Dane County Circuit Court Judge, Branch 16

Six-year term


Rhonda L. Lanford, Incumbent


Rhonda L. Lanford

Madison, WI 53715

1. What have you learned from your professional and community experience that will assist you in working with people from diverse personal, economic, and social backgrounds who will come before you in court? I grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin, with parents who had elementary school educations and worked manual labor jobs. I lived below the poverty line for most of my youth. When I took the bench, I already had perspective on diverse personal, economic and social backgrounds. I strongly believe, as I did before I took the bench, that it is critical for judges to respect everyone regardless of their background.

2. Would you recuse yourself from all cases in which one of the parties has made a substantial contribution to your election campaign? Why or why not? I believe that recusal should be decided on a case-by-case basis. For this campaign, I do not have an opponent and have accepted no contributions.

3. What should the Circuit Court do about the disproportionate rate of incarceration of minorities? A fact that is often overlooked is that a circuit court judge does not choose who comes before him or her. Before being sentenced, an individual must have been arrested by law enforcement, charged with a crime by the district attorney’s office, and found guilty after a jury trial or plea. When it comes to sentencing, cases must be looked at individually without regard to race. When sentencing a convicted defendant, the court must consider the gravity of the offense, the character of the defendant, and the need to protect the public. When I sentence a defendant, race is not a factor.

4. What is another important issue facing the Dane County Circuit Court, and how would you address it? Opioid addiction is a critical issue facing Dane County. Our citizens are losing jobs, committing crime and dying due to the opioid crisis. Fortunately, the Dane County justice system has four programs to address and treat opioid addiction among those in the criminal justice system — drug treatment court, drug diversion court, veterans treatment court and the deferred prosecution program. I have received training on addiction and the criminal justice treatment responses. I am one of the judges involved in these treatment programs.