Candidate for President-elect
Jon P. Axelrod
DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C., Madison
I have accepted the invitation of the Nomination Committee to run for president of the State Bar, and am running because I feel inspired to give back to the public for the many opportunities my legal career has provided to me.
My biography below summarizes my experience and highlights some of the ways in which I have endeavored to make a positive influence on our profession. For example, during the past three years, I have served as president of the Fellows of the Wisconsin Law Foundation. Through hard work, we were able to substantially increase the money raised for the charitable work of the Foundation, as well as increase diversity among the Fellows. Earlier in my career, I had the great pleasure of serving the Wisconsin legal community as a member of several committees and boards.
The State Bar can more than ever be a progressive force to make our civil and criminal justice system more fair, our judiciary more independent, and our profession more skilled in serving the needs of the public.
My Platform for State Bar president includes:
- Persuade the Legislature and Wisconsin Supreme Court to provide law clerks for all Circuit Judges similar to the way that law clerks are provided to Supreme Court Justices and Court of Appeals Judges. Since most trial court decisions are not appealed, it is essential that Circuit Judges have the necessary resources to assist them in the decision-making process.
- Encourage law school graduates to practice in underserved areas of Wisconsin by providing money to forgive student loans for practice in such areas.
- Propose a constitutional amendment to enable attorneys with at least 25 years of experience to be eligible to become “Senior Circuit Judges” by appointment. Senior Circuit Judges would be specially assigned to complex cases and serve in counties with significant case backlogs.
- Appoint a study committee to determine whether the civility rules in SCR 62.02(1)(b) should be made mandatory and enforceable by OLR. Currently, such rules are aspirational only. SCR 62.02(1)(b) provides:
[L]awyers . . . shall . . . [be] civil in their dealings with one another and with the public and conduct all court and court-related proceedings, whether written or oral, including discovery proceedings, with civility and respect for each of the participants.
- Propose that CLE credit be awarded for mentor programs in the same way that CLE credit is now awarded for pro bono representation. The commitment of experienced attorneys to mentor new attorneys is important to the growth of our profession and should be promoted.
- Appoint a study committee to address declining law school enrollment and the resulting decline in State Bar membership.
- Develop a survey to assess how the State Bar can better serve its members. By way of example, is our organization meeting the needs of solo practitioners, lawyers with less than five years of practice, government lawyers, non-profit, and in-house and general counsel attorneys?
I am excited about the prospect of taking on these challenges. If I am fortunate enough to be elected president of the State Bar, I will work tirelessly on your behalf.
Jon is a Shareholder at the law firm of DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C., where he has practiced civil litigation since 1974.
In 1995, Jon was appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to the Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility (BAPR), the predecessor to the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), and served through 2000. Jon also served on the Bench Bar Committee of the State Bar from 1991-1996.
For the past 12 years, Jon has continued to serve as a board member of the University of Wisconsin Law School Friends of the Remington Center Endowment, which funds criminal justice programs at the UW Law School.
In addition, Jon has been active in Combat Blindness International, and has served on the Development Committee.
Jon is a well-respected litigator with an impressive record. Some of his cases have resulted in landmark decisions in Wisconsin and federal appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court.
His clients include corporations, non-profits, governmental entities, and individuals. Jon has also represented many individuals pro bono.
- Martindale-Hubbell® AV rated for 30 years
- Fellow of the Wisconsin Law Foundation
- Best Lawyers in America® - Commercial Litigation – Since 1995
- Wisconsin Super Lawyers
- "Top Lawyer" – Madison Magazine
- J.D., with honors, University of Wisconsin Law School (1968)
- B.S., Cornell University (1965)
- Fellowship in litigation at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia (1968-1970)
Major Professional Positions
- DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C.
- Attorney and Shareholder
- 1974 through present
- UW Law School
- Part-time faculty position in criminal law
- 1974 through 1980
- Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
- Raymond Motor Transportation, Inc. v. Rice, 434 U.S. 429, 98 S. Ct. 787, 54 L.Ed.2d 664 (1978) (Wisconsin’s ban on double-bottom tractor semitrailers held unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court under Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Represented major motor carriers.)
- Liebovich v. Minnesota Ins. Co., 2008 WI 75, 310 Wis. 2d 751, 751 N.W.2d 764 (Established insurance coverage under an AIG Private Client Group policy for non-accidental offenses, including breach of real estate restrictive covenant. Represented lake property owner in coverage dispute with AIG.)
- Wisconsin State AFL-CIO v. Elections Board, 543 F. Supp. 630 (E.D. Wis. 1982) (Wisconsin’s legislative districts held unconstitutional under one-person/one-vote principle of the United States Constitution. The Court established new district lines to provide equal representation. Represented Wisconsin legislative leaders.)
- State v. Wisconsin Central Transportation Corp., 200 Wis. 2d 450, 546 N.W.2d 206 (Ct. App. 1996), aff’d, 209 Wis. 2d 278, 562 N.W.2d 152 (1997) (Wisconsin’s “conductor law” held unconstitutional as preempted by federal law. Represented Wisconsin Central Railroad and its holding company.)
- State v. Beno, 116 Wis. 2d 122, 341 N.W.2d 668 (1984) (Legislative leader held to have immunity under the Wisconsin Constitution against civil subpoena requesting confidential information provided by constituent. Represented Speaker of Wisconsin Assembly.)
- Wisconsin Hospital Ass’n v. Reivitz, 820 F.2d 863 (7th Cir. 1987) (Wisconsin Medicaid freeze held invalid under Supremacy Clause of United States Constitution. Represented Wisconsin Hospital Association.)
- Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Mitchell, 101 Wis. 2d 90, 303 N.W.2d 639 (1981) (Wisconsin life insurance cost disclosure administrative rules declared invalid. Represented major life insurers.)
- Robert Hansen Trucking, Inc. v. LIRC, 126 Wis. 2d 323, 377 N.W.2d 151 (1985) (Motor carriers held not liable for unemployment compensation taxes on owner-operators. Represented Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association.)
- Professional Office Buildings, Inc. v. Royal Indemnity Co., 145 Wis. 2d 573, 427 N.W.2d 427 (Ct. App. 1988) (Insurer held liable for multimillion dollar air crash judgment. Represented air crash victim and his employer.)
- Albedyll v. Wisconsin Porcelain Co. Revised Retirement Plan, 947 F.2d 246 (7th Cir. 1991) (Obtained $5.2 million judgment affirmed against ERISA pension plan. Represented employees of Wisconsin Porcelain Company including management employees.)
- Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority v. Verex Assurance, Inc., 166 Wis. 2d 636, 480 N.W.2d 490 (1992) (Insurer prohibited from rescinding mortgage insurance policies. Represented Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority.)
- Thompson v. Craney, 199 Wis. 2d 674, 546 N.W.2d 123 (1996) (Wisconsin statute eliminating powers of Superintendent of Public Instruction held unconstitutional. Represented Governor of State of Wisconsin.)
- Gorton v. Hostak, Henzl & Bichler, S.C., 217 Wis. 2d 493, 577 N.W.2d 617 (1998) (Established standards for determining when court-ordered attorneys’ fees are to be divided between attorney and client.)
- State v. Williams, 2012 WI 59, 341 Wis. 2d 191, 814 N.W.2d 460 (2012) (Represented the Wisconsin Association of Judicial Court Commissioners and the Wisconsin Family Court Commissioners’ Association in establishing that court commissioners may constitutionally issue search warrants and exercise other judicial powers.)
- Kelley Supply, Inc. v. Chr. Hansen, Inc., No. 2011AP433, 2012 WL 612802 (Ct. App. Feb. 28, 2012) (unpublished). (Court of Appeals affirmed trial court that Kelley Supply, Inc. was a “dealer” under the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law and that its dealership had been unlawfully terminated.)
- Felland v. Clifton, 682 F. 3d 665 (7th Cir. 2012) (Court held that emails and telephone calls from Arizona to Wisconsin resulted in Wisconsin courts having personal jurisdiction over the Arizona defendants. After extensive additional proceedings on remand, final judgment was entered by the District Court on April 1, 2014.)
Jon and his wife Susan have two adult children (one who is an attorney) and four grandchildren. They enjoy skiing, sailing, bicycling, and travel.