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Judge Troy Cross Swearing In

Columbia County Circuit Judge Troy Cross dons his robe with the help of his wife, Nicky, after taking his oath Tuesday.

Troy Cross was robed and presented with his gavel during a ceremony Tuesday as he became a Columbia County Circuit Court judge, a case study in persistence.

Cross was elected in April to the court’s Branch 3 seat after three unsuccessful runs for the county bench.

The courtroom was filled with members of the legal and law enforcement communities as Cross sat with his family at the front of the room.

After entering with a procession of current and retired circuit and federal court judges, who watched from the jury box, Cross was introduced to the room by three Columbia County judges: retired judges Daniel George and Alan White, and current Branch 1 Judge Todd Hepler.

George, who retired from Branch 1 in 2015, recounted how Cross came to Columbia County, where he has been an assistant district attorney for 19 years, prosecuting hundreds of criminal cases, including some of the most notable in the county’s history.

When George decided not to run for re-election, Hepler defeated Cross in an election for the seat. It was the third time Cross was beaten out in a county judicial election, after previous runs in 2006 and 2011.

White took to the podium before presenting the gavel to Cross, and explained how he came to know Cross as a defense attorney, then as a competitor for the Branch 3 seat, and as a judge, with Cross and White both instrumental in the developmental in the Columbia County OWI Treatment Court.

When the moment came, Cross’s wife, Nicky, with their children Josie and Chance, assisted him into his robe.

“I want to thank my wife for sticking with me through these election processes, even though sometimes we wondered what we were doing,” Cross said. “I want to thank my children and my mom for all their help and support.”

After the ceremony, guests were able to examine the judicial chambers, including Cross’ new office, now adorned with sports memorabilia and Marvel Comics and Star Wars figures among a line of bobbleheads. Cross described the experience as a relief after a long buildup.

White announced his retirement in the spring of 2017 (to take effect in September), leading to an application process among candidates seeking appointment by Gov. Scott Walker. Cross was among four applicants, but Walker opted not to appoint any of them and leave the seat vacant until after the spring election. Cross emerged from a four-way primary election in February, and in April narrowly defeated Sauk County Assistant Corporation Counsel and former Columbia County Assistant District Attorney Brenda Yaskal to win a spot on the bench.

Cross was elected with 5,059 votes to Yaskal’s 4,974. With elections decided, Walker opted to appoint the winner, seating Cross with a term that began Sunday. Without the appointment, Cross would not have taken his seat on the bench until next month.

Although his ceremony was Tuesday afternoon, his first case presiding as a judge was earlier that day, followed by the weekly OWI Treatment Court meeting.

“My first hearing was a motion to substitute me as a judge,” Cross said. “It’s part of the deal. Everyone has that right following the statue, so that’s what happens.”

In between, Cross has shadowed other judges to get a sense of how he would like to manage his courtroom.

“I’m going to be in Sauk County tomorrow and the day after,” Cross said. “I’ve been in Dane County and in Rock County.”

When the schedule will settle closer to his day-to-day routine, such as taking his turn in the monthly rotation of bond hearings and jail intake sessions, has yet to be finalized.

“It’s a great achievement, I’m really proud of him,” Nicky Cross said. “It was lovely.”

Follow Jonathan Stefonek on Twitter @StefonekNews or contact him at 608-745-3510

Reporter, Portage Daily Register