Milanowski sworn in as new Vilas County Judge
Former DA takes over for retiring Judge Neal Nielsen
By Katie Thorsen
For the first time in 18 years, a new judge is behind the bench at the Vilas County Courthouse.
Martha Milanowski is the first woman to be sworn in as a Vilas County Circuit Court Judge. She most recently served as Vilas County District Attorney.
Milanowski was appointed to the position by Governor Tony Evers to replace retiring Judge Neal Nielson. He served as Vilas County’s only judge for the last 18 years.
Those who spoke at her investiture ceremony spoke highly of her work ethic and integrity. Judge Nielson said he believes she’ll serve the county well.
“It’s one that I wholly support. I think [she’s] the best possible choice for our county,” said Nielson.
Milanowski is taking on the role right before big changes are heading to the court. After years of pushing for it, Vilas County will be getting a second judge next year.
“We will have an excellent judge in place in this county. With her feet firmly on the ground, a person with great leadership skills and management skills to help guide that transition to a second judgeship,” said Nielson.
In the meantime, it will be just Milanowski handling the heavy case load. A challenge she says she’s up for.
“Certainly, it’s a lot of pressure. It is a very busy court and I think the next 10 months when I’m the solo judge, it will be very busy. It’s a not a surprise to me, I knew that would be the case. Very big shoes to fill, but I hope I’m up to the task. I’m ready,” she said.
Judge Milanowski says she wants to focus on following the law and serve the community. She also wants to address the reasons people are in her courtroom to begin with.
“I want to see if we can really address the underlying issues that come before the court if there are those things such as mental health, alcohol or drug struggles. I think those need to be worked at,” said Milanowski.
Milanowksi will serve until the end of Neilson’s term which ends in July 2022.
Karl Hayes appointed to serve as DA
Gov. Tony Evers has also announced his appointment of Karl Hayes to serve as Vilas County District Attorney. Gov. Evers’ appointment fills the vacancy created when Milanowski was appointed to the Vilas County Circuit Court. Hayes will serve for the remainder of the unexpired term that ends January 2025.
“With a track record of excellence and high commendations from previous colleagues, Karl has demonstrated his commitment to upholding justice and fighting for his community,” said Gov. Evers. “I have the utmost confidence in his ability to serve the people of Vilas County well as their new district attorney.”
Hayes, who previously served in the Vilas County District Attorney’s Office as a legal intern, has family connections to Vilas County and will be relocating back to the area. Hayes has been an assistant district attorney with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office since 2007.