An Engaged Democracy… Trust in the Judicial Branch


June 6, 2023, Milwaukee: Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee welcomed Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz for a program called an “Engaged Democracy” held at Foley & Lardner on Wednesday. The conversation was facilitated by Heidi Furlong, a partner and business lawyer at Foley & Lardner LLP, who spoke with Justice Protasiewicz about the judicial branch, protecting the trust of the people and more. More than 100 people heard Justice Protasiewicz talk about her personal values, the campaign trail, and how trust in the judicial branch is so critical to our democracy.

“This is the first of three programs organized by the Women’s Fund.” says Monica Shah-Davidson, board chair. “We hope to expand our knowledge, hear from experts and engage in activities that make our democracy more representative. We were honored to have this opportunity with Justice Protasiewicz.”

Justice Protasiewicz shared that during her campaign, she focused on her personal values so voters understood her perspective. It was helpful that she explained how cases get to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the diligence of the Justices on getting familiar with detailed information related to each case before there is a ruling. Justice Protasiewicz also talked about her time as a Milwaukee County Judge indicating that, “every jury wants to get it right.” It was valuable to hear the Justice underscore how much trust is a fundamental aspect of our democracy.

Recognizing that convening the community is an integral part of our work, the other two programs include a dialogue with members of the Saint Paul City Council, who for the first time in history is all-woman city council and a keynote address by Erin Loos Cutraro, founder and CEO of She Should Run. Each is designed to provide information, connect people and create conversation that is dynamic, inclusive, and inter-generational. This allows for social change, a shift in attitudes, behaviors, and culture.

The Engaged Democracy program, sponsored by Herb Kohl Philanthropies and Marianne Lubar, also featured an exciting opportunity to elevate organizations that work on democracy issues and the courts by making Women’s Fund Flash Grants. The organizations selected are:

  • Common Cause in Wisconsin
  • Law Forward
  • League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison, School of Law, State Democracy Research Initiative
  • Sandra Day O’Connor Institute for American Democracy

All these organizations are non-partisan and either promote and protect fair courts, or pursue litigation in the courts to protect democratic principles. Click here for more information about each Flash Grant.

In 2024, the Women’s Fund is deploying investments to advocate for gender equity in our community. “With just 2% of all philanthropy in the USA in direct support of women and girls, our commitment to exclusively addressing issues and barriers that impact women is critical.” says WF Executive Director Lisa Attonito.

About Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee
The Women’s Fund is committed to shifting attitudes, behavior, and culture so that current societal norms about women and gender-expansive people are disrupted and systemic barriers are eliminated. Through the power of collective philanthropy, each gift unites people, shapes community consciousness, and promotes solutions that create gender equity. The Women’s Fund stands at the forefront of the women’s movement locally. Founded in 1986, and established as an independent organization in 2006, we remain committed to mobilizing philanthropy and fostering unity for gender equity, just as we’ve done for nearly four decades.

Lisa Attonito
Executive Director
Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee
414-290-7350 or