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Marilyn Townsend

Marilyn Townsend

Former state 4th District Court of Appeals Judge Paul Higginbotham, one of Wisconsin’s most experienced jurists, said: “I have known Judge Marilyn Townsend for over 25 years. She is fervent in her belief that everyone is entitled to be treated fairly and impartially under the law. Her integrity, sound values and hard work will make her a great judge on the Circuit Court."

State Sen. Fred Risser, the dean of the Wisconsin Legislature, said: "I have known Marilyn Townsend for 30 years. She is a reliable progressive, and has contributed to our community as a judge, a lawyer and a municipal legislator.”

Former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager said: "Marilyn Townsend is a committed progressive who believes that every citizen should be treated fairly and equally under the law. She will be an outstanding Circuit Court judge."

We agree with all of them, and with Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, Court of Appeals Judge Gary Sherman, and former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, who have voiced enthusiastic support of Townsend for the open Branch 12 position on the Dane County Circuit Court. (Held for 17 years by retired Judge David Flanagan, the Branch 12 seat is being briefly occupied by Judge Clayton Kawski, a Scott Walker appointee, but Kawski is not seeking a full term.)

The Capital Times believes in the vital importance of an elected and responsive judiciary that is in touch with the community and committed to delivering a fair hearing and justice for all. We make endorsements in judicial races based on interviews with the candidates and on consultation with judges, lawyers and, most importantly, citizens of the community that jurists must serve.

Over the years, we have met hundreds of judicial contenders and made dozens of endorsements. Few first-time candidates for the Circuit Court have impressed us as much as Townsend.

Townsend’s strength is her rare combination of experience and understanding of the role of the courts in Dane County.

Now serving her third term as Municipal Court judge for the village of Shorewood Hills, she has earned high marks for her handling of a wide array of cases and she displays a deep understanding of the legal and societal issues that the courts must weigh. Prior to her election to the municipal judgeship, Townsend was an elected village trustee in Shorewood Hills, where she gained vital experience with regard to local government issues that frequently arise in the courts.

Raised on a small farm, Townsend grew up working class and gained experience as a community organizer with the United Farm Workers of America before going to law school. Her 30-year legal career has been characterized by a commitment to representing working people in the local, state and federal courts — including the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The focus of her legal career, and the skill with which she has pursued it, has earned Townsend high marks from Wisconsinites who want to know that, when workers are going up against multinational corporations, the playing field is level and justice is served. Former Wisconsin AFL-CIO President David Newby talks up Townsend as a “smart, hardworking” courtroom advocate who “has won important cases for working people.”

In the April 4 election, Townsend will face an able and experienced challenger in Jill Karofsky, who in 2011 was named director of the Office of Crime Victim Services within the state Department of Justice after serving as Wisconsin's first violence against women resource prosecutor. In those legal positions, she has worked on issues that arise in preventing and prosecuting sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and related offenses. Karofsky also worked as a Dane County prosecutor from 1992 to 2001, handling thousands of cases and dozens of jury trials, and she is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Karofsky has conducted a spirited campaign and we are impressed with her approach. We have no doubt that she has the background and the temperament to serve well on the bench.

But contests for judicial posts require newspapers and voters to make choices. And the choice of Marilyn Townsend is an easy one for us. We have watched her work in the community for decades, not just as a lawyer and a judge but as an active parent with a commitment to public education, as a volunteer for campaigns and community projects, and as an engaged citizen who shows up with high energy and a readiness to step up on behalf of those who need an ally and an advocate.

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We have seen Townsend in action, and that inspires confidence in her ability to serve as a great Circuit Court judge — and to become a leader on judicial matters in Dane County and statewide.

Being a judge in Dane County demands a deep understanding of the issues of gender, race and class that arise in a rapidly growing and rapidly diversifying region. That is an understanding that Townsend brings to the race for the Branch 12 judgeship. As she said, “My years of experience on both sides of the bench enable me to apply the law in a compassionate and even-handed manner. As a municipal judge, I make decisions about children and adults who have gotten into difficulties. As an attorney I argue the law on behalf of people who need someone to speak for them."

That’s the proper balance for fairness, and for justice.

Marilyn Townsend strikes it ably.

In a race between two able contenders, Townsend's record and her vision earn her our endorsement.

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