CANDIDATE BIOGRAPHY

Meet Ralph J. Sczygelski.

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Get to know the man behind the movement, his life, what he stands for, and what his plans are if elected Judge!

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Attorney in more than 4,000 cases throughout Wisconsin!

 

“For more than 2 ½ decades I have been in Court nearly every day it’s been open, including on some of the most challenging cases a Judge would ever see.  These include Multi-day criminal trials, Homicides trials, and Divorce trials.  I have argued cases before more than 100 Judges in half the counties in Wisconsin, so I know a good Judge from a bad Judge.  My work has also brought me the privilege of arguing three cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  I promise to be a good Judge every single day I am on the bench.”

Prosecution and Criminal Work

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This is the type of work that monopolizes a Judge’s time. Having served as a Prosecutor for 8 years, I have a natural sense of camaraderie with law enforcement. Indeed, most of my criminal and traffic work has been of the defense variety, yet most members of law enforcement that I have spoken to are happy to see me running for Judge.
Defense work is where much of the unsung work of the justice system occurs. It is not uncommon for criminal defendants to have a great many excuses and not take responsibility for whatever actions got them in trouble. It is a good defense lawyer’s job to convince the client to take whatever steps are necessary to straighten things out. This often includes getting a job, staying away from people who get them in trouble, getting into productive groups or counseling, and getting control of addictions. Bad lawyers and Judges gloss over these issues. In my opinion, there are few excuses for able-bodied criminal defendants to be unemployed and to be ignoring the issues that got them into trouble in the first place. I tell my own clients this all the time.
Yet the blame-game runs rampant. No criminals do well in Court when they blame others for their problems. A good defense lawyer will do more to straighten out the criminal than almost anyone else. No one in the courtroom should tolerate ridiculous blaming or excuses. This is a side of the job that happens behind closed doors, but its importance cannot be overstated, especially when more than 90% of all cases never go to trial.
Is it then any wonder that former defense lawyers often make the toughest judges? At Judicial College, the Judges vote on appropriate sentences for various infractions. Surprisingly, the former defense lawyers are usually the toughest. Why is this? Defense lawyers have heard all the lame excuses, and they do not have much uncertainty when it comes to determining what is really going on in a criminal’s life.
To that end, I have handled several dozen homicide cases, taking six of them to trial when agreements could not be reached. A few of these involved insanity defenses, which, when they go to trial, are the equivalent of a final exam for a Judge. These are very tough cases where nobody ever wins, yet that is exactly the type of work that a good Judge must be ready for. Indeed, no trial is easy, yet I have represented people and governmental entities in more than 40 jury trials, which is more than all of the other candidates combined.
Overall, I have prosecuted more than 1,000 cases, and I have been involved overall in more than 1,400 additional criminal cases around the State. These include more than 300 appeals, the primary purpose of which was to determine whether or not things were done correctly by the Judge. Bottom line: I have been in court nearly every day for 26 years, and I also have spent more than 20 years with appeals investigating whether or not other judges have done the right thing. What experience could be more valuable for a new Judge?

Personal History

 

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I was born in 1965 in Merrill, Wisconsin, one of six children.  My parents started as dairy farmers, but my Dad was also a construction worker, maintenance man in a factory, home builder/remodeler, mechanic, and County Board Supervisor.  Even though his family obligations did not allow him to graduate from high school, each of us six children graduated from college with at least two degrees.  Mom was one of twelve children, and she was the first in that noisy brood to graduate from high school.  Education was always of primary importance to my parents despite their own lack of parchment on the wall.  When it came to common sense, discipline and life knowledge, they were magna cum laude graduates.

Life on a farm with parents who also flipped houses was not casual.  Sitting around and doing less than our best in school or at work were never options.  Those lessons of daily diligence carry through to this day.  Normally, I am the first person at work—rarely arriving after 8 a.m.  I am also in the office through most lunch hours, and usually lock up the place to go home around 5:15.  It is a good and manageable work schedule that my parents would be proud of.

After graduating from UW-Eau Claire, I attended the UW Law School and moved up to Manitowoc in 1991.  I owned little more than three suits, a law degree, and a car that lost its muffler on the way up.  I was the new associate in the Law Firm of Savage, Gregorski, Webster, Stangel & Bendix.   A few years later, I became a shareholder (partner).  Although I assisted in all areas of the firm, it became clear that my talents and interests were best served by Courtroom work.

In 1999, one month after my son was born, the senior partner announced that he was going to be leaving, and the firm would therefore dissolve.  Instead of following him to the large Milwaukee law firm that was buying out the practice, I decided to go out on my own and stay local.  This was one of the toughest things I have ever done, but also the most rewarding.  Children of farmers often have an entrepreneurial bent.  My law firm opened on July 1, 1999, and it has been a very busy place ever since.

 On a more personal level, in 1994 I married the former Kim Allen, who was working for the local Chamber of Commerce.  She has also worked for the Manitowoc County Historical Society, Formrite Tube, and Holy Family.  When our son was born in 1999, Kim did not want to leave him home with a sitter or at daycare.  We thoroughly discussed our options and agreed that she could quit her job and do my law firm’s billing from home.  It was the smartest decision we ever made for our family and for the firm.  A few years later, we adopted a little girl from Guatemala; her adoption hearing was the happiest moment I ever had in a courtroom.

Along the way, I have served on many Boards and Committees, led various groups at Church, in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and became deeply involved in a wide range of Manitowoc organizations.  Most notably, I led the Rotary Club, the County Bar Association and various musical groups.  Recently, I began giving Sunday morning presentations at Churches on behalf of the Gideon Bible organization.

Now that my son is in college, I lead a more homebound existence away from drumming and other school volunteer activities.  I have never been on Facebook (until now), and most of my nights this year have been spent at home with my wife and daughter.  My one regret in running for Judge is the amount of time it takes me out of the house.  Once the election is over, I will be very happy to return to my work, home and Church routine.  Life is very good and full.

Civil Litigation

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Not only have I taught Civil Litigation and Business Law at LTC, I have represented parties in more than 400 lawsuits.  Very few classic lawsuits end up going to trial these days.  Negotiation and mediation resolve them short of trial.  However, the difficulty that judges face these days in civil litigation is with constant Motions.  The toughest of these include Motions for Summary Judgment, which can entirely dismiss (or grant) a lawsuit.

Judges are flooded with Motions nowadays, and they often take a great deal of time and expertise to decide.  No other candidates have engaged in the volume of civil litigation that I have been involved in since my first day of work as a lawyer in 1991.  Not only have I done this kind of work in the classic realm of car accidents and other similar lawsuits, but I have also been involved in legal disputes involving the Cities of Kiel, Manitowoc, Brillion, Green Bay, and Two Rivers.  I have dealt with the intricacies of real estate litigation, business litigation and sovereign immunity.  This can be some of the most complex areas of the law.

I was fortunate in the 1990s to have assisted with two very unusual jury trials, one involving the Point Beach Power Plant, and another involving a scientific issue between three businesses.  I have also brought and defended Motions, engaged in voluminous disputes within lawsuits, and overall worked on cases involving assets and settlements in excess of $10,000,000.  Again, most civil cases resolve short of trial, yet a Judge’s intermediate rulings in these cases have to be correct in order for the resolution to take place.  I also appeared in Federal Court, which certainly provided a unique perspective that I would carry to the bench.

Family Law

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Not only have I taught Civil Litigation and Business Law at LTC, I have represented parties in more than 400 lawsuits.  Very few classic lawsuits end up going to trial these days.  Negotiation and mediation resolve them short of trial.  However, the difficulty that judges face these days in civil litigation is with constant Motions.  The toughest of these include Motions for Summary Judgment, which can entirely dismiss (or grant) a lawsuit.

Judges are flooded with Motions nowadays, and they often take a great deal of time and expertise to decide.  No other candidates have engaged in the volume of civil litigation that I have been involved in since my first day of work as a lawyer in 1991.  Not only have I done this kind of work in the classic realm of car accidents and other similar lawsuits, but I have also been involved in legal disputes involving the Cities of Kiel, Manitowoc, Brillion, Green Bay, and Two Rivers.  I have dealt with the intricacies of real estate litigation, business litigation and sovereign immunity.  This can be some of the most complex areas of the law.

I was fortunate in the 1990s to have assisted with two very unusual jury trials, one involving the Point Beach Power Plant, and another involving a scientific issue between three businesses.  I have also brought and defended Motions, engaged in voluminous disputes within lawsuits, and overall worked on cases involving assets and settlements in excess of $10,000,000.  Again, most civil cases resolve short of trial, yet a Judge’s intermediate rulings in these cases have to be correct in order for the resolution to take place.  I also appeared in Federal Court, which certainly provided a unique perspective that I would carry to the bench.