Photo: Kevin Harnack
May 16, 2018 – On the cusp of retirement, Judge Jeffrey Kremers leaves a legacy of innovation.
Judge Kremers of Milwaukee County Circuit Court is the recipient of the 2018 Lifetime Jurist Award from the State Bar of Wisconsin Bench and Bar Committee.
He describes his reaction as award recipient as “humbling … because I don’t think any of us really does anything on our own. There are a lot of other people involved with the work a judge does. So, it’s really an award for all those people.”
‘We Can Always Do Better’
A circuit court judge since 1992, Judge Kremers leaves his position with a legacy that extends “far beyond sitting as a trial judge in some of our toughest judicial assignments,” says Chief Judge Maxine White of Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
“He introduced to us a new way of viewing and executing our mission,” said Chief Judge Maxine White.
Those who work with him know he has a motto: We can always do better. “I say that all the time,” he said. Over time, resources change, attitudes change. “It’s a recognition that we should be always ready and willing to change and improve what we’re doing.”
It is that attitude that prompts him to continually look for better ways for the justice system to work.
Improving the Functioning of the Courts
A key component of his career, said Wisconsin Court of Appeals District I Judge Kitty Brennan, is that Judge Kremers is “a creative innovator of new programming to improve justice and the functioning of the courts.”
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 advocated for a separate budget for county-funded pretrial services – resulting in greater transparency in determining the services’ efficacy. It also set the stage nearly 10 years ago for the most significant change in the pretrial release and bail monitoring program in Milwaukee County – to an evidence-based pretrial system, as he discusses in the June 2017 Wisconsin Lawyer™ magazine.
The results is a “sea change” for Milwaukee, Judge Kremers said, because they’ve realized, through data and research, that it is extremely important not to keep people in jail too long while awaiting a charging decision. “It is really a sad but realistic statement that with a stay of just three to four days in jail, people can lose their jobs, their housing, custody of their children, their benefits,” he said.
And some end up having to choose between losing their jobs – thereby losing the ability to support their family – and meeting the conditions of their pretrial release. That creates additional problems and cost to the defendants, their community, and the county.
“We prioritize community and victim safety, but we shouldn’t apply resources – paid for by the community – to someone who doesn’t need them. Let’s save that money for what we need,” Judge Kremers said.
It is really a sad but realistic statement that with a stay of just three to four days in jail, people can lose their jobs, their housing, custody of their children, their benefits.
Realizing this, he helped implement, while serving as chief judge in Milwaukee County, a change in protocol for judges making custody release determinations in criminal cases.
The system helps judges make informed decisions about pretrial monitoring. “Milwaukee has very good, committed judges – who all worry every day about making the right decisions on their cases. This system – which combines our collective experience with data and research – helps us make better decisions for everyone involved.”
He says he is proud of the impact of the system has on Milwaukee County’s pretrial monitoring system. “Milwaukee is now a national leader in this system.”
Wanted: Wisconsin Legal Innovators
Tell us about the people and ideas that are changing Wisconsin’s legal landscape. Through the “That’s a Fine Idea: Legal Innovation Wisconsin” initiative, the State Bar of Wisconsin is asking the legal community to help it tell the story of legal innovation. The Wisconsin Lawyer will feature the people behind the best examples of legal innovation in the November 2018 issue.
Innovation can come in many forms. It could mean:
- New ways to use technology to improve client service or serve a new market
- Best practices for promoting workplace diversity
- New marketing/business development strategies
- New ways of providing pro bono or reduced-cost services
- Changes in internal operations that result in greater efficiency
Nominate a Wisconsin Legal Innovator who breaks with tradition to do it better. Learn more or find the nomination form at ThatsaFineIdea.com. The deadline for nominations is June 30, 2018.
Domestic Violence Courts
A hallmark of his career, Judge Brennan said, is the aid he has given, through his professionalism and through the programs he was involved with, to the victims of crime.
Judge Kremers is a frequent instructor to the judiciary, both nationally and in Wisconsin, on domestic violence, sexual assault, criminal law, procedural justice, and sexual predators. He is also a faculty member and past associate dean of the Wisconsin Judicial College.
Judge Kremers served as presiding judge in Milwaukee’s felony, civil, and misdemeanor divisions, and is now presiding judge of the county’s domestic violence courts. He’s made his mark as an advocate for victim rights, and, as a faculty member of the National Judicial Institute on Domestic Violence, has taught about operating a domestic violence court to judges and court personnel around the country.
“Domestic violence is a crime that affects so much of our community, and every branch of our court system,” he said. “It’s an area where I feel I’ve made a contribution to the community and to the profession.”
“Judge Kremers is well-known for his intelligence, judicial integrity, and leadership,” Judge Brennan said. “He has led the courts with strength and conviction, and we are all the better for it.”
Join Us at the Annual Meeting & Conference in June in Lake Geneva
Want to celebrate a friend, family member, or colleague being honored at the Member Recognition Celebration? Join us for this free event on Thursday, June 21, at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva.
The celebration takes place at the State Bar Annual Meeting & Conference. Register now to earn up to 12 CLE credits from 24 separate CLE sessions, hear two plenary speakers, visit the Legal Expo, join the networking luncheons, celebrate at the Presidential Swearing-in Ceremony, and enjoy the All-Conference Party.