Wisconsin Senators Reach Deal on Federal Judge Nominations

Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators, Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin, have forged an agreement to establish a Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission that will work to move federal nominations that require approval of the U.S. Senate forward.

The new agreement alters the makeup of a state nominating commission used to screen applicants for federal judge and US Attorney vacancies. Under the old system, when the state’s two senators came from different parties, the senator whose party occupied the White House appointed five commission members and the senator from the “out” party appointed three.

Under the new agreement, the Commission shall consist of six Wisconsinites who are members of the Wisconsin State Bar. Three members will be appointed by each Senator, who will each have a Co-Chair on the Commission. Johnson appointed William Curran, Richard Esenberg, and Paul Swanson as commissioners. Baldwin appointed Michelle Behnke, Frederic Fleishauer, and Barbara Zack Quindel to the commission.

Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission Members

Michelle A. Behnke (Co-Chair) is a 1988 graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School. She established her own firm in 1998 and currently works as a business practitioner. Behnke previously practiced as in-house counsel with CUNA Mutual Insurance Society and at a Madison law firm. Behnke is a past president of the State Bar of Wisconsin and currently serves on the ABA Board of Governors. She has served on a number of boards including the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, Madison Development Corporation and SSM Healthcare of Wisconsin. Michelle is married and has two adult children.

William T. Curran is with Curran, Hollenbeck & Orton, SC, in Mauston and Wisconsin Dells. He is AV rated (highest) by Martindale-Hubbell. He was admitted as a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers in 2001. He is a repeat selection in “Super Lawyers” in commercial litigation. He served on the Governor’s Judicial Nominating Council 1987-2001 and 2010 – present and on the Federal Judicial Nominating Commission (2001-2008). He was elected to the Board of Governors of the State Bar Association for the nine-county 7th District.

Richard Esenberg is the founder, President and General Counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a public interest law firm and legal think tank based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition, he is currently an adjunct Professor of Law at Marquette University Law School where he formerly served in the full time faculty. He holds a J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and a B.A., summa cum laude, in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Frederic Fleishauer graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1973. Fleishauer served as Portage County Circuit Court Judge from 1980 to 2011. He was named “Judge of the Year” by the State Bar of Wisconsin in 2008. Before becoming a Judge, Fleishauer served as Portage County District Attorney from 1977 to 1980, and was recently appointed District Attorney to fill an unexpired term in 2012. Fred lives in Custer, Wisconsin with his wife Pam.

Paul Swanson (Co-Chair) is a partner in the Oshkosh, Wisconsin law firm of Steinhilber, Swanson, Mares, Marone & McDermott. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh with a major in accounting and his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1979. He is currently the Chairman of the Continuing Legal Education Committee for the State Bar of Wisconsin and serves on its Board of Governors. He is a Past President of the State Bar Young Lawyers Division, served as Treasurer for the term of 1994-1995, and has served on the Board of Governors for terms spanning 1987 to 1995 and 2008 through 2013.

Barbara Zack Quindel practices labor and employment law and is a shareholder in Hawks Quindel S.C. She has been listed consistently in the Best Lawyers in America which named her Milwaukee’s 2012 “Lawyer of the Year” in Employment Law-Individuals. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Barbara holds a Masters degree from Harvard University and received her law degree from Northeastern University. Barbara lives in Milwaukee with her husband, Roger.

Update 5/2/13

Commission is now accepting applications for the seat formerly held by U.S. District Judge John Shabaz, who retired from the bench in 2009 and died last year. Application materials are available at the Commission’s website and must be returned by noon on May 29.