In 1989, I was born in Columbus, Wisconsin. A few years later, my family and I moved to Antigo, Wisconsin. Growing up, I enjoyed reading books and playing sports, including playing basketball and football. During my senior year of high school, I was the starting offensive left-tackle on the varsity football team.
After graduating from Antigo High School, I attended Northern Michigan University, where I double majored in economics and political science, with an emphasis in pre-law. During college, I was a representative in student government (ASNMU) where, among other things, I advocated for the creation of a student-run credit union and for the then-judicial branch of student government—the All Student Judiciary, which also adjudicated alleged violations of the university’s student code—to engage in “concrete judicial review” of student governmental action. Later, I introduced legislation to create the ASNMU Constitutional Judiciary which, unlike the All Student Judiciary, would not adjudicate alleged violations of the university’s student code and would instead focus solely on questions of constitutionality under the ASNMU Constitution. My initial efforts eventually culminated in the creation of the ASNMU Judiciary.
Not only was I involved in student government while in college, I also was an opinion columnist, and eventually opinion editor, for the school’s student newspaper, The North Wind. Among other topics I discussed during that time, I wrote about how there are more than enough lawyers for the affluent in this country—but not close to enough lawyers to help those who are among the most economically disadvantaged and vulnerable.
Additionally, I founded the NMU Student Defense Office, a student organization that defended students who requested administrative hearings to challenge university allegations pending against them, including allegations relating to disorderly conduct and possession of controlled substances. Before graduation, I received the 2012 NMU Political Science Outstanding Graduating Senior award.
After graduating magna cum laude from NMU, I attended the University of Wisconsin Law School. During law school, I was an opinion columnist for The Badger Herald, and a managing editor for the Wisconsin Law Review. Additionally, during my third year of law school, I served as an intern to then-Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Shirley Abrahamson—where I primarily wrote bench memoranda analyzing cases and briefs—and then as an extern at the Criminal Appeals Unit of the Wisconsin Department of Justice—where I primarily conducted research and wrote legal memoranda on criminal law issues.
After graduating from law school, I was a judicial law clerk at the Sauk County Circuit Court for Judge James Evenson, Judge Guy Reynolds, and Judge Michael Screnock. I subsequently served one term as a judicial law clerk for Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Mark A. Seidl in Wausau, Wisconsin.
After completing these judicial clerkships, I searched for permanent employment as an attorney. During this search, I filed an administrative rule petition and accompanying memorandum with the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reform the illegal and intrusive process Wisconsin utilized when evaluating prospective lawyers’ character and fitness to practice law—a process which contravened federal regulations promulgated pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act. As I explained separately in a blogpost at the time, the impetus for filing the petition was my personal and negative experience of being required to describe my treated mental disorders, including complex post-traumatic stress disorder, to state board of bar examiners—solely on the basis of my status of having mental disorders, and without regard to how those mental disorders actually affected my ability to practice law in a competent and professional manner. After filing the petition, the state board of bar examiners removed the intrusive questions and, as my memorandum implicitly suggested, focused instead on a prospective lawyer’s conduct, rather than a prospective lawyer’s mental health status, when evaluating his or her character and fitness to practice law.
After succeeding in changing Wisconsin’s illegal process of evaluating prospective lawyers’ character and fitness to practice law, I served as a staff attorney at the Dane County Circuit Court for Judge William Hanrahan, Judge Ellen Berz, Judge Everett Mitchell, and Judge John Hyland. During that time period, I testified before the Dane County Board of Supervisors’ Public Protection and Judiciary Committee about inadequate staffing levels—not only at the Dane County Circuit Court, but throughout the Wisconsin court system as a whole. After serving as a staff attorney at the Dane County Circuit Court, I subsequently started a solo law practice, specializing in criminal defense and appellate law.