My name is Susan Crawford and I’m running for Dane County Circuit Court Judge in the Spring election in 2018. After speaking with the Lake Edge Neighborhood Association earlier this year, I was pleased to be asked to introduce myself in this month’s newsletter.
When it comes to experience, this election presents a clear choice. I have extensive experience in Dane County courtrooms and criminal law.
For over 23 years as a lawyer, I’ve worked hard to advance justice and defended the rights of Wisconsin citizens in court. I fought against Act 10. The draconian Voter ID law. Laws that restrict women’s access to reproductive healthcare and threaten to punish doctors who provide that care. Attacks on public education and teachers. In these cases, I convinced Dane County judges to put a stop to government overreaches. I understand the court’s constitutional role as a check on the other branches of government. I will faithfully fulfill that duty as a judge. I’ve lived in Madison for over 20 years with my husband, Shawn. We’re raising our two teenage children here. As a longtime Dane County resident, I’m troubled by the deep racial and economic disparities in our neighborhoods, schools, and justice system. This election is for Branch 1 of the Court, which is assigned only criminal cases. Reducing racial disparities in Dane County’s criminal justice system will be my highest priority. As a judge, I will utilize alternatives to incarceration, guard against unconscious bias, and support transparency in sentencing data.
I’m prepared for the tough challenges of criminal court. As an assistant attorney general, I handled hundreds of criminal cases, including several in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. I’ve stood up for victims of sexual assault and other serious crimes. As director of criminal appeals at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, I managed thousands of felony cases, trained and advised prosecutors, and collaborated with public defenders, judges, district attorneys, victim advocates, and others. As chief legal counsel to Governor Jim Doyle, I was chair of the Pardon Board. I heard from hundreds of citizens struggling to access employment, housing, credit, and other needs due to long-ago criminal convictions. I understand the life-long consequences of a conviction. As a result, I strongly support the use and expansion of restorative justice and diversion programs (like Drug Court) that hold people accountable while giving them a chance to avoid a conviction. I support bail reforms to make sure low-income people aren’t held in jail solely because they can’t make cash bail.
I’ve earned the support of people who understand the challenges faced by our court and community, including former Governor Jim Doyle, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, Sheriff Dave Mahoney, District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, among many others.
Dane County judges, who know the job best, overwhelmingly support me, including Judges Everett Mitchell, Jill Karofsky, district Chief Judge William Hanrahan, and many others. 23 of the 24 current and retired Dane County judges who have endorsed a candidate in this race support me. I was also honored in January 2018 to be designated a statewide “Leader in the Law” by the Wisconsin Law Journal.
I am the only candidate ready to preside over criminal cases from day one. I know the courtroom and the complexities of criminal law. If elected, I will bring my courtroom experience, strong work ethic, and progressive values to serve our community as a Dane County judge.
Courts matter, and so do elections. Please vote for me on April 3.
A Message from Judge Marilyn Townsend
I am running for Circuit Court Judge because I care deeply about fairness and equal justice in our courts. My commitment is to put my judicial experience, legal skills and values to work every day, in order to be an impartial and thoughtful judge, help eliminate racial disparity, improve access to justice, and serve all the people of Dane County.
I am the only candidate for judge who is a judge. I have overseen and decided more than 3,000 cases. I have issued written decisions, effectively and fairly managed a courtroom, presided over trials, and ruled on matters of law. There is no substitute for experience. The issues we face in our courts require collaborative, active, and knowledgeable Judges, who are willing and able to tackle tough issues, understand individual circumstances, and make our justice system more just.
As a civil rights and public interest attorney for 38 years, I’ve stood up for the individuals against big corporations, I’ve defended workers, and I’ve been a tireless advocate to obtain justice for those who have been discriminated against. I have handled and won important cases, including a unanimous decision in the Wisconsin Supreme Court that will benefit workers statewide. For 25 years, I have been a volunteer attorney at the Unemployment Compensation Appeals Clinic. I also volunteer my time at the Veteran’s Law Clinic.
My appreciation of the challenges people face started young. I grew up on a farm in northern Wisconsin. My maternal grandparents immigrated from Slovenia and my mother was a first-generation American. Both my parents grew up during the great depression. Neither of them finished high school. My parents taught all eight of their children the values of hard work, perseverance, and giving back to our communities.
As a Municipal Court Judge, I am a strong proponent of initiatives that help reduce racial disparity in our criminal justice system. Municipal Courts are on the front lines of our justice system. We see the root causes of crime, often at the beginning of a potentially negative trajectory. As a Municipal Court Judge, when appropriate, I offer defendants the opportunity to avoid a record, by postponing sentencing to allow them to receive drug and alcohol assessment and treatment, or by offering community service as an alternative to a conviction and a record.
As a Dane County judge, I will support and participate in countywide initiatives to reduce racial disparity. Lots of good work is underway and can be expanded: restorative justice courts, treatment and specialty courts, efforts to combat implicit bias, and a pilot program testing better ways to determine the amount of bail. I will advocate for a Mental Health Treatment Court in Dane County.
I am also only candidate in this race whose campaign is voluntarily limiting campaign contributions. There is simply too much money in judicial races. The public should have confidence that justice is not for sale. Voters have a right to expect that the Judge they elect will be able to hear the cases that come before her, and should not ought to recuse herself. For those reasons, I have directed my campaign to limit contributions to $500.
I am honored to have earned the support of almost 800 judges, attorneys, elected officials and community leaders including former US Senator Russ Feingold, Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, and former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager. A complete list can be found at my website www.marilyntownsendforjudge.com
My desire to serve is strong. I will bring judicial experience, success in the Supreme Court, and a long history of commitment to equal justice and access to justice to my work on our Circuit Court. I would be honored by your vote on April 3.
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