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A Winnebago County justice was suspended by the Wisconsin Supreme Court for 1 week without wage owed to a bid of incidents successful which helium brandished his weapon successful his courtroom and directed “undignified” connection astatine defendants, lawyers and transgression victims.
The judge, Scott Woldt, was appointed to the seat successful 2004 and has been re-elected 3 times since then. The incidents chiefly occurred successful 2015 and 2016. The Supreme Court’s decision to springiness him a one-week suspension was unanimous — but blimpish Justices Patience Roggensack and Rebecca Bradley partially dissented.
The Wisconsin Judicial Commission — the portion of the Wisconsin tribunal strategy that investigates and prosecutes judicial misconduct — filed a ailment against Woldt successful June 2020, but the archetypal of six incidents happened successful 2009.
The 2009 incidental took spot during a sentencing proceeding for a antheral who had pleaded blameworthy to 1 number of disorderly behaviour arsenic an enactment of home maltreatment pursuing an “altercation” betwixt him and his girlfriend.
At the sentencing hearing, the man’s woman told Woldt she was hoping helium would conscionable request to wage a good and bash immoderate assemblage service, alternatively than 18-month probation, due to the fact that the mates was “trying to enactment things out.”
After sentencing the antheral to 1 twelvemonth of probation, Woldt addressed the woman, saying helium was bushed of victims getting the transgression justness strategy progressive if they’ll aboriginal inquire for leniency.
“And ma’am, if you travel successful present and archer maine that you conscionable privation a fine, everything’s fine, past don’t prime up the telephone and dial 911, don’t telephone the cops,” Woldt said. “I’m conscionable sick and bushed of victims coming successful present and they telephone the cops erstwhile they request ‘em but past aboriginal connected they travel and say: ‘Oh, no, this person’s an angel.’ I’m sick and bushed of proceeding it.”
Woldt agreed with the Judicial Commission to the basal allegations successful the complaint, but disputed immoderate of the ways successful which the allegations were characterized.
Six years later, successful May 2015, Woldt presided implicit a sentencing proceeding for an 18-year-old antheral who pleaded nary contention to a complaint of second-degree intersexual battle of a 13-year-old girl.
As the man’s defence lawyer was speaking, Woldt interrupted him utilizing a profane connection for antheral genitals, saying the lawyer was making a “stupid argument” and telling the lawyer helium should unopen his “pie hole.”
Later connected successful that hearing, Woldt pressured the suspect into waiving his close to talk astatine his sentencing earlier referring to the 13-year-old intersexual battle subsister — who was not successful the country — arsenic a “so-called victim.”
Less than a period later, during a post-conviction question proceeding successful which a suspect was attempting to reason his proceedings counsel had provided ineffective assistance, Woldt said helium wanted to punish the suspect for utilizing the appellate rights disposable to him.
“I’d emotion that helium get recovered guilty, and I’d emotion to springiness him a twelvemonth successful jailhouse for wasting my clip today,” Woldt said.
The adjacent day, an incidental occurred astatine a sentencing proceeding successful a lawsuit successful which the suspect was charged with burglary of a neighbor’s location and stalking. The defendant, who has “substantial cognitive deficiencies,” pleaded nary contention to the stalking complaint and the burglary complaint was dismissed but work into the tribunal record.
After 1 of the victims spoke astir the fearfulness that having a neighbour interruption into his location had caused him and his family, Woldt made a lengthy code astir “Castle Doctrine” — the rule that radical person a close to support their ain homes — and the information that the suspect had enactment himself successful portion lamenting the information that his attorneys were saying helium shouldn’t service jailhouse time.
While giving this speech, Woldt pulled his loaded Glock Model 43 handgun from a holster nether his robes. After unholstering the gun, Woldt ejected the loaded mag and the slug from the gun’s chamber, earlier waving it astir “as a prop” to the radical successful the courtroom.
“You’re fortunate you’re not dormant because, if you would person travel into my house, I support my weapon with maine and you’d beryllium dead, plain and simple, but that’s what makes this truthful scary,” Woldt said aft pulling retired his firearm.
Months went by earlier different incidental occurred, but successful January 2016, a radical of precocious schoolhouse students visited Woldt’s courtroom during a Government Day event.
The students were acceptable to statement the region committee astir courthouse information measures, truthful a pupil asked Woldt what helium thought astir the issue.
He responded to the question by again drafting his weapon and displaying it to the students arsenic a prop. He unloaded the weapon successful this incidental arsenic well.
A fewer months later, successful April 2016, Woldt directed a profanity astatine an lawyer addressing a witnesser during a household tribunal hearing.
“Counsel, there’s a bladed enactment betwixt being an advocator and being a ‘dick’ — bladed enactment — and you’re blurring it,” Woldt said.
A three-justice bulk ruled that these six incidents constituted violations of judicial rules and instituted the 1 week suspension. Annette Ziegler and Brian Hagedorn didn’t enactment successful the decision.
“These are each superior violations of a judge’s ethical duties and amusement an unfastened and callous disregard of Judge Woldt’s work to service the nationalist successful a fair, reasoned, impartial, and courteous way,” the bulk wrote.
While agreeing with the bulk that a suspension was the due authorisation for Woldt, Bradley, joined by Roggensack, wrote that the bulk was incorrect for believing that a justice displaying a weapon successful tribunal is simply a usurpation of judicial rules.
“The bulk concludes that Judge Woldt violated 3 abstracted rules by concisely displaying a firearm portion making innocuous statements successful his courtroom connected 2 occasions,” Bradley wrote. Earlier this year, Bradley was connected the losing broadside of a 6-1 sentiment successful which she defended a Wisconsinite’s close to get drunk and constituent a firearm astatine his roommates.
Throughout her dissent, Bradley accuses the bulk of being oversensitive to guns, astatine 1 constituent saying their sentiment is “grounded successful ‘hoplophobia,’ i.e., an irrational fearfulness of guns,” and argues that they’ve misconstrued Woldt’s statements.
“The majority’s investigation suggests that it is disciplining Judge Woldt astatine slightest successful portion due to the fact that it considers the show of a firearm offensive,” Bradley writes. “This tribunal should beryllium wary of suspending a justice elected by the people, peculiarly erstwhile portion of the ground for specified subject rests connected 3 Justices regarding his behaviour arsenic politically incorrect.”
“The bulk blithely adopts the Judicial Commission’s portrayal of Judge Woldt arsenic a gun-toting cowboy who misused his bureau to beforehand his stance successful an ongoing governmental battle,” she aboriginal says.
In a footnote, Bradley states that waving a weapon successful tribunal does not interruption immoderate judicial rules, adjacent if idiosyncratic mightiness consciousness threatened oregon disrespected by the action. She besides notes that nether authorities law, judges are allowed to transportation firearms, openly oregon concealed, successful the courtroom.
“The bulk argues that the Code whitethorn prohibit code that the First Amendment different protects,” her footnote states. “While that whitethorn beryllium true, the Code explicitly requires judges to beryllium ‘patient, dignified and courteous’ to others but has perfectly thing to accidental astir carrying oregon displaying a firearm.”
Bradley, who successful the past twelvemonth and a fractional has besides compared a stay-at-home bid to forestall the dispersed of COVID-19 to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and gone on with erstwhile President Donald Trump’s fraudulent effort to overturn the results of Wisconsin’s 2020 election, made sweeping statements astir the effect of Woldt’s suspension connected the courts.
“It inflicts broader and much insidious harm connected the instauration of the judiciary,” she wrote.
Woldt’s suspension is acceptable to statesman connected Aug. 2.
Supreme Court suspends Winnebago Co. justice aft helium brandished weapon successful court was primitively published by the Wisconsin Examiner.