Evers' judges" is our effort to present information about Gov. Tony Evers' appointees to the bench. The information is taken from the appointees' own judgeship applications. WJI also will continue to profile former Gov. Scott Walker's appointees who are still in office.
Italics indicates direct quotes from the application.
Name: Chris L. Taylor
Appointed to: Dane County Circuit Court
Appointment date: June 11, 2020 (Elected in April 2021.)
Law School – University of Wisconsin Law School
Undergraduate – University of Pennsylvania
High School – Birmingham High School, Lake Balboa, CA
Recent legal employment:
August 2011-present – State legislator, Wisconsin State Assembly
2003-present – Public policy director, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin
Bar and Administrative Memberships:
Wisconsin State Bar
Wisconsin State Supreme Court bar admission
General character of practice before becoming a judge:
My law practice consisted of civil litigation primarily in areas of family law, including various injunctions and guardian ad litem appointments. In my early practice, I also assisted partners with various plaintiff-side employment issues and a significant campaign finance case.
In my position at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, I provided legal counsel to the Public Affairs Department.
Describe typical clients:
I primarily represented family law clients and developed a specialty in that area. At Planned Parenthood, I developed a specialty in reproductive health law, managed and reorganized our public affairs board, supervised junior lawyers and public affairs staff, provided support for policy makers and provided extensive legal analysis and writing regarding various reproductive health issues.
Number of cases tried to verdict: Approximately five. Had dozens of motion hearings, depositions, etc.
List up to three significant trials, appeals, or other legal matters in which you participated as a judge or lawyer in the past seven years:
As a state legislator for the last decade (2011-present), I used my legal experience to research, draft and pass important legislation in many areas, including law enforcement reform as follows:
1. Independent Criminal Investigations following police-involved deaths. 2013 Wis. Act 348 was legislation I co-authored with Republican Representative Garey Bies, a former deputy sheriff. This first in the nation law requires that following the death of civilian by law enforcement, two independent lead investigators outside of the police department involved must lead the resulting criminal investigation. This is significant in providing independence, transparency and accountability to the public.
2. Police Use of Force Standards, AB 1012-Other reform legislation I authored set specific police use of force standards to delineate the "objective reasonableness" standard set forth in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989). Though this bill has not passed, many provisions were eventually incorporated into reforms adopted by the Madison City Council.
3. Body Camera standards, 2019 Wisconsin Act 108-This bill resulted from a Legislative Student (sic) Committee on law enforcement body cameras I co-chair with Republican Senate Pat Testin. This unanimously approved legislation set important body camera standards for law enforcement, including a presumption that such footage should be available
to the public.
As a practicing attorney at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (2003-2011), I lead (sic) a five year initiative around protecting patients' rights to have their birth control prescriptions filled in Wisconsin pharmacies without harassment or delay. In administrative (In the Discipline of Neil Noesen, LS-0310091-PHM) and Court of Appeals actions concerning a pharmacist who refused to fill and transfer a patient's birth control prescription (Noesen v. Wisconsin, 2008 WI App 52), I primarily researched and authored two Amicus briefs regarding ethical and legal issues presented.
My legal research and advocacy helped pass an important state law in 2009 that requires pharmacies to dispense patients' birth control prescriptions without delay.
As a litigator in private practice from 1996-2003, I managed dozen of cases primarily involving family law, various injunction actions and several GAL (guardian ad litem) cases.
1. In In re the Marriage of Moe, 2000 FA1363 I represented petitioner from 2000-2002 in a contentious divorce action resulting in a trial and a plethora of post-judgment motions before Judge Diane Nicks. This case was significant because it concerned complicated determinations of the respondent's income due to his failure to disclose income streams found by extensively examining bank records.
2. In Hagen v. Heisig, 2002CV1167 I represented plaintiff from 4/11/02-5/20/02 in obtaining a permanent harassment restraining order from Judge Moria Krueger for employees and customers at her daycare facility. This was a significant case because it involved a child care business needing an harassment restraining order rather than an individual.
3. I also served as a GAL for an individual with mental health issues being evicted from public housing by the City of Madison. Though the defendant refused to contact me or appear for trial, I successfully litigated this case before Judge William Foust by showing that the city never attempted to accommodate his disability in violation of federal disability laws.
Experience in adversary proceedings before administrative bodies:
Wrote amicus brief in 2004 administrative hearing regarding pharmacist Neil Noesen and his refusal to fill and transfer a person's birth control prescription; attended the hearing.
As legislator and Joint Finance Committee member, attended many hearings with staff and leadership of administrative agencies.
I treat these hearings as I would treat a legal hearing in preparing questions and soliciting needed information.
Describe your non-litigation legal experience (e.g., arbitration, mediation).
Volunteered with Case Mediation Program to help settle family law disputes; at Planned Parenthood, performed legal tasks including drafting, amending and advocating for legislation that supported health policy; prepared legislative and regulatory analysis, memos and materials on relevant public policy matters, and provided state and federal legal and constitutional analysis, legal research and writing on a variety of reproductive health, women's rights and campaign finance issues.
As legislator, evaluated and analyzed various policies, co-authored more than 250 bills and resolutions, focusing on needed legal reforms in areas of social justice, criminal justice reform, environmental conservation, protecting and enhancing democracy, women’s and civil rights and issues concerning children....I have used my legal background to play a key role in exposing nefarious assaults on our democracy brought, and sometimes buried, in lengthy, last minute motions that we are given little time to review. For example, the “Lame Duck” laws, which curtailed both executive and judicial powers, were first distributed to minority JFC members late on a Friday afternoon for a Monday hearing. This required me, as the only attorney among the minority members, to quickly digest, analyze and expose the significant legal ramifications these bills posed.
Previous runs for political office: Wisconsin State Assembly
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization: Served as Judge Everett Mitchell's campaign treasurer duing 2016-16 judicial race; volunteered for many Democratic candidates over time.
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last ten years:
Judge Jill Karofsky, Justice, State Supreme Court, 2019
Judge Lisa Neubauer, Justice, State Supreme Court, 2019
Judge Rebecca Dallet, Justice, State Supreme Court, 2018
Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, Justice, State Supreme Court, 2016
Marilyn Townsend, Judge, Dane County Circuit Court, 2016
Everett Mitchell, Judge, Dane County Circuit Court, 2015
Rhonda Lanford, Judge, Dane County Circuit Court, 2012
Ellen Berz, Judge, Dane County Circuit Court, 2012
Satya-Rhodes Conway, mayor of Madison, 2019
Joe Maldanado, Fitchburg alderman, 2020
Savion Castro, Madison School Board, 2020
Nikki Vander Meulen, Madison School Board, 2020
Lindsey Lemmer, Madison alderman, 2019
Avra Reddy Madison, alderman, 2019
Elizabeth Doyle, Dane County Board, 2019
Ali Muldrow, Madison School Board, 2019
Gloria Reyes, Madison School Board, 2019
Jaime Kuhn, Dane County Board, 2018
Steven Peters, Dane County Board, 2018
Arvina Martin, Madison alderman, 2017
Zach Wood Madison alderman, 2017
Michelle Ritt, Dane County Board, 2017
Hayley Young, Dane County Board, 2016
Barbara McKinney, Madison alderman, 2015
Sara Eskrich, Madison alderman, 2015
Michael Flores, Madison School Board, 2014
Lisa Subeck, Madison alderman, 2013
Marsha Rummel, Madison alderman, 2013
Lisa Subeck, Madison alderman, 2013
Jeff Pertl, Dane County Board, 2012
Arlene Silveira, Madison School Board, 2012
Joe Parisi, Dane County exec, 2011
Professional or civic and charitable organizations:
Legal Association for Women, approximately 2000-2002
Public Interest Law Section Board, member. approximately 2004-2006
Wisconsin Conservation Lawyers, member. 2011-present
Planned Parenthood Action Board, member, 2000-2002
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service:
Volunteered in family law Case Mediation program and provided legal assistance through Family Law Assistance Center.
Was parent volunteer coordinator for sons' religious education classes; volunteered for various activities at sons' schools.
Why I want to be a judge – I have always had a strong calling to public service, making a positive difference in my community, solving problems, advocating for solutions and helping to create a fairer, more equitable society. These have been my life-long goals whether functioning as a litigator in private law practice, performing in-house legal and policy duties at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, or during my almost decade-long service in the state legislature. The judiciary provides another opportunity for me to continue to serve the public while positively impacting individuals and my community.
Serving on the trial court is desirable to me not only because it is where I spent significant time in private practice, but also because it is where the people are. I love serving and interacting with the public. The legitimacy of the judiciary depends on public acceptance and confidence in its role and its decisions as an independent tribunal. This, in turn, is dependent on listening and carefully considering the positions of people who appear in a courtroom, oftentimes not by choice. My experiences in the legislature taught me about the powerful act of listening to a person’s story, which I believe is key to success for individual judges and the judiciary in general. I relish this opportunity as a trial court judge.
I also have a particular fondness for conflict – not the existence of it but the challenge of it. Each conflict creates an opportunity for resolution. For my entire professional career, I have worked in high-conflict subject areas and venues, from my primarily family law private practice, to my work concerning reproductive health and rights, to the hyper partisan legislative branch. I welcome the challenge this type of environment provides, and the opportunity trial court judges have to achieve fair resolutions, protect and enhance fundamental rights and redress inequities and injustice. Rather than solutions being funneled through and clogged up in a partisan sieve, trial court judges have a chance to deliver fair, reasoned resolutions that our society requires to function and people need to move forward with their lives.
The position of trial court judge embodies all that I value. Though my path towards it may seem nontraditional, my entire professional career, both in its variety and in its consistency, has enabled me to develop a broad array of skills that have prepared me for the challenges, opportunities and demands it poses. For all these reasons, I seek an appointment to the Dane County Circuit court.
"Judges are the ultimate providers of just, fair resolutions based on precedent, facts, and the consistent application of the law in consideration of the unique circumstances of a case." – Dane County Circuit Judge Chris L. Taylor
Describe which case in the past 25 years by the Wisconsin Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court you believe had the greatest positive or negative impact on the people of Wisconsin or our democracy.
The 2016 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 136 S. Ct. 2292, is the most significant reproductive rights case in decades. The Court struck down two Texas abortion regulations, including a hospital admitting privilege requirement for abortion providers within 30 miles of their clinics that was similar to a Wisconsin law being litigated in Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin v. Schimel, 806 F.3d 908 (7th Cir. 2015). Luckily for Wisconsin women, Whole Woman’s Health sunk this restriction and preserved the few health centers providing abortions in Wisconsin.
In the decades following the seismic Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), the United States Supreme Court weakened the protections in this landmark decision. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), though a plurality of the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the “central tenants” of Roe, the Court elevated the state’s interest in preserving fetal life while adopting a murky, “undue burden” standard that required evaluating whether a law created a “substantial obstacle” in the path of a woman seeking abortion. Id. at 878. The message of Casey, that was nonetheless heralded by reproductive rights advocates who feared Roe’s reversal, was that a woman’s right to choose could be limited in ways not permitted in Roe.
By adopting a robust, critical analysis in applying the “undue burden” standard to abortion restrictions, Whole Woman’s Health halted Roe’s continued erosion. The Court reasoned that the “undue burden” balancing test must consider real world benefits and harms created by the laws at issue, rather than defer to unproven legislative assumptions. 136 S. Ct. at 2309-10.
Texas presented no medical evidence besides their empty insistence that these laws protected women’s health or provided any health benefit at all. Because the laws would result in shutting down the majority of Texas’s 40 abortion providers, access to abortion would be eroded, posing an unconstitutional undue burden for Texas women.
A day following Whole Woman’s health, the Court dismissed Wisconsin’s certiorari petition seeking to review the 7th Circuit’s decision striking down the Wisconsin physician admitting privileges requirement. As in Whole Woman’s Health, the 7th Circuit found that such a requirement had no health benefit for women, and in passing the law, the Wisconsin legislature presented no documented medical need. Such a requirement would have shut down one of the only four health centers providing abortions in the state, significantly reducing access when it was already extremely limited.
But the impact of Whole Woman’s Health may be short-lived. A reconfigured U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in two Louisiana cases, June Medical Services LLC et al and Gee vs. June Medical Services LLC et al. The Court will again consider a similar admitting privileges requirement and a procedural challenge to a physician’s ability to sue on behalf of his patients. These pending cases underscore that a woman’s ability to make reproductive health decisions continues to hang off a precarious legal cliff.
Two justices whom I admire and why
Judge Moria Krueger, Dane County Circuit Court (1977-2007)
I was honored to clerk for Judge Krueger during my last semester of law school. I had admired her since starting law school because she was the first woman elected to the Dane County bench and first woman on a state trial court following the unprecedented recall of a judge who outrageously attributed the rape of a high school student to her clothing.
Judge Krueger was tough but fair. She expected the best from people, and gave me a chance and challenged me on some complicated cases. From her, I learned the importance of mentoring young professionals, which I have tried to prioritize throughout my career. She greatly inspired me.
Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Wisconsin Supreme Court (1976-2019)
Justice Abrahamson will forever be the Queen of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. She was the first woman ever to serve, the first women (sic) Chief Justice and the longest serving state Justice in history. She is a nationally and internationally recognized legal scholar, with a breathtaking skill set of a magnitude few have matched. Through all of her penning of opinions and prestigious accolades, she never forgot that the law is about real people. She democratized the bench by taking the Court on the road and individually traveling to other communities. And she brought the people to the Court through volunteer programs that enhanced the public’s accessibility to legal services and the court, including bringing high school students to witness the Court’s oral arguments. She was a champion of equal justice and an independent judiciary. She trailblazed for all women in the law.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (sic), United States Supreme Court (1993-present)
Justice Ginsberg (sic) has dedicated her life to advancing and protecting the rights of women by using the law in a deliberate, persistent and strategic manner. When she joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 as the second woman ever appointed, she brought a needed intellectual depth about these issues to the bench. She is particularly voracious in safeguarding within a constitutional framework, women’s exercise of reproductive choices and ensuring access to reproductive health. Justice Ginsberg (sic) is a warrior who never waivers, in oral arguments or in dissent, on her march towards gender equity.
The proper role of a judge:
At the trial court level especially, Judges must be independent problem solvers in a deliberative process where procedural and evidentiary rules are consistently administered to parties seeking redress. Judges must be able to work with all different types of people, through jury and party management, listen intently and act fairly and respectfully so the public has confidence in judicial decisions, jury outcomes and the judiciary in general.
Judges are protectors of many different interests and constitutional rights and liberties. They must safeguard the constitutional rights of the accused from the police and prosecutorial power of the state. They are the protector of the rights of the minority, which may be abused by other branches of governments driven by the will of the majority. Judges are the vanguard of the separation of powers, and act to ensure that the actions of the other branches do not overstep their constitutional roles or trample on the rights and freedoms of people. Judges act to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities and ensure functionality in our society.
Judges are the ultimate providers of just, fair resolutions based on precedent, facts, and the consistent application of the law in consideration of the unique circumstances of a case.
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