First woman of justiceWhile studying for her political science degree at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, Rebecca Lovejoy made a strong impression. “Rebecca always had interesting comments in class as well as a keen analytical mind, so I recommended she attend law school,” said UWS Legal Professor George Wright.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
While studying for her political science degree at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, Rebecca Lovejoy made a strong impression.
“Rebecca always had interesting comments in class as well as a keen analytical mind, so I recommended she attend law school,” said UWS Legal Professor George Wright.
Lovejoy put it another way.
“He said, ‘You know, the way you like to argue, have you considered that?’” she said. “The more I though about it, the more it seemed I could do good” through practicing law.
After graduating from UWS in 1990, she earned her law degree from Marquette University Law School. Since then, Lovejoy has built a broad base of experience that encompasses civil, criminal and family law, from the standpoint of both government and private practice. This week, she brings that knowledge to the bench as Douglas County Court Commissioner, the first female member of the local judiciary.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Lovejoy said. “I want to work hard and do a good job for the judges, for the county.”
She was sworn in Tuesday and got right to work dealing with a raft of cases ranging from family and small claims to traffic and juvenile ordinances.
Those who know her say she will do well.
“Douglas County is lucky to have her,” said District Attorney Dan Blank. Lovejoy is smart, witty and hard working; a conscientious team member with skill in many legal settings, he said. “She will make an excellent court commissioner, I have no doubt.”
Maria Cuzzo, professor of legal studies at UWS, said Lovejoy has distinguished herself as a dedicated, service oriented attorney.
“She sought quality arguments based on solid analysis and research and aimed for excellence in her work as a legal professional,” Cuzzo said. “She will bring that same commitment to fair and equal justice to her new role in the Court Commissioner’s Office.”
Wright seconded the accolades, and added one of his own.
“Best of all, she and I have become friends over the years,” he said.
For Lovejoy, the move gave her a chance to blend the best of her former half-time positions (with the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office and Douglas County Corporation Counsel) into a single job.
“I like dabbling in criminal, I like dabbling in civil; both of them are pretty exciting,” she said. “Being able to sort of keep up and deal in both areas of law in one office is pretty exciting.”
And with the move to a single office, she may find time to develop some hobbies. Currently, she and her husband enjoy attending live music concerts and walking their dogs along the shores of Lake Superior.
Lovejoy began her legal career focused on family law.
“I think I was drawn to that area just because you’re helping people who need it so much,” she said.
Her work with guardianship cases and protective placements gave Lovejoy contact with Douglas County social workers. They encouraged her to apply for the part-time corporation counsel position when it opened up in 1999.
“That sort of eased me into working for the government, working for the county,” Lovejoy said. “Ultimately, it’s always to protect the citizens. I think that works well as my guide.”
She took a part-time position in the district attorney’s office in 2001.
“I liked learning something new,” Lovejoy said, and the high-volume, high-stress environment was exciting.
She held onto her private practice as long as she could, but finally folded it up in 2003. The two government positions were in the same building, and they fit well together.
“They’ve worked to make me stronger in both offices,” Lovejoy said. At the same time, she was teaching legal research courses at UWS.
“The students are great,” the Superior woman said. “It’s so much fun and it keeps you on your toes.”
The court commissioner assists judges by handling restraining orders, many small claims cases, preliminary hearings in felony cases, intake in criminal, juvenile ordinance and delinquency cases and traffic-related matters. The commissioner also assists judges with pending family and mental commitment cases. Lovejoy’s experience base touches on most of her new case load.
“I’ll be able to use it all,” she said.
The new court commissioner has been making decisions in court all along, such as whether to prosecute a case and which strategy to use. In this role, however, they will carry more gravity.
“Of course these are very important decisions; they’re very serious decisions; they’re very public decisions,” Lovejoy said. “I feel ready to do it.”
She has spent her free time tapping into databases and law books, researching statutes, finding what’s new in family law and learning more about small claims cases. Douglas County Judges George Glonek and Kelly Thimm have offered advice, and Lovejoy is reaching out to others in her field through the Internet.
“I’ve always come to court with just tons of statutes, tons of books,” she said. “If you stay there, then I think it’s a little easier to stay objective about your case, whichever side you’re on.”
She plans to bring that same thoroughness to the Court Commissioner’s bench.
“Be fair, impartial, stay grounded in the law,” Lovejoy said. “There will be things I will have to get used to and change my perspective and get more comfortable with, but I want to try to be fair and impartial … and just stick with the law as my guide.”