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RACINE — Racine County Circuit Court Judge Emily Mueller has been named Trial Judge of the Year by the Wisconsin chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates.

The organization, an elite group of civil litigators from across the state, honored Mueller with the title last week during their annual meeting in Madison.

Steven Botzau, who works as a plaintiff’s attorney for Habush, Habush & Rottier, S.C., in Racine and Kenosha, nominated Mueller for the honor, and others in the roughly 75-member group quickly decided she was a great choice, he said.

Sometimes, when choosing the Trial Judge of the Year, other ABOTA members will offer alternate choices, but with Mueller “everybody agreed right away that she was perfect and a very worthy recipient,” Botzau said.

First appointed to the bench in 1992, Mueller has served as a judge in Racine County for 25 years. During that time she has presided over dozens of trials, involving both civil cases and high profile criminal cases. Before becoming a judge, Mueller practiced law for the law firm Thompson & Coates in Racine.

Worthy recipient

Botzau noted that as far as he is aware Mueller is the first Racine County Circuit judge to receive the award.

Mueller said that she was surprised but honored to learn she had been recognized by ABOTA.

“It is always great when people who are part of an organization that values the kinds of things you value think you have done your job,” she said. “ABOTA is an organization of some of the finest trial lawyers in the state, and it is a real honor to be recognized by lawyers that I greatly respect.”

Being a trial judge

Asked what she sees as her biggest responsibility as a trial judge, Mueller said, that in the “broadest sense, it is to see that justice is done.”

“People need to be treated fairly, but they also need to be treated with respect by the judge,” Mueller said. “A judge needs to make certain that the playing field is level for everybody, and that everybody is playing by the same set of legal rules.”

Mueller added that she enjoys presiding over trials.

“It is one of the best parts of being a judge. For the most part, trials are interesting. I always learn a lot, actually, with any trial that I do,” she said. “I like seeing the lawyers in action. It is such a bedrock part of the justice system.”

In November, Mueller will preside over yet another trial when ABOTA puts on its mock trial. A highlight in legal circles, the day-long event is held annually to help less-experienced lawyers learn about the ins and outs of the legal procedure.

“I am really looking forward to it,” said Mueller. “The lawyers that participate in it are just top notch.”

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