The Capitol Times Endorses Marilyn Townsend

Marilyn Townsend for Dane County Court

Marilyn Townsend would be exceptional Circuit Court judge

Dane County has a fine Circuit Court bench, with many able and experienced jurists from many backgrounds. But that does not mean that it could not be strengthened by a new judge with the background and experience to bring a broader perspective to the local judiciary.

Shorewood Hills Municipal Judge Marilyn Townsend would be such a judge, and she runs in the April 3 election with our endorsement.

Townsend has a remarkable record of legal engagement on behalf of individuals and communities that have often struggled to gain equal justice under the law. Raised on a farm in rural Wisconsin, the grandchild of immigrants, the child of parents who were never able to finish high school, she started as an activist and worked as a community organizer for Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers of America before earning her law degree and developing a law practice that for more than three decades has focused on civil rights, public interest and employment law.

Townsend has distinguished herself as a people’s lawyer, taking cases to the Wisconsin Supreme Court as well as the federal courts, while developing broad experience in Wisconsin’s Circuit Courts and Appeals Courts. She has also represented clients before the National Labor Relations Board, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division, the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance and the Unemployment Compensation Appeals Board.

In addition to her legal experience, Townsend has a remarkable record of community engagement, as a volunteer and an official who has been elected repeatedly to serve on the Shorewood Hills Village Board and as a municipal judge. Like former Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Paul Higginbotham, a people’s lawyer who got his start on the municipal court bench, Townsend's experience as a local jurist has helped to prepare her to serve as a Circuit Court judge.

That’s one of the reasons why Higginbotham is enthusiastically supporting Townsend. So too is Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, who said: “Marilyn’s ability to handle complex legal cases, her deep involvement in the community, and her dedication to improving our legal system to ensure fairness and equal access to our courts will make her a fine Circuit Court judge.”

Townsend had been endorsed by former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, as well as former Govs. Tony Earl and Martin Schreiber. She’s backed by Appeals Court, Circuit Court and Municipal Court jurists. She’s also supported by a number of lawyers who are seeking to make real the promise of equal justice under the law. As Nia Enemuoh-Trammell, who serves on the Madison Police and Fire Commission and previously served on Madison's Equal Opportunities Commission, said: “Marilyn has the qualities a judge should have. She has exceptional legal skills … and the temperament to handle the significant responsibilities of serving all the people of Dane County.”

Townsend’s opponent, Susan Crawford, is a former executive assistant at the state Department of Corrections and a former assistant attorney general. She also served as chief legal counsel to former Gov. Jim Doyle, who is supporting her in this race along with Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and a number of judges. In recent years, as an attorney in private practice, she has earned high marks as a lawyer for public interest groups and unions. Crawford’s well qualified and we think she has a future in the judiciary.

But, in this contest, we agree with former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who said: “Marilyn will make an outstanding Dane County judge. She is a first-rate attorney who has won important cases. As a municipal judge, Marilyn has demonstrated a commitment to fairness and equal justice. … Marilyn’s values, along with her combination of judicial and legal experience, make her the best candidate for Dane County Circuit Court.”

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