Aug. 1—EAU CLAIRE — After spending her entire 38-year legal career as a practicing attorney in Eau Claire, Beverly Wickstrom today officially begins her six-year term as Eau Claire County’s newly-created Branch 6 judge.
Wickstrom, 63, was unopposed in the April election to become the county’s Branch 6 judge.
While she is being sworn in today by Eau Claire County Judge Michael Schumacher because judicial terms start on Aug. 1, Wickstrom will have her ceremonial investiture at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the county’s Branch 2 courtroom. Wickstrom will be sworn in at the investiture by state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet.
Wickstrom grew up in Ripon and attended Lawrence University in Appleton. She received her law degree at the UW-Madison Law School.
Wickstrom came to Eau Claire in 1983 to begin her work as an attorney. She is leaving the Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs law firm, where her areas of expertise were medical malpractice, personal injury law, product liability, Social Security disability, workers compensation and nursing home negligence and abuse.
Becoming a judge “is something that’s been in the back of my mind for the end of my practice, that I would like to be a judge,” Wickstrom said.
“Becoming a judge is a good match for the skills I’ve been able to learn and that the Eau Claire community could use,” she said.
Wickstrom said she was encouraged to seek the newly-created Branch 6 judgeship. The county’s other five judges are Michael Schumacher, Jon Theisen, John Manydeeds, Emily Long and Sarah Harless.
“I was approached separately by a number of different people,” she said. “When I told people I was going to run, I had very strong support and encouragement. I was very pleased and grateful I didn’t have opposition.”
Wickstrom’s husband is Eau Claire attorney Dana Wachs, who spent three two-year terms in the state Assembly.
“I’ve been involved in politics long enough to know how to run a campaign. But it was nice not to have to run one. The political system has gotten testy,” she said. “Avoiding that is important to maintaining the integrity of the judiciary. I had very strong bipartisan support.”
Even though she is taking over a newly-created judicial branch, “I will start with a full caseload,” Wickstrom said.
The Tenth District Court Commissioner in northwest Wisconsin will select cases from Eau Claire County’s other five judges for Wickstrom to oversee. She will also be in the regular rotation when new cases come in.
What can observers expect in Wickstrom’s courtroom?
“They can expect I am going to be prepared, I will listen very carefully, and make sure everyone who comes in front of me is heard,” she said.
Even though Wickstrom wasn’t sworn in until today, she got a jump on her new judicial duties by attending the state’s new judge orientation three days last week in Madison.
“I learned to use the new computer system and received primers in the various areas of law,” she said.
Wickstrom will spend the first two weeks of August being mentored by other judges in St. Croix, Barron, Chippewa and Eau Claire counties.
Wickstrom will handle her own caseload the third week in August. The last week of the month will be spent at the state’s Judicial College. Her first full month with a judicial caseload will be in September.
Wickstrom said she has had some thoughts about moving from private practice attorney to judge.
“There is some nervousness about things I don’t know and need to know,” she said. “But I’ve worked hard my entire life and look forward to learning what’s needed to be a good judge.”