Is Judge Dorow Hiding Her Biography?

There’s something missing from the Waukesha County Circuit Court website listing information about its judges. Click on the names of most judges and you get a biography of them. But click on Judge Jennifer Dorow and you get nothing, only that she began as a judge in 2012.

There is no LinkedIn profile for Dorow and her campaign website bio tells us only that she has had a 26-year legal career and has “prosecuted, defended, and judged a wide array of cases and issues.”

News accounts announcing her run for the Wisconsin Supreme Court noted that she served in private practice and as a prosecutor for Waukesha District Attorney’s office, but how many years she served and when is unclear. The Wikipedia entry on Dorow offers some information about this, but it is inaccurate.

The Wisconsin Justice Initiative provides the most accurate information, provided by Dorow in 2011 when she applied to be considered for appointment as a judge by then-Governor Scott Walker: Dorow said she worked for four years as an assistant DA for the Waukesha District Attorney from 2000-2004. And Paul Bucher, who was then the District Attorney has been quoted saying Dorow worked for him for four years.

But a check of cases handled by Dorow through the Wisconsin Court System‘s CCAP website shows she was working as a prosecuting attorney for the Waukesha District Attorney (perhaps not as an assistant DA) from 1996 to 2000.

After eight years in the office, she took a job, no doubt at a higher salary, at a private law firm run by Matthew Huppertz, where she worked for nearly six years before becoming a partner in the Huppertz and Dorow firm and then worked two more years as a partner for the firm.

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Dorow’s experience in handling cases as a prosecutor, and her insider’s knowledge of how the Waukesha DA’s office worked, would have made her an attractive candidate to join Huppertz’s office, someone he could sell to prospective clients. Even today, the Huppertz website notes the firm “has extensive experience defending clients throughout Southeastern Wisconsin accused of sex offenses such as:

  • Rape/Sexual Assault
  • Statutory Rape
  • Date Rape
  • Child Sex Crimes including Child Molestation
  • Internet Sex Crimes including child pornography and solicitation of minors for sex”

CCAP shows Dorow defended such clients, including those charged with domestic battery, harassment, sexual assault, using a computer to facilitate a sex crime, sex with a child age 16 or older and third-degree sexual assault. Some of those clients are registered sex offenders.

One of those offenders, Terrence L. Greenwald, was charged “with three counts of repeated sexual assault of a child, one count of sexual assault of a child under 13, four counts of child enticement and one count of causing a child older than 13 to view/listen to sexual activity,” the Journal Sentinel reported in 2010.

Greenwald faced dozens of years in prison but Dorow was able to get him a plea-bargained deal whereby he would plead to six misdemeanors and serve no time in prison.

Dorow also defended clients charged with second-degree reckless homicide, causing bodily harm, drug trafficking, burglary and other offenses.

Should Dorow win the primary, she may face ads targeting her for this case and possibly others. The best-funded candidate in the race, Janet Protasiewicz, has released an ad declaring that “I’ve locked up murderers, rapists, and child sex predators.” Perhaps someone in her campaign has already reviewed all the cases on CCAP — some 180 — Dorow handled as a defense attorney.

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Huppertz, her former law firm partner, described Dorow as caring and compassionate. “Jennifer has one of the biggest hearts of any individual that I have ever known,” Huppertz said. It would not be surprising if Dorow, over the course of six years defending clients, developed some sympathy for them. That’s human nature. Our system of criminal justice depends on attorneys taking on such cases.

But campaigns for the high court have become cartoons of simplistic claims and judges promising to get tough on crime. Protasiewicz, seen as one of the two liberals in this race, is already following that script. And Dorow’s first ad touts her handling of Waukesha parade killer Darrell E. Brooks and calls her a “Wife, mother, prosecutor… Judge Dorow’s life’s work is keeping Wisconsin families safe.”

There was no mention, of course, of her work as a defense attorney, of her success reducing the sentence of a man charged with nine sexual offenses, or the many other criminals she defended. That must be kept a secret during this campaign.

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