Editor’s note: Attorney Mike Perry and Court Commissioner Jane Kopish Sequin are running for Marinette County Circuit Court Branch 1 judge in the April 7 election. The EagleHerald asked both candidates questions. Those questions and answers follow.

¦ 1. As a prospective judge, what do you consider your greatest strengths?

Perry: One of my strengths is my extensive experience representing thousands of clients in Marinette County with simple to complex legal issues in our community. I have participated in our judicial system as a plaintiff and a defendant in civil lawsuits; I have been a municipal prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney; I have testified as a witness in civil and criminal trials; and I have represented both plaintiffs and defendants in numerous court proceedings. In addition to my legal experience, my life experiences with family, church and community will guide me in rendering fair and impartial decisions and enable me to be firm when necessary.

Kopish Sequin: My greatest strengths are my experience and my temperment and demeanor in the courtroom. A Circuit Court Commissioner is an attorney who has been appointed by a judge to do some of the things that judges do. Being a Circuit Court Commissioner for over 22 years has allowed me to gain knowledge in the law and courtroom procedure. I have presided over thousands of trials and hearings and entered decisions and Orders in each of those cases. I have a proven track record of maintaining control over a courtroom, disposing of a large caseload in an effective and efficient manner, listening to evidence and testimony and ruling on evidentiary and substantive objections and motions. I have experience doing this in civil, criminal, small claims, divorce, custody, placement, restraining order, traffic, juvenile and probate matters. I accomplish this through organization, preparation, effective time management and courteously but effectively dealing with pro se litigants, attorneys, witnesses, court staff and spectators.

However, just as important as being knowledgeable in the law and procedure, is the way a judge handles themselves and treats people. Throughout my legal career I have dealt with a variety of people and personalities. Many of my cases have involved litigants that are not represented by attorneys and have included a racially and culturally diverse group. All are treated fairly and with respect. At times, litigants can be emotional, difficult and angry. I have found that these emotions can usually be neutralized by treating people with respect, informing them of the rules of the hearing process and ensuring them that they will have an opportunity to be heard. Frankly, I have a calm demeanor that tends to de-escalate volatile situations that may occur in the courtroom. Additionally, I find in most cases, if the parties are informed of the rules that must be followed during a hearing or trial, they generally comply and an orderly and effective proceeding can be held.

I consider my experience on the bench as one of my greatest strengths as it provides me with the necessary knowledge and confidence to effectively preside over cases in any type of matter. I consider my judicial temperament in the courtroom as one of my greatest strengths as it ensures that the integrity in the judicial system will be preserved.

¦ 2. What or who are the major influences in your life and why?

Kopish Sequin: My father, Bill Kopish. He also was a lawyer and really loved the law and what he did. When we were young, he would sit my five siblings and myself on the couch and would practice opening and closing statements in front of us. During high school and college, I worked in his law firm of Kopish, Miron & Boyle, S.C. in Marinette as a runner and general office assistant. All of this gave me my first exposure to the legal system. After becoming a lawyer myself, I practiced law with him in Marinette. This gave me the opportunity to have my dad as a mentor and to learn from his experience. One of my first jury trials was a trial we handled together. He taught me a lot. The other major influences in my life have been my husband and our four daughters. There is no one like your spouse and your kids to be brutally honest in what they think about what you are doing or saying — whether it is good or bad. They can be my biggest critics. But they are also my strongest supporters. Both are good and appreciated. This keeps me grounded and keeps things in perspective. They have taught me that no matter what path you choose in life, pursue it with integrity. This motivates me to conduct myself in a way that serves as a role model to them — and to act in a way that would make them, and my father, proud.

Perry: My parents never had the opportunity to go to college and I am one of 10 children. This is what motivated me to earn an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree and ultimately my law degree while I was married, working full time and raising four children. My family has been the major influence in my life — we give without expecting anything in return, we “pay it forward.”

¦ 3. To what extent have you practiced in the area of criminal law? Complex civil legislation?

Perry: I have represented thousands of clients in traffic, misdemeanor and felony cases ranging from disorderly conduct to homicide cases. As a trial lawyer, I have represented clients with complex contractual disputes, personal injury claims and product liability cases.

Kopish Sequin: My caseload over the years has included both criminal and civil matters. While in private practice, prior to becoming a Circuit Court Commissioner, I represented defendants in misdemeanor, felony and criminal traffic matters. From a criminal defense attorney perspective, this involved preparing for and appearing in Court on initial appearances, bond and motion hearings, preliminary hearings, negotiating with the district attorney to attempt to reach a plea agreement, and preparing for trial if unable to resolve the case. Since becoming a Court Commissioner over 22 years ago, I have presided over thousands of criminal cases including misdemeanor, felony and criminal traffic matters. These have included cases involving OWI, drugs, homicide, sexual assault, domestic violence, substantial battery, child abuse and more. Very serious cases have come before me where determinations must be made regarding setting bond, motions must be addressed and considerations must be given to protecting the community and victims, ensuring that the defendant will make all court appearances and initiating potential treatment for the defendant.

I also have experience in complex civil litigation. Part of my experience in private practice was with an insurance defense firm. My caseload focused on civil litigation including professional malpractice, automobile accidents, and negligence claims. These types of cases generally required interpreting contracts and caselaw, obtaining discovery, interviewing witnesses, participating in depositions, locating expert witnesses, attempting to settle the case through negotiations, but if unsuccessful, preparing for and appearing at trial. This entire process also required preparation and filing of pleadings, motions, documents, and correspondence.

I have been fortunate that my legal career has included both substantial criminal and civil work. This has given me a broad depth of overall legal experience.

¦ 4. Drugs and drunken driving always seem to be issues. What, if any, do you believe is the appropriate role for the judiciary in addressing these issues?

Kopish Sequin: Operating a vehicle while intoxicated or impaired, and the possession, delivery or manufacturing of drugs are all very serious issues that affect our community and impact individuals on a regular basis. These cases should be addressed in the same manner as a judge is obligated to address all issues — by fairly and impartially taking into consideration the facts, circumstances and applicable law of each specific case and determining an appropriate sentence and penalties based on those factors. However, in addition to that, a judge can attempt to deter future behavior in several ways. One way is to educate defendants of increased penalties and more severe consequences that can result from future convictions for similar behavior. Generally, multiple convictions result in increased fines and jail or prison time, restrictions on driver’s license privileges, and a criminal record that includes felony convictions. This usually has the added consequence of affecting a defendant’s housing, employment, and family relationships. None of this is good for society as a whole. A judge can attempt to address the underlying issues of alcohol or drug abuse and dependence by imposing specific requirements on a defendant. These could include the obligation of installing an ignition interlock device in their vehicle, AODA assessments and follow through on treatment recommendations, and participation in counseling. Finally, in an attempt to deter future conduct, courts have also historically utilized victim impact panels to impress upon defendants the effects that their actions have had on victims and their families lives.

Perry: I believe the judiciary should be firm and fair in sentencing drug- and alcohol-related offenders putting the protection of the public as a priority and at the same time using their discretion to look at alternative sentencing in appropriate cases. As a former law enforcement officer and practicing attorney I see the benefit of breaking this cycle of life for individuals who are suffering from the effects of alcohol and drugs. I support the Marinette County Drug Treatment and Mental Health courts that have been established by Judge Morrison and his team of professionals.

¦ 5. What do you think about the current prison population? Are you in favor or against alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders?

Perry: It costs taxpayers over $30,000 per year to house an inmate in our county jail and/or prison system.

Jail is one thing, prison is something entirely different.

The vast majority of first-time offenders are offered the opportunity for county jail and probation where the emphasis is put heavily on rehabilitation — and not significantly on punishment. Even first-time felons who have not committed violent felonies are almost never sent to prison but rather given the opportunity for probation and rehabilitation.

Community-based programs like “Volunteers in Probation Program” which a number of counties have can be very valuable working with these kinds of offenders informally and without cost to the county. I would strongly support that kind of programming.

Prison is an entirely different proposition. The vast majority of people sent to prison are either drunk drivers with multiple offenses, violent criminals or criminals who have been convicted numerous times. Here the primary purpose of prison is to protect the public from this kind of conduct happening again.

Inmates in prison are offered many training and rehabilitation programs and this is good, but I would not send someone to prison unless they posed a significant risk to the safety of the community or had demonstrated by their past conduct that they are not going to benefit from community-based rehabilitation efforts. If they leave a judge no other alternative, then the judge must send these kinds of offenders to prison — to protect the rest of us.

Kopish Sequin: In general, in recent years, the prison population in the State of Wisconsin continues to rise. This is disturbing as it raises safety and fiscal concerns. Generally, when a judge makes a sentencing decision, the statutes require the judge to consider three things: 1.) the protection of the public, 2.) the gravity of the offense and 3.) the rehabilitative needs of the of the defendant. Certainly, there are cases where the only option is incarceration. However, I do believe that alternative sentencing can be appropriate in cases that meet certain criteria. Alternative sentencing can impose conditions on a defendant that they must comply with. These conditions can include maintaining or obtaining employment, performing community service, being under the restrictions of electronic monitoring, participating in counseling and treatment for drug, alcohol, domestic violence or anger management issues, and undergoing regular drug and alcohol testing. Often times, addressing the underlying problem can reduce criminal behavior. This, in turn, can reduce further convictions and re-incarceration. This promotes public safety.

Completing alternative sentencing programs, if successful, can lead to a past offender becoming a productive citizen of the community, where they are working, caring for and support their children and family, and hopefully, not re-offending. All of this is good for society.

Clearly, safety to the community cannot be ignored solely based on budget and fiscal restraints and concerns. Severe sentences certainly can be necessary and appropriate to protect our community. However, in the right cases, alternative sentences can be beneficial.

¦ 6. Why should voters support you?

Kopish Sequin: My experience gives the voters a proven track record to consider in deciding who they want to support in this election. I have already shown the way I conduct myself on the bench and in the courtroom. It is necessary to give people appearing in court an opportunity to be heard and to present their case. I have learned that people may not always agree with the decisions and Orders I enter, but if they feel they have been treated fairly, at least they may be able to understand my decisions and Orders and accept them. A community deserves to have a legal system that they have confidence in and believe is fair to all. By supporting me, they are fostering this public trust and supporting the belief of fairness in the judiciary.

Perry: I am asking voters to elect me based upon my legal experience and commitment to working and living in Marinette County for the past 50 years. This is my home. Some of my ancestors died in the Peshtigo Fire of 1871 and others survived the fire. Both of my parents were born and raised in Marinette County. My wife and I raised our four children here in Marinette County. Two of our children continue to live in Marinette County where they are raising their children and contributing to our community. I believe I have the right experience necessary to render fair, impartial and practical decisions regarding any legal issues that would come before the court.

¦ 7. Is there anything else you would like to tell the voters regarding an issue or about yourself?

Perry: If elected Circuit Court Judge, I will work with other court officials and staff to make our judicial system more efficient. I am one of over 4,000 veterans who reside in Marinette County. With the help of other veterans, our local Veterans Officer, the District Attorney’s office, the Public Defender’s office and defense attorneys, I will establish a Marinette County Veterans Treatment Court during my first year in office. This alternative sentencing program will benefit our veterans who get involved in our criminal justice system as a result of alcohol and/or drug abuse, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression related to their military service. This alternative sentencing program can be used for non-violent offenders with the goal of protecting public safety and getting our veterans help through the Veterans Administration.

Kopish Sequin: In December of 2018 the judges in Marinette County hired me to be the Marinette County Circuit Court Commissioner and Register in Probate. Marinette is my hometown and this gave me the opportunity to return to Marinette, to live and work. It wasn’t until months after I started this new position with Marinette County, and after the encouragement of many people, including Judge Dave Miron who supports me in my campaign to replace him, that I made the decision to run for judge. As I was considering this decision, I began to think about how much Marinette County has given me throughout my lifetime — I was raised here, went to school here, met my husband while in high school, we were married at Holy Family in Marinette, our four daughters were born in Marinette, our families have been in Marinette County for over 100 years. Since Marinette County has given so much to me, I viewed entering this judicial race as a possible opportunity to give something back. I have dedicated my legal career to public service as a Circuit Court Commissioner. I hope to be able to use this experience to serve the citizens of Marinette County as a Circuit Court Judge.