Dane County Circuit Court Candidates Forum: Jill Karofsky vs. Marilyn Townsend

–submitted by Bill Haight; photo by Pete Christianson


Marilyn Townsend and Jill Karofsky

The two candidates for an open Dane County judge position began with an opening statement, then answered a series of questions presented by moderator Rotarian Andrea Kaminski.

Both candidates indicated a strong desire to address concerns of racial disparity, fairness in the judicial system and support of alternatives to incarceration – help versus punishment.   Both have backgrounds that illustrate their commitment to these concerns. Karofsky is serving as Executive Director of the Office of Crime Victim Services and as Wisconsin’s first Violence against Women Resource Prosecutor. Townsend has represented Unions and men and women on a broad array of issues, typically in cases where a client calls out their employer or a government agency for discrimination on the basis of wage, race, age, gender, or disability.

Attorney Karofsky, though not a judge, emphasizes her previous experience as an assistant district attorney handling “more than 10,000 cases in Dane County Courts, the exact kind of cases the judge will hear.”

Judge Townsend has served the Village of Shorewood Hills as Municipal Court Judge since 2012. In this capacity, she notes, she presides over trials, motion hearings and initial appearances, and decides the guilt or innocence of those who appear before her.

Karofsky contends that while municipal judges play an important role, Townsend’s municipal court experience dealing with mostly ordinance violations is not similar to the complexity of criminal cases, such as homicides, she would find in the circuit court.

When asked by the moderator about their “judicial philosophy” Townsend said she strives to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, “not just the rich and powerful,” Karofsky said her philosophy emphasizes “fairness, respect for everyone and a willingness to try new things [such as alternative courts for specialized cases]”

“Who is your hero?” Moderator Kaminsky asked.

“Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt,” said Townsend, “because they stood up for the little guy.”

“My Mother [former Middleton Mayor Judy Karofsky], replied Karofsky, “because she always fought for fairness for the little guy.”

Did you miss our meeting this week?  Watch the video here.

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