May 29, 2015
Normally, I’m not much into heart warming stories, but permit me to make an exception. There is a story in todays MJS about Milwaukee Judge Christopher Foley being invited to a celebration for a new law school graduate who was highly influenced by an adoption proceeding years ago in Judge Foley’s court.
First, I’ve known Judge Foley since we were ADAs together many more years ago than either of us want to admit. He is truly a great, caring person and judge.
Second, I attended an adoption ceremony years ago. I was asked to help start a program for pro bono divorces for women who wanted to adopt a foster child, but could not afford a divorce from a husband they had not seen in many years. The adoption would allow the state to stop paying for the foster child and – more importantly – would create a legal family.
The woman I represented pro bono was wonderful. She had taken a foster child who had been a cocaine baby. She had two children from her marriage, but her husband had disappeared years ago and could not be found to consent to the adoption. She had recently gotten her GED, a full time job and off aid. She wanted to adopt the child.
So, I represented her pro bono to get her a divorce by publication. Then, she invited me to the adoption.
The adoption was handled by then Circuit Court Judge Michael Malmstadt (now retired), also a former colleague in the D.A.’s office. Judge Malmstadt’s personality was known to me to be, well, let’s just say somewhat acerbic. But, the adoption ceremony was one of the best moments I ever seen in the courthouse. It was warm, touching and beautiful. The two natural born children were there and confirmed to Judge Malmstadt that they wanted to be a complete family with their new brother. I left the courthouse that day proud to be a lawyer – not a common emotion.
So much as I usually find Jim Stingl’s heart warming stories to be garbage, not this one. I spend much time in this space criticizing our legal system. It’s a nice departure to go the other way.