Embattled judge to face challengers if he runs again

Voiland has not said if he’ll seek re-election, but two lawyers from Cedarburg have committed to run for his seat
Ozaukee Press staff

Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph Voiland, whose first term in office has been marked by controversy, will face at least two challengers if he runs for re-election to the Branch II bench in April.

Lawyers Angela Foy and Mark Larson, both Cedarburg residents, are vying to succeed Voiland.

“I feel a very personal call right now to run for judge,” Foy, 40, said. “I can’t sit back and allow inaction to result in harm to the community. I want to help restore integrity to the court. 

“I think it’s important that a judge in our community be committed to justice. It’s important that a judge be committed to integrity and be committed to the values of our community.”

Larson, 57, said after a 32-year career as a lawyer, he is ready to serve as a judge.

“I’ve always wanted to be a judge,” he said. “I’m from a generation of lawyers who were raised to believe that becoming a judge is the pinnacle of a legal career.”

Voiland, 45, who is also a Cedarburg resident, unseated longtime Judge Tom Wolfgram in 2013 with a campaign that focused almost exclusively on Wolfgram’s signing of the Gov. Scott Walker recall petition.

As of Tuesday, Voiland had not filed a campaign registration statement — the first step to getting on the ballot — and has not responded to questions about whether he is going to run for a second six-year term. 

Candidates have until 5 p.m. Jan. 2 to file nomination papers. The deadline for filing noncandidacy papers is Dec. 21.

As remarkable as Voiland’s upset of Wolfgram was, so too has been his first term in office.

In May 2016, Voiland sparked a criminal investigation of the Ozaukee County Court system with accusations that court records had been falsified to undermine him. 

During the 16-month probe conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), Voiland accused three county court officials — Judge Paul Malloy, Clerk of Courts Mary Lou Mueller and Circuit Court Commissioner Barry Boline — of criminal misconduct in office, according to a DCI report made public in January.

That investigation was abruptly closed in September 2017 without conclusions or recommendations after Voiland stopped cooperating with agents.

In February, Chief District Judge Jennifer Dorow ordered an administrative investigation that was conducted by former U.S. attorney and retired Dane County Judge Patrick Fiedler. That probe was essentially completed in July.

“I find that there is no basis to believe that anyone has violated Wis. Stat. 946.12 Misconduct in Public Office,” Fiedler wrote in his report. “There is also no basis to find that anyone has violated any other criminal statute.”

But what Fiedler did find during his investigation was a lack of communication between Voiland and other court officials.

In his report, Fiedler suggests that nearly two years of investigations prompted by Voiland’s accusations could have been avoided if the officials involved discussed the issues.

“There is a serious communication problem between Judge Voiland and other Ozaukee County court officials,” Fiedler wrote.  “This communication problem has resulted in a lack of trust which has affected the administration of the court system.

“While conducting this investigation and in preparing this report, I often wondered why the people involved did not meet in person to discuss these issues.”

In an interview this week, Foy said communication and cooperation between court officials is essential to the justice system.

“I think I could definitely improve communication in the court system,” she said. “The three judges and the staff need to work together as a team. Without that, I don’t think the community is well served.”

Larson said his long history with the Milwaukee law firm of Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville & Larson, where he is a partner, illustrates his ability to communicate with others. 

“The fact I have worked with the same group of attorneys for 31 years speaks highly of my ability to get along well with others,” he said.

Larson, who specializes in medical malpractice and general liability law, said he has worked to elevate the standards of integrity, courtesy and professionalism in the legal system as a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, an organization that works to foster improvement in the ethical and technical standards in the practice of law.

“We can have adversarial dealings among attorneys but it must remain civil,” he said. “It comes down to dealing with people honestly.”

Foy, a shareholder in the Milwaukee law firm of Halling & Cayo who specializes in family law, said she would bring a breadth of experience to the bench.

“A lot of what I do now is family law, but I’ve done a little bit of everything,” she said. “In the last year, I’ve been in 188 hearings in front of 22 different judges.”

Larson, a 1986 graduate of Marquette University Law School, said serving as a judge would be a way for him to contribute to the community.

“I really enjoy doing things that have value beyond just making more money,” he said. “Doing something like this that contributes to the community is very rewarding to me.”

Foy, who graduated from Marquette University Law School in 2006 and also has a master’s degree in education from the University of Notre Dame, said her courtroom experience and background as a teacher have prepared her to become a judge. 

“Working in family law, I see how people are impacted by the law, and as a former teacher I can help explain the law to them,” she said. 

Voiland, who has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and graduated from Marquette University Law School, worked for Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, focusing on financial services litigation, before being elected judge.

He did not respond to a request for comment.

The general election is April 2. If a primary election is needed, it would be held Feb. 19.


Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

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.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login