First, nobody could be happier to see John Snider slink out of office after being reprimanded by the State of Wisconsin Crime Victims Rights Board – for his mishandling of a fatal hit-and-run that occurred in 2013 and has yet to go to trial.
The only thing worse than an bumbling district attorney is a bumbling district attorney who runs unopposed in every election.
Now we have 2 candidates for the first time in 32 years.
Veronica Isherwood had 20 years of adult life experience before she went to law school – this is a positive attribute. She has 15 years experience as an Assistant DA, 2 of those years here in Waupaca County. She is a graduate of UW-Madison Law School, and has prior experience as an auditor for the Dept of Revenue and as a manager of a county child support agency.
Her opponent, not so much.
Robert Forseth graduated from Waupaca High School in 2001 and UWSP seven years later. He graduated from Thomas Cooley Law School at Western Michigan; this law school is best known for: “the loosest admissions standards of any accredited American law school…[and, that] the employment prospects of its graduates are grim, even compared to the generally dire state of the legal job market”. Which may explain why he works for the WJ&H law firm – although I can’t find his name on their website.
For those readers who have not experienced the Waupaca County justice system: it operates as a well-oiled revolving door used by defendants – with a defense attorney on one side and the district attorney’s office on the other – both of them spinning the door as fast as it can. (Most of the defendants seem to be represented by a single, well-known local attorney.) The judges get involved after the two opposing lawyers reach a plea deal.
Here’s what gets done in the courthouse:
Felonies get wiped under the well-worn carpets (or in legal speak – “dismissed but read into the record”).
Criminals get released MUCH sooner than they should – and return just as quickly.
The district attorney pushes stacks of case folders several feet high off his desk, only to push equally sized piles of new cases onto to his desk.
The defense attorney gets paid – essentially for brokering a Tangier-rug-dealer type transaction. Not much law involved, just bartering with the DA – until they both agree that nobody wants the “messy trouble” of holding a trial.
From the weakly newspaper, it appears that the judges only get involved after a deal had been reached, and then they simply prescribe a sentence – that presumably has already been pre-negotiated.
When was the last time Waupaca County held a criminal trial? If the paper did a story about a criminal trial in all of 2015 – I couldn’t find it. Nor could I find a criminal trial in 2014. The newspaper publishes accounts of “facebook harassment”, so why wouldn’t it publish a story about a felony trial – unless there weren’t any?
I challenge you to attend one of the arraignment sessions at the courthouse, because I found them both eye-opening and nauseating. Defendants arrive without a lawyer and the judge brow-beats them into taking a lawyer. Which lawyer? Well, there just happens to be one out in the hallway. (Hilariously, the judge asked John Snider to basically “fetch” the defense attorney for a defendant, and Snider dutifully jumped out of his seat and went after the best-known defense attorney in the county.)
The defense attorney strides in and asks one thing of his potential client: “Can you pay me $50 a month?” I wish I had $1 for every client who is still paying this guy $50 a month.
A few defendants don’t show up for arraignment and a couple of them call on the phone. They are told they can’t be arraigned over the phone, and then they are arraigned over the phone. The other defendants look at each other and think, “why did I show up?”
At the district attorney’s table, John Snider takes a folder off of one pile that is a foot tall, writes a note inside, and then drops it onto another stack that is almost a foot tall.
As the defendants get processed and leave, there are fewer and fewer of them in the courtroom. I then realize that the judge is puzzled – he has 4 case files remaining on his desk and there are 5 “defendants” sitting in the courtroom – I am #5. He’s puzzled only because he hasn’t had a “visitor” or “observer” at an arraignment in 5 years? 10 years?
What does the average taxpayer (or crime victim) know about the activities inside the courtroom?
My point is, Robert Forseth proudly works for the “$50 a month” guy.
The last thing we need is a revolving door at the courthouse with a “$50 a month guy” on one side and his former minion standing on the other side.