John M. Yackel was sworn into office Friday as Lincoln County Circuit Court Branch II judge during an investiture ceremony at the courthouse.
Yackel, 38, was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker to fill a vacancy left by the retirement of Judge Glenn Hartley, who had served on the Branch II bench since 2000.
Originally from Hayward, John is the son of retired Sawyer County Circuit Court Judge Norman Yackel.
Yackel said his father’s influence inspired him to become a lawyer and to aspire to be a judge.
“My father taught me that honesty, integrity and respect for others are the most important qualities a man can have,” he said.
Yackel’s first job out of law school was clerking for the Court of Appeals in Wausau for two years. Since then he has been in private practice in Wausau, handling a wide variety of cases including civil, personal injury, criminal defense, business disputes, guardianship, family and mental commitments. He has practiced law in courtrooms throughout northcentral Wisconsin.
He said that broad breadth of experience helps ease the transition from the attorney’s table to the judge’s bench.
“The transition isn’t too bad considering all the areas of law I’ve practiced. There isn’t much I haven’t seen,” he said.
Yackel started work in Lincoln County Sept. 24. For the first four weeks he worked with other judges in the Ninth District mentoring program. He was mentored by both Hartley and Lincoln County Branch I Judge Jay Tlusty, along with judges in Taylor, Vilas and Marathon counties. He will start hearing cases on his own Oct. 22.
Yackel has been involved in a number of political campaigns, serving as chairman of the Marathon County Republican Party. He is also a member of the Optimist Club. He plans to be visible and active in the communities of Lincoln County.
“People will see me out and about,” he said.
He met his wife, Traci, while working at the Court of Appeals. He has two stepsons, one in high school and the other in college, and he and Traci recently found out she is pregnant.
Yackel said the judgeship in Lincoln County fits with his plans to stay in this part of the state.
“I’ve lived in northern Wisconsin my whole life,” he said. “When I graduated from law school, I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want to stay in Milwaukee, I didn’t want to go to Chicago, I wanted to stay in northern Wisconsin.”
Lincoln County Chief Deputy Nathan Walrath spoke on behalf of the Lincoln County law enforcement community at the investiture ceremony. Walrath and Sheriff Jeff Jaeger had the opportunity to meet with the judicial candidates during the selection process and were impressed with Yackel, Walrath said.
“I believe John possesses the attributes that will serve both him and our community well. I’m confident that Governor Walker made the right decision when selecting John,” Walrath said.
Yackel’s step-son Jacob Kaczmarowski spoke of the things he has learned from John over the years.
“John has been an important part of my life,” Jacob said. “I’m so proud of you and proud to be a part of your life.”
Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Michael Moran said he and Yackel have been friends for many years.
“He always struck me as someone who was committed to the practice of law and to his clients,” Moran said.
While Yackel chaired the county’s Republican Party, Moran chaired the Democratic Party. They remained friends even through heated political debates, Moran said.
“His strength is that he always listens,” Moran said. “We did agree to disagree and we could argue without getting confrontational or personal.”
Yackel said the opportunity to serve as Lincoln County judge is “humbling, fulfilling and exciting.”
Yackel said he will seek election to the office next spring. Merrill attorney Rob Russell has also already declared candidacy for the office. Yackel said with the number of people who applied for the judgeship, he expected there would be a contested election in the spring.
To be successful in the spring election, Yackel said he’ll have to prove himself to the citizens of Lincoln County.
“I need to become comfortable on the bench so people can gauge the type of judge I am,” he said.