By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Feb 20, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Yes, there's an election tomorrow, Tuesday.  And, although there's not a ton on the ballot there are three candidates vying for Branch 17 of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

Nelson W. Phillips III is the appointed incumbent, and is being challenged by Glendale Municipal Court Judge Christopher Lipscomb and Administrative Law Judge Carolina Maria Stark.

The top two vote getters will move on to face off in the April 3 general election.

To prepare you for tomorrow, I asked each candidate five questions.  All three responded via email.  

So, read on, form your own opinions, check the candidates websites (click on their names below to access) and don't forget to bring your ID to the polls tomorrow.

Nelson W. Phillips III  Why should someone vote for you?

Nelson Phillips:  I have a broad range of experience in our state and federal criminal and civil courts. Prior to being appointed Circuit Court Judge, I spent over thirteen years practicing law in Milwaukee.  I began my legal career in 1998 as a Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney and was selected within two years to prosecute felony gun crimes as part of the original Gun Unit led by current District Attorney John Chisholm.

In 2001, I was appointed a Special Assistant United States Attorney, and I began working for the United States Department of Justice as an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) in 2002. As an AUSA, I prosecuted federal criminal fraud, economic and large scale narcotics offenses.  I also argued matters before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 2008, I joined the civil litigation and white collar teams at the law firm of Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. in Milwaukee.  I assisted the firm’s business clients litigating contract, commercial, labor and employment, and general legal disputes.

I’m the current Secretary of the Board for the Wisconsin Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, and recently sat on the Board of the Federal Defender Services of Wisconsin.  I also served on the executive committee of the Parish Council for Christ King Catholic Church.

As a judge, I’m afforded the ability to use my extensive background in our state and federal courts to ensure justice and fairness are an integral part of every case that comes before me.  I apply the law impartially, and as it is written by our legislators.  I do not legislate from the bench.  I have a passion for what I do, and I can think of no better form of public service, for me, than to continue to serve Milwaukee County in this important role.

As an African American judge, I’m also excited to serve as an example to ethnic minority youths in our community that hard work, determination, and education can take them anywhere they wish to go in life.  Judges are leaders in the community, and truly I believe it is incumbent upon me to make an impact in the community both on and off the bench.

I also have the support of nearly all of the current sitting Circuit Court Judges in Milwaukee County, law enforcement, many of our community leaders, local elected officials, and many lawyers in the Milwaukee Bar.

OMC:  Tell us one thing about yourself that many don't know about?

NP:  It’s hard to choose just one, but my favorite pastimes are watching my three children play soccer, basketball and baseball.  I also coach youth basketball and baseball, and I’m an avid cyclist.

OMC:  What's the biggest challenge in the day-to-day at Milwaukee County Circuit Court?

NP: Our criminal and civil courts are filled with cases involving county citizens with very few resources with which to either address their cases, or to better their lives in the community.  As a Circuit Court Judge, I’m able to make decisions that both afford litigants access to fairness and justice in our courts, but also potentially lessen their burden by creating a courtroom atmosphere that is less impersonal.  The court room is a place where professionalism and respect for everyone involved is tantamount to resolving legal disputes.

OMC:  Favorite TV shows?

NP:  I haven’t much time to watch television, so I catch up on sports with ESPN Sports Center.

OMC:  Favorite Milwaukee area restaurant?

NP: Though we seldom have time between work and our children’s numerous activities to enjoy many nights out, my family enjoys going to the various great restaurants in the Wauwatosa Village.

Christopher Lipscomb  Why should someone vote for you?

Christopher Lipscomb: We need judges who have a broader background and level of experience. Many judges come from a background in criminal law or from a large law firm. Their skill set may be deep but it is narrow and limiting. Our judges handle far more than just criminal cases.

My background includes 20 years as a lawyer, with my own private practice, working for people and small businesses. I have worked in multiple areas of the law. I have been a prosecutor for several communities. The last 14 years I have been the judge for the City of Glendale. As a judge, I have handled over 50,000 matters. Many of them are similar or identical to what Branch 17 now handles. No other candidate has close to the experience and knowledge I have earned.

OMC:  Tell us one thing about yourself that many don't know about? 

CL:  I often enjoy eating very spicy foods. There is nothing quite like eating at an authentic Mexican or Thai restaurant. For professional reasons, this is not something I can indulge in regularly. I look forward to each opportunity.

OMC:  What's the biggest challenge in the day-to-day at Milwaukee County Circuit Court? 

CL:  All trial courts share the same problem: too many people coming in the front door and not enough resources to handle them properly. Courts do not control the number of people and cases they handle. The budget for a court is set by the other branches of government and the resources are tight for all.  My own court has more cases then when I started in 1998. Yet, I now have less staff to handle the volume and the types of cases. Their severity and seriousness increases every year.

Everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions and decisions. For some this means and requires jail time. For others, time in jail is only part of the solution. Because of mental illness or drug addictions, some people will exit jail worse then when they entered. This leaves them a continuing problem for all of us.

Judges need more options that allow the carrot as well as the stick.

OMC:  Favorite TV shows? 

CL: The original CSI and House are my favorite TV shows. I know from a legal standpoint they are not realistic. None the less, I enjoy the characters, problem solving and mystery aspects of both. I wish my schedule allowed me to watch them more often.

OMC:  Favorite Milwaukee area restaurant? 

CL:  My favorite restaurant is Solly's Grille. I have yet to find a match to their hamburger with butter and onions. My family's connection started when my parent's went there while they dated. When family visit from out of town, Solly's is on the itinerary!

Carolina Maria Stark  Why should someone vote for you?

Carolina Maria Stark:  First, as an Administrative Law Judge for five years, I have proven experience conducting legal hearings and making fair decisions based in the law. 

Second, I have proven dedication to serving our community. Mayor Tom Barrett appointed me to the Fire and Police Commission three and a half years ago, I serve as a bilingual chief poll worker, I am a board member of the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association and I actively participate in my neighborhood on 29th and State Streets in the City of Milwaukee. 

My professional experience, community involvement and strong community support show that I am the candidate whose values most reflect the values of Milwaukee County. Tell us one thing about yourself that many don’t know about you.

CMS: I am a Latina who grew up in a bilingual household and attended a small two-classroom schoolhouse in rural Wisconsin for first and second grades.

OMC: What’s the biggest challenge in the day-to-day at Milwaukee County Circuit Court?

CMS:  Providing individual attention and fair treatment to every citizen who appears in court while working using limited resources as effectively as possible. 

As an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for the unemployment benefit division, I have proven my ability to maintain a steady demeanor and handle every case fairly while working in a high-volume and fast-paced environment. My experience as a bilingual ALJ and former criminal defense trial attorney allows me to work well with people from diverse backgrounds, including citizens who represent themselves and those who need the service of court interpreters. Additionally, I have been trusted by the community to make tough decisions about our public safety resources.

OMC:  Your favorite television show?

CMS:  As a child, "The Muppet Show." As an adult, "Curb Your Enthusiasm.

OMC: Your favorite restaurant?

CMS: A tie between La Merenda, 125 E. National Ave. and Il Mito, 6913 W. North Ave.



Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.