Justice is What We do: Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell Declares for the 2023 Supreme Court Contest
Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell was elected in 2016 and is now ready to have an impact on the lives of everyday Wisconsinites as a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice.
Part 1 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
When Judge Everett Mitchell first came to Madison armed with a BA and master’s degree was deliver pizzas for Pizza Hut. Mitchell has always come from the bottom up and has developed a clear understanding of justice along the way. He worked with ex-offenders as the second in command at Madison Urban Ministry before earning his law degree at UW Madison Law School. He has worked as an assistant DA and director of Community relations for UW-Madison. And since 2016, Mitchell has been a Dane County Circuit Court Judge. While he has worked in all areas of the law, he has been especially concerned with children going through the juvenile court process.
One way in which Mitchell feels that he has made a difference is in the de-shackling of young people when they enter juvenile court.
“I was able to implement that policy for Dane County Circuit Courts so that no young person has to be presumed to be coming into court in handcuffs,” Mitchell said. “Now not only will it be applicable for Dane County, but for every courtroom in our state. Young people will be able to come into any courtroom and will not have to be handcuffed or shackled unless there is an articulable reason to do so.”
“With the kids being shackled it creates more trauma in the life of a young person because it creates a whole environment where the court is adding more trauma to the young person rather than being a mediator or alleviator of the trauma in their lives,” Mitchell observed. “The goal of the statute is to focus on what is in the best interest of the children. When we don’t do those things, we are finding ourselves creating more patterns of adults who have been traumatized and then the court participates in adding more trauma. They just don’t have a place to begin to find a place to be safe where they can heal and become a productive member of society. That really gave us a tool that we could use to better support young people as they are trying to get out of a life of trauma, pain, crime or whatever they are trying to redirect their life to into something more positive.”
Mitchell has been working hard and collaborating with others to help transform the juvenile justice system into one that aids in the healing of youth and is a place where they can learn and get the support they need to change.
“We have made a difference in a lot of the children’s lives,” Mitchell said. “I would say that 85-90 percent of the cases that are charged in Dane County, they don’t come back. We’re able to plant seeds and able to focus on bringing families back together. We are able to look at cases more broadly and really think about the court as a part of the community rather than as the court sitting on an island by itself. So even the small things like opening up the Juvenile Reception Center so that members of the African American Council of Churches led by Pastor Allen or the Black Law Students Association at the UW Law School or a number of key leaders coming into the JRC just so that the kids can be seen and they can see community members who do care about them ultimately makes them aware that they are not alone in this world even though some of them feel that they have been abandoned.”
The second impact Mitchell has made is the removal of the electronic scarlet letter — CCAP —from the lives of people who have successfully matriculated out of the criminal justice system.
“CCAP is the Consolidated Court Automated Programs website where you can see evictions and criminal cases, divorces and civil cases that are filed against individuals or people file against each other,” Mitchell said. “I have been advocating for the removal of any cases that are filed against individuals that are dismissed, dismissed by prosecutor’s motion or found not guilty and even evictions when the evictions are dismissed. In the past, they would all just stay on CCAP. But I was able to work and advocate for that to be removed so that people could return back to a place of innocence rather than having that information just sitting out there causing others to judge them based on what they see on CCAP.”
Mitchell has gained a lot of experience over the past 6-7 years as a Dane County judge.
“In juvenile court, I am exposed to juveniles — CHIPS cases,” Mitchell said. “I am also responsible for family court. I work with divorces, family law separations, reunification, and termination of parental rights. I’m also involved in civil litigation as well. Because of that, I have a gamut of different experiences in all different forms of litigation that comes before the courts. On top of that, I volunteer to run our high-risk drug court program on Thursday mornings to oversee those individuals who have criminal felony offenses, but also drug addictions as well.”
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