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  • InsideTrack
  • May 06, 2015

    ‘Zealous Advocate:’ Hon. William Domina is the 2015 Judge of the Year

    Shannon Green

    William DominaMay 6, 2015 – His efforts have made Waukesha County a healthier and safer place to live, according to those he’s worked with.

    The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Bench and Bar Committee proudly announces that Judge William J. Domina is the 2015 Judge of the Year.

    Judge Domina is being recognized for his work with Waukesha County’s Drug Treatment Court and with the Juvenile Legal Clinic in Waukesha County.

    The Judge of the Year award will be given at the Member Recognition Celebration at 5:30 p.m. June 25 at the State Bar 2015 State Bar Annual Meeting & Conference in Lake Geneva.

    In his community, Judge Domina spent a decade of time on his local school board, the State Bar Board of Governors and was appointed to the Wisconsin Tobacco Control Board by Gov. Tommy Thompson in 2000.

    Judge Domina was appointed circuit court judge by Gov. Jim Doyle in Waukesha County in 2010 and was elected to the position in 2011. He was appointed in 2003 by then-County Executive Scott Walker as Milwaukee County corporation counsel. He earned his law degree in 1985 from the U.W. Law School.

    Beginning in October 2011, Judge Domina helped to establish the Waukesha County Drug Treatment Court using a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.  Judge Domina also presided over the county's Alcohol Treatment Court for two years. He worked as the presiding judge of the Drug Treatment Court program for its first three years, spending one year presiding over both programs simultaneously.

    By the end of 2014, the program serviced almost 100 participants.

    The court is necessary due to the alarming rise in addiction to heroin and opiate drug use. In 2013 in Waukesha County, 29 of 33 overdose deaths – 88 percent – were as the result of heroin or opiate drugs, Judge Domina said.

    “The opiate deaths are just out of control,” he said. “It’s really a major public health issue.”

    Their addiction results in law-abiding community members suddenly becoming involved in criminal activity – it’s something he’s seen as a judge for many criminal cases.

    “It leads to the breakdown of moral fiber – their conduct just becomes so unchecked,” Judge Domina said. “If they’re sober, they’re really good people who belong in our community.”

    Participants are adults who are nonviolent offenders with high-risk behavior. Before beginning treatment, they must agree to the terms of a plea agreement. The purpose of the court is to break the cycle of addiction, something jail and prison cannot do, he said.

    “We’ve had some success, we’ve had some failures, but overall it’s been a lot of good work to keep people out of prison,” Judge Domina said.

    Treatment courts – whether for alcohol or drug abuse – bring together a panel of law enforcement, human services workers, probation and parole officers, as well as prosecutors, defense attorneys and the judge. They learn details about the participant much earlier in the case than is typical.

    Such knowledge is empowering and helps panel members see through any lies – which can make all the difference for those addicted to drugs.

    “It’s much more personal and much more involved. And that judicial engagement has been proven across the country to be effective in dealing with these treatment issues and reducing recidivism,” Judge Domina said. “We have real time information as to the status and it really helps the judge do a better job.”

    In May 2014, Judge Domina established the Waukesha County Juvenile Legal Clinic, where volunteer attorneys help pro se litigants in child guardianship cases properly fill out the required paperwork. The hearings now can focus on the issues.

    “People are more prepared when they come into court,” Judge Domina said.

    Judge Domina is committed to law and justice, according to those who nominated him for the award, who said he was a “zealous advocate” in founding the drug treatment court.

    “Judge Domina’s performance as a circuit court judge has included all of the elements of a superior jurist. His competence, temperament, demeanor, and work ethic have been exemplary.”

    Judge Domina said he is both honored and humbled to be the recipient of the award.

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