Judge Brian Blanchard is recipient of the 2018 Wisconsin Law Foundation’s Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence.
June 20, 2018 – In the 1990s, Wisconsin Court of Appeals District IV Judge Brian Blanchard was a young federal prosecutor in Chicago when he first encountered high school mock trial, as a co-coach with a friend from the office of a south side Chicago mock trial team.
As team coach, “you watch the students grow as public speakers, finding out what their strengths are,” Judge Blanchard said. “I just loved it.”
org sgreen wisbar Shannon Green is communications writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. She can be reached by org sgreen wisbar email or by phone at (608) 250-6135.
He was hooked, and took his interest with him when he moved to Madison. In 2014, when the National High School Mock Trial competition came to Madison, he again became involved, now as judge.
Each year, he volunteers as a judge for regional, semifinal, or final tournaments.
Believing that it is vitally important that people understand how the legal system works, Judge Blanchard also serves on the State Bar’s Public Education Committee. He also co-chairs its Our Courts Wisconsin program, which educates the public about the justice system. Both the Our Courts and high school mock trial programs are funded by the Foundation.
“People tend to get their understanding of the legal system from crime shows, TV news, and the internet – and that can be extremely misleading,” he said.
Once people have a shared, general understanding of the legal system’s basics, then we can discuss and debate societal problems such as drunken driving, opioid abuse, and tort liability, he said. “It is critical that our society gains a good understanding of how our courts really function and what the goals of our laws really are.”
A Small Way to Give Back
Judge Blanchard is the 2018 recipient of the Foundation’s Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence for his dedicated service to the State Bar’s public education programs, says Kevin Lonergan. Lonergan chairs the State Bar Public Education and the Foundation awards committees.
“I think the headlines these days show us that, more than ever, the public needs quality law-related education. It's nice to be recognized for my small role in this area,” Judge Blanchard said.
The Foundation’s Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence recognizes a lawyer, law firm, or group of lawyers for their work on an individual law-related education or public service project.
“We are honored to have one of our court of appeals judges roll up his sleeves and work in these Foundation-supported programs that help educate the public,” said Lonergan.
Judge Brian Blanchard, back row on the left, poses with the state finalist judges and the winning team from Brookfield Academy High School in March 2017, after participating as a judge of the final round. Standing with Judge Blanchard are, from left: Kevin Lonergan, Justice Daniel Kelly, Judge Stephen Crocker, and Judge John Jorgensen.
Mock trial, says Judge Blanchard, is a great – and unusual – way to contribute as a lawyer to a community event. “It’s inspiring – there’s always a new crop of students who are learning to trust themselves, to develop arguments, to inhabit characters.”
The students gain skills and develop confidence in critical areas, he said. Developing an ability to organize thoughts and say them clearly, to distinguish between facts and opinions “are critical tools” whatever their future career, he said.
Watching the students compete is “thoroughly inspiring,” he said. Being involved is “a small way to give back.”
Judge Blanchard encourages both lawyers and judges to get involved. “It’s just a great experience,” he said.
Honor These Award Recipients at the Annual Meeting & Conference in June in Lake Geneva
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.
Lifetime Jurist: Hon. Jeffery Kremers
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Jeffery Kremers receives the State Bar of Wisconsin Bench and Bar Committee Lifetime Jurist Award. Read more about Judge Kremers.
Judge of the Year: Hon. Kathryn Foster
Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Kathryn Foster is the Bench and Bar Committee Judge of the Year Award recipient. The award recognizes an outstanding circuit court judge who has improved the judicial system during the past year by his or her leadership in advancing the quality of justice, judicial education, or innovative programs. Read more about Judge Foster.
Outstanding Mentor: John P. Starkweather
John Starkweather, a partner in the Real Estate Practice Group at Boardman & Clark LLP in Madison, is the 2018 recipient of the Young Lawyers Division’s Outstanding Mentor Award. Read more about John Starkweather.
Outstanding Young Lawyer: Seep Paliwal
Seep Paliwal of Community Justice Inc., Madison, is the Young Lawyers Division’s Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year. Find out more about Paliwal.
Hon. Charles Dunn Author Award: Daria Mueller
The Dunn Award winner is Daria Mueller, a Ph.D. student at U.W.-Milwaukee’s Helen Bader School of Social Welfare, for her contributions to the article, “Under the Radar: Human Trafficking in Wisconsin,” in the October 2017 issue of Wisconsin Lawyer™ magazine.
Hotline Attorney of the Year: Shannon Conlin
The Hotline Attorney of the Year goes to Madison attorney Shannon Conlin (formerly Shannon Buttchen) of the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), Madison.
Pro Bono Attorney of the Year: Brenda Lewison
The Pro Bono Attorney of the Year is awarded to Brenda Lewison of the Law Office of Arthur Heitzer, Milwaukee.
Public Education Volunteer of the Year: Phyllis Santacroce
The award for Public Education Volunteer of the Year goes to Phyllis Santacroce of Nicolet High School, Glendale, for her dedication to law-related education. An attorney and high school teacher, she volunteered for many years as a mock trial coach.
Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney: Phil Rosenkranz
The award is given to Phil Rosenkranz, who dedicated his life’s work to serving those less fortunate. Rosenkranz practiced in taxation and bankruptcy law at Legal Aid Society in Milwaukee from 1995 until his untimely death in 2017.
Ryan Klesh Public Interest Legal Worker: Golla Calvillo
Golla Calvillo of Legal Action of Wisconsin, Racine is the recipient of the Public Interest Law Section’s Ryan Klesh Public Interest Legal Worker Award.
Outstanding Public Interest Law Students: Hanna Richerson and Jacob Haller
Hannah Richerson, U.W. Law School, is concurrently pursuing a Ph.D. in Environment and Resources, and is an active volunteer outside of law school.
Jacob Haller, Marquette University Law School, donates his time to Milwaukee Justice Center’s family law forms clinic and the domestic violence injunction hearings project.
Government Lawyers Division Service: Stephen Nick
The Government Lawyers Division’s inaugural Service Award goes to Stephen Nick, who has served as Eau Claire’s city attorney for more than 16 years.
Nonresident Lawyers Division Founder’s Award: Steven H. Schuster
Steven H. Schuster, U.S. Dept. of Transportation Federal Transit Administration, Washington, D.C., is recipient of the Nonresident Lawyers Division (NRLD) Founder’s Award.
Leonard L. Loeb Award: Irvin B. Charne
Milwaukee attorney Irvin B. Charne is the recipient of the Senior Lawyers Division’s Leonard L. Loeb Award for his lifetime of exceptional contributions to his community and to the goal of justice for all Wisconsin citizens. Find out more about Charne.