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Gunning for the gavel

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Kara Burgos graduated from Marquette University in 1995 with a law degree. She talked to the Tribune about her recent announcement of running for circuit court judge in La Crosse.

1. How did you decide to be a judge? Was this always a dream of yours?

It always has been a dream. My father was a police officer in NYC and from very early on, I knew the law and order of things and the importance of community. I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer, and that one day I would be a judge. In our community, we have judges who have been on the bench for many years so that position rarely opens, but one just has, and it's the right time in my career and life to run.

2. How did your dad's job as a detective influence your work?

He always instilled in us a sense of right and wrong — that everybody needs to look out for each other in the community. He always left an impression on me that there is good in everyone and everyone needs a helping hand at times. I followed along thinking this is the best way I can help people, and arguing has been a strong suit of mine, as well as being able to advocate for people. I also consider myself a counselor too.

3. Are you excited to be a judge? Is there anything you're worried or nervous about being a judge?

I am a litigation attorney, so I'm very familiar with the court and the work of a judge. I also spend a lot of time researching the law and writing from a perspective, and that combination has allowed me to put my talent to work. I'm a people person and I go a long way to show respect and to have a genuine rapport with people to interpret the laws. I am worried about getting to the point when we have two contested elections at the same time. I'm also nervous about the prospect of not reaching enough people to get me out there. Making the wrong decision always makes someone nervous, because what some may consider normal routine is a huge event in these people's lives.

4. What does running for circuit court judge entail?

Meeting as many people as possible, and letting people know what role of work I have done as a member of the community and as a lawyer. I let them know the clients I have represented and the work I have done in the court system. Our court system is not specialized — we hear all types of cases, and it's very important for people to understand what the person's background is and who they really are as a community member.

5. What will you have to do for your job?

This is a general court and we have routine, juvenile, criminal, probate and small courts that rotate on a two-week intake of cases, as well as a rotation of all civil cases filed in the county.

6. How did Marquette prepare you to work in law?

Marquette offered me broad opportunities in a range of fields. I was able to have practical work experiences, in clinic and internships. I worked in my second and third years for various employers. I couldn't compare these opportunities to anything else — it gave me real-world experience. When I began to work as a lawyer, I felt I already had a base to work with.

7. What was your favorite thing about being at Marquette?

I enjoyed the urban atmosphere in a relatively small campus. The class sizes were very beneficial in terms of being able to gain the most out of a class with the teacher to student ratio. You're in a city that offers so much at your fingertips.

8. What experience do you have?

I moved to La Crosse and I was at the same firm for 11 years. I think that says something about the quality of people I worked with. I deal a lot with children, the criminal and juvenile systems, and with victims of abuse or neglect. I'm on boards representing children and advocating prevention programs for parents. I'm also on a special panel for ethical complaints against lawyers. It's important to assure the public being a lawyer isn't the fox in the henhouse situation — the public needs to know that they're getting someone honest. We ensure that any complaints with lawyers are investigated and dealt with.

9. What issue are you most passionate about?

I have two children of my own, so I know the reality of working families. There are many things that contribute to the problems in our society and many programs out there, but it's a matter of getting people to ask for help and to know about the programs. We're trying to keep families united by providing help and protecting children. If we can have parents work toward keeping a job and keeping a home, it can be successful.

10. When is the election?

February 2007 is the primary and the general is in April 2007. There will be some upcoming forums when candidates talk about themselves. There have been some parades, and I'm doing various speaking engagements, litigation and work with children.

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