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It was a heady thing for a 34-year-old female juvenile defender to do in 1977, in a county where a woman had never been a judge.

But after Judge Archie Simonson made his now-infamous statement that a rape at a Madison high school had been the result of a male's normal reaction to a girl's provocative clothing, Moria Krueger decided that the time had arrived to challenge Simonson.

Krueger emerged from a crowded field to win a recall vote against Simonson and was sworn in a mere 10 days later as Dane County's first female judge. She has remained the Branch 7 judge ever since.

Her pioneering 29-year career will end in February, Krueger, 62, said this week, when she will retire from the bench as Dane County's most senior judge, though not its oldest, as a needlepoint sign on the wall of her chambers points out.

"It's not as much fun as it used to be," Krueger admits, in part because caseloads are much higher than they have been at any time during her career. "I'd like to have a life beyond this. But I think I've been very, very lucky to have had this as my career."

Krueger is stepping down in the midst of her current term, which ends in 2009. Krueger said she is announcing her retirement now to give parties involved in cases in her branch fair warning that she won't be on the bench much longer, and to give the governor's office time to consider who will be appointed as her replacement.

Anyone appointed by the governor, whether it's Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle or his challenger, Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Green, would have to run for election in spring 2008.

"I'm going to miss her terribly," said Dane County Circuit Judge Angela Bartell, who was appointed to the bench by Gov. Martin Schreiber just months after Krueger won her first election.

Bartell and Krueger also attended law school at UW-Madison at the same time, with Krueger graduating a year ahead of Bartell. Pivotal changes were happening in the judiciary at that time, Bartell said, and the public showed by electing Krueger that it was willing to accept a woman on the bench.

"It was both her election and my appointment that were a sign of the times," Bartell said. "I think she personifies an independent judiciary. She thinks for herself. She has a lot of courage to make decisions."

Before the 1977 recall election, said Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser, there was a recognition that greater diversity was needed on the bench, and Krueger helped bring it.

Moeser, who also ran against Simonson in the recall election and was among those who lost to Krueger, said Krueger has done innovative work in the juvenile justice system.

"She's been a good judge and colleague for a long, long time," Moeser said.

Krueger said that before deciding to challenge Simonson in the recall election, she had been planning to run against him in the general election scheduled for the following spring.

"I felt that he should be challenged even before the infamous statements that led to the recall," Krueger said. "It moved everything up substantially."

After a trial for three teens who took part in a 1976 rape at West High School, Simonson talked at length about sexual permissiveness and said that the rape was "normal male reaction to provocative attire and modern society's permissive attitude toward sex."

The remarks caused an outrage and a recall petition that culminated in the Sept. 7, 1977, special election, which Krueger won by a comfortable margin.

Krueger said she worried at first about being accepted by the county's older, male judges but found that they were helpful for the most part. She has never been opposed for re-election.

In 1979, Krueger helped found the National Association of Women Judges, an organization she is glad to say is "becoming less and less necessary."

Other changes have occurred in the judiciary since her election, she said. Judges have become less independent from one another and more interchangeable -- "fungible" is the word Krueger likes to use -- and because of it, for good or bad, judges have become "less obvious characters" than they were in the old days, when some ruled their courtrooms like fiefdoms.

"We're so civilized now," she said with a smile.

Krueger said that after she leaves the bench she plans to do a lot of things that have nothing to do with the law, such as audit classes at UW-Madison and take part in community activities.

"I'm hoping for a six-month to one year break," Krueger said. "I need to think about something else for a while."

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