"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.
Italics indicate direct quotes from the application. Typos, including punctuation errors, come from the original application even though we have not inserted “(sic)” after each one. WJI has left them as is.
Name: Frederick J. Strampe
Appointed to: Waukesha County Circuit Court
Appointment date: Nov. 29, 2022 (to term ending July 31, 2023) (defeated in April 2023 election)
Law School – University of Wisconsin-Madison
Undergraduate – United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
High School – Wausau East, Wausau, Wisconsin
Recent legal employment:
1997-present – Attorney, Borgelt, Powell, Peterson and Frauen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Bar and administrative memberships:
State Bar of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
General character of practice:
My practice is focused on civil litigation. I appear in Circuit Courts throughout Wisconsin and the Eastern and Western District Courts. I handle all phases of civil litigation from the initial pleading through trial. The majority of my time is spent on investigations, depositions, document analysis, discovery, settlement discussions and pre-trial motions. My legal specialty is trial practice. I average one or two trials a year. I have extensive experience with claims at assisted living facilities, insurance coverage issues and product liability claims, along with most types of personal injury cases, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injuries.
Describe typical clients:
Most of my work is for defendants in civil litigation. Usually, I am retained by an insurance company to represent their insured in a lawsuit, or a pre-suit investigation. I represent clients regarding all types of insurance policies and have developed a specialty relating to assisted living facilities and traumatic brain injuries allegedly caused by exposure to Carbon Monoxide.
Number of cases tried to verdict: 19
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:
Local Government Property Insurance Fund (“LGPIF”) v. Lexington Insurance Company
I represented LGPIF. This case involved a fire that occurred at the Milwaukee County Courthouse in July of 2013. LGPIF insured Milwaukee County and determined that the fire was a covered loss. LGPIF paid over 17.4 million dollars for this loss and sought to recover a portion of this amount from its reinsurer, Lexington. Lexington refused to pay the loss claiming the damages were the result of an electrical failure, which was not a covered loss. LGPIF filed suit to recover the reinsurance benefits contained in the insurance policy issued by Lexington. Along with Co-counsel Barbara O’Brien, I was responsible for all written discovery, expert retention, depositions, and pre-trial motions. My involvement focused on the damages sustained at the courthouse and the competing expert opinions regarding the cause of the loss and the resulting damage. The matter settled just before trial.
Holder et. al. v. Fraser Shipyards
I represented Capstan Corporation, the owner of Fraser Shipyards. This matter involved four related cases with 70 plaintiffs. All the plaintiffs were shipyard workers at Fraser Shipyards in Superior, WI. They were exposed to hazardous levels of lead while preforming work on the HERBERT C. JACKSON, a great lakes freighter owned by Interlake Steamship Company. While each worker had different alleged injuries, most of the workers claimed traumatic brain injuries resulting in memory and processing problems, along with some physical injuries from the lead exposure. Plaintiffs claimed that Fraser Shipyard, Capstan and Interlake knew that lead paint on the vessel would be disturbed by Fraser's work and took no preventative measures to protect the workers. I took over the representation of Capstan a few months before the Holder case was set for trial. I was responsible for investigating the loss, written discovery, depositions, expert retention, procedural motions, discovery motions, motions in limine and pre-trial submissions. The Holden case settled less than one week before trial was set to begin. The other three cases settled after significant discovery.
[Redacted] v. Mortle
I represented Mortle Trucking. Mortle performed snow and ice removal services at the clinic where [redacted] Doctor worked. [Redacted] slipped and fell in the clinic's parking lot after a snow event. She sued Mortle and the property owners claiming that the parking lot was negligently maintained. [Redacted] claimed significant back injuries from the fall. She had over [redacted] in past medicare expenses and claimed over [redacted] for future medical expenses. Additionally, [she] had a 20 year history of back issues. In December, 2021, the case was tried by Judge Chris Foley in Milwaukee County. After a five day trial, the jury concluded that Mortle was not negligent.
Experience in adversary proceedings before administrative bodies:
As part of my work for Assisted Living Facilities and Day Care providers, I have handled several cases involving the Division of Hearings and Appeals. These appeals involved orders to close a facility, revocation of licensing, need for a plan of correction, and requests to reduce fines. I have participated in pre-hearings and scheduling/status conferences with Administrative Law Judges.
Describe your non-litigation experience (e.g., arbitration, mediation).
I have mediated hundreds of cases all over the State of Wisconsin. I have represented parties in arbitrations approximately 15-20 times. Also, I have been appointed by the defense as an Arbitrator approximately 10 times. None of these cases proceeded to a full arbitration.
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization: N/A
Previous runs for public office: N/A
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last ten years: None that I remember
Professional or civic and charitable organizations:
Wisconsin Defense Counsel, past president and other roles, 1997-present
Defense Research Institute, 1998-present
American Board of Trial Advocates, 2014-present
Lakeland Officials Association, program chair-football, 1997-present
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service:
I have officiated High School Football since law school. I have been the crew's Referee for approximately 14 years. We officiate a Varsity High School game every Friday night during the season. Each season we are selected by the WIAA to officiate one or more playoff games. We were selected to officiate two State Championship games at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI. Occasionally, I officiate Youth Football in the community.
In law school I also officiated ice hockey. When I moved to Milwaukee, I continued officiating Youth and High School Ice Hockey. I stopped officiating hockey approximately 10 years ago.
Why I want to be a judge:
I began my professional life serving our Country and I want to continue my professional life serving the people of Wisconsin. As a young man, I was prepared for the rewards and challenges of serving as a junior officer in the Army. After 25 years as a litigator, I am prepared for the rewards and challenges of serving as a Circuit Court Judge. I want to utilize the skills I have developed to help more than my clients, myself, or my firm. The mission of my alma matter, The United States Military Academy, is to “develop leaders of character for a lifetime of service to the Country.” By serving as a Circuit Court Judge, I can continue my service to our State and our Country.
My personality and litigation experience give me the skills needed to serve effectively and successfully as a Circuit Court Judge. Our system of government only works if we have strong, independent, and impartial Judges committed to the rule of law. Circuit Court Judges must be fair and impartial without preconceived agendas or goals. I want to serve the people of Wisconsin to ensure these important pillars of our society are preserved.
As a Circuit Court Judge, I will be independent and impartial in practice and appearance. I am committed to the Rule of Law. I know that Circuit Court Judges must apply the law, not create the law. The application of the law must be done impartially, regardless of the litigant’s politics, background, or motives. Everyone who appears in Court must leave the Courtroom knowing that the Judge and the process were impartial. Litigants and observers must know that the Rule of Law, not the Judge’s personal opinions, decided the outcome. I have the personality and experience to enforce the Rule of Law in a way that is equitable and leaves all parties understanding that the process was fair.
I want to serve as a Circuit Court Judge to utilize my talents, skills, and experience to strengthen our State. I will help maintain an independent judiciary, committed to the Rule of Law.
Describe which case in the past 25 years by the Wisconsin Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court you believe had a significant positive or negative impact on the people of Wisconsin:
I believe Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc, 509 U.S. 579, (1993), which was adopted in Wisconsin by Sec. 907.02(1), Wis. Stats., and Siefert v. Balink, 2017 WI 2, has a great impact on the people of Wisconsin, even if few people know about it. When Wisconsin adopted the Daubert Standard, a great deal of authority was transferred from the Jury to the Circuit Court Judge. Under Daubert, the Circuit Court must determine if an expert’s opinions are reliable. While the Court repeatedly indicates that the Circuit Court is not taking the place of a Jury, a party whose case is dismissed because their expert was ruled unreliable will certainly disagree. Although Daubert and Seifert list numerous factors the Court can consider, the Siefert Court stated, “the trial court may consider some, all, or none of the factors.” Siefert, Para 64. The Siefert Court explains that the Trial Court should not accept expert testimony just because the expert is qualified. Seifert, Para 75. However, the Court goes on to explain that the reliability standard can be satisfied by the witness’s “personal knowledge and experience.” Siefert, Para 78. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin ends its analysis by deciding that a Circuit Courts decision to admit, or exclude, expert testimony will only be reversed if the Circuit Court abused its discretion. Seifert, Para. 93.
The standard adopted in Seifert gives the Circuit Court tremendous power in any case that requires expert testimony. In many cases, at least one party will have a reason to challenge the other side’s expert. Once challenged, the Circuit Court can exclude the testimony based on “all, some, or none,” of the relevant factors identified in Daubert and Siefert. If there is a plausible reason to exclude the evidence, the Circuit Court’s decision will survive appeal.
Because of the broad authority Circuit Court Judges have, to exclude or admit expert testimony, the selection of Judges may be more important than the people of Wisconsin know. The significant power granted to the Circuit Court relating to expert testimony could have a positive or negative effect on the people of Wisconsin. Many citizens of Wisconsin do not know the Circuit Court has this much control over expert testimony. Because of this, Circuit Court Judges must carefully analyze any challenges to expert testimony. Expert testimony should be excluded when the testimony is clearly unreliable. If expert testimony is excluded, the Circuit Court should make a record explaining why the testimony was excluded, so the people of Wisconsin understand why the expert was not allowed to testify.
Two or three judges whom I admire and why:
There are many Judges I have appeared before who I admire and respect. Judge Richard Sankovitz, who retired from Milwaukee County, and Judge Dale English in Fond du Lac County stand out for a variety of reasons.
First, they are always prepared. When they say they have read the briefs and have a few questions, it means they have not only read the briefs, but have also researched the topic. They do not waste time on irrelevant or secondary matters. Rather, they make the parties answer tough questions about the key issues. This type of preparation and commitment to understand and evaluate the case is something I greatly admire.
Second, they are willing to use common sense in the administration of their courtrooms. They expect the Attorneys who practice in their courtrooms to be prepared and efficient. However, they understand the difficulties that can arise during a complicated case. When appropriate, they will modify Scheduling Orders and deadlines. However, they will also deny requests when the modifications are not justified. During trials and court hearings, they enforce the Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules of Evidence in a way that demonstrates an understanding of the rules and an understanding of how the rules should be applied.
Finally, it is clear in court that Judge Sankovitz, and Judge English are attempting to enforce the law in an impartial manner. I have never felt that they were manipulating the law to get the result they wanted. Rather, they strive to issue the decision required by the law. They treat all parties with respect and work hard to obtain the correct result. Even when I disagree with their decisions, I am confident that they analyzed the issues appropriately and reached the decision they believed was required by the law.
The traits that I admire in Judge Sankovitz and Judge English are the traits I will strive to emulate as a Circuit Court Judge.
The proper role of a judge:
The proper role of a Circuit Court Judge is to enforce the law. The Circuit Court is not the place to create new law. However, the Circuit Court Judge must enforce the law in a fair and impartial manner. All litigants must be treated with respect. Not only should litigants leave the courtroom feeling that they were treated fairly, but they should be treated fairly by the Court. Not everyone can leave the courtroom happy with the result. However, I believe the proper role of a Circuit Court Judge is to enforce the law evenly, to ensure all litigants leave the courtroom knowing that the process was impartial and fair.
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