Inside Track: A Passion for Educating the Public: Judge Brian Blanchard:

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    A Passion for Educating the Public: Judge Brian Blanchard

    Early in his career, Judge Brian Blanchard discovered his passion for educating the public about the justice system. Join us in congratulating him as the 2018 recipient of the Wisconsin Law Foundation’s Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence.

    Shannon Green

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    udge Brian Blanchard

    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.

    Brookfield Academy High School in March 2017

    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

    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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