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Rotunda Report
  • Rotunda Report
    September 06, 2013

    State Bar President Fiedler Says it’s Time to Give Nonviolent 17-Year-Olds a ‘Second Chance’

    press conference

    In the Assembly Parlor at the State Capitol, State Bar of Wisconsin President Patrick J. Fiedler supports a bill that would return first-time, nonviolent 17-year-old offenders to juvenile court.

    Sept. 6, 2013 – State Bar of Wisconsin President Patrick J. Fiedler gave remarks during a news conference yesterday in support of a bill that would return first-time, nonviolent 17-year-old offenders to juvenile court jurisdiction.

    The bill is now being circulated for co-sponsorship. Advocacy groups and others who support the bill are calling on legislators, opinion leaders and the community to look ahead and give young people a second chance.

    “This legislation is an opportunity for Wisconsin to be smart on crime,” Fiedler said during his remarks in the Assembly Parlor at the State Capitol. “I also believe it’s an opportunity for Wisconsin to treat 17-year-olds appropriately, fairly and effectively.”

    The current law stipulates that any 17-year-old who is alleged to have committed a crime be treated as an adult. And under the new proposal, part of the current law would not change since a 17-year-old could still be waived into adult court, as long as it’s deemed appropriate by the court.

    “Based upon my time as a judge in juvenile court, I have a very strong opinion that the juvenile system is more likely to provide the needed services that a young person requires,” Fiedler said.

    Fiedler recalled his time as a judge in adult criminal court, where he would see many 17-year-olds who were brought in for shoplifting.

    “They were in an adult system that did not know how to handle them,” Fiedler said. “I felt frustrated because I knew this individual would get much better services and a much better chance at success had he been in the juvenile system – where I believe he belongs.”

    Katie StenzKatie Stenz is the public affairs coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. She can be reached at, or by phone at (608) 250-6145.

    Fiedler went on to address four key elements of the bill that he felt should not be overlooked. He pointed out that the bill focuses on first-time, nonviolent offenders, and includes a list of violent offenses that will remain as adult charges. Fiedler also said that a 17-year-old with previous delinquency adjudication will be prosecuted in adult court, and that court standards and options for waiver into adult court will remain the same.

    “As a father and member of the legal community, I believe that it does make our community safer to give nonviolent, first time offending 17-year-olds a second chance,” Fiedler said.

    Fiedler has extensive experience in the criminal justice system. He served as a Dane County Circuit Court Judge from 1993 to 2011, and was Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections from 1991 to 1993.  Fiedler also served as U.S. Attorney for the Western District and as Waukesha County Assistant District Attorney. 

    “It is time for Wisconsin to look forward and return non-violent 17-year-olds to juvenile court and truly give them a second chance,” Fiedler said in his closing remarks. “A second chance at a brighter future, one that allows them to graduate from high school, attain higher education, find employment, and positively contribute to society without an adult criminal record holding them back.”

    Watch the Press Conference

    View the Sept. 5, 2013, press conference on WisconsinEye.


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