Justice is supposed to be swift, just, and blind. Any attorney, litigant, or judge knows this is a far from reality in Wisconsin’s legal system.
A reformation and rebirth of justice is in its infancy in the Badger State, said Attorney Mark Thomsen during the historic swearing in of Pedro Colón to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals Monday in Milwaukee.
Quoting Frederick Douglass, Thomsen said, “No Republic is safe that tolerates a privileged class, or denies to any of its citizens equal rights and equal means to maintain them,” noting the significance of the first Latino sitting on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in a time when Nazis recently marched in Madison, hate is running rampant on college campuses, and terrorists are kidnapping and murdering civilians.
Thomsen said Douglass’ message has clearly been lost over time.
“Unfortunately, we are in a large part disregarding that as we are approaching the third anniversary of the January 6th, 2021 insurrection, during most of which the Confederate flag was flown for the first time in our capitol. And we have yet come close to a national consensus on the significance and the evilness of that event,” Thomsen said.
In a packed Milwaukee County courtroom on Monday, Colón took the oath of office, making history as the former Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge is now the first Latino member of Wisconsin’s appellate court.
The investiture ceremony, which lasted just over an hour, was attended by judges from across the Badger State at both the trial and appellate court levels, as well as prominent members of Wisconsin’s legal community, friends and family and the general public.
The ceremony began with a mariachi band performing the National Anthem and was emceed by the judge’s niece, Milwaukee Attorney Catarina Colón.
As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, the younger Colón is an associate with Husch Blackwell LLP and is a member of the firm’s band.
An invocation was performed by Father Bill Johnson and remarks were made by Judge M. Joseph Donald, Wisconsin Court of Appeals; Rebeca López (Godfrey & Kahn); Jose Olivieri (Michael Best & Friedrich); Mark Thomsen (Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs); and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore.
The audience laughed as Donald joking said to Colón, “I look forward to reviewing one of your first dissents.”
López, who serves as the Vice President of the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association as well as on several non-profit boards, said, “I am encouraged that our Court is becoming closer to representative of all of Wisconsin’s communities.”
“The case for diversity on the bench has grown. Not only does diversity ensure more just outcomes by representing the complex industry of experiences in our society, but it also improves the perception of the public and the legitimacy through the eyes of the public, of decisions from the judicial branch …,” López added.
As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, recent attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
Noting Latinos have not been well represented in the various branches of Wisconsin government, Lopez said, “Judge Colón will bring a voice and perspective to the Court of Appeals that has been noticeably absent.”
Speaking after López, Milwaukee-based Attorney José Olivieri said, “Colón will severe as a role model going forward.”
Olivieri leads Michael Best’s Higher Education Industry Group and counsels both public and private colleges and universities on issues involving governance, financial challenges, Title IX, student discipline and contract administration.
To read the entire Wisconsin Law Journal article, please click here.