Vol. 76, No. 4, April
Meet Wisconsin's Congressional
Sen. Russ Feingold (D): Serves on the Senate Budget,
Foreign Relations, and Judiciary committees, and on the Special
Committee on Aging; first elected to U.S. Senate in 1992. Wisconsin
office: 1600 Aspen Commons, Middleton, WI 53562-4716, (608) 828-1200
(additional Wisconsin offices listed on Web site). Washington office:
506 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510-4904, (202)
224-5323. Email: senate Russell_Feingold feingold gov feingold Russell_Feingold senate gov.
Web site: feingold.senate.gov.
Education: Harvard University Law School, 1979, with honors.
Residence: Middleton, Wis.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D): 2nd Congressional District;
serves on the House Budget and Judiciary committees; first elected to
U.S. House of Representatives in 1998. Wisconsin office: 10 E. Doty St.,
Suite 405, Madison, WI 53703, (608) 258-9800. Washington office: 1022
Longworth Bldg., Washington, DC 20515, (202) 225-2906. Email: house tammybaldwin mail gov mail tammybaldwin house gov.
Web site: tammybaldwin.house.gov.
Education: U.W. Law School, 1989. Residence: Madison, Wis.
Former Rep. Tom Barrett (D): Formerly U.S
congressman for the 5th Congressional District (1992-2002); served on
the House Energy & Commerce, Judiciary, Banking & Financial
Services, and Government Reform & Oversight committees. First
elected to U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. Reelected four times.
Currently, attorney, Reinhart, Boerner Van Deuren s.c. Mailing address:
100 N. Water St., Suite 2100, Milwaukee WI 53202, (414) 298-8177. Email:
com tbarrett reinhartlaw reinhartlaw tbarrett com.
Education: U.W. Law School, 1980. Residence: Milwaukee, Wis.
Rep. Mark Green (R): 8th Congressional District;
serves on the House Banking and Financial Services, International
Relations, Judiciary, and Republican Policy committees; first elected to
U.S. House of Representatives in 1998. Wisconsin office: 700 E. Walnut
St., Green Bay, WI 54301, (920) 437-1954. Washington office: 1314
Longworth Bldg., Washington, DC 20515, (202) 225-5665. Email: house mark.green mail gov mail mark.green house gov.
Web site: www.house.gov/markgreen.
Education: U.W. Law School, 1987. Residence: Green Bay, Wis.
Rep. Ron Kind (D): 3rd Congressional District;
serves on the House Budget, Education and Work Force, and Resources
committees; first elected to U.S. House of Representatives in 1996.
Wisconsin office: 205 Fifth Ave. South, Suite 227, La Crosse, WI 54601,
( 608) 782-2558. Washington office: 1406 Longworth Bldg., Washington, DC
20515, (202) 225-5506. Email: house kind mail gov mail kind house gov. Web site: www.house.gov/kind.
Education: Univ. Minnesota Law School, 1990. Residence: La Crosse,
Rep. Tom Petri (R): 6th Congressional District;
serves on the House Education and Work Force (vice chair) and
Transportation and Infrastructure (vice chair) committees; first elected
to U.S. House of Representatives in 1979. Wisconsin office: 490 W.
Rolling Meadows Dr., Fond du Lac, WI 54937, (920) 922-1180. Washington
office: 2462 Rayburn Bldg., Washington, DC 20515, (202) 225-2476. Email:
house Petri mail gov mail Petri house gov. Web
Education: Harvard University Law School, 1965. Residence: Fond du
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R): 5th Congressional
District; serves as chair of the House Judiciary Committee; first
elected to U.S. House of Representatives in 1978. Wisconsin office: 120
Bishops Way, Rm. 154, Brookfield, WI 53005-6294, (262) 784-1111.
Washington office: 2449 Rayburn Bldg., Washington, DC 20515-4905, (202)
225-5101. Email: house Sensenbrenner mail gov mail Sensenbrenner house gov.
Web site: www.house.gov/sensenbrenner.
Education: U.W. Law School, 1968. Residence: Menomonee Falls,
Four Wisconsin Lawyers on Judiciary
Committees; Sensenbrenner Chairs
The committees on the Judiciary in the House and Senate often are
described as the lawyers for Congress. As such, these committees grapple
with far-ranging legal issues: civil rights, antitrust, criminal
justice, intellectual property, terrorism, immigration, and more.
In the committees' histories, Wisconsin lawyers have figured
prominently. John Jenkins was the House Judiciary Committee chair from
1903 to 1909. Alexander Wiley served as chair of the Senate Judiciary
Committee from 1947 to 1949 and was a committee member for more than two
decades. And Robert Kastenmeier sat on the House Judiciary Committee for
32 years, from 1959 to 1991, an era that witnessed groundbreaking
legislation in such areas as civil rights and copyright laws for the
Today, three Wisconsin attorneys (James Sensenbrenner, Tammy Baldwin,
and Mark Green) number among the 37 House Judiciary Committee members,
and attorney Russ Feingold serves on the 19-member Senate Judiciary
Committee. Sensenbrenner, a 24-year veteran of the House committee and
chair since January 2001, is the third Wisconsinite in congressional
history to chair either the House or Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sensenbrenner had been chair only a few months when antiterrorism
legislation took center stage shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. He remembers
when he first heard about the Justice Department's plan to push for the
USA Patriot Act. "I found out about it when I saw Ashcroft on one of the
Sunday morning talking-head shows as I was getting out of the shower at
my cottage near Oconomowoc," he recalls. "I made a call to John Conyers
[the leading Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee] and said, 'This
is big. We ought to work together on this.'"
Sensenbrenner was determined that the proposed law should go through
his committee, rather than being grabbed up by the House leadership.
Going through committee is the way the legislative process is supposed
to work, he emphasizes. And he believes his committee's product
validates the merits of that process.
"I'm proud of the fact," he says, "that our committee, which has some
of the most conservative and libertarian Republicans and some of the
most liberal and civil libertarian Democrats, voted out our version of
the bill unanimously. We were able to come up with a work product that
was considerably better than what the Justice Department originally sent
to us." In the end, he adds, the House's bill was more protective of
civil liberties than the Senate version, which was hammered out by the
then Senate Democratic leadership, rather than in the Senate Judiciary
Creating the bill was the hardest thing he has ever done in politics,
Sensenbrenner says. "The tough part of the USA Patriot Act," he
explains, "was attempting to balance the need for improved law
enforcement capabilities with the respect for civil liberties that our
Striking that balance remains the key challenge as the Patriot Act,
Homeland Security Act, and other antiterrorism measures are implemented
and as new bills, such as a possible second Patriot Act, surface. "These
aren't situations when a law passes and you feel sort of gleeful,"
points out fellow House Judiciary Committee member Green. "You walk back
from the Capitol saying, 'Boy, I hope I did the right thing.'"
Baldwin notes that a key role for the judiciary committees of both
houses will be to monitor how these laws become implemented. "Under the
leadership of Chairman Sensenbrenner," she says, "our committee has
already begun to do that in terms of demanding that the Department of
Justice answer a series of questions about their use of their expanded
On the Senate side, Feingold says asking those kinds of questions
aligns with one of his major reasons for running for Congress in the
first place. "I always felt that if I had a chance to be a senator," he
says, "that I would want to try, first and foremost, to protect the
Constitution, which I consider to be one of the geniuses of our nation.
We have to renew our commitment to it every day."
Tracking the Issues
Here is the status of issues Wisconsin's congressional delegates are
tracking and, where it has taken one, the State Bar's position.
Medical Malpractice Reform. Legislation introduced
under H.R. 5, the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost, Timely
Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2003, makes changes to the health care
liability system, including various caps on noneconomic and punitive
damages, among other provisions. The legislation would preempt state
laws under certain circumstances. H.R. 5 was introduced by Congressman
James Greenwood (R-PA) and approved by the U.S. House of Representatives
on March 13 by a vote of 229-196. The State Bar of Wisconsin has a
long-standing position in opposition to legislatively set caps on
Bankruptcy Reform. On Feb. 27, 2003, Congressman
James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), chair of the House Judiciary Committee,
introduced bankruptcy reform legislation, H.R. 975. But for a provision
involving the discharge of debts (that is, previously referred to as the
Schumer amendment), H.R. 975 virtually mirrors legislation introduced
last session in Congress. H.R. 975 passed the House Judiciary Committee
on March 12 by an 18-11 vote. The House passed the measure on March 19
by a 315 - 113 vote.
Gramm-Leach-Bliley. In 2001, banking legislation
dubbed "Gramm- Leach-Bliley" was enacted. The new law included a notice
provision with which "financial institutions" must comply. The
definition of "financial institutions," as interpreted by the Federal
Trade Commission, applied to any business "significantly engaged" in
activities deemed to be financial in nature, including tax planning and
tax return preparation and debt collections among others. The FTC ruling
roped in many law firms. Recently introduced legislation under H.R. 781,
the Privacy Protection Clarification Act, exempts lawyers from the
application of Gramm-Leach-Bliley, Title V. The State Bar of Wisconsin
supports exempting lawyers from Gramm-Leach-Bliley. H.R. 781 was
introduced by Congresswomen Biggert (R-IL) and Maloney (D-NY) and has
been referred to the House Financial Services Committee.
Death Penalty. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)
reintroduced the National Death Penalty Moratorium Act of 2003 under S.
132. The legislation places a moratorium on the federal death penalty
and calls on states to do the same, pending findings by the National
Commission on the Death Penalty, established under this legislation.
S.132 was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Asbestos Litigation. Legislation entitled the
Asbestos Claims Criteria and Compensation Act of 2003 was introduced
under S. 413 by Sen. Don Nichols (R-OK).
S. 413, as its purpose statement lays out, "provides for the fair and
efficient judicial consideration of personal injury and wrongful death
claims arising out of asbestos exposure, to ensure that individuals who
suffer harm, now or in the future, from illnesses caused by exposure to
asbestos receive compensation for their injuries, and for other
purposes." The legislation has been referred to the Senate Judiciary