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  • Rotunda Report
    August 01, 2013

    Three Recommended for Western District Judge


    Aug. 1, 2013 Three names have been submitted to President Barack Obama for the position of U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin.  U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin made their recommendations on Thursday to the President following the work of the Federal Nominating Commission.

    Judge Michael Fitzpatrick, Attorney James D. Peterson, and U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil will be considered to fill the position left vacant by the retirement and subsequent death of Judge John Shabaz.

    For more information read the following press release from Senators Johnson and Baldwin.

    Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin announced today their agreement to recommend to the White House three Wisconsinites for consideration to fill the open U.S. Federal District Judgeship for the Western District of Wisconsin.

    The candidates, Michael R. Fitzpatrick, James D. Peterson, and John W. Vaudreuil were among those recommended by a bipartisan Federal Nominating Commission that the Wisconsin Senators established in April to move federal nominations forward, including vacant federal judgeships in Wisconsin.

    “I really appreciate all the energy and time spent by the bipartisan Judicial Commission to help examine the numerous highly qualified candidates that applied to serve the state of Wisconsin as a Federal Judge. The hard work by the Commissioners and the State Bar will benefit the Western District for years to come,” Johnson said. “I also want to especially thank Senator Baldwin for working with me to set up the Commission and fill this important judicial vacancy in a balanced, bipartisan way. This is a win for the citizens of Wisconsin.”

    “I am proud to have worked together with Senator Johnson to put in place a commission and process for moving judicial nominations forward. The people of Wisconsin deserve to have these vacancies filled with qualified public servants working for them,” Baldwin said, “I want to thank the commission for their hard work and service to move this process forward for the people of Wisconsin. Each of the nominees Senator Johnson and I are recommending to President Obama are experienced, highly qualified, and would make an outstanding federal district judge.”

    The Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission consists of six Wisconsinites who are members of the Wisconsin State Bar. Each Senator appointed three members to the Commission and designated one of them to serve as co-chair.

    "It has been a pleasure to work on this judicial commission.  I want to thank both Senators for their commitment to the process and commitment to getting this long standing vacancy filled," said Michelle A. Behnke, Senator Baldwin’s Co-Chair on the commission.

    “The bipartisan process established by Senators Johnson and Baldwin allowed the Commissioners to work together to recommend a group of candidates that would all serve as excellent judges for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.  We are very pleased that this vacancy will be filled shortly and look forward to continuing our work to assist the Senators with other judicial vacancies throughout the state,” said Paul Swanson, Senator Johnson’s Co-Chair on the commission. 

    For a copy of the Wisconsin senators' letter of recommendation to the White House, click here.

    Candidates for U.S. Federal District Judgeship for the Western District of Wisconsin

    Michael R. Fitzpatrick is a Circuit Judge in Rock County, Wisconsin. He presides over civil and criminal cases.

    Judge Fitzpatrick is a member of the Wisconsin Civil Judicial Benchbook Committee and formerly served on the Wisconsin Judicial Education Committee. In 2010, he served on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals through the Judicial Exchange Program. Judge Fitzpatrick often serves on the faculty for seminars for Wisconsin Judges, including three-day seminars for Judges on evidence. He is also a frequent speaker on various topics at attorney seminars. Judge Fitzpatrick continues to serve on the Wisconsin State Bar Professional Ethics Committee. He is a Jurist in, and a Past President of, the James E. Doyle Chapter of the American Inns of Court.

    Prior to taking the Bench, Michael Fitzpatrick was Chair of the Litigation Practice Group at the law firm of Brennan, Steil & Basting, S.C. While in private practice, he had an “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell and was named one of Wisconsin’s “Superlawyers” by Milwaukee Magazine in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Judge Fitzpatrick is a Past President of the Western District Bar Association (the federal court bar association for the western half of Wisconsin). From 1984 to 1985 he was the law clerk to the Honorable R. James Groh, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin.

    Judge Fitzpatrick is a 1980 graduate of Drake University and a 1984 graduate of the Drake Law School.

    James D. Peterson is a member of the Intellectual Property and Litigation Practice Groups in the Madison office of Godfrey & Kahn and he is the leader of the firm’s Intellectual Property Litigation Working Group.

    For the last 14 years, his professional life has been substantially devoted to practice for the firm and its national clients in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. In addition to his work in the Western District of Wisconsin, he has appeared before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears appeals of patent cases from district courts across the country.

    Peterson is the president of the Western District of Wisconsin Bar Association, which he has long served as a member of its board of governors. The mission of the association is to work with attorneys, the court, and the public to facilitate the just, speedy, respectful and efficient resolution of all matters before the court - qualities that have been hallmarks of the Western District of Wisconsin.

    He earned his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School, in 1998, where he was an officer of the Moot Court, and a member of the Wisconsin Law Review and the Order of the Coif. From 1998 to 1999, he served as law clerk to the Honorable David G. Deininger (now retired) of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. He is member of the adjunct faculty of the University of Wisconsin Law School, having taught copyright law and public speaking workshops for law students. He received his Ph.D. in communication from the University of Wisconsin in 1986. Prior to his career in law, Jim was a faculty member at the University of Notre Dame, where he taught film and television history.

    John W. Vaudreuil took the oath of office as the United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin on August 10, 2010. Vaudreuil, a native of Rice Lake, Wis., was appointed by President Barack Obama.

    The United States Attorney acts as the chief federal law enforcement official for the Western District of Wisconsin, which includes 44 counties, or roughly the western two-thirds of Wisconsin. In addition to anti-terrorism efforts, the office prosecutes violations of federal law, including drug, firearm, child pornography, and white collar offenses, and represents the United States in both affirmative and defensive civil actions.

    As United States Attorney, Vaudreuil now leads the office in which he has devoted his entire legal career. He was first appointed as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin in 1980. In 1992 the U.S. Department of Justice designated Vaudreuil as Senior Litigation Counsel, and he has served as the chief of the office’s Criminal Division since June 2002. An experienced trial lawyer, Vaudreuil has prosecuted thousands of cases, including major fraud, public corruption, environmental crimes, murder, tax evasion, bank robberies, and drug conspiracies.

    Vaudreuil also has national and international teaching experience. From 1987 to 2002, he taught Evidence and Trial Advocacy to law students at the University of Wisconsin Law School. From 1992 to the present, he has taught thousands of U.S. prosecutors regarding evidence, trial advocacy, and criminal procedure. Since 2001 he has supported the rule of law efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice, teaching prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in Albania, the Czech Republic, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Macedonia, Uzbekistan, Kosovo, Republic of Georgia, Russia, Serbia, Uganda, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Estonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    Vaudreuil has received numerous awards and commendations for his work, including: a 1997 Justice Department Award for Superior Performance as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for prosecuting a drug conspiracy case involving two brutal murders; a 1999 special commendation from the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division for prosecuting a multi-defendant Clean Air Act criminal case involving the use of homeless individuals in the illegal removal of asbestos during a large building demolition project; and a 2006 Justice Department Award for Superior Performance by a Litigative Team in leading the prosecution of a large gang/drug case on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in northwest Wisconsin, which resulted in 48 convictions. In 2004 he was named a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.

    Vaudreuil is a double Badger. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1976 and received his law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1979.

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