Candidates for Municipal or County Circuit Court judgeships can’t make promises about how they would rule on cases if elected to the bench, let alone give their opinion about volatile political issues. To do so would compromise his or hers ability to make fair and impartial rulings as a judge, thus disqualifying them to hear cases they might have previously commented on in the media.
The only thing a judicial candidate has to make his or her case before the voters—especially first time candidates for the bench—is their integrity, not to mention their experience as trial attorneys or county court commissioners. Judicial candidates use these positions to impress enough law enforcement unions, labor unions, defense attorneys and prosecutors, judges and activists to endorse their candidacy. Another important area judicial candidates emphasize to capture votes is their consistent community involvement: sitting on boards of organizations that focus on issues impacting youth and education, the judicial system, the faith-based community, as well as volunteers doing hands-on, grass-roots work “in the trenches.”
Judging from his resume’, Milwaukee County Court Commissioner and Circuit Court Candidate Cedric S. Cornwall seems to meet those aforementioned qualifications. Cornwall is running for the Branch 32 Milwaukee County Circuit Court bench held by outing Judge Michael Guolee, who will retire this year.
“When you look at my support, it’s broad-based,” Cornwall said in a recent interview conducted at the MCJ’s offices. “I have unions and law enforcement that reflects my background as a court commissioner.” Cornwall currently serves as a Milwaukee County Judicial Court Commissioner. Court Commissioners are appointed by the Milwaukee County Chief Circuit Court Judge. As a court commissioner, Cornwall presides over hearings in Children’s Court, Small Claims Court, Intake Court, Preliminary Hearing Court, and Traffic Court. He is currently assigned to the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center, where he conducts settlement conferences, delinquency hearings and permanency plan review hearings in delinquency and CHIPS cases.
“The Judicial Court Commissioner does a lot of ‘up-front’ work on cases that, if they can’t be resolved by me or other court commissioners are forwarded to an assigned circuit court judge,” Cornwall explained. “I’ve presided over tens of thousands of court hearings, and there have been no complaints by the public or attorneys. I think that speaks volumes,” Cornwall said.
A native of Mississippi, Cornwall is a graduate of Marquette University’s law school and has been a Milwaukee County resident for 30 years. Cornwall has practiced law in the area for 27 years and was a founding partner in the law firm of Cornwall, Rhiel, and Yamahiro, and a solo-practitioner in a general practiced law firm, where he gained extensive trial experience in criminal, juvenile, traffic, and supervision revocation cases. Cornwall was also the manager of the City of Milwaukee Equal Rights Commission and in the Trial Division of the Office of the Wisconsin State Public Defender.
Such an extensive background and wealth of experience reveals a candidate--in Cornwall--who has a deep commitment to public service, a commitment that started after he graduated from law school. “I’m running for the Branch 32 bench because I want to continue public service to the people of Milwaukee County.
“I’m committed to maintaining the highest standard of professionalism, and I will always strive to give the highest level of respect to those who would appear before me. As a court commissioner, I’ve made sure everyone who came before me got their day in court and were heard. (As a Circuit Court Judge) I’m going to be fair and open minded.” Cornwell added, if elected, he will interpret the law and apply it to the facts of each case that comes before him.
Asked about his chances in attaining the court seat, Cornwall said they were good given the support he has garnered during the last 10 months he has been doing grass-roots campaigning. “I’m fortunate to have volunteers who are committed to the same ideals I have. “I’m confident when the voters hear my background, they will see I’m the right candidate they should vote for. I think I have the judicial temperment and work ethic that voters will recognize and appreciate.”