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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Judge David Miron Will End 37-Year Legal Career July 31

Issue Date: July 29, 2020

On July 31, Marinette County Circuit Court Branch 1 Judge David Miron will step down from the bench to retire, ending a law career that began 37 years ago and includes a judicial career that has spanned nearly two decades.

Judge Miron's familiarity with the Marinette County court system dates back much, much farther, however. His first visits to the courthouse began in 1965 when, at age 7, he started occasionally going to work with his father, Daniel Miron, who served as Marinette County District Attorney from 1963 to 1975. Perhaps it was that experience that started him following in his father's footsteps, first into law school, then into the DA's office and his 30-year career with the State of Wisconsin.

Judge Miron credits lots of people with helping him along the way, but none more than his father, who he describes as the paramount influence in his life, and "one of the best lawyers I've ever come across."

"I always thought that if I could be half as good a lawyer as my dad, I would be doing really good," he declares.

Others who helped greatly with advice, sympathy and support were his mother, his wife, their children, and various co-workers in the Marinette County legal system.

One of those co-workers was Joan Maier, a secretary in the DA's office when he was first elected. He describes her as "old school and old enough to be my mother," and like a mother, full of good advice. She warned him that sometimes the pressure and demands in the DA's office can get to you. He added that when it did, "she would take me aside and remind me that the officers wanted to help any way they could."

Judge Miron says he will miss the people he works with, and will miss the intellectual challenges, but the time is right for him to retire, and he will enjoy spending more time with his family, traveling (to Nashville), hunting, fishing, boating, woodworking (especially making outdoor furniture), and catching up with chores around his home in Crivitz.

"I'm confident that I am leaving things in good hands with Jane," Judge Miron said of his successor, Jane Kopish Sequin, who won the right to replace him as the Branch I judge in the Spring election in April after he had announced his plans to retire. Sequin had formerly been an employee in the Kopish, Miron and Boyle law firm, and had been serving as the appointed Marinette County Family Court Commissioner before successfully running for the Circuit Court Judge position that she will take over on August 1.

Judge Miron was born in Milwaukee in 1958 and graduated from Peshtigo High School in 1976. He received an undergraduate business degree in accounting from Marquette University in 1980 and his law degree from Marquette University Law School in 1983. Upon graduating from law school he returned to Marinette County to join the family law firm of Kopish, Miron and Boyle, S.C.

Just seven years later, on Aug. 1, 1990 he was appointed Marinette County District Attorney by Gov. Tommy Thompson to fill the unexpired term of Tim A. Duket, who had been elected Branch II Circuit Court Judge. He was re-elected to consecutive 2-year terms until Jan. 5 of 2001, when he was appointed by Gov. Thompson as Marinette County Circuit Court Branch 1 Judge to fill the unexpired term of Judge Charles D. Heath, who had retired.

He was elected to the judicial position for a full 6-year term on April 2 of 2002, and then again in 2008 and 2014. Miron reports that in that first, contested election, his wife, Julie and their youngest, Elizabeth were his "secret weapons." "They worked tirelessly on that campaign. They were everywhere, getting permission to put signs up, putting the signs up, getting signatures, organizing events and getting people out to vote."

Judge Heath offered this advice to Miron upon his appointment to the bench, "Dave, take the job seriously, but don't take yourself seriously." He says that was good advice and he has tried to live by it.

After his first year of college, Judge Miron married the former Julie Rosera of Coleman. "Julie has been my biggest supporter throughout. When we got married, I still had three years of college left and three years of law school. We never even had a conversation about not finishing. We both knew that it was the best thing for us and our family." They now have been married for 43 years, live in Crivitz and are members of St. Joseph and Edward Parish in Walsh. They have three children - Erin, Matthew and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren.

Judge Miron laughs that it was Marinette County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Bates who strongly encouraged him to apply for the DA position when the job opened up. On the very night that then-current DA Tim Duket was elected Judge, Bates called Miron and wanted him to apply for the appointment. Miron threw his hat in the ring and he is glad he did.

Other officers who encouraged him on the path to DA and then to the judgeship included Chief Deputy Bob Kohlman, Mike Waugus, Jeff Skorik, Peter Sanfilippo, Jerry Jerue, Tom Hartwig and Fred Carl. "We had a great crew of officers who always brought great cases with detailed information."

Time and experience have slightly changed the way he handles cases, Judge Miron said. All cases are filed electronically now, but they still also maintain paper files. There is one judicial assistant for the two Marinette County Courts. The Judicial Assistant has a great deal of work to do because of this and Miron says he's been fortunate to have Mary Ann Marcusen, Stephanie Vanidestine and now Jackie Buettner as Judicial Assistants. Recently, Dawn Alberts, who is trained to handle digital audio recordings of court cases, was hired as a court reporter.

More cases are settled by mediation than by trials today, and there are far fewer jury trials. This saves both time and money. In family cases, if agreements can be reached it is easier on everyone to settle the issues on a friendly basis.

The number of criminal jury cases is down considerably from when he was first elected, Judge Miron said. There usually must be a good underlying reason to not accept a plea agreement. He said most civil cases today are settled by mediation, with retired judges and lawyers called in to mediate. He described scheduling cases as a "one of the most difficult parts" of his job, and added that he likes to have control of his own calendar.

He has found family cases the toughest to handle, with decisions extremely difficult. OWI cases are also tough, especially those that involve loss of life. "So many families are ruined because of it," Judge Miron said sadly. He added that growing up in a large family helped with his job, and gave him more of the empathy and compassion that a judge needs to have.

Some of the most publicized and difficult cases Judge Miron handled over the years, first as DA and then as judge, involved deaths. One of the first cases he handled as DA was a collision in which James Frost was the driver of a semi in an accident near the Bayer Garage in Peshtigo that took three lives.

Other difficult death cases included a homicide in the early 90's in which Jim Behnke and Jamie Sanicki murdered Mike Smith. In the late 90's Norbert Ellis murdered Jennifer Wallace.

Perhaps the most publicized case was that of James Nichols, who was eventually convicted of murder and sentenced to 69 years in prison in November of 2007 for the shooting death of Hmong immigrant Cha Vang of Green Bay at Peshtigo Harbor, where both had been hunting squirrels. Nichols, 29 at the time, was convicted by a 12-member jury of second-degree intentional homicide, hiding a corpse and being a felon in possession of a firearm. It was Miron who decided the sentence.

Crimes too have changed over the years, with heroin and other drugs becoming the biggest problems. "We put one person in jail and three more take over," Judge Miron declared.

Dealing with drug addicts involves not only punishment, but also is based on hopes of turning the offender's life around so they do not continually re-offend.

One tool used for that purpose is the Challenge Incarceration program. Judge Miron said it is a type of "boot camp" aimed at getting convicted and imprisoned substance abusers to change their lives. Miron said many lives were successfully turned around by this program. In addition, the State offers the Substance Abuse Program to inmates as a way to rehabilitate themselves and earn their way out of prison early.

The Marinette County Treatment Drug Court program has also proven successful, Miron said. For this, judges determine eligibility on an individual basis. "The individuals must hit rock bottom before it will work," Judge Miron observed, but added that this program has seen some great successes.

Early in his career as District Attorney Miron became involved with the Marinette County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, and he remained active in that group for many years as a judge. He feels one of their extremely important contributions was pushing for education in the jail, where inmates are encouraged to study and receive their GED diplomas. That program was started in early 2000, and the jail coordinator "took that ball and ran with it," Miron declares.

Miron noted that many young people convicted of offenses sometimes get caught in a cycle, particularly if they do not have a high school diploma, which is vital for holding a good job. Getting that GED can turn their life around.

In OWI cases, after a driver's license is revoked, the only way to get the license back is to complete an AODA assessment. If a person doesn't take the proper steps to get his or her license back, but continues to drive, he or she will, invariably, get charged with Operating after Revocation. Miron has held cases open for months so that people can reinstate their operating privilege. This can be a major step in getting a person's life back on track.

Recalling some of the great people he worked with over the years in an office that enjoyed a homey family atmosphere with a tradition of helping one another, Judge Miron mentioned Judge Tim Duket, Clerk of Courts, Linda Marquardt in the Clerk of Courts office, Mary Marcusen in the District Attorney's office, and later as Judicial Assistant; Connie Winchell, who was Marinette County's first-ever Victim Witness Coordinator, and long-time court reporter Rhonda Menor.

He said Menor had worked as a Court Reporter for 39 years. She worked with Judge Heath for over 20 years before Miron was appointed to replace him. He described her as a great person to work with, a person who made the job enjoyable despite many tough days. She also makes great cookies, Judge Miron chuckled.

He will miss them and everyone else he has worked with at the courthouse, but said he is looking forward to having enough time for everything he wants to do, particularly spending more time with his family.

In addition to his legal work over the years, Miron had been very active in Peshtigo Lions Club, where he served for many years as treasurer and two terms as president. He also served on the City of Peshtigo Planning Commission for a number of years and was involved with starting the Peshtigo Historical Days event that has now become an annual tradition.

He, Julie and all their children will get together for a picnic to celebrate his first day of retirement. He repeated that Julie and all of their children have always supported him and his work, as have his parents and siblings, and jokingly remarked, "" and maybe now I'll have time to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee with Julie."

He said after enjoying full retirement for a time he may consider going back to work occasionally as a reserve judge, but time will tell.

Miron reports that it was a great honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Marinette County as District Attorney and Judge.


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