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 J. Shannon
Appointed to: Portage County Circuit Court
Appointment date: Aug. 24, 2015 (elected to a six-year term in April 2016)
Law School – Marquette University
Undergraduate – University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
High School – None listed on application
1989 - 2015 – Litigation attorney and partner, Anderson, O’Brien, Bertz, Screnes & Golla, Stevens Point, Wisconsin
US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
Supreme Court of the United States
Civil Trial Counsel of Wisconsin
Served briefly Board of Governors
Served as President, Potage (sic) County Bar Association
Legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, and administrative proceedings: Early in my career I litigated non-felony criminal matters and represented applicants and defended employers in administrative and workers compensation proceedings. During the last 20 years, my practice was concentrated specifically in civil litigation defense.
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Jury 10 (estimated); non-jury 20 (estimated); arbitration 10 (estimated); administrative bodies, 10 (estimated).
Cases on appeal: As I have recently retired, I do not have access to past client records maintained by the firm. I cannot recall specifically all of the matters in which I appeared on appeal as my appeallate (sic) practice was limited.
Two most significant cases in which you were involved:
Over the course of 26 years, I have litigated hundreds of cases many of which have involved very serious personal injuries, wrongful death actions and products liability cases. Significant cases like these often represent life-altering events for the litigants. To the child of a deceased motorist, the spouse of a seriously burned employee or the executive management of a small manufacturing company whose product is alleged to be defective and causal of a serious injury or significant property damage, their case is the most important one they will ever be involved in and, many times, represents the only contact they will ever have with the court system. Each litigant deserves trial counsel that is competent, respectful and diligent and they have a right to expect nothing less from the court. I am confident that I could translate my experience in the private practice of law to service of the public as a judge.
Prior judicial experience: None
All runs for elective office: None
Involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization: None
Judicial or non-partisan candidates that you have publicly endorsed in the last six years: Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Annete Zeigler (sic) (Annette Ziegler) and David Prosser
Describe any additional involvement in 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 your application.
General Counsel and Board Member of the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point Institute Review Board; Director, CAP Services of Central Wisconsin, Co-Director of Finance Pacelli Panacea for Stevens Point Area Catholic Schools; Director, Stevens Point Youth Baseball Association; Board Member, Portage County Courthouse Security Committee; Counsel and Board Member, City of Stevens Point Community Development Block Grant Committee.
Describe any significant pro bono legal work in the last five years: Rainbo Lodge Inc. General Counsel, President, Director and Board of Trustees.
Why I want to be a judge – Portage County's remaining judges- Tom Fluguar (sic) (Tom Flugaur) and Tom Eagon, have significant experience in litigation of criminal cases. Judge Fluguar (sic) served as in the Public Defender's office for many years prior to his election and Judge Eagon was elected for multiple terms as Portage County District Attorney. With the addition of my 26 years of civil litigation experience, the Portage County Circuit Court would become one of the most experienced small county judicial systems in the state. I can be of nearly immediate service in handling the caseload of our retiring judge, can help to reduce delay of matters pending before the court and minimize the necessity of utilizing reserve judges to address matters calendared before the Branch II court. I would consider it a very high honor to assist in the prompt and competent administration of justice in Portage County- the place where I was born, practiced my profession and raised my family.
An expanding view of a court's inherent and discretionary authority to adapt the common law to comport with an individual's broader desire for promotion of public policy or fundamental fairness many times leads to neither. – Portage County Circuit Judge Robert J. Shannon
Best United States or Wisconsin Supreme Court opinions in the last thirty years
(Shannon referred readers to the "worst case" question below.)
Worst United States or Wisconsin Supreme Court opinions in the last thirty years – Collins v. Eli Lilly
There have been numerous examples which prove that neither state nor federal courts should actively engage in social engineering. Our Supreme Court has struggled with this issue as have most other courts. I believe that a judge must be constantly vigilant in examining his or her rationale in order to avoid the temptation of utilizing the bench for the promotion of his or her personal beliefs or opinions. The danger is strongest in the appellate courts where large measures of discretionary authority exist and where interpretation of existing common law is regularly required however the danger exists even for a trial judge. An expanding view of a court's inherent and discretionary authority to adapt the common law to comport with an individual's broader desire for promotion of public policy or fundamental fairness many times leads to neither. Illustrative is the Wisconsin Supreme Court's 1984 decision in Collins v. Eli Lilly 116 Wis. 2d 166 in which the court discarded decades of existing common law in response to it's (sic) perception of the existence of a public need. The court held, in essence, that where a compelling need exits, otherwise axiomatic common law requirements such as proof of causation-in-fact may be ignored and that liability in damages against a party may result in the absence of proof that the party was responsible for manufacturing the medication which allegedly injured the plaintiff. The "risk contribution doctrine" which attributed liability to all existing manufactures (sic) based on a defendants (sic) market volume at or near the time of injury, required that a trial court disregard the established law relating to issues of legal cause and pervaded the state's common law for decades. Particularly troubling in that decision was the court's express encouragement that it would consider extending the doctrine to cases where similar problems existed in identifying a party which could be held responsible for the harm caused. In fact, in Thomas v. Mallet, 2005 WI. 129, the court accepted it's (sic) own invitation and used the doctrine to impose liability on a similar "risk contribution basis" against manufacturers of lead-based paint- some of whom had not manufactured or distributed any leaded paint for 30 years or more. The tension and uncertainty resulting from these decisions persisted for more than 2 decades and was heightened by a legislative effort to restrict expansion of the doctrine which resulted in being veto'd (sic) by Governor Doyle. The issue was finally resolved in 2011 with the amendments to sec 895.046 and 895.047 Wis. Stats. I believe the better approach is expressed in cases such as Crossett v. Goelser, 177 Wis. 455 (1935) which cautions extreme caution in recognizing new common law or adopting the law of other jurisdictions and reminds us that the legislature is better suited to consider and decide issues involving public policy and social change.
Judicial philosophy – I believe that the purpose of our legal system is best served by adherence to existing precedent and that major changes to that precedent through the common law is not within the legitimate authority of a judge, particularly a trial court judge. Continued utilization of the common law to achieve or advance a broader societal imperative leads to delivery of ad hoc justice and promotes disrespect for the law. If law is to be valuable to society, it must be restricted to it's (sic) original purpose- to deter conduct harmful to society and to protect the rights of individuals. The deterrent effect of any legal system is weakened when administration of justice is neither predictable nor prompt. I believe that the goal of a judge must be the equal and unbiased application of the law and that a judge's personal opinions, political or otherwise, should never form the basis of his or her administration of justice.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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