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LCO Tribal Member Sworn In as New Sawyer County Judge; A First in County's History

By Joe Morey

News Editor

Judge John Yackel swears in Monica Isham

The investiture of new Sawyer County Circuit Judge, Monica Isham, took place on Friday, August 12, at the new courthouse addition for the purpose of adding a second judge.


Isham, who is the first female and Native American elected to judge in Sawyer County, will serve as Branch 2 judge. Terms for circuit judges in Wisconsin are six years.


Branch 1 Judge John Yackel welcomed Isham to the position which began a ceremony that was attended by judges and officials from all over northern Wisconsin. The ceremony was viewed by many Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) tribal members through watch parties held at the Sevenwinds Casino Convention Center and the LCO Ojibwe University.

Isham hugs her children as judges look on. Front row from left are LCO Judge Elaine Smith, Chief Judge Maureen Boyle and Judge Yackel.

The election of Isham to the Sawyer County bench is historical for the county but also for the LCO Tribe, as she is a member of LCO. During her speech she explained how she overcame barriers to rise to the position coming from a “poor Rez house” on the Reservation, divorced parents, both of whom were first in their families to go to college. Her father is former LCO Chairman Mic Isham.


“If I can do it, any of you can,” Isham stated.


The Chief Judge of the 10th District of Wisconsin, Maureen Boyle, also gave a welcome speech to Isham telling her that she is about to enter a wonderful phase of your life working as a judge in the 10th District.


“Call on us judges, we all work together in deciding our cases based on the law and the facts,” Boyle stated.


The 10th District is made up of 14 counties and 31 judges in northern Wisconsin, along with numerous municipal and tribal judges.


“On behalf of the 10th, it is my privilege to congratulate you on your investiture,” Boyle told Isham.


LCO Attorney General James Schlender Jr. also spoke at the event and said he has known Isham since she was three years old having worked with Mic Isham through the years.


“Congrats to all of your accomplishments,” Schlender said. “I’m honored to have someone who embraces our ideals and where we come from be chosen to this position.”


LCO Chief Judge Elaine Smith also spoke to Isham. She said Isham’s personality comes out in all she does and you can’t help but to like her.


“I was appointed LCO Chief Judge in 2019 and she was the Child Support Attorney. I was able to observe her work habits and I know she’ll bring them to the county bench,” Smith said. “I also want to continue the great relationship our Tribe and Sawyer County courts have.”


Isham’s father introduced her and said that ever since she was a young child she had said she wanted to be a judge.


Isham came back to LCO and served as the LCO Child Support Attorney after achieving her law degree. When the Branch 2 position was created after a long struggle at the state level to get another judge in Sawyer County, approved by the Sawyer County Board of Supervisors and one of 12 new judges awarded by the state, Isham threw her name in for the election.


“This is a historic day for Sawyer County,” Judge Monica Isham said after taking the oath administered by Judge John Yackel. “Sawyer County is a special place and so is my LCO Community and I did this not only for my family, but to advance our community and my people. It was my desire to benefit my community.”


Isham went on to say, “My LCO Community, you encouraged me, supported me as I followed this dream.”


LCO Tribal Governing Board members presented Isham with a blanket. In attendance were Gary "Little Guy" Clause, Sec-Treasurer Bill Trepanier, Michelle Beaudin and LCO Chairman Louis Taylor. Not pictured was LCO Vice Chairman Tweed Shuman who also serves as Sawyer County Board Chairman.


Isham appearing here with Tribal Judges.


Photos from Monica Isham's Facebook Page.

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