Cain picked to bring new day to court system

Voters choose municipal court judge over Foy to usher out contentious Voiland era on county’s Branch II bench

STEVE CAIN (middle), the winner of Tuesday’s Ozaukee County Circuit Court judicial race, looked at election returns with Mike Didier (left) and Nate Altheimer during a gathering of Cain supporters at the Fermentorium Brewery and Tasting Room in the Town of Cedarburg. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

Voters on Tuesday chose Steve Cain to bring a new day to an Ozaukee County court system swept up in the controversial first and only term of Joseph Voiland, the judge Cain will replace on the Branch II bench.

Cain received 14,801 votes (58%) to Angela Foy’s 10,649 (42%) to win the April 2 race for circuit court judge by a comfortable 4,152-vote margin.

“Our win is a win for Ozaukee County,” Cain said. “I am eager to be the new face of Branch II and will do my part to ensure that Ozaukee County remains the safe and special place to live that it is.

“I look forward to working with Judge (Paul) Malloy and Judge (Sandy) Williams as part of the three-judge team seeking nothing but the best for the county and the smooth operation of the court system.”

Cain, 44, brought his track record as a well-rounded lawyer and Mid-Moraine Municipal Court judge to bear in a race that was about experience. 

Foy, 40, also campaigned on her experience as a lawyer and emphasized the fact that she entered the race before Voiland declared he would not seek a second term because she was dedicated to ending the turmoil that plagued the county’s court system during his time on the bench.

Both Cain and Foy are Cedarburg residents.

Ultimately, Tuesday’s race for the Branch II bench was about qualifications for the job of judge in stark contrast to an election six years ago that hinged on politics and ushered in a tumultuous era in the county court system.

In the 2013 election, Voiland upset veteran Judge Tom Wolfgram with a campaign that focused on Wolfgram’s decision to sign the Gov. Scott Walker recall petition. 

Once on the bench, Voiland sparked a 16-month criminal investigation of the Ozaukee County Court System in 2016 with accusations that fellow court officials had committed criminal misconduct in office in an effort to undermine him. That investigation ended abruptly without reaching any conclusions, but an administrative probe conducted by the state court system that followed found no basis for those accusations.

Voiland’s first term in office fueled a seldom, if ever, seen four-candidate primary race in February, from which Cain and Foy emerged to face off in Tuesday’s election.

Cain campaigned on his credentials as both a lawyer and judge in one of the largest municipal courts in the state.

He was elected Mid-Moraine Municipal Court judge in 2009 and re-elected Tuesday. He will step down from the position to assume the duties of circuit court judge.

Cain noted that he cut his teeth as a lawyer working for the Grafton law firm Houseman & Feind at a time when young attorneys didn’t typically specialize in a particular area of law.

“You were expected to be a lawyer in the sense you should be exposed to all types of cases and serve the legal community,” he said. 

He rounded out his experience by working as a municipal prosecutor and currently does a significant amount of trial work as a lawyer with the Cedarburg law firm Stippich, Selin & Cain.

But it’s the decade Cain has spent as a municipal court judge that in particular has prepared him for the circuit court bench, he  said.

“Being a judge is about being a listener, being able to dissect facts and determine the credibility of witnesses,” Cain said. “Many issues we deal with in municipal court are effectively the same as those in circuit court.”

Borrowing from the philosophy of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Cain said judges should be servants of the law.

“You need to be humble,” he said. “Judges are not always going to love the decisions they make, but you have to honor and respect what the Legislature does. Courts, at times, interfere with the Legislature’s role, and that’s not a court’s job.

“That’s a judicial philosophy that should appeal to people of all political stripes.”

Cain’s six-year term as circuit court judge will begin on Aug. 1.

Cain’s term as Mid-Moraine Municipal Court judge begins May 1. He said he is uncertain whether he will start his new term before resigning or if an appointment will be made prior to that. The judge who is appointed will serve until next year’s spring election.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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