Inside Track: Advocate for Treatment Courts: Kathryn Foster is Judge of the Year:

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  • Advocate for Treatment Courts: Kathryn Foster is Judge of the Year

    She's a "judge's judge" as well as a pioneer who helped establish the Waukesha County treatment courts possible. Meet the 2018 Judge of the Year: Judge Kathryn Foster of Waukesha County Circuit Court.

    Shannon Green

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    Kathryn Foster

    June 6, 2018 – A judge since 1988, Kathryn Foster has seen many changes in how the court system functions. Retiring at the end of July, her legacy is a life in service to improving Wisconsin’s justice system.

    Judge Foster of Waukesha County Circuit Court the recipient of the 2018 Judge of the Year Award from the State Bar of Wisconsin Bench and Bar Committee.

    It is humbling, she said, to “know so many of the past recipients of the judicial awards,” Judge Foster said. “I’m really humbled and flattered to be in their company.”

    Judge Foster will be honored at this year’s Annual Meeting & Conference in June at the Member Recognition Celebration.

    A ‘Judge’s Judge’

    “On the bench, she is known for her fairness and consideration,” said Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge William Domina, who nominated Judge Foster for the award. “She has a great knack for getting to the root issues in matters before her.”

    Judge Domina says she is a “judge’s judge,” dedicated to helping new judges with the many issues they face. She serves as a faculty member and associate dean of the Wisconsin Judicial College – an organization that allows both new and experienced judges to learn from each other. “It’s mean to be very interactive,” Judge Foster said.

    It is important, says Judge Foster, that judges have a ready network of peers to turn to for advice or just to talk to. “We make our decisions independently,” she said, “but it’s helpful to hear what others have done with similar cases. That’s important no matter how long you’ve been on the bench.”

    Leadership and Insight

    In 2006, Judge Foster advocated to initiate the Waukesha County Alcohol Treatment Court, which focuses on those with multiple drunken driving convictions.

    Three years earlier, she saw one in action in Arizona – and knew that treatment courts would make a huge difference in Wisconsin. “It was love at first sight,” Judge Foster said. “I wanted to have that kind of information about the individuals who are struggling with addiction.”

    The program, says Judge Domina, is now nationally recognized for its positive impact on reducing drunken driving recidivism.

    Treatment courts are also one part of the puzzle to counter the “plague,” as she describes, of opioid addition. “That’s the beauty of treatment courts,” Judge Foster said. “They can be adjusted to meet the needs of the communities.”

    Kathryn Foster gardening

    “I hope to mix in continued work in the law – and personal pursuits of gardening and reading,” says Judge Foster.

    Gaining the Wider Picture

    Judge Foster is also a driving force behind the Waukesha County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council – which brings together professionals working in all aspects of the justice system, from police, to prosecutors and defense attorneys, to judges.

    The council allows for a larger view of issues faced by the justice system. “You need to have a big picture, to find the best solutions,” Judge Foster said. “We need to know more than just what’s going on in our courtrooms.”

    She also served on the board of the Wisconsin Association of Treatment Court Professionals.  “Her work helped set the stage for the creation of drug, family, veteran, mental health, and healthy baby treatment courts across Wisconsin,” Judge Domina said.

    Her judicial calendar is empty after July 31 – the date of her retirement, when an entirely new calendar begins. She intends to pursue mediation and spend lots of time in her garden – she is a Master Gardner.

    “I hope to mix in continued work in the law – and personal pursuits of gardening and reading,” Judge Foster said. “I’m very excited about that!”

    Join Us at the Annual Meeting & Conference in June in Lake Geneva

    2018 AMC

    Join the State Bar of Wisconsin in honoring these additional award recipients at the Member Recognition Celebration on Thursday, June 21, at the State Bar 2018 Annual Meeting & Conference in Lake Geneva. Find out more about these award recipients.

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