[Judge Gagliardi]

How has my perception changed? I’m going to talk about more as a judge, because that’s where I’m at right now. I’m your current judge.

So since I became a judge, I understood and started to understand the team that I’m on. I’m on a different team. We have a great team.

We’ve got three wonderful court commissioners in our court system. Phil Michael, Elizabeth Pfeiffer, Heather Iverson. We’ve got great commissioners.

Commissioner Iverson is right. She does a great job as one of our court commissioners. I’ve appeared before her many times.

But how has it changed? How has my view changed? Well, now I’m on the team.

I’m part of that team that wants to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We’ve got problems out there, and what we’re trying to do is be part of the solution. How else am I showing you that?

Well, I’m working with branches of our team. I’ve talked with our district attorneys. It’s one-on-one.

I’m pulling people into my chambers. I’m talking with former judges. I’m talking with current judges.

I’m talking to district attorneys. I want everybody’s vantage points. A week or two ago, I went on a ride-along with our police officers, so I understood more from their vantage point what they do for us in the community and how they put their lives on the line to keep our community safe.

My perception changed after that ride, substantially. And my perception has changed now. Now I get to make a bigger difference, not just in regards to representing my clients and part of the community, but I’m part of that team that makes a difference for our community.

So how has that changed? It’s changed because now I get to be one of the people that make a difference and be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

All right, thank you. We’re closing in on the last few questions here. Judge Gagliardi, I’ll start with you again here.

What tone and atmosphere will you seek to create in your courtroom?

[Judge Gagliardi]

Well, it’s a tone and atmosphere that quite a few have already been in front of. It’s a respectful tone. It’s a pleasant atmosphere, a welcoming atmosphere, an atmosphere where people can communicate with each other on the work team, but also when the people who come before me aren’t so afraid that they’re coming before me, that I treat them with respect because it’s their court.

It’s not my court. I may have my office in our courtroom, but it is not my court. It’s our court.

And I say that because the people who come before me are attorneys that are in private practice, who are part of the community, who are in public service, district attorneys, part of our probate branches, part of our public defenders. So I am doing it right now. And you can ask people who have been before me how I have treated them.

Was I prepared? The answer is yes. I’m going to guarantee that.

Was I courteous? The answer is yes. I’m going to guarantee that.

Was I respectful? Yes. Is my courtroom efficient?

Yes. These things are important. Are the people heard who come before me?

Yes. Do they get a fair day in court? Yes, they do.

And that is important because that is what justice is. Getting a fair day, whether the court agrees with your position or not, you want to have a fair opportunity to be heard and someone who is hearing it who is prepared and knowledgeable about not just the law, but about a big, vast area of life experiences and legal experiences. Thank you.

[Commissioner Iverson]

All right. I just wanted to add, Mr. Erlich, I actually kind of answered in the last question we just had. And I had said, and I’ll say it again, I think it’s important that people understand what’s happening in the courtroom.

They understand why you’re issuing the orders you’re issuing. They understand why it’s happening. And like I said, they don’t necessarily like it sometimes, but they need to understand.

And that’s part of respect. And respect absolutely needs to be in a courtroom. If people feel heard, and they should, and you’ve listened, and you have respected them, I think in kind, they show respect as well to the court.

My courtroom is one of fairness and impartiality, and several people have been in my courtroom, and I would encourage anyone to stop on in, and you can see exactly how I run my courtroom. Efficiently, smoothly, with respect. Preparedness.

And I like to make sure that when people come before me with cases, that something significant happens for them. That it’s not just a waste of their time to come into court, which means I need to be prepared, which means the attorney can come in, I expect to be prepared. It takes a lot of time and effort for people to come to the courthouse, and I want to make sure that when they come to the courthouse, their case is heard, and something happens that matters to them, not just in the courtroom.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

Thank you. Commissioner Iverson, this question is for you. Do you believe there is a backlog in criminal and family courts, and if so, how will you address it?

If there is, how are you going to balance the need for judicial efficiency and the rights of individuals and litigants to a fair and fair hearing?

[Commissioner Iverson]

Short answer, yes and no. There is definitely a backlog to the criminal cases, and there is a backlog to the family cases, but I think for different reasons. For the criminal cases, there’s just such a large amount of them, and there are several reasons why it’s becoming a backlog.

Some of it is the public defender’s office is inundated. They’re understaffed. They need more attorneys, absolutely.

The DA’s office needs more attorneys, and I believe even the courthouse could use a couple more judges. I think they did a study, and it was we could use three more judges with the amount of criminal cases that we get. So that automatically is going to create a backlog when you have more cases than you have resources to handle it.

As for family backlogs, there are certain time limits family cases are supposed to be done, but family cases aren’t black and white. They’re kind of messy. Sometimes a guardian ad litem needs more time to see how a child is acclimating to a schedule, a placement schedule.

Sometimes, not always great, but during divorces, a party might become pregnant, and you have to wait nine whole months until you can continue that case, and that definitely makes a backlog in family cases. So with respect to the backlog, yes, there is in both, but it’s for different reasons, and the criminal backlog is not something a judge can necessarily deal with because it involves resources, and that is up to the county and the state to provide those resources. Judges cannot provide those resources.

In that, judges can do the best they can do. They can calendar properly. They can get the case incurred and make sure they don’t really dally with any decisions or sentences.

But the backlog is something that is attorney-based and needs-based.

[Judge Gagliardi]

I wholly agree with Judge Iverson. We could use more judges. I am going to tell you that we have a backlog in family law.

We’ve got no good solutions here. I know that we’ve got a chief judge who is working hard to figure out solutions. I don’t know if we’ve figured that one out yet, but right now we have one family law commissioner who is trying her best to keep up with the workload, and unfortunately it’s buried, and it is sad, and I’m disappointed.

Not in our chief judge. He’s trying his best to put the plan together. He’s moved stuff in and around, and that’s what you have to do.

We have 3,400 criminal cases approximately right now on the books. A few years ago, I think we were under 2,400, something like that, and that’s where we want to be. We want to be in the low 2,000s.

That’s probably where we’re at for our workload. How do we do that, though? I’m not sure.

There’s no good answer without an extra courtroom and an extra commissioner in our county, both of them. We could use another commissioner. We could use another judge, but that’s not probably going to happen anytime soon.

So what do we got to do? We got to sit down. I did suggest something, but I’m the new guy, so that suggestion is probably something that is not going to be dealt with, but my thought is when we have a problem, we all sit down, all areas.

So the DA has got to sit down with us. The public defender has got to sit down with us. The judges have to sit down.

We sit down, work it out together instead of one group sitting down and trying to figure something out and then chasing around trying to figure out how to make that work. If we all come and sit together, that might fix it. Is it going to fix it?

I don’t know, but I know our Chief Judge Roselle is doing a heck of a job trying to figure out, and we’re trying to work together and communicate and figure out how to fix the problem without the extra money.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

All right. Thank you. We are closing in on that hour, I promise.

So this will be the last question before closing remarks, and we’ll start with Judge Gagliardi. Without mentioning the other candidate, focusing your answer only on yourself, why do you think you are the most qualified and best candidate for a judge?

[Judge Gagliardi]

I’m the most well-rounded judge candidate that we have. I have not only sat on the bench as commissioner, now as a judge, and had that judge experience. I have practiced in every area of the law that will come before me.

The only thing I haven’t done is work for the state’s office as an ADA or something like that. I’ve done tips cases, juvenile cases, civil cases, small claims, large claims. I’ve held the position of being a private attorney and representing the people and having that vantage point, which is a very important vantage point for a judge to have, because you want to have a well-rounded judge that’s done all of that.

I work in the private sector now, the public sector. I’ve seen cases. I’ve tried cases.

Not only that, I’m well-rounded in the community. I’m deeply rooted in community involvement. That life experience is important, because you’ve got to be happy.

It’s not just about law. It’s about understanding the people who come before you. I have a strong skill in problem solving.

That’s what we do as attorneys, and that’s what we now do as judges. We use the law to problem solve. That is something I have been doing all of my professional career.

I’ve also been a leader, whether it was in high school, as a team captain, in college as a team captain, as an NCAA athlete, as president of associations and community youth groups. I’m a leader. I’m a hard worker.

I have never put myself in a position where I was afraid to work hard and do what’s right for the people who I believe in and the people I am committed to, which is our community and the people I’m serving for your court.

[Commissioner Iverson]

Thank you. Of course, it’s always been so much the same. We’re all part of the experience, of which I have a vast amount of experience, actual experience, in the areas of law I’ve previously listed.

I’m happy to list them again, but I think I saw everyone listing the first time. I have experience with caseloads, managing heavy caseloads. I do all the traffic for Kenosha County.

I do small claims. I do civil judgments and the eviction. It’s a heavy calendar, a heavy caseload, and I have the ability to manage that, and I have for the past three years.

I’m also a dedicated public servant, and you’ve seen that in my entire legal career. For more than 15 years, I have dedicated my legal career to public service. I certainly haven’t done it for the money.

I did it because I was raised to believe that you help the community, that you give back to the community, and the community has given so much to myself and my family that it’s important that I give back to them, and public service is a way for me to do that. It’s a skill set that I have as a lawyer, as a commissioner, and as a judge. Crime management is also a skill I have, and that kind of goes with a heavy caseload.

I always make sure that my cases are called timely because I understand how important it is for people to give back to work, to give back to their children, to make time so that they can come to court.

[Moderator – Attorney Wier]

All right, thank you. We’ve now reached the closing remarks section of the event. We’ve decided ahead of time I had conversations with the candidates, and they agreed that Attorney Iverson will go first and Judge Gagliardi will go last, and then I’ll come up and say some final remarks.

Commissioner Iverson, you have five minutes.

[Commissioner Iverson]

Thank you. First and foremost, I want to extend my sincere gratitude to the Kenosha County Bar Association and Andrew for moderating, and I should also say to the Times Square building. It’s a great opportunity for us to speak to the public, and I think it’s very important that the public is here, the public listens, and the public can decide for themselves.

It’s forums like these that showcase our experience, our integrity, and our dedication to serving the people of Kenosha County. These elections are so important to our community, and this one in particular. The distinction between myself and my opponent is quite clear.

My experience is different, and it is what sets me apart. With over 15 years of experience dedicated to public service, I have tirelessly worked to protect and serve the residents of Kenosha County across various areas of law, including, and I’ll list them again, felony, misdemeanor, family, traffic, restitution hearings, diversion programs, juvenile delinquency cases, and cases involving children in need of protection and services. Our community deserves a judge with experience and a proven commitment to public service, someone who isn’t afraid of hard work.

And I’m proud to say that my endorsements reflect just that. I have a depth of experience both in my professional and my personal life, which makes me the most qualified person for this position, and which has earned me bipartisan endorsements of so many in our community. I’m deeply honored and humbled to have earned their support from the Kenosha County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, which I did not solicit.

They asked to come and interview us. From the AFL-CIO Union, which, if I remember, we both solicited. From District Attorney Mike Gravely.

Endorsements by Deputy District Attorney Carly McNeil. Endorsements by the Assistant District Attorney. An endorsement by Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Angelina Gabrielle, which I did not solicit.

Endorsements from Retired Court Commissioner John Klaus and John Mason. Current law enforcement, retired law enforcement, small business owners, educators, and local attorneys. These are important and humbling to me because these are people who know me.

They know my work ethic. Throughout my career and for many years, I have been repeatedly faced with opportunities and challenges that make me call upon the values imparted upon me by my family. The value of hard work, the need to serve and give back to one another, and to earn your way to the next level.

Unreserved honesty, and most recently, the maintaining of one’s integrity in the face of blatant adversity. Each of these must be applied to one person’s life on any given day, but for a judge whose values must be who you are at your court. As citizens, we serve best judges with immense levels of trust, so our character and integrity simply cannot be brought into question.

Voters are far smarter than they are given credit for, and they will see through the smoke in the mirror. That is why when I announced my candidacy for judge, I announced it to the people. They deserve to have a judge earn their respect, confidence, and trust, deciding for themselves to be the experienced candidate, not have a judge picked for them.

I am running to continue the work I have been doing for more than 15 years, to protect and serve the residents of Kenosha County. My professional career has earned me the respect and the bipartisan endorsement of so many in our community. They know I not only talk the talk, but I also walk the walk.

I firmly believe in the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution, and the oath that law and justice are blind. As a court commissioner, I have consistently made decisions based on the law and the facts presented to me, exercising discretion fairly and impartially. I do not believe in legislating from the bench or advancing a political agenda.

In closing, I am committed to upholding the principles of fairness, integrity, and justice for all. I ask for your support and your vote so that together we can continue to ensure our judiciary serves the best interests of the people of Kenosha County with an experienced judiciary. I am Heather Iverson, and I am running for Circuit Court Judge Grant III, and I am asking for your vote on April 2nd.

[Judge Gagliardi]

While I appreciate the bar for hosting this event, I want to say thank you to my rock, Shane and Michelle Gagliardi, my daughter, Maya and Michelle Gagliardi, and my other daughter, Frankie Giulietta, because that’s what’s important to me. My family has been there the entire time since Judge Trader announced that he was going to retire, so thank you very much.

Judge Schroeder announced that he was going to retire and I sat down with him. This wasn’t a decision that was easy. It was a decision that was needing to be a decision that was not a selfish decision.

A decision that was made between my wife, my family, and we committed right away. We thought about it, we didn’t react, we responded, and we committed to it. I put all my chips in.

I not only announced that I was going to run right away, I didn’t waver. I asked for the governor’s appointment, even though I was denied that appointment about three and a half, four years ago, for whatever reason. I wanted to tell my voters that I was all in and I’m committed to serving the community.

This is something I’ve wanted for a long time and this is something I’m committed to. I’m committed to making a difference in our community. Not my community, our community.

I moved back to Kenosha after law school and had a lot of opportunities to go to university. I graduated at the top of my class and had a lot of opportunities. I wanted to come back to Kenosha because I love Kenosha.

It was born and raised here. Grew up west in Kenosha County. In Brighton, went to Brighton Elementary.

St. Joseph High School. When my wife and I made a decision of where we were going to raise our kids, our loving daughters, we came back to Kenosha. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else raising my family.

Not in Boston. Not in Durham. I’d rather be here.

With my family. My extended family. My cousins.

My community. That’s important to me and that’s what Kenosha’s about. Kenosha’s about family.

And if you don’t know Kenosha’s about family, you must not have been here for very long. Because we are a family-oriented community. We come together in times of crisis.

We stand by each other. We support each other. But what I’m telling you is if you want a judge who stands for family, community, integrity, who’s intelligent, who’s honorable, who’s kept their word, I have kept my word that I am dedicated.

I have not taken days off recently in regards to this campaign. I don’t know if I’ve had a day off since Christmas campaigning. It’s a struggle for the family.

It’s a commitment that we all made. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m just making sure you’re aware of the realness of what we’ve gone through.

I’m sure Commissioner Iverson has gone through the same trials and tribulations with her family and her children. It’s not fun. But I will tell you this.

I’m committed and I want to make a difference. And I know it’s worth it. I’m asking you to vote for me and to keep me as your branch re-judge on April 2nd.

And that vote is a vote for integrity. That vote is a vote for community. That vote is a vote to vote for me because I put my chips in from the very beginning.

I was the lead officer. Senator Judge Schroeder said that he was out. I immediately announced I was in.

And I have not wavered since. So I wish all of you a wonderful Easter. A safe Easter with your families.

Because that’s where you should be on tomorrow. It’s a holy day for some of you. Easter Sunday is an important day for your families.

Enjoy the time with your children. Enjoy the time with your grandchildren. And I hope you have a blessed Easter and a safe Easter.

And I hope everybody encourages their family, whether they vote for me or they vote for Commissioner Iverson, to get out and vote. Exercise your right. Thank you.

I’m sure Commissioner Iverson has gone through the same trials and tribulations with her family and her children. It’s not fun. But I will tell you this.

I’m committed and I want to make a difference. And I know it’s worth it. I’m asking you to vote for me and to keep me as your branch re-judge on April 2nd.

And that vote is a vote for integrity. That vote is a vote for community. That vote is a vote to vote for me because I put my chips in from the very beginning.

I was the lead off hitter. As soon as Judge Schroeder said that he was out. I immediately announced I was in.

And I have not wavered since. So I wish all of you a wonderful Easter. A safe Easter with your families.

Because that’s where you should be on tomorrow. It’s a holy day for some of you. Easter Sunday is an important day for your families.

Enjoy the time with your children. Enjoy the time with your grandchildren. And I hope you have a blessed Easter and a safe Easter.

And I hope everybody encourages their family, whether they vote for me or they vote for Commissioner Iverson, to get out and vote. Exercise your right. Thank you.



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42 Responses

  1. I was there. I suspect most of us had our choices made. Neither candidate was a big “wow” or even marginally exciting (which is a good thing). Iverson spoke frequently from notes, Gagliardi did not. I think he spoke more from the heart. Much of what they addressed was “insider stuff” that lawyers would find more interesting. And on that note they agreed on a lot. They described — and it was only the tip of the iceberg — a system that is imploding. Delays and backlogs in family and criminal cases. Not enough public defenders (a major cause of the delays and backlogs) and prosecutors. The need for a couple of additional judges and court commissioners (who are like assistant judges). The need for more sentencing options for criminals. The need for better pay and funding. I wish they would have had more time to get more into this because it was one of the two elephants in the room. The other was the sudden and inexplicable surge of dark money from an out-of-state special interest group in an otherwise nondescript local judicial election. Neither Gagliardi or Iverson seemed to be extremists. Iverson was decidedly more of a “courthouse insider” with most of her legal experience (a couple of years less that Gagliardi) in the public sector while Gagliardi’s was almost exclusively as a private practice attorney handling a variety of cases, mostly civil. As a new judge he is, of course, learning his job.

    Ironically but perhaps not surprisingly Iverson made the case for keeping her as a court commissioner and Gagliardi as a circuit judge. Her work includes handling a lot of family court matters, small claims and traffic cases and initial appearances in juvenile and criminal matters. While not as broad as a circuit judge’s responsibilities these are important duties. It was undisputed that the commissioners are overworked, underpaid and essential to dealing with the backlog of cases. It was also undisputed that Iverson has done a good job in the nearly three years she’s held that position and to their credit both her and Judge Gagliardi made the case for more help being needed. What Iverson didn’t do is make the case for why the voters should remove a sitting judge — a newbie, so to speak, who is learning the ropes and replace him with another newbie who would be learning the ropes in a county where there’s already a backlog of delayed cases and not enough resources. On top of that it would take her away from the essential job that she does well and there would be a need to appoint a new commissioner who would also be learning the ropes and getting up to speed. What sense is that?

    What both of them highlighted is a fractured justice system and method of selecting judges that tilts more toward politics than qualifications. Iverson’s explanation of “let the people decide” doesn’t hold a lot of water, particularly in this case. Gagliardi was appointed judge by Gov. Tony Evers. Whether you like the governor or not he had the duty under the law to fill the vacancy created by the abrupt resignation/premature retirement of veteran Judge Bruce Schroeder, appointed in 1983 by Gov. Tony Earl, a Democrat like Evers, after having 13 years of legal experience split between the district attorney’s office and private practice. To his credit, Evers selected a “middle of the road” judge who had five more years’ experience than Schroeder did when he was appointed. And, like Gagliardi, Schroeder was a part-time, on-call commissioner before he became a judge. Sometimes governors make good choices in filling judicial vacancies, sometimes not (as was the case with Evers’ last appointment of a judge who, unlike Gagliardi, was very much to the left of the spectrum and demonstrated some intemperance on the job. Gagliardi was passed over for that vacancy which goes a long way toward nullifying claims about his family’s contributions to Evers greasing the way for his appointment.)

    The monster in the room is Wisconsin’s broken method of selecting supposedly nonpartisan judges. In some states a judicial nominating commission screens potential judges and then voters have a “check and balance” by being able to remove a sitting judge at periodic “retention” elections. Instead of the “dog eat dog” political “beauty contests” we have in Wisconsin voters don’t choose one candidate over another but rather have veto power. This does not totally eliminate outside political interference but it does go a long way toward that. It also helps insure selecting better judges.

    Another reality is that neither Iverson or Gagliardi are Judge Schroeder who was known for being “tough on crime” but insiders also know that he held the prosecution’s feet to the fire and didn’t “rubber stamp” cases. What many people don’t know is that Schroeder was also known for his expertise in civil cases and, like Gagliardi, he came to the bench with private practice experience. Why that matters at this time is that the last two judges elected in Kenosha County — Gerad Dougvillo and Angelina Gabriele — came from the public sector with significant experience as a prosecutor. In Gabriele’s case many more years as a prosecutor than Schroeder. This civil law experience matters as another judge with a more rounded background, Anthony Milisauskas, could retire in a few years.

    Iverson touted — several times — endorsements from law enforcement officers. That’s a double-edged sword. No judge ever got elected by promising to be soft on crime and neither candidate here did that. But sometimes police screw up and judges have to make decisions based on the law that cops don’t like. By being too cozy with law enforcement would Iverson’s judicial independence be guaranteed? (And, as far as comparisons with Judge Schroeder go, it should be noted that his reputation as being “tough on crime” wasn’t quite that in 1983.). Further, she touted her endorsement from one of the other seven circuit judges (not counting Gagliardi, of course, in this calculus), Angelina Gabriele, another newbie on the bench. Surely Judge Gabriele should be aware of the fragility of the justice system in Kenosha County and her willingness to infuse more chaos into it is mind-boggling. The fact that other six judges wisely decided not to go down that road calls into question her judgment. Iverson also touted endorsements from District Attorney Michael Gravely and Deputy District Attorney Carli McNeil who wants to take Gravely’s place. Gravely’s office hasn’t always demonstrated the best judgment and taking sides in a judicial election is another rock in that pile. (And Judge Gabriele was McNeil’s predecessor as Deputy District Attorney. It does raise questions of whether there is excessive coziness between the prosecutor’s office, one of the current circuit judges and a judicial candidate.)

    This election is significantly different. There is a sitting judge in office and a wannabe. Has the wannabe made the case for not retaining the sitting judge? No. In fact, she did just the opposite by promoting, without dispute, the good job she’s doing in her present capacity. Plus, to replace Judge Gagliardi with her, then we have another newbie judge to get up to speed and then have to replace an experienced commissioner in a county where the justice system is already overworked, under resourced and strained. Unless there was a compelling case to remove the incumbent judge — and none was cited — no rational HR director would made such a boneheaded shoot-yourself-in-the-foot personnel decision. Iverson’s personal ambition overlooks the big picture of what’s best for Kenosha County. She should remain on the job she does well — hopefully with a pay raise and some help — and if she wants to be a circuit judge, wait for the next opportunity where either the legislature will wake up and fund an additional judgeship (or two) or a retiring judge will, unlike Schroeder, serve until the expiration of his or her term and the transition to a new judge would be more orderly.

    Having said all of this, there are other differences between the two candidates that their supporters (and opponents) can and will recite. Every job seeker is going to pounce on the highlights of their resume. The reality is that both of these candidates are good family people who have done some good things. Personally, I am impressed with Judge Gagliardi’s many years of working with coaching youth sports which is a huge delinquency prevention plus. That boots on the ground work, at least to me, matters much more than going to a quarterly board meeting of some civic organization and is much more relevant. But that would matter more if this was an election between two similarly situated candidates. It is not. One is a sitting judge, another is a wannabe who does a good job in her present position and has not made a case to boot the incumbent judge. And, while she has somewhat belatedly acknowledged the improper influence of an out-of-state dark money advocacy group trying to influence this election, she demonstrated no awareness of the gravity of this situation. She says — and there’s no evidence to doubt her word — that this last-minute smear campaign was unsolicited. What she didn’t say — and should have — is that enough is enough. In the end, the only way voters can do that is by not rewarding it.

    1. If we followed this logic, the Honorable Gerad Dougvillo would still be a Court Commissioner in Walworth, and Larisa Benitez-Morgan would still be a judge in Kenosha.

    2. Corrections. She handles virtually none of the family law cases now. In August 2023 the judges decided to take juvenile cases from the criminal intake commissioner and give them to her. They decided to give ALL 3 DAYS of her family law cases to the other commissioner- who was already handling 3 days worth of family cases ( the other 2 days are child support agency/attorney cases). This has resulted in a huge disparity in workloads. Her calendars are public record – she often is done by 10:30-11am with nothing scheduled until 3pm. Her Fridays are even worse – virtually nothing. Meanwhile the rest of the commissioners and judges are working nonstop…

      1. I’m going to add to this comment that she sure spends a lot of time with her BFFs Judgey Angie and Clerk Patty. It’s all on video – she’s constantly in their offices.

        Her judge endorsement from Angie is less impressive when you know these two are personal friends outside of work. Also not impressed with the law enforcement endorsements by the handful of people selected by Angie, girlfriend called in a lot of favors to help her BFF.

        1. She also used a county courtroom to film a political campaign ad during the day. Clear violation of county handbook and ethics policy but there were no consequences. Nice when you are secretly helped by the jeans- wearing county exec…oops. guess it’s not a secret now. Funny how Sam sent attack ads in her campaign and now we have them in Heather’s. I’m just shocked 😲

        2. Maybe there needs to be an investigative piece on the judge, such as how much she is actually in the courthouse each week and how many times she has been substituted against.

  2. I skimmed this comment..
    Based on it, I know who u are voting for so this is not a report….its an opinion or just another political flyer that should have the PAID FOR AND APPROVED BY citation

  3. Heather is the BEST choice. Gagliardi speaks circles and is soft when speaking in regards to his stance on backing law enforcement and being hard on those who break the law. I don’t know how anyone can have respect for a man who will not tell you who he is and what he stands for. We live in polarized times…even in non-partisan politics. He’s an Evers appointee, his family donates religiously to Dems, and the Democrats are shoving him down our throats. Elect Gagliardi and you get someone bought and paid for by the Democrats!! We know that means soft on crime. Kenosha cannot afford a judge who will be soft on criminals. We have bad actors coming into Kenosha from Chicago and Milwaukee, we are still healing from our city being terrorized and burned to the ground… we cannot afford a soft judge.
    Just no people!!! Vote Iverson!!!

    1. It’s the extreme right wing PAC shoving Iverson down pur throats with nasty attack ads.

      Also, it’s not exactly tough on crime when you plea bargained almost all your child support crimes. She only handled criminal child support, maybe 10-15 cases over 8 years.

      1. It’s weird that the first thing she says is she was a special prosecutor when she was always working as a child support attorney. She just assisted on criminal child support cases – maybe 12 asks in 10 years???? Talk about not telling us who you really are – I’d say misleading the public is not a trait I want in a judge.

      2. Nothing in there not true. Iverson had nothing to do with that going out and has made a public statement.
        You’ve got Gagliardi badmouthing Iverson to her own supporters. Is he so dumb to think it doesn’t get around, or just that arrogant?
        And Gagliardi went around the county placing signs on people’s property without asking them.
        Again is he that dumb, that arrogant? Or maybe he just doesn’t care.
        Yeah… re-elect. He was NEVER elected in the first place. We all know that. It disingenuous and misleading.

        1. Heather has bad mouthed Frank from day one. She miscalculated his supporters. Good for the goose and gander, Heather.

          1. Samanthy is also bad mouthing him. She also had attack ads.

            😲 Shocked that heather does too.

            Heather supports the right to chose and is total liberal. Ask her friends…

            1. She denounced it more than two days after it was brought to her attention and it was not a complete repudiation, even at the forum. He brought it to her attention privately first.

    2. Iverson backed by the soft on crime Kenosha DA’s office…the people who prosecuted Kyle and let Jacob Blake off completely (not even a plea deal).

          1. Duh.. Evers would only appoint a useless libtard! Evers does not appoint conservative back the blue people. Are you really so fooled that you think Evers would appointed a conservative valued individual to anything?

  4. Law enforcement support — if you have it plan on it going bye-bye the first time a cop screws up and a judge does what the judge needs to do. I’ve been in law enforcement and saw it happen.

  5. Curious to the clowns in here. Do you feel the same about berg and his campaign or the losers and criminals he supports? The wrong he’s done ? Or just smear the ones not in your party? Hypocrites stick together We all see through you

    1. Everyone should head over to Berg’s district to make sure all of his constituents are well educated on his character… if everyone in the eye who complains about Berg would talk with 5 of his voters, we’d cover a lot of ground and get him OUT!

  6. Iverson is clearly part of the problem downtown and helped create the backlog in family courts. She couldn’t even offer a solution to the problem her lazy, incompetent butt created. At least Gagliardi had the guts to go through a background check when going for the judgeship appointment. Lord only knows what the committee would have dug up with Iversons past 😳

    1. Iverson is a chameleon — can she be trusted. She went to the unions sucking up for support. Did they know that she and for family gave money to Scott Walker? There’s nothing wrong with backing our boy but he was the sworn enemy of unions. Did she tell them she was a Walker backer? Did they bother to check?

      Pretty gutsy move on her part.

  7. She has done nothing for the last 6 months but campaign, consistently leave early, and walk on the stupid big treadmill in her office rather than help Billl or Elizabeth


  8. Angie was a vindictive prosecutor and it’s no surprise that as a judge she is also of questionable integrity. It’s no secret that she has been making disparaging remarks about Frank ever since he took office. She isn’t exactly a hard worker and we really need to get some better judges. Maybe it’s time we drain the swamp in the courthouse. If Heather is hanging around with Angie then the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

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