Wisconsin Lawyer: Team Doyle:

State Bar of Wisconsin

Sign In

Top Link Bar

    WisBar.org may be unavailable October 23rd from 5:00PM until 10:00PM for system maintenance.

    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer

News & Pubs Search

Advanced

    Team Doyle

    Of Governor Doyle's 20 top appointees in his administration, 12 are attorneys. Read how their legal training and prior experience have proved useful to them in their positions ... from analyzing problems from multiple perspectives to evaluating the effect of laws and policies on Wisconsin individuals and corporations.

    Dianne Molvig

    Share This:

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 76, No. 9, September 2003

    Team Doyle

    Of Governor Doyle's 20 top appointees in his administration, 12 are attorneys. Read how their legal training and prior experience have proved useful to them in their positions ... from analyzing problems from multiple perspectives to evaluating the effect of laws and policies on Wisconsin individuals and corporations.

    Sidebars:

    Photo. Left to right (back row): Matthew 
Frank, Karen Timberlake, Jorge Gomez, Stan Davis, Governor Doyle, Scott 
Hasset, Marc Marotta, Michael Morgan, Burnie Bridge. (front row) Rod 
Nilsestuen, Donsia Strong Hill, and David Riemer.
    Left to right (back row): Matthew Frank, Secretary of Corrections; Karen Timberlake, Director, Office of State Employment; Jorge Gomez, Commissioner of Insurance; Stan Davis, Deputy Chief of Staff/Legal Counsel; Gov. Jim Doyle; Scott Hasset, Secretary of Natural Resources; Marc Marotta, Secretary of Administration; Michael Morgan, Secretary of Revenue; and Burnie Bridge, Chair of the Public Service Commission. (front row) Rod Nilsestuen, Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; Donsia Strong Hill, Secretary of Regulation and Licensing; and David Riemer, Administrator, Division of Executive Budget and Finance.

    by Dianne Molvig

    When Governor Jim Doyle scouted for bright, capable people to recruit into his new administration several months ago, he turned to the legal profession time and time again. His chosen inner circle includes 16 cabinet members, among them the heads of 13 state departments and three state agencies, plus four other key advisors. Of these 20 top appointees, 12 are attorneys. Among them are people who have used their legal skills in a wide range of settings: private practice, corporate counsel, legal services, government, and nonprofit private organizations. The governor's own legal experience is nearly as varied.

    A Madison native, Doyle graduated from Harvard Law School in 1972 and then went to work in a federal legal services office on the Navajo Indian Reservation, where his wife Jessica Doyle was a teacher. Three years later the Doyles returned to Madison, where Jim Doyle served three terms as Dane County's district attorney and then built his own private law practice. After eight years in private practice, he won election as the state's attorney general in 1990, a position he held for 12 years.

    Doyle says he draws from all those experiences in his current job. "My background as a lawyer made me understand what the world looks like to a wide range of people," he says. "And that helps me a lot as governor."

    He sought that same kind of broad perspective in his top appointees, a group of men and women from diverse backgrounds. "My thinking was that I wanted the best people," Doyle explains, "and that's what you get when you go out and look for talent everywhere."

    He also applauds the law profession for leading the way in championing diversity, as evidenced by the 12 attorneys on his team. "All these people have incredible talents and experiences," Doyle says, "and they've worked hard to get where they are. But it was the legal profession that opened up opportunities for them."

    We asked some of these attorneys to share their insights, now that they've had a few months to settle into their new roles in state government. What are the key challenges they've faced in making the transition? And how is their legal training and prior experience proving to be useful to them in their current positions?

    Burnie BridgeBurnie Bridge, Chair of the Public Service Commission

    A state government veteran, Burnie Bridge was Doyle's second-in-command as deputy attorney general for 10 years. All totaled, she spent 17 years in the Wisconsin attorney general's office. Before that, she was a trial lawyer in Minneapolis for three years, following graduation from the U.W. Law School in 1982.

    Her legal experience ties directly into her new position in certain ways, Bridge says. Besides setting policies for public utilities (energy, telecommunications, and so on), the Public Service Commission (PSC) hears and settles contested issues, such as proposed rate hikes. These matters are brought before a PSC administrative law judge, who conducts hearings at which interested parties present evidence. Then, at a public meeting, the three commissioners, of whom Bridge is the chair, make a decision based on the hearing's evidentiary record. "My position is quasi-judicial," Bridge says, "so it does have some connection specifically to my legal background."

    Also familiar to her from her days in the attorney general's office is the challenge she faces at the PSC of striking a balance between opposing parties' disparate interests. "There's an understandable tension," she says, "between the regulated utility industries that are by definition businesses and have a profit motive, which is important and critical for their survival, and the needs of consumers who pay the bills and provide the profits for those businesses."

    Now that she is PSC chair, Bridge is tackling the task of learning all she can about the utility industries. Here, too, her lawyer background serves her well; she notes, "I think lawyers are good at taking on new subjects and being able to study them, understand them, and work with new concepts."

    Matthew FrankMatthew Frank, Secretary of Corrections

    The numbers depict the enormity of the job facing Matthew Frank and the Department of Corrections (DOC): 10,000 employees, 22,000 inmates, and 67,000 offenders on probation and parole. About half of all state offenders read at or below a ninth-grade level, and 70 percent have alcohol or drug problems.

    Dealing with a population with such severe needs, one of the DOC's key responsibilities is to make sure offenders gain the necessary life skills to re-enter community life successfully, Frank notes. "If we improve efforts in that area," he says, "we can reduce the likelihood that they'll commit another offense and return to prison, which in the long run saves the state money."

    The subject of money brings up another huge DOC number: its nearly $994 million budget (for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2003), one of the largest among state agencies. Of that amount, $832 million comes from state coffers, and the rest from grants and other sources.

    "As we look at the sheer size of that budget and the challenges the agency faces," Frank says, "we need to be open to new ways to do business. It's important that we take a hard look at community corrections to see how we can make improvements." That entails, he explains, such factors as better community supervision of offenders, strong partnerships with local law enforcement, and building judges' confidence in community corrections.

    Technology also will have an impact on corrections in the future. Electronic monitoring, for example, is evolving to be more precise by using global positioning systems. While currently expensive, Frank expects this technology to become more cost-effective. "It opens up a new opportunity," he says, "to do a better job of supervising offenders in the community."

    Prior to becoming the DOC's secretary, Frank gained 22 years' experience with the criminal justice system while working in the attorney general's office. A 1981 U.W. Law School graduate, he prosecuted cases as an assistant attorney general, and later he headed two different Department of Justice divisions. "I've had both lawyer and administrator experience in my career," he says, "and both are helpful to me in my current job."

    jorge GomezJorge Gomez, Commissioner of Insurance

    To the job of state insurance commissioner, Jorge Gomez brings a mix of experience in nearly all types of legal practice. After graduating from the U.W. Law School in 1986, he worked for Legal Action of Wisconsin in Madison representing farm workers in employment and income-related matters. From there he moved to the Milwaukee County district attorney's office, and later he became a litigation partner at Michael Best & Friedrich in Milwaukee.

    His most recent position before his current appointment was serving as general counsel for United Government Services (UGS), Milwaukee, a subsidiary of Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin and the largest fiscal intermediary in the country. UGS contracts with the federal government to process Medicare and Medicaid claims.

    Gomez's last job gave him "the opportunity to understand the struggles that businesses go through," he says, "to stay in compliance with different kinds of federal and state requirements, and also meet their clients' expectations. That's helpful for tempering a regulator's perspective on the way businesses operate."

    The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) serves multiple purposes. It oversees the financial solvency of insurance companies that do business in Wisconsin, to make sure they're financially sound and able to pay claims to their policyholders. OCI also monitors companies' conduct in the marketplace in terms of how they sell products and their treatment of policyholders making claims.

    Nearly 50,000 consumer phone calls pour into OCI each year, and it handles about 10,000 consumer complaints, which, if necessary, can result in prosecution brought to a hearing before an OCI administrative law judge. Here Gomez's prosecutor background comes in handy.

    Gomez cites a "cumulative effect" as he looks back on his 17-year legal career. "Everything I've done so far," he says, "gives me a bigger-picture view of the regulatory role and of how this industry functions."

    Marc MarottaMarc Marotta, Secretary of Administration

    Marc Marotta cites parallels between his former life as a private practitioner and his current position. "At the core, lawyers solve problems for their clients and help them take advantage of opportunities," Marotta says. "In this job, it's not much different. We're here to solve problems, such as the budget deficit, and take advantage of opportunities" that stem from Wisconsin's strengths.

    When he was a practicing business lawyer, Marotta had to get up to speed quickly on a client's business and the personalities and politics involved. The same applies now. "I've had to learn the ins and outs of state government very quickly," he says, "and I'm still learning."

    After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1987, Marotta joined Foley & Lardner, Milwaukee, where he focused on business law and became a partner. Leaving there was difficult, he acknowledges, but three factors spurred him to accept Doyle's appointment: his respect for Doyle; the challenge of addressing the largest fiscal crisis in the state's history, among other challenges; and the belief that "if approached right, public service can be a noble venture," he says.

    The toughest adjustment has been adapting to the "pure, raw politics of this office and dealing with the legislature," Marotta says. "On the other hand, I have a lot of great relationships in the legislature. And, given that we have a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled legislature, I think by and large we're working well together."

    Some readers also may recall Marotta's days with the Marquette University basketball team, another experience he chalks up as useful now. "The competitiveness I derived from basketball suits me well in this position," he says. "I think most people in politics have a competitive streak."

    But can't the drive to win prove to be counterproductive in the give-and-take of politics? "It depends on how you define winning," Marotta responds. "Here the definition isn't always getting your way. Particularly with a Republican legislature, we know we're not always going to get our way. But getting most of what we think is most important is how we win."

    Donsia Strong HillDonsia Strong Hill, Secretary of Regulation and Licensing

    When Doyle interviewed Donsia Strong Hill, he was clear about his vision for his cabinet. "He said he didn't want me over in a silo protecting my turf," she recalls. "He expects us to use whatever talents we have" to help shape state policy.

    That's why Strong Hill, like her cabinet colleagues, taps her expertise to advise the administration, even when that falls outside the domain of her specific appointment. In her private practice in Green Bay, she concentrated in municipal bond finance, which has no connection to regulation and licensing.

    But that experience gives her "an understanding that's critical," she says, "as we look at the Joint Finance Committee budget. How are localities going to meet their needs if their revenue streams are inadequate? I've had discussions with the secretary of revenue and others on the governor's staff about what that interplay might be."

    Strong Hill graduated from the John Marshall Law School, Chicago, in 1989. She's been staff counsel for a Texas congressman, a policy analyst for President Clinton, and head of a U.S. Department of Energy project that made electricity more widely available in South Africa. After moving to Wisconsin, she worked in the Brown County district attorney's office before setting up her own practice.

    Strong Hill finds her legislative and policy-making background particularly helpful as head of the Department of Regulation and Licensing, which has 45 board commissions regulating 110 professions. The lawyer/fact-gatherer side of her comes into play here, too. When her staff investigates a problem or develops a process, she directs them to the legislative history.

    "That helps in determining the legislative intent," she explains. "Is [a] profession trying to do something to protect itself when the legislature's actual intent was to protect the public?"

    Her law training also shapes her view of her department's processes. "A law school education stresses the principles of due process and equal treatment," Strong Hill says. "So I'm very sensitive when I have a notion that our boards are being less than fair in dealing with licensees."




To view or add comment, Login