Milwaukee County Historical Society

Interview with Judge Derek Mosley, November 11, 2021

MCHS Oral History Collection
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00:00:15 - Early Life

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Partial Transcript: [John]: To start, let's get some background. So, where and when were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Judge Derek Mosley goes though his early life, detailing his parents' jobs, and describing his childhood. He thought the whole world was Chicago, having a "great upbringing." He talks about his family, as his mother's conversion to Catholicism was a driving part of the family's faith. He also talks about his sister, who he got to know much better after college He then lists his schools, ultimately coming to law school at Marquette, bringing him to Milwaukee, where he describes the Midwestern politeness.

Keywords: Midwest; Parents; School; Sibling

Subjects: Chicago, IL; Childhood; Faith; Family; Marion Catholic High School; Marquette University; Upper Iowa University

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Chicago, IL
00:03:33 - Schooling/Beginnings of a Lawyer

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Ok, cool. So when you were in high school, what was your favorite subject.

Segment Synopsis: Judge Mosley details his love for English driving him to become a lawyer. When asked if there was a specific point where he thought he wanted to become a lawyer, he brings up a childhood story of watching a black prosecutor on Law & Order. When asked his favorite book, he claims to love the old masters like Chaucer, Dickens, and Shakespeare.

Keywords: Charles Dickens; English Literature; Geoffrey Chaucer; Law; Law & Order; Reading; Subject; William Shakespeare

Subjects: Education; Law School; Television

00:06:13 - Law School

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Partial Transcript: [John]: So, you go to law school, what was it like at Marquette?

Segment Synopsis: Judge Mosley talks about his life in law school at Marquette, claiming it to be his first choice, falling in love with Milwaukee. He describes his first experiences in law school without much diversity, going through the trials and tribulations of a law student.

Keywords: Catholic; Diversity; Lawyer; School; Socratic Method; Think

Subjects: Faith; Law School; Marquette University; Marquette University Law School

00:08:58 - After Law School

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Partial Transcript: [John]: And then, did you go straight into practice?

Segment Synopsis: Judge Mosley describes his life after law school, working as a Milwaukee County Prosecutor for eight years, eventually becoming a judge. One example he has from the prosecutor's office where he talks about "letting down" a young man who's mother wanted Mosley to mentor, leading to him working with Milwaukee's youth for most of his professional career, largely outside of the courtroom.

Keywords: Judge; Law & Order; Mentor; Prosecutor; Youth

Subjects: Juvenile; Milwaukee County; Milwaukee, WI; Passion; YMCA

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:12:31 - Running for Judge/Mentorship

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, so when you decided to run to be a judge, what was that experience like, of campaigning?

Segment Synopsis: Judge Mosely goes through his experiences running for judge, taking over for Louis Butler (first black WI Supreme Court justice), the having to run after that. He then goes through the mentorship program that he had met Butler through at Marquette's Law School, run through the university's Black Alumni Association.

Keywords: Appointee; Campaign; Diversity; Judge; Mentorship Program

Subjects: Marquette University Law School; Marquette University’s Black Alumni Association; Wisconsin; Wisconsin Supreme Court

00:14:40 - Most Segregated City in America

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Sure, um... How is, like, I don't know, it's often been said and there's a lot of proof behind it that Milwaukee being one of the most segregated cities in the United States. How is, you know, your adaption from Chicago to here, is it, some of the struggles from the populations the same? Or is it more intense in a smaller city?

Segment Synopsis: When asked about Milwaukee being one of the most segregated cities in the US, Judge Mosley emphasizes the incredible diversity in the city, that fails to connect with each other. He claims that Chicago has labelled the problem in a different way, leaning into the branding of these neighborhoods as separate from each other. Milwaukee separates itself through "sides" of the city, which does not positively promote that difference as much, but with the comparative size of the city, issues of crime are better proportionally than other similarly sized cities.

Keywords: Crime; Diversity; Neighborhoods; Segregation

Subjects: Branding; Chicago, IL; Milwaukee, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:16:55 - Day in the Life of a Judge

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, can you kind of take me through your average day as a judge?

Segment Synopsis: Judge Mosley goes through a day in the life of a Milwaukee County Judge. They have three sessions of court (morning, noon, and night), going through the different cycles of intake and pleas.

Keywords: Career; Cases

Subjects: Court; Judge; Milwaukee Co.; Milwaukee, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:18:53 - Focus of Cases

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Partial Transcript: [John]: I mean, you say that, so two things come to mind. One, is that, is there something with our legal system that is making the caseload so high, is that a good way to promote the world?

Segment Synopsis: Judge Mosley talks about the types of cases they get, with a special emphasis placed by Milwaukee PD on reckless driving cases throughout the city. And that focus takes away from other types of crimes throughout the city, describing the different "cycles" they go through, making their calendar fluctuate.

Keywords: Case; Milwaukee Police Department; Reckless Driving

Subjects: Court; Judge; Milwaukee, WI

00:20:11 - Catching COVID/Kidney

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, I want to cover, the biggest issue, you know, nationally, is the pandemic [Judge]: Yeah [John]: Um, so, what was your- I know you contracted COVID-19, so I want to talk about that, but let's kind of like go before that, and do you remember your first memory of COVID?

Segment Synopsis: Judge Mosley remembers his first experience learning about COVID, performing "business as usual" while an unknown pandemic was spreading, as they believed it to be only in other places. He remembers a cold-like illness coming on, struggling for breath at points. After a stay at the emergency room, he went into the ICU, which was "terrifying," especially because when he contacted COVID (March 2020), there was no known cure yet. So, they took him off of his immunosuppressive medication, which allowed his immune system to fight COVID. He also details his near-death experience in the ICU.

Keywords: COVID; Death; Illness; Intensive Care Unit; Kidney; Nurse; Pandemic Respose; Test

Subjects: 2020s; COVID-19 Pandemic; Court; Immune System; Pandemic; Transplant

00:29:31 - Leaving the ICU

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Did, uh, so what was it like leaving the hospital?

Segment Synopsis: Judge Mosley goes through what it was like leaving the ICU after his battle with COVID, as he had to be able to walk to be cleared to leave. After he returned home (on Easter Sunday), he wrote a Facebook post about the nurse who "saved [his] life," which ended up going viral, leading to that nurse seeing the post.

Keywords: COVID; Easter; Hospital; Intensive Care Unit; Nurse; Pandemic Response; Walk

Subjects: COVID-19 Pandemic; Home; Hope; Pandemic

00:31:36 - Politics of the Virus/Vaccine

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Partial Transcript: [John]: What was it like then, so this was really early on, before it even got like, hyper politicized. So, what has it been like for you as someone who is immunosuppressed, who had like, you know basically last rights given, what has it been like to see like such conflict between what's good and bad with Public Health?

Segment Synopsis: Judge Mosley discusses the politics of the virus, especially enraged by those who deny its existence. He also talks about getting the vaccine, specifically his lack of fear having "been through the worst." Even having received the vaccine and booster shot, Mosley is still careful about going out to social activities.

Keywords: COVID; Denial; Pandemic Response; Vaccine; Virus

Subjects: COVID-19 Pandemic; Pandemic; Politics; Public Health

00:33:45 - Justice in COVID

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Partial Transcript: [John]: What-um how has the pandemic impacted your job? Aside from getting sick?

Segment Synopsis: Judge Mosley goes through how his job has shifted due to COVID, especially with virtual court. He says that "everybody was showing up" to court, as attending from home made it easier on residents.

Keywords: Accessibility; COVID; Judge

Subjects: COVID-19 Pandemic; Career; Justice; Pandemic Response; Virtual

00:35:51 - Attacking Bias

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Sure, um, what do you see-kind of moving into some bigger picture questions-what do you see as some of the key issues or challenges regarding the legal profession generally?

Segment Synopsis: When asked the biggest problems facing the legal profession today, Judge Mosley describes the need to attack bias, which "finally" the court system has recognized, along with finding other ways to deal with people, claiming that "we can't incarcerate our way out of problems," citing the fact that the police get called for aspects of life that should be out of the scope of their job.

Keywords: Bias; Judge; Jury; Police

Subjects: Career; Justice; Law

00:37:32 - Equity in the Law Profession

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Sure, uh, you mentioned earlier in the interview that you were one of a few black students in law school, I guess that's a trend across the country. Um, you serve on the state bar of Wisconsin's minority recruitment committee. What- I mean what do you think is the- why do you think that is and what are the challenges and how do you- how do you make that- the, I guess you're talking about the representative of your peers and representative of you in the courtroom, how do you make that more equitable?

Segment Synopsis: Judge Mosley describes how equity in law schools has gone up since his graduation, which is a welcome change. He goes through what the process for a student of color at Marquette's Law School, with a focus on making them feel "welcomed."

Keywords: Diversity; Law School; Wisconsin State Bar Minorty Committee

Subjects: Belonging; Equity; Inclusion; Justice; Law

00:40:27 - Representative Object

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Sure, um, so we're a museum, we put on exhibitions, this is my favorite question to ask, is if we were to put on an exhibition and there was a Derek Mosley section in it, [Derek]: Yeah. [John]: What is the, like, object or artifact from your life or profession that you would use to represent yourself. [Derek]: Food.

Segment Synopsis: When asked an object that would represent him, Judge Mosley immediately picks food, as he is a huge "foodie." His rationale for why he loves food is that he sees it as the one thing that brings all humans together, and sees to disarm people to make them comfortable when talking. He then secondarily says his cell phone, as he claims to use it to help inform people of his community.

Keywords: Blog; Cell Phone; Foodie; Humor; Object

Subjects: Artifact; Communtiy; Food; Milwaukee County Historical Society