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January 08, 2014 | 10:13 AM
There is a new judge in Walworth County.

Family Court Commissioner Kristine E. Drettwan was appointed to the position by Gov. Scott Walker on Friday. She will fulfill the remainder of Judge John Race's term.

The appointment makes Drettwan the first woman to serve on the bench in Walworth County.

"As a former prosecutor and a family court commissioner, Kristine Drettwan is incredibly prepared to handle the work of a circuit court judge," Walker said through a press release. "She is an active member of her community in Elkhorn, and I know she will serve the people of Walworth with diligence and a firm commitment to the rule of law."

Race ended his 29 year career on the bench this December. On his way out he recommended Drettwan for his position.

"I'm very proud and honored to have been chosen by Gov. Walker, and I'm very proud to be the first woman judge in Walworth County," Drettwan said Monday afternoon.

Drettwan said she received the news on Friday from Walker that she was selected to fulfill the appointment. It isn't clear exactly when she will formally take the bench. Retired Kenosha County Judge Dennis Costello is serving as a reserve judge.

When Race retired, he was serving in the family court, and the plan is for Drettwan to step into that role.

"I didn't come out of law school thinking I wanted to be a judge," Drettwan said. "I always held them in very deep respect, but I came out of law school wanting to be a prosecutor, which is what I accomplished."

However, as she grew as an attorney, she said her goals have changed. After serving as the Family Court Commissioner, she said becoming a judge became a goal.

"It's been on my horizon, it was the right step and the right choice for me at this time,"

From 1993 to 2003, Drettwan was an assistant district attorney, first in Douglas County, and then in Walworth County. She started in 1996 in Walworth County. Her diverse caseload included sexual assault, child abuse, domestic abuse, animal abuse and drug offenses.

In 2000, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration gave her an award for "Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Drug Law Enforcement."

She has also been an instructor in the police science program at Gateway Technical College.

In 2003, the judges of Walworth County Circuit Court asked Drettwan to serve as their law clerk until 2010, when they appointed her Walworth County's Family Court Commissioner. From 2005 to 2010, she also served as a circuit court commissioner and assistant family court commissioner, according to the press release.

"I was really overwhelmed with the number of people who supported me and wrote recommendation letters for me," Drettwan said. "I'm excited and I have a huge base of support and encouragement to help me in the transition."

"She has a well-deserved reputation for being direct, fair and efficient in getting cases resolved. She is always professional and clear. She explains the law in words that make sense to those who don't regularly set foot in courtrooms," Heidi Lloyd, executive director of the Association for the Prevention of Family Violence, wrote in support of Drettwan.

"She is everything that a judge needs to be: even tempered, firm yet compassionate, intelligent and hard working. Win or lose before her, attorneys find her to be tough but fair. In my experiences with her, she does the right thing, not necessarily the easy thing. . . . Kristine Drettwan is a great example of how an attorney should practice law and how a Court Commissioner should exercise her duties. We would be fortunate to have her serve in Walworth County as a Circuit Court Judge," defense attorney James P. Martin said.

Drettwan is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota School of Law, where she was on the dean's list. She lives in Elkhorn with her husband Matthew and their two school-aged children and attends Sugar Creek Lutheran Church.

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