Feb. 12, 2024 – In a society of ever-increasing oversharing and overexposure, privacy is something many people still hold dear, particularly those in high profile professions.
In Wisconsin, judicial officers include current and retired judges from municipal court all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. These judges devote their professional lives to the administration of justice, and in exchange for such a public profile, they put at risk certain aspects of their private lives.
Across the country, we have seen with increasing frequency threats made and acts of violence committed against judges and their families. This hit home for Wisconsin in 2022 with the tragic murder of Judge John Roemer in Juneau County at the hands of a man he had sentenced to prison more than 15 years prior.
While there is no guarantee of safety for anyone, one means by which judges feel their safety could be enhanced is by limiting the amount of personal information shared about judges online, as well as shielding their homes from public demonstrations. In an effort to provide those safeguards, Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Rep. Ron Tusler (R-Harrison), in collaboration with the Wisconsin court system, introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at doing just that, and the State Bar of Wisconsin supports those legislative efforts.
Assembly Bill 965 and its companion
Senate Bill 926 protect judges by prohibiting picketing or parading protests outside of a judge’s house, providing peace of mind to judges and their family when at home. In addition,
Assembly Bill 966 and
Senate Bill 927 allow judges and their immediate family members to opt out of their personal information being publicly distributed, and
Assembly Bill 967 and
Senate Bill 928 further address judges’ privacy concerns by exempting personal information found in judicial security profiles from public access.
Lynne Davis, is a government relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. She can be reached by email, or by phone at (608) 852-3603.
The proposed legislation has been moving quickly through both chambers. State Bar President Dean Dietrich testified before the Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Jan. 24, stressing the State Bar’s unwavering support for the protection of Wisconsin judges, and emphasizing the need to ensure Wisconsin maintains safeguards in a society in which private information is often publicly disclosed. He noted further protections for judges allowing them to shield their private information would go a long way in reassuring sitting and retired judges and their families of their personal safety, as well as alleviate concerns of potential judges worried for their future safety as well. The State Bar also registered its support before the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Feb. 6 and submitted written testimony reflecting the remarks of President Dietrich.
Support for the protection of our courts, court personnel, and individuals that access the courts has been a longstanding position of the State Bar. Providing a sense of security outside of the court is paramount as well.
With only weeks remaining in the 2023-2024 legislative session, it is not a certainty these bills will pass, but they are on track for enactment at this time. If you wish to echo the State Bar’s support of these bills to your elected officials, you can use the “Send a Message to Wisconsin Elected Officials” option on the Advocacy Network to craft a custom message to your state legislators. If you have any questions or would like assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to Grassroots Coordinator Devin Martin at
What You Can Do: State Bar of Wisconsin Advocacy Network
State Bar members are encouraged to send a message to their lawmakers expressing support on legislative topics which positively affect the legal system using the
Advocacy Network. Pre-written email messages are editable to suit your own thoughts and opinions, and will help to demonstrate the breadth of support for policies that prioritize access to justice. The "Send a Message to Wisconsin Elected Officials" option will automatically match you with your state lawmakers based on your home address and allows for a customized message to be crafted by the sender.
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