Judge shares opinions of area justice
ELLSWORTH -- As he begins his first full year on the bench, Pierce County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Boles offered his thoughts on the local judicial system to the County Board Feb. 1.
"The transition from private practice to judge has been smooth," said Boles, a lawyer in River Falls before winning the election last April. "I feel very welcome here in the courthouse and throughout Ellsworth.
"I feel very happy to have the job I have, which is serving the citizens of Pierce County."
Boles talked about recent changes, both involving video conferencing.
The county has added the technology so court hearings could be held without the defendant physically being in the courtroom.
Boles said video conferencing was used for about a 10-minute hearing earlier that morning for a defendant housed in a facility near Madison and "...we saw him and he saw us," the judge said.
Sheriff Nancy Hove, when asked, said the sheriff's department saved around $500 on the hearing alone in transportation costs.
In addition, a room within the county jail was also set up with video conferencing, meaning defendants will not have to leave if needed for hearings, increasing courthouse security and the efficiency of the jail as well, Boles said.
He also highlighted the accomplishments of the drug court.
"To see those who have changed their life around has been pretty wonderful," Boles said. He also invited board members to attend graduations, traditionally held Tuesday mornings.
With the success of drug court, Boles said talk has focused on creating a veterans court, to help military personnel struggling in criminal court. He's unsure if they're going to model it after drug court, but stressed the idea is in the developmental stage.
What Boles would like to see on the fast track is the creation of a criminal justice coordinating council.
The council would be made up of facets from all parts of the local criminal justice system, as they would meet and see if "...what we are doing makes sense and are there more efficient ways of doing things," he explained.
Grant funds are available through the state, Boles said, to help in the establishment of a council, which Pierce has applied for. The county will find out later this year if it's successful.
Even if Pierce is denied the funds, Boles would love to see the council up-and-running.
Boles shared that Court Commissioner Julia Gehring has announced her retirement, effective next year.
Gehring has been with the county at least 25 years and has served in that position the entire time.