There are good judges, there are bad ones. The bad ones get the news attention while the good ones are going about changing their communities and the world for the better. One of the latter is a judge from northwest Wisconsin named Edward Brunner. I had the pleasure and honor of working with him a few times when I was in WI and found him to be the creative, energetic, and dedicated jurist that we all hope for on our benches. He had an experienced perspective on offenders, the process, and sentencing policy that was rare in the state, and the nation frankly, and made short work of skeptics of the application of restorative justice in criminal justice.
It won't make the national news or even the front page of the WI statewide papers, but today Judge Brunner was awarded the 2006 William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence by the National Center for State Courts. The award is given to state judges exemplifying "the highest level of judicial excellence, integrity, fairness, and professional ethics." Pretty well sums up the man I dealt with. Typical of him, he talked of the team effort that had accomplished everything for which he was the spark. It wasn't his first award. Last year he won the state bar's Lifetime Jurist Achievement Award for judges "who have made a profound difference through their service." He's currently serving as the chair of the Wisconsin Committee of Chief Judges, a position you get elected to by your fellow chief district judges. Think of him the next time you hear public complaints about judges not serving justice or the public. Those unfortunates do exist, but they are the minority and Judge Brunner shows what judges at their best can be.