Thomas Hruz is an Appellate Judge for the Wisconsin Court system. The position of an Appellate Judge is to look over cases that have been appealed from Circuit Court and decide if the lower court made the correct decision. The main theme in this process is spotting mistakes.
While he loves his position now, Hruz did not always have this in mind. High school was when he first began reading about philosophy and history, which is what sparked his initial interest in the judicial proceedings. He continued to learn about these different topics and theories in college. Hruz decided that this is what he needed to do. Hruz said, “Contributing as a judge and doing that well can really have an impact, and help keep our government afloat.”
Because of his desire to make an impact, Hruz decided to pursue a degree in law. “The legal system as a whole always interested me because it really can be a foundation of a civil and just society,” he said. After graduating from UW Milwaukee, he studied government at UW Madison, going on to pursue law school in Marquette. Throughout his years of schooling, he took on several jobs, including being a lawyer for a period of time. In this position, he frequently found himself leaning towards the truly correct solution rather than always the side he was representing. Hruz was elected to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals for District III in 2014. He stated that being a judge was his true calling in law. He stated, “And that’s what I love about being a judge. It’s that when an issue or problem comes before me, I’m not beholden to one side or the other.”
Although it seems like judges are always hearing cases in court, Hruz spends most of his time in an office setting. On a daily basis, he can usually be found researching files and briefs. Other times, he is examining and writing the opinion for cases that have been individually assigned to him. While this can be enjoyable, he noted that “it’s a very insulated lifestyle.” He said, “There’s a lot of loneliness. I mean, we don’t interact with a lot of people.” To get out of the office and work in a different atmosphere, Hruz and his colleagues occasionally go to a coffee shop and work there for the day. Another piece that makes the job hard is confidentiality. “We can’t talk to people about what we’re working on because we have to be confidential about these cases,” Hruz said. “You’ll be working all day on this really high-profile case, but you can’t really talk to anyone about it because you can’t tell people what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
Besides these few downfalls of the job, Thomas Hruz really enjoys his position, specifically “reading both sides’ arguments and determining what is the correct outcome and why.” He said, “That challenge is what I love about the job; just writing a persuasive, well-written opinion.” By communicating with others and hearing different opinions, he said this helps contribute to the challenge that makes his job so enjoyable.
Hruz sees a variety of case topics in his position, but one of his favorite cases was Murr vs. Wisconsin. This case concerned a family that owned two spreads of land, and the government was preventing them from selling one of them because they were owned by the same family. It turned out that this was violating 5th Amendment rights. Hruz said regarding the case, “We knew that there was a potential really important issue to be decided.” After a few years, this made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the final opinion was written this past June. “Watching that process unfold was really exciting, and knowing that we had a hand in that,” he said.
Thomas Hruz has learned a lot as a judge, but his main advice involves being unbiased and objective. He said, “Even if you have opinions about politics when it comes to the law you have to be much more open-minded to be fair because the law exists to give some stability in rights.” He also gave another piece of advice that can even be applied to life in general: “Learn, learn and learn, and be open-minded.”