Judges and Staff

There are three branches of the Milwaukee Municipal Court. Each of the three judges is elected to preside over a specific branch. All branches hear the same types of cases with hearing schedules that rotate from week to week.

Presiding Judge Phil Chavez is responsible for establishing judicial policy and guidelines. He does this in consultation with the other municipal judges and the Chief Court Administrator, Sheldyn M. Himle. The Chief Court Administrator reports to the Presiding Judge.

A dedicated staff of about 30 employees assists the judges in their duty of administering justice at the municipal level. The Chief Court Administrator manages the staff, makes sure that the court has adequate resources, and that court resources are used in accordance with court mission and strategic objectives.

Judge Valarie Hill

was elected in the April 2004 Spring Election to Branch 1 of the Municipal Court. From 1998 until her election to the bench, she served as a Milwaukee County Judicial Court Commissioner, where she presided over thousands of misdemeanor, felony, traffic, juvenile and small claims cases. Previously, Judge Hill served as a Deputy First Assistant, Senior Assistant and Assistant State Public Defender in the Milwaukee Trial Office where she was a member of the management team and handled thousands of criminal and administrative matters for indigent defendants. Judge Hill graduated from The Ohio State University and the University of Akron School of Law where she received the Black Law Student Association Highest GPA Award. She is active in numerous community-based organizations and is a member of the Wisconsin, Milwaukee and National Bar Associations as well as the National Association of Women Judges.

Judge Molly Gena

was elected in the April 2023 Spring Election to Branch 2 of the Municipal Court. From 2007 until her election she worked as an attorney for Legal Action of Wisconsin, a nonprofit civil legal aid law firm, where she provided free civil legal services to those who could not afford legal representation. She was the Managing Attorney for several years and before that served as the supervising attorney of the Center for Driver’s License Recovery and Employability, a partnership that assists Milwaukee County residents who have suspended or revoked driver’s licenses in obtaining their licenses. As an attorney, she practiced extensively in many municipal and circuit courts throughout the state. Judge Gena graduated cum laude with her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and earned her B.A. from Case Western Reserve University, where she graduated magna cum laude. She has been published in the Wisconsin Law Review. She has served on many non-profit boards and volunteered for many community organizations. In addition, she currently serves on the Courts Committee of the Milwaukee Bar Association and the Advisory Board of the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic.

Judge Phil Chavez

was elected in the April 2007 Spring Election to Branch 3 of the Municipal Court where he is currently serving his fourth consecutive 4-year term. From 2002 until his election to the City of Milwaukee bench, he served as a substitute judge in all three branches of the Milwaukee Municipal Court where he presided over thousands of cases. Previously, Judge Chavez served as a Municipal Judge for the Village of Mount Horeb in Dane County, Wisconsin where he was elected twice (2002, 2004) for two-year terms. Judge Chavez earned his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, lettering in football as a member of the 1994 Rose Bowl Championship team, and earned his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School. He is serving as the current Presiding Judge, after previously serving in the role from 2012 - 2017. He is active in Veterans Stand Down where he provides community court for homeless and indigent veterans, volunteer coaches high school football, was a certified substitute teacher for grades K-12 and sat on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics-Wisconsin for 11+ years.

Tea B. Norfolk

was appointed as the Municipal Court’s Chief Court Administrator in June 2024, after serving in the City’s Legislative Reference Bureau since June, 2016. She came to the City with an editorial and legal background. Prior to City service, she was a judicial law clerk with Wisconsin’s District 1 Court of Appeals after having practiced law with a private law firm in Milwaukee. She received her J.D. from Marquette University Law School in 2014. Prior to law school, she received her M.F.A. in writing and publishing and worked as a writer and editor for more than a decade. Her B.A. is in English and secondary education, and she was certified as a Wisconsin Certified Public Manager in 2024.

Charles D. Hughes

was appointed as the Municipal Court Deputy Court Administrator in January, 2023.  Mr. Hughes has been employed with the City of Milwaukee since January of 2012 working in various departments, such as the Department of Administration, Common Council – City Clerk’s Office, Department of Public Works, and the Department of Employee Relations (DER) prior to joining the Milwaukee Municipal Court.  While in DER Mr. Hughes worked for the Staffing Division for 5+ years performing various HR functions and later managing the DER – Certification section.  Mr. Hughes attended Bryant and Stratton College here in Milwaukee where he earned an A.A.S. degree in Accounting, and a B.B.A. (Management Emphasis) degree in 2011.  Mr. Hughes later attended Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee where he received a M.S. degree in Management in 2015.  Mr. Hughes has been a member of the City of Milwaukee’s Racial, Equity, and Inclusion (R.E.I.) leadership team since its creation in 2020.

Dawn M. Day Hourigan

was promoted to the Court Business Manager in February 2018 after serving as an Accounting Assistant III since April 2017. Mrs. Hourigan joined the Municipal Court in August 2016 after an 18 year career in the world of non-profit museum management. She is a UW-Milwaukee alumna with a Master’s Degree in Museology.

Mary A. O'Connor

assumed the role of Management Accounting Specialist in May, 2015, after previously serving as the Municipal Court's Administrative Services Supervisor from June, 2010. Ms. O'Connor came to the court from the Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD) where she worked as a supervisor in the Emergency Dispatch Center. Her work with the MFD began in 1991. She holds a Master's Degree in Business Management from Cardinal Stritch University.

Timothy T. Richter

joined the Court as IT Manager in January, 2020. Mr. Richter has provided IT leadership for a diverse portfolio of industries including digital media, finance, medical, law, education, association management and non-profit sectors. He is a graduate of Marquette University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and a Minor in History.


Court Organizational Chart