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Judge of the Year Award

The Bench and Bar Committee presents two awards: the Lifetime Jurist Achievement and Judge of the Year.

The Judge of the Year Award recognizes a jurist who has improved the judicial system during the past year through leadership in advancing the quality of justice, judicial education, or innovative programs.

​​Hon. Ralph Ramirez

For being a “true leader to help our country through this pandemic,” Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Ralph Ramirez is winner of the 2021 Judge of the Year award.

Judge Ramirez went above and beyond to assist his colleagues in navigating the unprecedented challenges thrust upon the judicial system caused by COVID. Judge Ramirez sat on numerous committees to address the crisis, including a jury task force to implement protocols for the scheduling of jury trials in Waukesha. Even more illuminating, when judges in the Family division feared an avalanche of requests for divorces before the end of 2020, Judge Ramirez volunteered several days out of his schedule to help ease the workload. Every time his calendar opened up due to a trial resolving, Judge Ramirez approached the commissioners about handling some of their assignments. These efforts had a “very positive impact upon the backlog” being experienced by colleagues in other divisions.

Even before the pandemic, Judge Ramirez was known for taking his job very seriously and for his calm, impartial demeanor. According to his colleagues, Judge Ramirez is one of the first judges to arrive at the courthouse every day and runs a very efficient courtroom. As part of Waukesha County’s Criminal Justice Collaborative Committee Pretrial Workgroup, Judge Ramirez was instrumental in organizing an initiative called “Pretrial Days.” Now an established part of the criminal docket, this program resolves hundreds of low-level offenses each month, freeing up time on the courts’ calendars and saving resources for both the prosecution and defense bar.

Watch the presentation of the Judge of the Year Award

​​​For his wisdom and excellent advice, Judge Ramirez is considered a “go to,” the embodiment of a mentor. Some of Judge Ramirez’s nominators shared that it’s common to go to his chambers for assistance but already find other colleagues there seeking help. Even before he was elected to the bench, Judge Ramirez was admired by his colleagues. Waukesha County Court Commissioner Kevin Costello has known Judge Ramirez since his days as an Assistant District Attorney, and the Commissioner reflects that, “During the time I practiced as a criminal defense attorney, I shared offices with some of the most notable defense attorneys in the state, and we all felt Ralph Ramirez was one of the finest ADAs in the state.”

On a fun note, it appears that court staff not only look up to Judge Ramirez because he works hard and respects them, but because he routinely brings donuts! He’s the all-around definition of a good colleague; he does his part and is a team player. As one nominator phrased it, Judge Ramirez is invariably the first to volunteer when others need help, but he never toots his own horn. Well, the committee has voted: we’ll toot it for him! Read more about Judge Ramirez in this InsideTrack article.​