"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.
Name: Rachel A. Graham
Appointed to: District 4 Court of Appeals
Appointment date: June 13, 2019. (Election scheduled for April 2020)
Law School – University of Wisconsin Law School
Undergraduate – Northwestern University
High School – Stevens Point Area High School
Recent legal employment:
August 2012 - present – Attorney, Quarles & Brady, Madison
August 2005 - July 2008 – Law clerk, Wisconsin Supreme Court
Bar and Administrative Memberships:
Wisconsin State Courts
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
General character of practice: General commercial litigation with a wide variety of clients.
I have, for example, handled lease disputes on behalf of landlords and tenants, contract disputes on behalf of buyers and sellers, employment disputes on behalf of employers and employees, construction litigation on behalf of contractors and owners, trade secret litigation on behalf of companies and alleged infringers, and business torts and business governance disputes on behalf of boards of directors and shareholders alike.
Some specialization in administrative law and procedure and in appellate advocacy.
Describe typical clients: Individuals, companies, shareholders and directors of state companies, and employees of same.
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: 1
List up to five cases in which you participated as a judge or lawyer in the past seven years:
Westbrook v. Ulrich et al, Western District of Wisconsin and Seventh Circuit – A former employee sued four of former colleagues for tortious interference with employment, alleging defamation. Obtained summary judgment after showing that defendants; statements were true. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Role: Prepared pleadings, coordinated discovery and witness testimony, drafted summary judgment and appellate briefs, and prepared oralist for argument at the Seventh Circuit.
J.J. v. Litcher (sic) et al, Western District of Wisconsin and Seventh Circuit – My law firm partnered with the Wisconsin ACLU to challenge conditions of confinement of youth sentenced to the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls. The lawsuit resulted in an injunction curtailing unconstitutional practices, including use of solitary confinement and pepper spray. Role: I led the Quarles team, prepared the pleadings, deposed DOC (Department of Corrections) witnesses, coordinated discovery and expert testimony, cross-examined DOC witnesses at the injunction hearing, and was a participant in the mediation.
Lehman v. American Family Insurance, Marquette County Circuit Court – Dispute over insurance payment due after a home was damaged in an explosion. Role: Represented the mortgage company and developed a strategy that was "instrumental" in reaching a settlement.
Wall v Gundersen, Pahu & Shimke, Trempealeau County Circuit Court and Wisconsin Court of Appeals – A patient sued a former girlfriend, a nurse, who viewed the patient's medical records to help the patient with back pain. Role: Represented the hospital and, with the nurse's lawyer, won dismissal of the case. The ruling was upheld on appeal.
Spiller v. United States, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals – An incarcerated man sought to withdraw a guilty plea based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Role: Prepared briefs and argued before the Seventh Circuit.
Experience in adversary proceedings before administrative bodies.
Regulatory rand adversary proceedings made up a "significant part" of practice. Most issues do not require a hearing but are resolved through negotiation.
Previous runs for political office: None.
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization:
I have supported a number of judicial and partisan political candidates, but I have never had an official role in any campaign.
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last six years:
Lisa Neubauer, Wisconsin Supreme Court
Susan Crawford, Dane County Circuit Court
Rebecca Dallet, Wisconsin Supreme Court
Ann Walsh Bradley, Wisconsin Supreme Court
Professional or civic and charitable organizations:
James E. Doyle Inns of Court
Dane County Bar Association
Western District of Wisconsin Bar Association
Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association
Federation of Environmental Technologists
Wisconsin Paper Council
A judge should generally be faithful to the text of the constitution and statutes and legislative intent, yet it is overly simplistic to view this merely as a matter of calling balls and strikes. Legal texts seldom have the precise contours of a strike zone, and some degree of interpretation is necessarily involved. – District 4 Court of Appeals Judge Rachel A. Graham
Elected or appointed public offices:
Wisconsin National & Community Service Board
Significant pro bono legal work in the last five years:
I frequently represent incarcerated persons pursuing postconviction appeals or filing civil rights claims against the state on a pro bono basis.... I also provide legal services to victims of domestic violence through a partnership with the Dane County Domestic Abuse Intervention Service. In this role, I provide legal advice about custody and landlord/tenant issues and have helped victims obtain injunctions against their abusers.
Subject to investigation by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the Office of Lawyer Regulation, the Crime Victim Rights Board, or any equivalent body:
Graham said the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation inquired about a landlord / tenant case in which she represented the tenants. After a preliminary intake evaluation, OLR closed the matter without forwarding it for formal investigation, having found that the landlord’s grievance failed to give any sufficient basis to proceed....
Why I want to be a judge –
I am seeking this judicial appointment because I believe in public service, understand the impact that appellate decisions have on litigants and non-litigants alike, and have the skills, judgment, and life experience to be a thoughtful and effective judge....
In my role as a litigator over the past seven years, I rely on appellate decisions when advising my clients on what the law is and the possible outcomes of their legal disputes. I have seen how badly reasoned decisions create legal uncertainty and undermine public confidence in courts. By contrast, well written thoughtful decisions provide clarity and bolster public confidence that legal institutions can fairly resolve disputes.
As a state and nation, we are currently facing a crisis of confidence in public institutions. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals often has the last word on issues of statewide importance, and the need for ethical, independent, and compassionate judges is pronounced. I have the required clarity of thought, writing ability, and judgment for this role, and I would be honored to serve the citizens of this state.
Identify two or three judges or justices whom you admire and explain why –
1. Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley
I admire her for, among other things, her work ethic, her judgment, and her restraint. Despite her years of experience, Justice Bradley does not take shortcuts when analyzing statutes and case law. She writes with clarity and concision, and carefully tailors the language of her opinions so that it can be fairly applied in future cases involving different parties and facts. She is fair, and does not demean the lawyers and litigants before her by mischaracterizing their arguments or the legal precedents and facts to reach her desired result. She respects stare decisis and the stability it creates in the law, but also recognizes that in some circumstances, old precedents should be overturned because they lead to unconstitutional or inequitable results. She is motivated by a concern that the opinions that come out of the Wisconsin Supreme Court should be fair to everyday people, and should provide clear and consistent guidance for lower courts, litigants, and the public....
2. Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson
Justice Abrahamson is whip smart with an encyclopedic knowledge of the law, but she never rested on her laurels when drafting an opinion or deciding a case. She has a tireless work ethic and would often be at her desk late into the evening and over weekends debating arcane points of law with her law clerk (and, when I was lucky, with me). She rose to prominence in an era where women lawyers received little respect. I do not know whether Justice Abrahamson’s steely nerves and work ethic are the cause of her success or the effect of her experiences coming up or both, but either way, these qualities resulted in a vast body of comprehensive opinions over the years....
Describe the proper role of a judge –
The essential role of a judge is interpreting and applying law to a particular set of facts in a manner that does justice to the parties and fosters confidence in our legal institutions.... A judge should generally be faithful to the text of the constitution and statutes and legislative intent, yet it is overly simplistic to view this merely as a matter of calling balls and strikes. Legal texts seldom have the precise contours of a strike zone, and some degree of interpretation is necessarily involved. And when legislatures overreach by enacting unconstitutional laws, judges have the power and responsibility to declare those laws unconstitutional. This power, when exercised cautiously, is a vital check on political and majoritarian power.
Judges should respect the role that legal precedents have in creating stability and predictability in the law, and should be cautious when deviating from established case law. But good judges also recognize that times change and that courts sometimes make mistakes. When judges overturn a precedent, they should have good reasons for doing so, and they should candidly explain what they are doing and why....
Wisconsin judges are elected, and must be willing and able to run a strong, ethical campaign. Nevertheless, a judge is not an ordinary politician and should not be merely a bellwether for public opinion or the preferences of political institutions and voting blocs....
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