top of page
Law

Attorney Haase
in The News

News: Bio
News: Bio

Oshkosh Herald
"City council completes itself post-election: Former judge Haase named to fill open seat"

by Kaitlyn Scoville

May 3, 2023

Former Winnebago County Judge LaKeisha Haase was selected last week as the newest Common Council member to
replace Matt Mugerauer, who won his bid for mayor last month against Aaron Wojciechowski.

 

Haase was among 11 other candidates for the open seat, seven of whom presented to the new council at its April 25 meeting. Paul Esslinger, Joe Stephenson and Karl Buelow were sworn into the council, with longstanding member Lynnsey Erickson named deputy mayor at a previous meeting.

Haase’s appointment came just weeks after losing to Winnebago County Circuit Judge Scott Woldt in his re-election to the Branch II seat as part of the same spring election. During the appointment process, several council members expressed the desire to add someone who has their sights on helping the greater Oshkosh community and all walks of life.

“I’m looking for someone that is respectful of this council, and more importantly, respectful of the citizens of Oshkosh. That’s what you have to be as a representative of the city,” Esslinger said. Council member Michael Ford was supportive of someone who was in favor of the current city manager-led form of government.

“I really want someone who respects our form of government, is knowledgeable about it,” Ford said. “We’re going to be facing an important decision at some point in the next four or five years, or whenever (City Manager Mark Rohloff) decides he’s sick of us, and it’s incredibly important we protect that.”

Mayor Mugerauer ultimately sought “someone who truly wants to make Oshkosh a better place to live, to work and to play at their core.

 

“It’s about doing what’s best for this entire community – all four corners and everything in between,” he said. “And trying to do that every single day, it’s tough sometimes. It’s a diversity of thought for me, and that’s formed through life experiences. If we have a gap here, I want that filled. I want that voice, I want that idea, I want that thought process up here because that’s important.”

 

Everyone but Esslinger voted in favor of appointing Haase.

League of Women Voters Candidate Forum:
Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Branch 2

March 1, 2023 - Oshkosh City Hall

News: Bio

Oshkosh Northwestern & Post-Crescent
"Q&A: Judicial candidates share what sets them apart in Winnebago County circuit court race"

by Bremen Keasey

March 27, 2023

A longtime judge in Winnebago County Circuit Court Branch 2 is facing an election challenge for the first time in two election cycles in what has been a tightly contested campaign.

 

Judge Scott Woldt, who was appointed to the bench in 2004, ran unopposed in 2011 and 2017 races, but he now is facing off in the April election against former Winnebago County judge LaKeisha Haase.

 

This is the first time Woldt is seeking reelection after he was suspended without pay for seven days by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2021 because of misconduct. Haase, who was appointed to the court in Dec. 2020 and served until April 2022 when she lost a re-election bid to Mike Gibbs, and Woldt are seeking a six-year term on the bench.

LaKeisha D. Haase

Age: 44

City of residence: Oshkosh

Occupation: Litigation attorney with Renning, Lewis & Lacy, s.c.

Highest education level: Juris Doctor, Marquette University Law School

Relevant experience: Winnebago County Circuit Court judge, Branch 4; trial attorney with the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office; Litigation attorney in both the federal and circuit; Judicial assistant in Winnebago County Circuit Court Branch 4; court assistant in Winnebago County Circuit Court Branch 1; volunteer attorney for Winnebago Free Legal Assistance Clinic; Drug and Alcohol Treatment Court Professional; presiding judge for State High School Mock Trial Competitions

Scott C. Woldt

Age: 61

City of residence: Oshkosh

Occupation: Circuit Court Judge in Winnebago County Branch 2 since 2004

Highest education level: UW-Oshkosh, B.S. 1984;  Hamline University School of Law, J.D. 1987

Relevant experience: Winnebago County Circuit Court Branch 2, 2004 to present (19 years)

Why are you running for this office?

Haase: The Supreme Court found that my opponent openly and callously disregards his obligation to be fair, reasoned, impartial and courteous. This has destroyed the public’s confidence in our judiciary. Winnebago deserves a judiciary that reflects its values and abides by the judicial oath. I will restore integrity to the bench.

Woldt: I have served as Circuit Court Branch 2 judge since 2004. My hard work protecting our communities isn’t finished. I have presided on over 190 jury trials and handled more than 30,000 cases through disposition.  There is a 35,000-case backlog in the Wisconsin Courts. There is no case backlog in Branch 2.

Why are you the best candidate in this race?

Haase: My experience on the bench and expansive legal career, coupled with my commitment of service to our community. I’ve never been overturned on appeal, suspended from the bench or had a single judicial complaint filed against me. Preparedness, integrity and commitment to the rule of law are my guiding principles.

Woldt: I have established rehabilitative programs as Chair of the Safe Streets Committee, which I started. I started the Winnebago County Drug Court, which I presided over for 10 years. I have developed programs with mandatory treatment for OWI offenders. These programs reduce crime while saving taxpayers their hard-earned income. Experience matters.

What are residents telling you are the most important issues, and how would you work to address them?

Haase: Residents are expressing their concerns, verbalizing their mistreatment and demanding change from the judiciary in Branch 2. The repeated and incessant judicial misconduct is appalling and distressing to residents. My commitment to the canons of ethics, integrity and transparency will aid in earning back the community’s trust and confidence in our judiciary.

Protection of the community is always a concern, which coincides with the drug epidemic. We continue to use the same programs we have been using for years to tackle problems that are ever-changing. We must constantly assess and adjust our strategies or risk never adequately addressing the problems.

Woldt: How do we address drug and alcohol use in the community? The primary purpose of the Winnebago County Safe Streets Committee, which I started 19 years ago, is community safety. We seek a balance between punishment and rehabilitation by providing alternatives to incarceration. Our focus includes treatment and programs to instill accountability in citizens involved in drug- and alcohol-related offenses against our community. Drug Court and the Safe Streets Treatment Option Program, SSTOP, get non-violent offenders the treatment they need. Results of these programs show a decrease in recidivism of approximately 50%. As of 2023, participants have performed over 85,000 hours of community service.

News: Bio

Wisconsin Public Radio - WPR
"Judge who was suspended for misconduct after showing handgun in court seeks reelection in Winnebago County"

by Rob Mentzer

March 13, 2023

Voters in Winnebago County will decide whether to return to the bench a judge who was suspended for judicial misconduct two years ago after he showed a gun in court and referred to a 13-year-old victim of sexual assault as a "so-called victim."

 

The state Supreme Court in 2021 suspended Winnebago County Judge Scott Woldt for seven days after it found him guilty of judicial misconduct in six separate incidents in eight years. 

 

In 2014, Judge Scott Woldt referred to a 13-year-old girl who had been sexually assaulted by an 18-year-old as a "so-called victim" and said the 18-year-old "got into a situation where (he was) taken advantage of," according to the Court's disciplinary finding. He called the 18-year-old a "smart man" and a "low risk to re-offend."

In 2015, Woldt pulled out a handgun in court during a sentencing hearing in a burglary and stalking case. He again showed his gun at the courthouse in 2016, that time to a touring school group. Other incidents of judicial misconduct included berating a domestic violence victim by saying he was "sick and tired" of abuse victims who recanted or disputed charges brought against abusers. 

Woldt is seeking reelection to the bench for the third time since he was appointed in 2004. Woldt did not respond to interview requests or a list of questions provided by Wisconsin Public Radio.

 

His opponent, LaKeisha Haase, was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers to a judgeship in 2020 but lost an election in 2021. Haase said voters should take the sanction against Woldt into account. "I do not have to kick anyone when they're down," Haase said. "I don't have to make those disparaging remarks about someone."

 

She noted that the 13-year-old victim reported the crime to police and spoke to the district attorney's office. According to court documents, Woldt characterized her as a "so-called victim" in the course of criticizing her for not responding to a presentencing investigation report. "He took an opportunity to knock a 13-year-old down because she didn't respond in a way that he felt was appropriate. That's disgusting," Haase said.

 

Complaints against judges are common, as defendants seek to contest unfavorable decisions or criticize a judge's manner in the courtroom. But a suspension for judicial misconduct like the one Woldt received is exceedingly rare. Between 1978 and 2021, only 15 Wisconsin judges have been suspended, according to data from the Wisconsin Judicial Commission. In order to protect against reputation damage from frivolous or unfounded complaints, the Judicial Commission does not release details or names in complaints until it has investigated and made a recommendation for public reprimand or suspension. Those recommendations go to the state Supreme Court, which makes the final decision. 

 

In 2021, the Judicial Commission received 2,043 initial inquiries, of which only 36 became official requests for investigation. Woldt's case was the only one that led to a reprimand or suspension that year. The commission has not published data from 2022.

 

Woldt's campaign website does not include reference to the suspension. At an Oshkosh candidate forum held this month by the League of Women Voters, he indirectly responded to the finding, saying at least one of the complaints came from an attorney who had a personal grievance against him. He did not apologize for the judicial misconduct, which the Supreme Court found to have "a significant detrimental impact on the public's view of the judiciary." 

 

"Now, am I the nicest guy all the time?" Woldt said at the forum, shaking his head no. "I don't sugarcoat it. I tell it the way it is."

 

Haase said that's not the issue. "It's not a matter of being blunt. It's a matter of the disrespect that you show. The personal opinion that he has of someone — which should be absent in his judgment," she said.

Most local judges run unopposed

Voters typically don't have a lot of information when it comes to judicial elections, especially at the municipal or circuit court levels, said Margo Kirchner, director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative. "A lot of voters probably go in and don't know who any of these people are," Kirchner said.

 

And the great majority of incumbent judges run unopposed. The Justice Initiative, a liberal group that advocates for criminal justice reform, published a study in 2022 that found that more than 80 percent of the state's judicial races were uncontested. And most of those with more than one candidate were in cases where a judge's retirement had left an open seat.

 

Especially in smaller communities, Kirchner said, attorneys see challenging as a career risk. "Attorneys are hesitant to take on an incumbent," she said. "If they lose, they have to then go and appear in front of that judge. ... A lot of attorneys don't want to take that risk."

 

As in Wisconsin's high-profile Supreme Court race, many local judicial races, though officially nonpartisan, are politically polarized. Haase was appointed by a Democratic governor, and is receiving support from local Democrats. Woldt, whose campaign committee chair is GOP state Rep. Michael Schraa, is endorsed by Republicans. Republicans generally have a slight edge in Winnebago County. The county voted for GOP President Donald Trump 51-47 in 2020; Evers received 49 percent of the vote there in 2022 while Republican candidate Tim Michels received 50 percent.

 

Haase said she is not a member of a political party, and said she sought the endorsements of both the Republican and Democratic parties in Winnebago County, meeting with both. She noted Woldt was initially appointed by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, but acknowledged the race has become politically polarized in spite of this.

Only 6 Wisconsin judges disciplined in 5 years

Sanctions for judicial misconduct are highly unusual, and some result in a public reprimand but no suspension. In addition to Woldt's case, these are other recent disciplinary actions against judges:

 

In February, the Judicial Commission dismissed a complaint against Supreme Court Justice Jill Karofsky. A high-profile complaint from 2010 against then-Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman was dropped after justices deadlocked. That case involved a dispute about whether a campaign ad approved by Gableman had lied about his opponent, then-Justice Louis Butler. Gableman did not seek reelection in 2018, and went on to lead the Republican investigation into the 2020 election. A liberal legal group filed a new ethics complaint against him this month with the Office of Lawyer regulation, calling that investigation a sham.

News: Bio

Oshkosh Examiner
"Woldt hopes to weather the Supreme Court rebuke as Haase argues for change in Winnebago courts"

by Miles Maguire

March 10, 2023

In July 2021 Winnebago County Circuit Judge Scott Woldt was disciplined by the Wisconsin Supreme Court for violating multiple provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct, including a rule that requires impartiality.  

But just months after serving a one-week suspension imposed as punishment, Woldt made statements from the bench about a criminal case that called his impartiality into question again. His comments were memorialized by one of the lawyers who heard them and prompted the defense attorney to file a formal request for the judge to step aside. The trial involved a case of extremely violent domestic abuse in Menasha. Woldt agreed to disqualify himself from the matter. But some local lawyers see his courtroom comments as evidence that the Supreme Court was mistaken when it decided to temper its punishment of the judge based on his “assertion that he has attempted to modify his conduct.” 

 

In its 2021 ruling the Supreme Court said Woldt used “undignified, discourteous and disrespectful language,” “essentially threatened” one defendant and tried “to intimidate” another. “These are all serious violations of a judge’s ethical duties and show an open and callous disregard of Judge Woldt’s obligation to serve the public in a fair, reasoned, impartial and courteous way,” the court said.

Acrimonious campaign

 

Questions about Woldt’s fitness for office are front and center in an acrimonious campaign between him and former Judge LaKeisha Haase. Their race for a six-year term in Branch II has split the local legal community, with each candidate claiming the public support of one of the county’s six circuit court judges. Branch IV Judge Michael Gibbs, who unseated Haase a year ago, is backing Woldt while Branch I Judge Teresa Basiliere, who was elected to an open seat in 2018, is backing Haase.

 

Both candidates have freely criticized the other, but the accusations can be hard to pin down. Haase said on social media that the most recent impartiality incident led to a complaint with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, which was confirmed this week to the Examiner by the lawyer who filed it, Ben Szilagyi. But Woldt said he has been assured there are no complaints currently pending against him.

 

With 19 years on the bench and a reputation for thoroughly researching his cases, Woldt is campaigning on a record of running a tight ship in court while also developing alternative sentencing programs intended to rehabilitate offenders and improve public safety. His long tenure and community involvement may explain the extensive degree of support he enjoys despite the Supreme Court’s strong public rebuke of his behavior.

 

It was less than two years ago that the Wisconsin high court issued its 30-page report on Woldt’s conduct as judge. The court found that Woldt had mocked a domestic abuse victim from the bench, displayed a handgun on multiple occasions in his courtroom and, at least by implication, called a lawyer arguing before him a “dick.” But Woldt says that these descriptions, while true, do not provide a complete picture. “I’m not this raving maniac,” Woldt said in an interview. He argued that his behavior looks worse on paper than it was in real life and that greater context would help explain why he acted the way he did in certain circumstances. 

 

District attorney backs Woldt

That view seems to be widely shared in the Winnebago County Courthouse. His election committee includes the county’s top prosecutor, District Attorney Eric Sparr, as well as defense attorney Edmund Jelinski, who is probably best known to local residents as a whistleblower who helped send former D.A. Joe Paulus to prison. The chairman of Woldt’s campaign committee is state Rep. Michael Schraa (R-53rd). Other prominent supporters, according to Woldt’s website, include County Executive Jon Doemel, Oshkosh City Council member Bill Miller, UW Oshkosh criminal justice professor David Jones and a raft of local lawyers, both prosecutors and defense attorneys.

 

Haase also lists a large number of high-profile endorsers, including former judges, Oshkosh Mayor and Assembly Rep. Lori Palmeri (D-54th) as well as school board President Barb Herzog and board members Stephanie Carlin and Angie Lee. But Haase positions herself as an outsider, someone who is willing to criticize what she sees as failings in the administration of criminal justice. She believes the way that support for Woldt has coalesced is a sign that entrenched interests have circled the wagons to maintain the status quo and to divert attention from Winnebago County’s struggles to respond to the drug epidemic.

 

Haase has made Woldt’s behavior in court the central argument in her campaign. In her announcement last fall, she cited a lack of integrity on Woldt’s part as evidenced by the Supreme Court’s highly unusual punishment of a sitting judge. The Supreme Court has sent a “blaring message” about judicial conduct, Haase said at the candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters. “They were calling for us to vote for someone who maintains the integrity that can meet the expectations that we all have.”

 

The Supreme Court was not the first body to find fault with Woldt. In 2006, according to an article in the Appleton Post-Crescent, the state’s Crime Victims Rights Board “privately reprimanded” Woldt for violating a Neenah man’s right to speak at a sentencing hearing. The newspaper reported that Woldt did not comment at the time because of a potential appeal. Nathan Olson, Woldt’s campaign treasurer, said that Woldt did not receive “a public or private reprimand” in this matter.

 

Woldt overturned on appeal

The Post-Crescent also reported, in 2015, that appellate courts had overturned Woldt’s decisions at an unusually high rate, roughly 30%. Despite this negative publicity, Woldt ran unopposed in 2017. Woldt prides himself on courtroom efficiency. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” he said at the League forum. “In my courtroom, I have zero for a backlog–state of Wisconsin: 35,000 cases.” One of the reasons he has no backlog is that he is a stickler for moving trials along. Woldt explains that this tendency is what got him in trouble in the case where he warned an attorney in graphic terms about an argument that was about to be raised.

 

In that 2009 case, Woldt told a lawyer that a line of questioning he was starting was inappropriate. But instead of using that language, Woldt said, “Counsel, there’s a thin line between being an advocate and being a ‘dick’–thin line–and you’re blurring it.” The case was a child custody dispute, and “I knew this attorney very well,” Woldt told the Examiner. “My concern was that he was doing something … that if he kept on going down that lane, it was going to rip this family apart.” Woldt said he acted “in the best interest of this child” and that his comment, while unconventional, is an example of his willingness to “try different things” to make a point and hasten settlements. “In that case, it worked,” Woldt said. “The family resolved all their issues.” The judge added that he apologized at the end of the hearing. The lawyer he criticized got the result he wanted for his client and was not the person who filed the complaint against Woldt, the judge said.

 

Woldt is running as a champion of innovative approaches to deep-seated social issues. He was a leader in creating the Safe Streets Treatment Option Program and the Winnebago County Drug Court, which are rehabilitation programs that offer an alternative to incarceration and the high costs associated with prisons and jails. “These programs reduce crime, while saving taxpayers their hard earned income,” Woldt said. “Experience has taught me that the major issue facing our criminal justice system centers around drugs, alcohol and mental health,” Woldt said. “The revolving door of relapse and re-incarceration is the mantra of the past. Today we need to treat the root cause of crime, which is addiction and the lack of treatment.”

 

Do diversion programs work?

Winnebago County has gained a national reputation for its efforts to reduce incarceration, especially for drug offenders who can be diverted into treatment programs. A plan to expand the county jail was put on the shelf because of a decline in the number of inmates.  Haase argues that the statistics used to justify the county’s approach are misleading. It’s true that the county’s jail population has declined in recent years, but figures from the U.S. Department of Justice show a similar trend across the country.

 

She also questioned whether local prosecutors are diverting cases or bringing lesser charges in a way that reduces incarceration rates at the expense of public safety. Local enforcement officials have raised such concerns quietly for several years, pointing to instances where defendants who handled significant amounts of harmful drugs were allowed to avoid trial. While she believes that diversion programs can work in some cases, Haase said they don’t work all the time. She also warned that drug dealers are learning that they face less risk of severe punishment if they operate in Winnebago County compared to, for example, Outagamie County.

 

Woldt is equally critical of his opponent, who he believes is out for revenge for his part in supporting Gibbs in his successful race last year. Woldt said Haase lacks the temperament and qualifications for the job. During the League forum, he commented: “The voters of this county, when she was a judge, have spoken. They voted her off.” He went on to say that Haase, after losing her judgeship, had applied to be a court commissioner, an appointed post that involves handling some preliminary work on behalf of judges. “She didn’t get the job. Notice she’s not a court commissioner. She didn’t get the job,” Woldt said. “The judges decide who’s the court commissioner. She didn’t get the job.” Woldt had to be cautioned by the forum moderator that he was getting off track. To that he responded by saying that Haase doesn’t know what a court commissioner does. “That was just a way for him to try to get in a dig,” Haase said. Given her experience as a judicial assistant, attorney and judge, “his statement that I don’t know what a court commissioner does is just foolish,” Haase said. 

She describes Woldt as an intimidating, divisive figure in the courthouse and says that she was encouraged to run for Branch II by three other Winnebago judges. She also says that the commissioner selection process was irregular, with newly elected judges allowed to take part before they had been seated.

 

A case from early in Haase’s tenure in Branch IV illustrates her strong advocacy for victims and her willingness to criticize prosecutors for not being tough enough on crime. But some of her comments, in retrospect, were not borne out and suggest what courthouse critics say is a directness that rubs some people the wrong way. The case involved a man who was accused of domestic abuse against his wife and who was seeking a deferred adjudication agreement that could lead to having the charges dismissed. At the end of the hearing, the defense lawyer tried to interject that her client would be taking an option that Haase had offered, which prompted the judge to deliver a lecture on courtroom behavior that ended with the seeming threat of a contempt citation. “You do not interrupt me. I don’t care if you’re by video or not,” Haase said. “I don’t care if you’re upset by what you heard.” Haase continued: “Decorum is demanded even by you. It is absolutely inappropriate for you to interrupt me. Inappropriate. Show advocacy for your client every single day, but you will not disrespect this court process. Ever. Because if you do it again, it’s contemptuous.”

 

It was not so much the interruption that led to her forceful response, Haase said in an interview. Throughout the video hearing, the defense attorney, who was not the  attorney of record, was behaving inappropriately, with laughter and eye-rolling, Haase said. “Her decorum was awful,” she said.  

Victim advocate

Earlier in the hearing, the man’s wife made a statement to the court describing the extent of the domestic abuse and complained that prosecutors had not brought a charge of strangulation, which would have carried a stiffer punishment. Haase was relatively new on the bench at the time, but she said she had already heard from from police officers with complaints about the DA’s office. The police said they were handling calls from victims, especially of domestic abuse, who thought their attackers were getting off easy.

“I am appalled,” Haase said after the wife spoke under the victims rights provisions known as Marsy’s Law. “I’m appalled. And I stand behind what I say on this bench because I didn’t accept this position to mince words or, really, to care who gets upset about this.”

 

The woman appeared before Haase trembling and in tears. She recounted how a nurse who had examined her told her that the fact that she had urinated on herself after the attack by her husband suggested that she had lost consciousness, possibly as the result of strangulation. “The information I just heard compared to the charges that were filed, compared to the information that’s contained in the criminal complaint, I 100% question the district attorney’s advocacy as it relates to Marsy’s Law,” Haase said. “A verge on deceit for a criminal complaint to be filed the way that it was and for me to hear the multitude of felonies that possibly could have been charged, deceit to not only this community or this court,” Haase said, according to a transcript of the hearing that is in the court file.

 

As it turned out, and as later documented in a memo from prosecutors, the wife’s statements at the time of the incident and later contained “uncertainties and inconsistencies” that would have made it hard to press a strangulation case. In the end, Haase agreed to approve the deferred adjudication agreement that she initially put on hold. As judge she has no control over the DA’s charging decisions, but she continues to be concerned. “We had a case where a child sex assault [was] charged out as contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and I said, ‘Wow!'”

 

Ties to the Oshkosh community

Both Woldt and Haase earned bachelor’s degrees from UW Oshkosh, but that may be the extent of what they have in common. Haase is an African-American woman who was born in Chicago to a teenage mother and a father with a drug problem. Woldt, a white male, grew up in Oshkosh, with a mother who worked for the school district and a father who served as a sheriff’s deputy.

 

Woldt has emphasized his long ties to the community. But Haase thinks that he is not telling the whole story. Woldt’s father was fired from the Sheriff’s Office for misconduct, although he later won an arbitration ruling that forced the county to pay him unemployment compensation because of a lack of evidence, according to newspaper accounts from 1984. In his campaign materials Woldt also describes a motorcycle accident that cost him a leg. That incident propelled him to community service as he later helped another amputee, who lost both legs in a train accident, come to grips with his situation and move on to a successful career in business. On his campaign website, Woldt describes how the motorcycle accident left him “mentally devastated” because he would no longer be able to compete in sports. He does not include the fact that a female passenger on his motorcycle, who was about to graduate from Oshkosh West High School with highest honors, suffered irreversible brain damage and died from the accident. Revisiting these events “is beneath someone seeking election– especially to the Circuit Court,” said, Olson, Woldt’s campaign treasurer. “This is simply an attempt to smear Judge Woldt and revictimize all those involved.” But Haase believes these are legitimate issues since Woldt has used the motorcycle story to burnish his image.

Impact of Supreme Court race

In the end the winner on April 4 may be carried to victory by whoever comes out to vote in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election, a race that has been called the most important contest in the country (subscription). Both the local and statewide court races are nominally nonpartisan, but the Democratic and Republican parties have each picked their favorites and are working to drive turnout.

 

Last year Haase won handily in Oshkosh, which is the Blue-leaning county seat, capturing 56% of the vote. But factoring in the rest of Winnebago County, where Republican and libertarian views are dominant, she came up short by 1,705 votes out of the 25,901 cast, a gap of 6.6%.

 

She is planning to campaign more actively in municipalities away from Oshkosh, and she may get a boost because of the Supreme Court ballot. In last month’s primary election, the two liberal candidates got 488 more votes countywide than the two conservative candidates. But there are a couple of factors that confound any simple conclusion about how the race will end up. An overriding issue in the Supreme Court race is abortion, which could drive turnout among women, many of whom are outraged about the potential for their reproductive rights to be limited by a pre-Civil War law. 

Which voters will turn out?

If they extend their support to Haase, she could have a good night. On the other hand, it’s quite possible that conservative women voters will support the liberal alternative in the Supreme Court election but follow the local GOP’s endorsement of Woldt. Woldt thinks there is a good chance that attacks on his integrity will backfire. One facet of the Supreme Court’s disciplinary action against him concerned his carrying of a gun into court. But two of the justices defended his right to display a firearm from the bench, and the many county voters who are Second Amendment advocates may rally to Woldt’s side in April. “Over the years, I’ve had many death threats,” Woldt said. He began carrying a gun under his robes at a time when the county courthouse was known for its weak security, which has since been significantly upgraded. He now keeps his sidearm in a safe in his chambers while he presides over cases.

 

As always, the big question will be turnout, which typically runs lower during the spring election cycle. Woldt put it this way, “The hard thing [is] it’s a nonpartisan election, and many people don’t bother to vote.”

News: Bio

Vote 411
"Voter Guide: Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Branch 4"

February 28, 2023

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.

Post-Crescent
"'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.

"Episode 49 LaKeisha Haase: Juvenile Mental Health"
with Timber Smith on 'The Kosh' Podcast

Get to know LaKeisha Haase as we discuss: Juvenile Mental Health, The Supreme Court & judicial precedent, Black Girl Magic, dog poop in the park, and other interesting topics.

News: HTML Embed

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. 

Microphones
Voters
Image by Element5 Digital
News: HTML Embed

Vote 411
"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.

News: Bio

League of Women Voters Candidates Forum: Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Branch 4

March 10, 2022 - Oshkosh City Hall

"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.

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.

News: Bio

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.

News: Bio

African American Icons: Judge LaKeisha Haase

WFRV Local 5

"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.

News: HTML Embed

"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.

News: HTML Embed
bottom of page