The U.S. Senate last month confirmed President Trump's nomination of Brett H. Ludwig as a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, based in Milwaukee. The information below is taken from Ludwig's own submission to the Senate Judiciary Committee. This profile is similar to those WJI compiles for state judges in our "Evers' judges" and "Walkers' judges" series.
Name: Brett H. Ludgwig
Appointed to: U.S. District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin
Confirmation date: Sept. 9, 2020. (Lifetime appointment)
Law School – University of Minnesota Law School
Undergraduate – University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
Recent legal employment:
2017-present – U.S. bankruptcy judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
1994; 1995-2017 – Associate and partner for Foley & Larner law firm, Milwaukee
2016-2017 – Adjunct professor, Marquette University Law School
Bar and court admissions:
Wisconsin State Bar, admitted 1994
Minnesota State Bar, 1998; gave up membership when he became a bankruptcy judge in 2017
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 2014
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, 1995
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, 1995
United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, 2012
Professional, business, fraternal, scholarly, civic charitable or other organizations belonged to since law school graduation: None
Elsewhere Ludwig said he was on the board of the Mequon Thiensville Education Foundation from 2014-2017 and served as vice president in 2016-2017. He also served on the Board of the Fox Point Foundation from 2002-2006 and as Board president in 2006-2006.
Military service: None
Approximate number of cases provided over that have gone to verdict or judgment: As of February 1, 2020, I have presided over more than 11,900 bankruptcy cases and adversary proceedings.
10 most significant cases:
In re Mendiola – This case involved a debtor who was a serial bankruptcy filer. He had filed five previous cases in the preceding five years, all of which were dismissed after he failed to comply with his obligations imposed by the Bankruptcy Code. In this latest case, the Chapter 13 Trustee and the debtor's mortgage creditor, U.S. Bank N.A., requested extraordinary relief to prevent further abuses of the bankruptcy system. The trustee asked the court to dismiss the case and bar the debtor from refiling for 180 days. The bank requested in rem relief from the automatic stay...to avoid having the automatic stay go into effect with respect to the mortgage property if the debtor filed yet another case. After an evidentiary hearing, I granted both motions.
In re Poivey – This Chapter 7 case involved several disputes over the treatment in bankruptcy of a debtor-wife's inheritance of mineral rights under oil and gas leases in Texas. The case involved two evidentiary hearings concerning whether the inherited mineral rights were excluded from the debtor's bankruptcy estate...and whether royalty payments from those mineral rights could be exempted by the debtor-wife's husband. I resolved the first issue in favor of the trustee and the second in favor of the debtors. The case ended with a discharge.
In re Bailey-Pfeiffer – This was a Chapter 13 case involving a recently divorced woman with several children and more than $870,000 in unsecured student loan debts, which she
wanted to repay through a Chapter 13 repayment plan. Section 109(e) of the Bankruptcy Code provides that only an individual with noncontingent, liquidated, unsecured debts of less than $394,725 can be a debtor under Chapter 13. Based on the plain terms of the statute, I ordered that the debtor must either convert the case to a chapter for which she was eligible or the case would be dismissed.
In re. Timothy Brennan – In this Chapter 11 case, a business owner sought bankruptcy protection to prevent the forced foreclosure sale of his former metal fabricating facility. After several contested hearings, I resolved a dispute over the valuation of the building and the debtor was able to confirm a Chapter 11 plan providing for the orderly sale of the real estate. The plan was ultimately confirmed, the real estate sold for $3.2 million, the secured creditor repaid, and the case closed.
In re. Bagg – This was a Chapter 7 case in which a creditor, who had been a neighbor of the
debtors, filed an adversary proceeding against them, seeking to have a debt arising from a state court tortious interference with contract judgment declared nondischargeable.... After a trial, I concluded that the creditor had not proved that the debt arose from a willful and malicious injury and thus ruled the debt was dischargeable.
In re. Wulff – In this farm bankruptcy case, debtor's counsel failed to provide proper notice to a secured creditor, which, as a result, failed to file its proof of claim timely under Bankruptcy Rule 3002(c). No one noticed and a plan providing for payment of the untimely claim was confirmed without objections. Later, the Chapter 12 trustee objected to the secured creditor's claim as untimely. The creditor and debtor both filed motions seeking to extend the already-expired proof of claim filing deadlines. I ruled that the trustee, who had previously recommended
confirmation of the plan, was precluded from objecting to the claim based on her failure to object to, or appeal from, the order confirming the plan.
In re. Johannes and Olga Wakker – This Chapter 11 case involved an attempt to reorganize the debts of a couple that runs a very large dairy farming operation and related cheese factory in Kewaunee, Wisconsin. The case involved several disputes over the use of a secured creditor's cash collateral and the valuation of that collateral. Ultimately, the debtors were able to negotiate and confirm a consensual plan of reorganization.
In re. Fox Valley Pro Basketball – This Chapter 11 case involves an attempt to reorganize the financial operations of an arena built to host games of a minor league basketball team, the Wisconsin Herd. The parties have worked through interim and final post-petition financing arrangements. The case remains pending and a plan has not yet been confirmed.
In re. Moon – Nearly seven years after receiving her discharge, this debtor moved to reopen her bankruptcy case to seek a ruling that her student loan lender was violating the discharge injunction by attempting to collect on a discharged debt. The debtor maintained that when she consolidated her private student loans, the consolidated loan was no longer of the type generally excluded from discharge....Based on stipulated facts, I concluded that, notwithstanding the loan consolidation, the debt at issue remained within the plain terms of section 523(a)(8) and, because the debtor conceded she could not show undue hardship, the debt was nondischargeable.
In re. Wegnerlann Dairy – In this large dairy farm bankruptcy case, a farmer in Western Wisconsin fought with his secured lender over post-petition financing necessary to keep his dairy operation in business. After numerous hearings and sometimes heated negotiations, the parties were able to reach agreement on ongoing financing. The debtor and secured creditor were also able to agree upon a consensual plan or reorganization which the court agreed to confirm on February 5, 2020.
Public office, political activities and affiliations – Member, Mequon Board of Appeals, 2009-2013; appointed by Mayor Christine Nuernberg.
"The case secured a multi-million dollar recovery for aggrieved Wisconsin school districts, who, but for our work, would not have seen a single dollar of the funds Congress intended them to have. " – U.S. District Judge Brett H. Ludwig
Describe the general character of law practice – After clerking for the Hon. George G. Fagg on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, I spent the next 2I years in the Litigation Department at Foley & Lardner, where I typically represented business entities in civil dispute resolution proceedings. Consistent with the normal law firm model, my practice evolved as I became more experienced. As a junior associate, I worked for a wide spectrum of partners and clients, handling more of the day-to-day aspects of cases, including legal research, document review, discovery, and brief writing. As I became more senior and earned the trust of my partners and clients, I took on greater responsibilities and oversaw all aspects of cases.
Typical Clients – Included Ford Motor Co., Freightliner Corp., Clarendon National and
Clarendon America Insurance Companies, Alea North America Insurance Company, Alea Europe (Ltd.), and Hannover Re., Roche Diagnostics GmbH, and Harley-Davidson Motor Co.
Practice type – More than 95% of career spent in litigation.
Federal courts – 30%
State courts – 20%
Other courts (arbitration) – 50%
Civil proceedings – 95%
Criminal proceedings – 5%
Jury – 25%
Non-jury – 75%
Most significant litigated matters: (WJI selected 5 of 10 listed to summarize.)
Conrad v. Ford Motor Company – From January through July of 1996, I represented Ford Motor Company in a "Lemon Law" lawsuit brought by the owner of an over-the-road Ford semi-tractor. The case concerned multiple alleged defects in the truck. I handled all pretrial discovery and briefing, with oversight from a junior partner, Brian McGrath. I tried the case solo, with help from a clerical assistant. The trial lasted one week with the jury returning a verdict entirely in Ford's favor. This case was significant to me because it was my first solo jury trial. Plaintiff's counsel was an experienced "Lemon Law" specialist.
IGEN International Inc. v. Roche Diagnostics GmbH – Part of a team that represented Roche Diagnostics GmbH, a European diagnostics company, in a multi-billion-dollar intellectual property licensing dispute with IGEN International, Inc. The jury rejected several of the plaintiffs claims but nonetheless returned a verdict in plaintiffs favor and awarded just over $500 million in damages (1/4 of the amount sought). The Fourth Circuit later reversed several of the District Court's rulings and vacated nearly all of the damages, but affirmed IGEN's right to terminate the license agreement. After the appeal, the parties settled in a complex transaction ....I consider the matter significant to my development as a trial lawyer because it was extremely challenging work, involving complex legal and scientific issues related to a diagnostic detection technology called electrochemiluminescence, along with a substantial damages demand.
Clarendon National Ins. Co. v. Lloyds of London – Represented Clarendon in a dispute over Lloyds' refusal to pay claims. At trial, I conducted the direct and cross examinations of several fact and expert witnesses. After a two-week hearing, the arbitrators reduced our client's claim but nonetheless awarded Clarendon more than $9.7 million in unpaid claims.
International Insurance Co. of Hanover Ltd. v Mary E. Salem – From 2013 through 2014, I represented the International Insurance Company of Hannover, Ltd. in efforts to secure payment from the estate of the deceased principal of a managing general insurance agency. We had sued the principal previously, after catching him misappropriating several million in insurance premiums. He settled that suit by promising repayment and agreeing to secure the repayment obligation with mortgages on his real property, security interests in his personal property, and assignment of his life insurance proceeds. After defaulting on the repayment, he committed suicide. We then proceeded with litigation to recover for the stolen premium from his assets. I drafted the pleadings and led the negotiations, which led to a settlement that compensated my client for the stolen funds, while allowing some proceeds for the tortfeasor's widow.
Hartland Lakeside Joint No. 3 School District v WEA Ins. Corp. – From 2014 to 2016 , I was lead counsel for a plaintiff class of Wisconsin school districts that sued their former insurance company over the company's failure to turn over to the districts federal funds it had obtained on their behalf. The case required a detailed analysis of complicated federal regulations, upon which we crafted conversion, civil theft, and other state law claims. The intertwining of federal and state legal concepts led to complicated jurisdictional issues, on which we ultimately prevailed...but only after the case had bounced back and forth between the state and federal courts....The case secured a multi-million dollar recovery for aggrieved Wisconsin school districts, who, but for our work, would not have seen a single dollar of the funds Congress intended them to have.
Pro bono work:
I have been an active provider of pro bono services. During my last five years at the Jaw firm, I served as the Pro Bono Chair for Foley & Lardner's Milwaukee office. In that role, I was responsible for overseeing and encouraging all of our Milwaukee-based lawyers' participation in and commitment to equal justice efforts. Among other initiatives, I led a "Take it to 20" campaign that saw a substantial increase in the number of attorneys who achieved the firm's goal of contributing at least 20 hours each year to pro bono causes.
I also personally undertook a number of pro bono representations. As an associate, I accepted a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals appointment and represented Anthony D. Ward in connection with an appeal of his sentence on a bank robbery charge....As a senior associate and partner, I helped supervise associates on numerous other associates on similar Criminal Justice Act appointments.
In response to recruitment requests from the District Court, I accepted full and limited purpose representations of prison inmates....I also worked with associates on two different asylum petitions, both involving young men fleeing persecution in Somalia. We succeeded in obtaining asylum for both clients.
I also provided pro bono legal advice and counseling to several organizations serving victims of domestic violence, including The Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee and The Women's Center, Inc. in Waukesha.
I was an active member of the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association's (EDWBA 's) Pro Bono Committee and was a key member of a group that launched the association's Federal Legal Assistance Program, a call-in line staffed by volunteer lawyers to provide basic procedural advice to pro se litigants.
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