"Walker's judges" is our effort to present information about Gov. Walker's appointees to the bench. The information is taken from the appointees' own judgeship applications.
Name: Robert F. Dehring Jr.
Appointed to: Jefferson County Circuit Court
Appointment date: Dec. 14, 2016; up for election spring, 2018
Law School – Marquette University
Undergrad – University of Wisconsin-Madison
High School – Waukesha North
2013 - present – Waukesha County judicial commissioner
2010 - 2012 – Jefferson County judicial commissioner
2009 - 2013 – Jefferson County assistant corporation counsel
Waukesha County Bar Association (board member, 2014-15; secretary/treasurer, 2015-16; president-elect, 2016-17)
Wisconsin Family Court Commissioner Association
The Federalist Society-Milwaukee Lawyers Chapter
Office of Lawyer Regulation-District 5 Committee
Legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, administrative proceedings: Private practice focused on estate planning, tax, and corporate contract work.Limited work in bankruptcy court, probate court, and criminal court (including felony cases).
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Jury, 0; non-jury, 30,000; administrative bodies, 2.
Cases on appeal: 0
List and describe the three most significant cases in which you were involved: None listed. I am unaware of any cases of mine that were cited in reported decisions.
Describe the approximate number and nature of cases you have heard during your judicial or quasi-judicial tenure: Civil court evictions, money claims under $10,000; temporary restraining orders in domestic abuse, harassment, child abuse and other matters; family court cases; criminal court initial appearances, bail hearing, arraignments, felony preliminary hearings and search warrants; juvenile court and probate matters.
Describe the two most significant cases you have heard as a judicial officer. Identify the parties, describe the cases, and explain why you believe them to be significant. Provide the trial dates and names of attorneys involved, if possible.
One case of mine that I believe to be especially significant is Waukesha County case ... due to a novel family law issue that surely would have reached the appellate level had the parties not eventually reached a stipulation. The parties have an 18 year old child who is developmentally disabled. The child attends public school receiving instruction in "life skills" which may or may not be interpreted as worthy of high school credit. In Wisconsin, child support runs until age 18, unless the child is actively pursuing a high school diploma. The mother, who has primary placement of the child, wants child support to run until age 19 because the child is still in school. The father wants child support to end at age 18 because the course of instruction will not lead to a high school diploma.
Another case that I consider significant is one of the first small claims trials that I heard in Jefferson County. ... The plaintiff was an indigent farmer who contracted with a Farmers Market (the defendant) to sell her fruits and vegetables. The farmer had a booth in a prime location, in a more prominent view of shoppers. Defendant told Plaintiff that she would have to move her booth to a less desirable location, even though they had contracted otherwise, so that the Defendant could give the spot to another preferred vendor. When plaintiff resisted, the defendant threatened to harm the plaintiff in an illegal manner. I found that the hostile environment created by the defendant was tantamount to a breach of contract, and awarded damages in the amount of $200.00. This amount represented the profit that the farmer would have earned but for the breach of contract. While the outcome may not be considered significant in terms of dollars and cents, I believe this case to be a victory for the proposition of equal justice under the law, and in particular, for small business owners everywhere.
Involvement in judicial, non-partisan or partisan political campaigns in the last six years: In 2010, I ran for City of Cudahy Municipal Judge. I received 17.43% of the vote in the 2/16/10 primary and did not advance to the general election. John Dobogai won the general election in April, 2010.
Candidates endorsed in the last six years -- David Wambach, Ronald Sonderhouse, Rebecca Bradley, Timothy Kay.
Professional or civic organizations, volunteer activities, service in a church or synagogue, or any other activities or hobbies that could be relevant or helpful to consideration of the application: I am an active member of St. Catherine’s Church in Oconomowoc. I have volunteered for several years as Presiding Judge in the Wisconsin High School Mock Trial program. I volunteer from time to time for charities such as the American Cancer Society, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Big Brothers / Big Sisters, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the Lake Area Free Clinic.
I found that the hostile environment created by the defendant was tantamount to a breach of contract, and awarded damages in the amount of $200.00. - Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert F. Dehring Jr., describing one of his most significant cases
Describe any pro bono legal work in the last five years: None - prohibited due to status as quasi-judicial official.
Why I want to be a judge – I want to be a judge because, given my abilities, it is the highest level of service that I can offer to the community.
It is a daily honor to take the bench as a commissioner. When on the bench, it is inescapable to realize ones responsibility to society, and to the litigants in particular. It is rewarding to have the chance to positively affect people’s lives (or, all too often, minimize the negative circumstances).
The intellectual challenge of applying statutes and case law to a particular fact pattern is often grueling, but always stimulating.
Our system of justice is not flawless. But it is the best in the world, and the envy of all other nations. It is both daunting and rewarding to be a critical cog in the system.
As a commissioner I am already familiar with the processes of the Jefferson County court system. I have heard thousands of cases in every area of the law. In Waukesha County, I have helped reduce costs to the taxpayers through efficiency initiatives, such as leading the county's transition to paperless filing. I would like to use this experience to take the next step from commissioner to judge.
Best Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years — United States v. Lopez (1995)
[This case] halted a decades-long trend of federal encroachment on state sovereignty.
In 1990, Congress made it a federal offense for any individual to possess a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone. The Act neither regulated a commercial activity nor contained a requirement that the possession be connected in any way to interstate commerce. Lopez was convicted in the District Court. Lopez appealed, challenging his conviction based on his claim that the Act exceeded Congress' power to legislate under the Commerce Clause. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the conviction, holding the Act invalid as beyond the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause in light of insufficient congressional findings and legislative history. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals.
This opinion is remarkable in its patient and deliberative analysis. Chief Justice Rehnquist immediately recognizes that even the precedents which have expanded congressional power under the Commerce Clause confirm that this power is subject to outer limits. …
In the instant case, there was no evidence that the carrying of handguns affected the economy on a grand scale. To accept the government's "domino effect" argument would be to create a slippery slope where the government could regulate any activity that might lead to violent crime, regardless of its nexus to interstate commerce, due to possible social costs. If Congress could regulate something so far removed from commerce, then it could regulate anything.
The Constitution created Congress as a body with enumerated powers. Congress may exercise only those powers granted to it. Regulation of criminal law enforcement and education are areas that States have been historically and constitutionally sovereign. Given no evidence that the activity substantially affects interstate commerce, the Court was correct to step in and check the government's authority by defining clearly between state and federal powers.
Worst Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years – Kelo v. City of New London (2005)
[This case] is an unfortunate assault upon individual property rights.
The city of New London used its eminent domain authority to seize private property to sell to private developers for redevelopment. The city said developing the land would create jobs and increase tax revenues, as local planners hoped that the Pfizer Corporation would draw new business to the area. Kelo and others whose property was seized sued New London in state court. The property owners argued the city violated the Fifth Amendment's takings clause, which prohibits the government from taking private property for public use without just compensation. Specifically, the property owners argued taking private property to sell to private developers was not public use. ...
In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens, the majority held that the city's taking of private property to sell for private development qualified as a "public use" within the meaning of the takings clause. The city was not taking the land simply to benefit a certain group of private individuals, but was following an economic development plan. Such justifications for land takings, the majority argued, should be given deference. …
This is a classic example of judicial activism, where the Court contorts the plain text of the Constitution to the point of absurdity, for the benefit of subjective policy preferences. In the takings clause, the words "public use" limit the government's power to the taking of private property only when the land would be used by the general public. The majority misinterprets "public use" as being the equivalent of "public purpose," which displaces the language of the Clause. Moreover, the takings clause in the Fifth Amendment was enacted to prevent the government from infringing on the private property rights of citizens, a right which was fundamental to the American Founding. The Founders could not have intended to benefit the politically powerful at the expense of individual homeowners and local communities.
Judicial philosophy — My judicial philosophy is characterized by restraint, strict constructionism, and accountability.
Judges must interpret the law strictly rather than to seek to make new laws. A judge should defer to the intent of the legislature rather than what he or she feels the law should be. This is assuming that the legislature is acting within its enumerated powers.
A role of the judiciary is to be a check on the expansion of federal power. The 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution states that powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the States, are reserved to the States or the people. Accordingly, issues that are not explicitly expressed in the U.S. Constitution are the domain of each respective State.
If you have previously submitted a questionnaire or application to this or any other judicial nominating commission, please give the name of the commission and the approximate date of submission. I applied for an appointment to Branch 9 in Waukesha County through this commission on 7/23/2014.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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