Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge, Branch II
in The News
"Voter Guide: Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Branch 4"
Why do you want to be circuit court judge, and what makes you the best candidate?
The Supreme Court has spoken. The public’s confidence in the judiciary, specifically Branch II, has been destroyed. Winnebago County deserves and expects a judiciary that reflects its values and abides by the judicial oath. I will restore integrity and trust to the bench. I am committed to the canons of ethics, transparency, and integrity. I believe that when there is no candidate you are proud to vote for, you should become that candidate.
I am the only candidate who remains a constant student of the law. My prior experience on the bench and expansive career in both federal and circuit court, coupled with my commitment of service to our community, defines me as the best candidate. I have never been overturned on appeal. I have never been sanctioned or suspended from the bench, nor have I had a single judicial complaint filed against me. My ethics have never been called into question. Preparedness, hard work, honesty, integrity, and commitment to the rule of law are my guiding principles.
How will your background and experience assist you in working with people from different backgrounds who will come before you in court?
Representation matters and experience counts. My diverse background and lived experiences overcoming adversity aid in my ability to understand and work with those with diverse backgrounds. I am a reflection of the community in which I serve today, tomorrow, and always.
I have served on treatment courts and implemented procedures that protect constitutional rights of due process for its participants. I currently volunteer with various organizations and serve on several boards in our community. I have dedicated my entire career to serving the underrepresented and those in marginalized communities as an attorney and public servant. I have done so with compassion and respect for all. I am respectful, patient, and courteous to everyone who enters the courtroom. I earned a reputation on the bench for being an active listener who demonstrates that quality by providing thoughtful, clear, and thorough decisions. I give that same attention and consideration to everyone who addresses the court - without exception.
Circuit court judges are elected in nonpartisan elections. How will you ensure you remain impartial in practice and appearance while serving in this judicial office?
Integrity, impartiality, and transparency are the pillars of an honorable judiciary. I am committed to upholding and carrying out each of these tenets. I embody the judicial oath of administering justice impartially to all parties. Judges are public servants and should never think of themselves as untouchable. Upholding the canons of ethics and a commitment to the rule of law are imperative to impartiality. Public opinion of the judiciary is vital to a healthy and effective relationship between the bench and the community it serves. Even the appearance of a potential conflict can erode the trust the community has in the court system. Remaining steadfast in that commitment and my obligation to the community ensures my continued impartiality.
I agree with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito when he stated, “A judge can’t have any preferred outcome in any particular case. The judge’s only obligation - and it is a solemn obligation - is to the rule of law."
What factors do you consider appropriate for a judge to consider when determining if there is a conflict of interest that justifies stepping away from a case (recusal)?
Wisconsin law (Wis. Stat. §757.19) not only requires that judges must recuse themselves whenever there is a true conflict of interest, but whenever there is an appearance of a conflict of interest. Specific factors to consider include: whether a judge has prejudged a matter before receiving all of the evidence; whether there are familial, social, political, or other personal relationships with the parties, litigants, witnesses, or attorneys involved in the matter; and whether the judge or one of their family members has an economic or personal interest in the matter.
Judges are further required to recuse themselves when they have a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s lawyer, personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding, or hold bias or prejudice based upon race, gender, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status against parties, witnesses, counsel, or others.
What will you do to ensure sentencing is fair for all Wisconsinites before the court?
In order to be fair, an understanding of the inequities within the court system is necessary. I have spent my career navigating the results of these inequities, advocating for alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenses, and educating myself and others about systemic issues. It is this same passion that I bring to the bench.
Fairness demands reserving judgement in a matter until all evidence is received and all parties, including victims, have been heard. Prejudging a case leads to an imbalance in justice and disparate sentences, while undermining the legitimacy of the court. Sentencing should address the underlying concerns leading to the offense, consider the mitigating and aggravating factors of each case, and accomplish the sentencing goals required of the court. Providing a thoughtful, thorough, and detailed explanation of each sentence is required to ensure understanding of the court’s decision and eliminate any question of fairness or impartiality.
"'Why should we care about Wisconsin courts?' League of Women Voters events to discuss state Supreme Court election"
November 16, 2022
As Wisconsin approaches its next state Supreme Court justice election, local League of Women Voters chapters are holding a two-part series aimed at understanding the Wisconsin court system.
"We want to inform people on why the state courts are so important," said Linda Bjella, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Appleton-Fox Cities.
The Leagues of Women Voters of Winnebago County and Appleton-Fox Cities are collaborating on two events to inform voters about Wisconsin judges before the April 4 election, where they will have the opportunity to choose a Supreme Court justice, appellate court and local judges.
For the first event, retired Outagamie County Judge Nancy Krueger and former Winnebago County Judge LaKeisha Haase will give a presentation on the structure of the state court system and what's at stake for the upcoming Supreme Court election.
Following the presentation, audience members will have the opportunity to ask the judges about the court system or the spring election.
Other Relevant News Pertaining to Attorney Haase as a Judge and a Judicial Candidate
Any and all media hereinafter was curated for, or during, the time period leading up to the April 2022 Election.
Though these materials may be in response to an entirely different campaign, your candidate remains constant and consistent. Because your candidate does not wane or waver, the information that follows still allows for you as a voter to gain further insight into who Attorney Haase is as a judge, as a candidate, and as a person.
"Women Who Wow Us"
with Haley Tenpas from WHBY's 'Focus Fox Valley'
Celebrate Women’s History Month with Kolosso Toyota and WHBY! All through March we’re introducing you to women in our community, from all different areas, all different backgrounds, that are ALL doing great things. We are so excited to learn from, grow with and celebrate Women Who Wow Us. Our first interview is with Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge LaKeisha D. Haase.
"Voter Guide: Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Branch 4"
What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this judicial office? How will your experience assist you in working with people from diverse backgrounds who will come before you in court?
Experience counts. After graduating from UW-Oshkosh, but prior to attending law school, I was employed as a Court Assistant for Branch I in Winnebago County, and then as a Judicial Assistant for Branch IV, the very Branch I now preside over as Judge. After law school, I served as a Public Defender for eight years where I represented the indigent, the underrepresented, and those belonging to marginalized populations.
You can’t deny the numbers. Winnebago County is a court of general jurisdiction; however, the majority of a Circuit Judge’s caseload is composed of Criminal Law. As a trial attorney, I’ve handled over 3,500 cases, the majority of which were Criminal Law, but also included the areas of Juvenile, Probate, Civil, Family, and Administrative Law. Experience in Criminal Law is crucial to effectively fulfill the obligations of this position. In one year alone as Judge, I’ve presided over 1,400 cases, 650 of which were Criminal. My own personal experience and diverse background reflect the community in which I serve.
How will you ensure you remain impartial in practice and appearance while serving in this judicial office?
Transparency and accountability. The core principles of the Oath that I took when I was sworn in as the Judge of Winnebago County Branch IV. When I took the Oath of Office on that day, I swore that “I will administer justice without respect to persons, and will faithfully, and impartially discharge the duties of said office.” I did not simply repeat the words of the Oath, I truly committed to them. It’s imperative that the judiciary be composed of jurists who are impartial, transparent, and unbiased. Though all judges take the same oath to do just that, public opinion of the judiciary is vital to a healthy and effective relationship between the bench and the community it serves. Even the appearance of a potential conflict can erode the trust the community has in the court system. Remaining steadfast in that commitment and my obligation to the community ensures my continued impartiality.
What role could you as a judge play to address and diminish inequities in sentencing in Wisconsin’s judicial system?
Knowledge. In order to understand the inequities, you must first understand the history of sentencing, and ultimately, the disparity that has led to calls for prison reform. I’ve spent the majority of my career navigating the results of these inequities, advocating for alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenses, and educating myself and others about systemic issues. It is this same passion that I bring to the bench. While there are three primary factors in exercising discretion in sentencing, as a Judge, I am always cognizant of the mitigating and aggravating factors that ultimately determine the goals the Court wants to accomplish, whether that’s rehabilitation, protection of the community, treatment, or a combination thereof. I believe the community must remain informed because ultimately it is our citizens that have the power to create change through the legislature. It is a Judge’s duty to use their platform to make sure their community has the knowledge to empower them to create change.
Do you support alternatives to incarceration including electronic monitoring, mental health court and drug court? Why or why not?
Yes. Especially for non-violent offenses. It is imperative to address the underlying and persistent concerns that lead to non-violent offenses without the sole focus being punitive measures. Judges have more dispositional options available today than in the past and more consideration should be given to those alternatives before a decision to incarcerate is made. I’ve had the privilege of serving on the Drug and Alcohol Court team and have witnessed first hand the success of the programs, the treatment standards, and best practices applied. These alternatives and the use of Evidence-Based Decision Making can assist in diminishing inequities in sentencing.
Department of Corrections Region 4 Newsletter
"Influential Community Leader: Judge LaKeisha Haase" by Jessica Day
On December 7th, 2020, Judge LaKeisha Haase was appointed to the Winnebago Circuit Court by Gov. Tony Evers, making her the first Black judge in Winnebago County.
Judge Haase is the daughter of a young mother who was still in high school and a father who struggled with addiction. She lived in subsidized housing in Chicago, Illinois before moving to Franklin, Wisconsin. She quickly found her safe place at school by joining extracurricular activities including sports and being president of her school’s chapter of Future Business Leaders of America. One of her teachers, Ms. Lester, approached her with the idea of going to college. She didn’t have any idea where to go, how to apply, or how she was going to be able to pay for it, but she saw it as the way to advance her life. Judge Haase told Kaitlyn Scoville of the Oshkosh Herald, “Nobody ever talks about getting out of the projects. I was socialized to believe that there were certain things - certain occupations - that were just not attainable for me, that there was just a level of education that I would never obtain.” Ms. Lester must have also believed in her because she showed Haase how to apply for scholarships, where to apply for college, and even covered the cost of her college applications. After graduating high school, Haase attended UW Oshkosh for Finance and Legal Studies, an education she paid for by applying for every available scholarship and working two jobs. She then went on to work as a court and judicial assistant in the Winnebago County Courthouse prior to going to law school at Marquette University. She was admitted to the bar and sworn in by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2011.
That same year she was hired by the Appleton Trial Division Office of the State Defender which made her the first person of color to work for that local agency. She served as a member of Outagamie County Drug and Alcohol Treatment Court and the Outagamie County Racial Disparity Committee. She remained in this role until she transitioned into private practice at Hogan Eickhoff in 2019 for criminal defense.
When Circuit Court Judge Karen Seifert announced her retirement, Haase was encouraged to apply for the opening. She accepted the fact that she likely would not be appointed as a judge because of she was just a kid from Chicago who was raised by her mother, grandmother, and aunties with no political connections. She has never discussed her own political position, openly supported a political candidate, nor donated to a candidate. She decided she would submit an application despite the odds being against her. After an extensive selection process that included several writing samples, a 12 panel interview, references and cross references, and an interview with the governor, she was selected by Gov. Evers.
Judge Haase recognizes that the title of “First Black Judge in Winnebago County,“ puts her in the position that she needs to exceed other people’s expectations as it is likely some people’s first experience interacting with a person of color in the judicial system. She identifies that representation in the criminal justice system is important especially when it was inherently built on discriminatory principles. When you have a defendant who is a person of color and is in a courtroom where they are the only minority, it is difficult to feel that the system is not set up against them. By appearing before a judge who is Black, the defendant may feel that their situation can be understood without having to justify why it hurts and why it matters. Even as a professional, Judge Haase wasn’t impervious to micro and macro aggressions. As an attorney, there were times that she would check in for court but they were unable to find her case and then ask, “Who is your attorney?” The clerk automatically assumed based solely on her Blackness that she was the defendant. In addition, even as a Judge, she has been stopped several times in the Winnebago Courthouse and questioned about her activities. After she was appointment, there were criticisms that her selection was an “affirmative action pick” despite the grueling selection process and her qualifications. Some people have even said that Gov. Evers made a historic pick just for the sake of a historic pick. These criticisms and aggressions act to negate her vast accomplishments, accolades, and qualifications.
Although it’s been a little over a year since taking the bench, she still hasn’t gotten used to people calling her “judge” and would prefer if everyone could call her LaKeisha. The past year has provided her the opportunity to identify gaps in the community for mental health services. Despite programs like Wisconsin Resource Center and Winnebago Mental Health Institution, there are not a lot of agencies that are accessible to community members, especially for people of color. She hopes to continue to work with community providers in order to increase opportunities for diversion programs, treatment courts, and access to community resources. Another continued goal of hers is to be as transparent as possible in decision making and sentencing. She wants the defendant to understand why she feels the sentence is most effective, whether that is a deferred prosecution agreement, treatment, or other forms of accountability.
Scoville, Kaitlyn. (2020, February 3). ‘Judge’s path to the bench had focus’. Oshkosh Herald.
The Oshkosh Herald
"Judge's Path to the Bench Had Focus"
by Kaitlyn Scoville
Judge LaKeisha Haase was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers on Dec. 7 and became the first Black judge in Winnebago County. But it wasn’t an easy task to get there.
Haase was born into public housing in Chicago as the daughter of a young mother who was still in high school.
“Nobody ever talks about getting out of the projects,” she said. “I was socialized to believe that there were certain things — certain occupations — that were just not attainable for me, that there was just a level of education that I would never obtain.”
The family then moved to Franklin, Wis., in 1988 after her stepfather accepted a job opportunity.
Haase participated in several extracurriculars in high school, including basketball and track, and she was president of her school’s chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America.
After graduating high school in 1996, she chose to attend the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh for a degree in finance. She did not finish until 2002, as she had to stop attending classes at times to work and support herself.
During her time at UW Oshkosh she had to take a law class, which struck a chord. On top of the major in finance, she added a legal studies emphasis. And by the time she graduated, she knew she wanted to attend law school.
“I didn’t know how I was supposed to do it,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about it, I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it. I just said, ‘I’m going to law school. I’ll figure it out.’”
She worked at the Winnebago County Courthouse for five years before deciding to go to law school at Marquette University. She was a court assistant for Judge Tom Gritton from fall 2003 to August 2006, then moved to Branch 4 to be a judicial assistant for Judge Karen Seifert until she started law school in 2008.
“She’s very outgoing and she likes to talk to and meet people,” said Gritton, who is now an attorney. “She’s easygoing and you never have to worry about having a conversation with her because of that.”
She completed law school in spring 2011 and was sworn in by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. She then began at the Appleton trial division of the office of the state defender in fall of the same year until she moved to private practice at Hogan Eickhoff in 2019 for criminal defense.
A lot of her focus in private practice was representing incarcerated Black men because of the high incarceration rate, disparity in sentencing and growing rate for certain offenses, she explained.
“Knowing there were other families that were just so affected by the criminal justice system, affected by the racial disparity in the criminal justice system, is probably what motivated me in the types of cases I decided to take,” she said.
And Gritton said that Haase’s background will influence how she is on the bench. “I know that her philosophy will be the kind that I think a judge should have,” he said.
"Winnebago County Judge LaKeisha Haase"
with Josh Dukelow on 'Fresh Take'
Appointed to the bench as the first African-American Judge in county history, the Honorable LaKeisha Haase joined Josh to share her background as an attorney, how her role in the courtroom has changed, where and how she hopes to exercise her discretion as a judge, and her thoughts on having to run for election in 2022.
"Systemic Issues, Seeing Inside & Sound Improvements"
with Josh Dukelow on 'Civic Revival'
Sometimes seeing the big picture requires taking a big step back. With Kristen Scheuerman busy preparing for a major trial this week, Josh Dukelow welcomes criminal defense attorney Jeff Kippa as his co-host, and they start with a big picture look at problems in the criminal justice system. Then Winnebago County Judge LaKeisha Haase joins the show to discuss the pros and cons of cameras in the courtroom.