"Walker's judges" is an effort to present information about former Gov. Scott Walker's appointees to the bench. Since the election of Gov. Tony Evers, WJI has focused on "Evers' judges." However, from time to time WJI posts "Walker's judges" columns for those who still serve on the bench.
Judge William W. Brash III presently serves as Chief Judge of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. The information below comes from his 2015 application for the court of appeals seat. Brash was appointed to Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2001 by then-Gov. Scott McCallum.
Information for "Walker's judges" and "Evers' judges" 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: William W. Brash III
Appointed to: Wisconsin Court of Appeals-District 1
Appointment date: October 2015 (effective December 2015). Elected April 2017 and now running for a second 6-year term in the April 4, 2023, election.
Law School – Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Undergraduate – St. Norbert College, DePere, Wisconsin
2001-2015 – Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge
1997-2001 – Milwaukee County reserve municipal judge
1984-1997 – Fox Point municipal judge
1990-2001 – Principal, William W. Brash and Associates, S.C.
1990-1991 – Partner, Hopkins and Brash, S.C.
Bar and administrative memberships:
State Bar of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
Describe your legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, and administrative proceedings.
I was actively engaged in the General Practice of Law for over twenty-three (23) years, commencing in November 1978 and ending in December 2001. The character, nature and composition of my practice changed during this period based on the nature of my employment and/or business affiliations, as well as the needs of my clients. This started to become more consistent, however, during approximately the last five (5) years of my private practice career because of my ability to exercise greater discretion in my client composition, while at the same time maintaining consistent employment for myself and my staff. During this same time, I had now established a network of attorneys to whom I could make referrals in those areas that required specialized knowledge and ability, such as personal injury, products or malpractice matters, certain types of criminal matters and appellate work.
Upon review of the last two (2) year period immediately preceding my appointment to the Circuit Court, my office opened four hundred sixty (460) new files. These files encompassed eight (8) major areas of the law, specifically:
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Jury, 2, non-jury, dozens; arbitration, 0; administrative bodies, 25.
List and describe the two most significant cases in which you were involved:
I must start by indicating that each client feels that his or her case is the most significant matter before the court. However, none of these cases was particularly significant or noteworthy in light of the nature of the case or the decision handed down by the Court. Therefore, please see my responses to [other] questions . . . .
Describe the nature of cases you have heard during your judicial or quasi-judicial tenure.
I am currently assigned to the Felony Division, and I have a General Felony Calendar, which is one of five (5) such courts in Milwaukee County. I began this current rotational assignment on August 1, 2013, after completing four (4) years in two (2) civil assignments. I handle all manner and nature of felony theft, robbery, burglary, felony OWI’s, injury by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle, attempted homicide, substantial battery, Chapter 980 cases (sexually violent individuals), white collar crime, voter fraud, etc. These courts are general catchalls for all felony matters not otherwise assigned to specialty courts. . . .
Prior to my current assignment, I served for three (3) years, August 2010 to July 31, 2013, in the Civil/Probate Division, the last two (2) years as the Presiding Judge in that division. These calendars are comprised of roughly fifty percent (50%) large claims civil matters, and fifty percent (50%) probate, estate, guardianship and mental health matters. The Presiding Judge in this division works closely with the Probate Department in addressing certain policy issues, in a department that consists of a Commissioner, two (2) Deputy Registers in Probate, an administrator, and ten (10) other personnel as well as working with staff at the mental Health Complex. . . .
Brash then discussed prior assignments to Large Claims Civil, General Felony, Homicide/Sexual Assault, Felony Gun, Domestic Violence, and General Misdemeanor calendars.
During the period of May 1997 through November 2001, I served as a Reserve Municipal Judge for Milwaukee County, which was an annual appointment by the Chief Judge of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. In this capacity, I served in both the City of Milwaukee, as well as the surrounding communities, and handled thousands of cases for the various municipalities.
I served as the Fox Point Municipal Judge from November 1984 to May 1997. I was initially elected in a special election to serve the balance of my predecessor’s term and thereafter in four (4) successive general elections in April of 1985, 1988, 1991 and 1994. During my tenure as the Fox Point Municipal Judge, I handled in excess of twenty five thousand (25,000) cases.
Describe the two most significant cases you have heard as a judicial officer.
Kenosha Unified School District, et al. vs Stifel Nicolaus & Company, Inc., et al. Case Number 08CV13726
This case involves five (5) Wisconsin school districts in an alleged two hundred ($200,000,000.00) million dollar securities fraud matter related to investments made by the school districts in synthetic credit derivatives, including collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps. These instruments were sold by Stifel, purchased by the school districts, IE Kenosha, Kimberly Area School District, the School District of Waukesha, the West Allis School District and the Whitefish Bay School District relative other pension benefits, and created and marketed by the Royal Bank of Canada Europe Ltd., RBC Capital Markets Corp. and RBC Capital Markets Holdings (USA) Inc.
The plaintiffs are primarily represented by Stephen Kravit and Christopher Krawczyk of Kravit, Hovel & Krawczyk and the defendants Stifel are primarily Represented by Brian Cahill of Gass Weber Mullins LLC., while the RBC defendants are primarily represented by Terry Johnson of Peterson Johnson Murray. At Various times through out these proceedings there were as many as twenty (20) attorneys involved in this matter, representing not only the principal actors, but various insurance companies and other third party defendants.
This matter was originally filed in September of 2008 and I assumed responsibility for this case in August 2009 and as of my rotation on July 31, 2013, the matter had not concluded.
I believe this to be a significant matter because it occurred after there had been a change in the law relative the financing of other pension benefits and based upon the complex nature of those issues presented and the relative roles of the parties involved.
Milton J. Christensen et al. vs. Michael J. Sullivan et al. Case Number 1996CV1835
This case involved an action initiated on the behalf of inmates of Milwaukee County, alleging overcrowding in the jail facilities and a lack of proper medical care and attention. A petition for a writ of prohibition was originally filed in March 1996, and thereafter a summons and complaint, with the matter ultimately being certified as a class action.
During the pendency of this matter this case was managed by nine (9) different Circuit Court Judges, with a partial resolution having been reached by the parties pursuant to the execution of a consent decree in March 2001.
The parties continued to litigate a number of issues relative compliance with the decree, as well as issues relative the authority to take certain actions pursuant to the consent decree, which ultimately culminated in series of hearings in 2012 and 2013 in my court. As a result of these hearings, I ordered the County to execute a contract with Armor Correctional Health Services Inc. to provide medical services to Milwaukee County Inmates.
The parties were represented by various counsels during the course of this matter, but most recently by Peter Koneazny of the Legal Aid Society, Laurence Dupris of the American Civil Liberties Union, Kimberly Walker and Mark Grady of Corporation Counsel, Michael Whitcomb on behalf of Sheriff Clarke, Charles Bohl on behalf of certain defendants, Ron Stadler on behalf of Milwaukee County and C. J. Krawczyk on behalf of Roeschen’s Omnicare Pharmacy.
I believe that this matter is significant because it established the structure for the resolution of a matter that had been pending in the court system for over seventeen (17) years. This hopefully will have a genuine impact on the community whereby an increase in the efficiency by which medical care is provided to inmates results in a more effective use of taxpayer dollars in this capacity.
Previous runs for public office and outcome:
Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge, elected 2002, 2008, 2014
Village of Fox Point, Wisconsin, trustee, appointed 1998 and elected 1999 and 2001
Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge, defeated in election, 1997
Village of Fox Point, Wisconsin, municipal judge, elected 1984-1994
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last ten years:
Hon. Michael Aprahamian
Hon. Rebecca Bradley
Hon. Christopher Dee
Hon. Lindsey Grady
Hon. Claire Fiorenza
Hon. Thomas McAdams
Hon. Nelson Phillips
Hon. Mark Sanders
Hon. Linda Van De Water
Professional or civic and charitable organizations:
Current Member, State Bar of Wisconsin
Current Member of the State Legislative Committee
Current Member of PPAC (State Planning and Policy Advisory Committee)
Past Director and Current Member, Milwaukee Voluntary Judges Association, 2009 – Present
Current Member of the Thomas E. Fairchild American Inns of Court, 2009 – Present
Current Member, Milwaukee County and Ozaukee County Bar Associations (Past President 1995-1996, Vice President 1994-1995 and Secretary/Treasurer 1993-1994 of the Ozaukee County Bar Association)
Current Member of the Saint Andrew's Society of the City of Milwaukee
Past Member, National Council of Family & Juvenile Court Judges
Past President and Board Member, August 1991 – August 1995, St. Thomas More Society
Past Member, Wisconsin Construction and Public Contract Committee, State Bar of Wisconsin
Past Member, Wisconsin Municipal Judges Association
Past Member, Wisconsin Lawyer Pro Bono Association
Current Member, Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity
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.
I am a past and current member of the Board of Managers for the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, Inc. The Board is involved in various programs that promote education and opportunities for students in the community that we serve, through programs such as mentoring, tutoring and academic scholarships.
I have been asked on several occasions to serve as the Commencement Speaker for the Citizen Police Academy which is conducted by the Bayside, Fox Point and River Hills Police Departments. This program, as first conducted in 2000, is put on and organized by several of the North Shore Police Departments in an effort to promote a civilian understanding and appreciation of local law enforcement.
I routinely receive and meet with groups of students from the local high schools and from MATC who have an interest in the operation of the courts and/or an interest in pursuing a career in law enforcement or the legal profession.
I have, upon request from Professor Hammer of Marquette University Law School, accepted the assignment of mentoring a student intern for a semester. As such, I am responsible for overseeing their involvement in the court system, reviewing written assignments, and evaluating their performance upon the completion of the semester.
I served as a member of the Planning Committee for the 2006 Annual Wisconsin Judicial Conference, a two and one half (2 ½) day conference for all of the Judges in Wisconsin.
I previously served as Judge for a course on Trial Advocacy at Marquette University Law School, where the students prepare for and try a case to the court as a portion of their coursework.
During the school year, beginning in the fall of 2002 through the spring of 2006, I, along with numerous Milwaukee County Judges, worked with local grade schools, through a program known as Connecting to Classrooms, to expose middle school aged students to the judicial system through the use of video conferencing, which allowed the students to come to your courtrooms through electronic means and also by meeting with the students at their schools.
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service: N/A
Why I want to be a judge -- I have enjoyed the privilege of serving this community as a jurist for the last twenty-nine (29) years. Initially, as a Municipal Judge for the Village of Fox Point and the County for sixteen (16) years, and currently, as a Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge for the past thirteen (13) years. My experience has encompassed all matters within the civil, probate and criminal courts.
I view this judicial position with the Appellate Court as an opportunity to continue the progression of my legal career, as well as the opportunity to grow in an avocation that I love.
Every step of my career has afforded me the ability to learn and evolve, both as a lawyer and a judge. Each experience – my formal legal education, my general law practice, and my time on the bench – has provided a solid foundation for continued growth, both professionally and personally.
This diversity in my legal experience, as well as my personal life, along with my passion for the law and serving the community, are the greatest assets I bring to the bench. I believe that I possess a broad perspective and understanding of issues that will come before the court and I expect that I will encounter a greater diversity of cases involving a much broader range of issues than I am currently exposed to in my position as a trial judge.
I eagerly anticipate a new and varied series of intellectual challenges. Additionally, as with all judicial positions, this will provide a continued opportunity to give something back to the community, in an effort to enhance the quality of life for all who reside here. Being a judge gives me the chance to directly impact my community through the fair and impartial administration of the law.
The freedoms afforded by our country are based upon the rule and operation of the law, and if I am entrusted with this responsibility, I will honor that trust with the continued fair, impartial and proper application of the law.
As a jurist it is the judge’s responsibility to properly apply existing laws, and those established through legal precedence, as opposed to legislating from the bench, in order to preserve the integrity of our system.
Still, a judge is often called upon to construct or interpret an unclear or ambiguous term of legal significance. In making such an interpretation, the court should look to common law tradition, other legislation, prior case law and other resources to aid in interpreting the disputed term. Conversely, where the language and its meaning is plain and clear, the court should apply the plain meaning of the language in making its decision. I believe that this is the appropriate role of a jurist, regardless of his or her philosophical ideologies.
Furthermore, I feel that it is of the utmost importance to have a complete understanding of the issues before me; to understand the law as it relates to those issues; to be respectful of the parties and attorneys, regardless of their positions; to be mindful of my responsibilities and the community that I serve; and to decide all matters before me fully, fairly and impartially to the best of my ability. These principles, when combined with my experience and temperament, serve to enhance my abilities as a jurist.
Describe one of the best United States or Wisconsin Supreme Court opinions in the last thirty years and explain why you feel that way.
I approach this question and the concept of one of the “best” Supreme Court decisions from the aspect of a decision that has a far-reaching and long-lasting impact. From that perspective, I believe that Madison Teachers, Inc., et al. v. Scott Walker, et al., 2014 WI 99, better known as the “Act 10 Case,” meets this criteria.
Act 10, of course, refers to legislation passed in March 2011 that had a profound effect on public employees in Wisconsin. Among other things, Act 10 prohibits most public employees from engaging in collective bargaining on issues other than base wages. The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of Act 10, and Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan B. Colas ruled that several provisions of the Act, including the collective bargaining constraints, were invalid. The case was appealed to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, which in turn certified the matter to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed Judge Colas’ decision, upholding Act 10 in its entirety. This decision has already had an enormous impact on the State of Wisconsin that will be felt for years to come. Additionally, a model of this legislation could be used in other states around the country.
The majority opinion as authored by Justice Gableman, as well as a dissent by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, thoroughly discussed the constitutional arguments presented. However, the concurrence by Justice Crooks, although disagreeing with the policies promoted by Act 10, reminds us of the role of the judiciary among the branches of government. Indeed, Justice Crooks’ view quite accurately reflects my own judicial philosophy.
Justice Crooks clearly recognizes that the Act violates neither the United States Constitution nor the Wisconsin Constitution under the standard of review for statutory constitutionality and, as such, he was compelled to join the majority in upholding the Act. He noted that questions relating to “policy determinations” are to be left to legislatures and governors, and are not properly before the court: "I respect the boundaries the judicial branch must observe and recognize that we cannot substitute our judgment on questions of policy for that of the Wisconsin legislature and Governor." Madison Teachers, Inc., 2014 WI 99, 180
This boundary of the judicial branch must be remembered and respected by jurists at all times, even and especially in difficult cases where important policy decisions are at stake, and emotions run high.
Describe one of the worst United States or Wisconsin Supreme Court opinions in the last thirty years and explain why you feel that way.
As noted above … I approach this question in a like manner; that is, reviewing whether a decision is impactful, but in a more negative way. To that end, Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U.S. __ , 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013), is an example of a decision that is certainly impactful, though not necessarily in a way that positively furthers the rule of law on this issue.
The question presented in McNeely was whether to establish a per se rule against requiring a search warrant for blood tests for suspected drunk drivers. The rule in effect at the time was that with the existence of emergency circumstances, a warrantless test does not violate the Fourth Amendment, a determination that was to be made on a case-by-case basis. The trial court and Missouri Supreme Court, applying this rule, found that there were no exigent circumstances that would justify a warrantless search.
In contrast, the State of Missouri sought to implement a per se rule permitting warrantless searches across the board for blood draws in drunk driving cases. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to address a split in the lower courts relating to whether the natural metabolizing of alcohol in the body automatically provides the exigent circumstances necessary to justify a warrantless search in any situation.
The Court declined to adopt such a per se rule. Rather, the majority stressed that a case-by-case analysis is still the proper manner to determine whether a warrantless search was justified. However, in reaffirming the current rule of law on this issue, without supplementing or enhancing the established guidelines, the Court has arguably added another layer of procedural steps that law enforcement must follow in making a drunk driving arrest.
For example, the Court notes that although it is currently much easier and faster to get a warrant due to advances in telecommunication, it recognizes that there could still be a delay in obtaining a warrant that could lead to the loss of evidence, ie. the dissipation of any alcohol in the suspect’s blood stream. However, the Court notes that “current and future technological advances in warrant procedures” negates the need for a per se rule on this issue.
While future advances in telecommunications that may help facilitate the warrant process may in fact come to fruition someday, this hardly seems to be a particularly compelling argument against the implementation of a per se rule. Moreover, the analysis of whether there are any exigent circumstances for doing a warrantless blood draw is likely to have a far-reaching impact on law enforcement, and not in a positive way. For those reasons, I do not believe that McNeely was a “good” decision that furthered the body of law on this issue.
Describe your judicial philosophy.
Philosophically, I believe that the law, as applied or interpreted by the Court, should be construed reasonably, containing all that it fairly means.
A jurist with this philosophy is generally categorized as a “strict constructionist”. I think this, however, is a narrowing interpretation and misclassifies those who look to the clear meaning of the text or legislation, and exercise judicial restraint and fidelity to the original meaning in interpreting the same, versus those who engage in “judicial activism” or legislating from the bench
Additionally, as to constitutional issues, I believe that I would fall somewhere between constitutional originalism, as defined, and one who believes in a living constitution, looking first to the framers intent and thereafter addressing those issues in the context of the current environment.
As previously noted, our system of government provides for three separate and distinct branches, each with their own roles and responsibilities. It is a judge’s responsibility to properly apply the same in a non-partisan or non-political manner, in spite of what appears to be an ever-increasing politicization of the judiciary.
Describe any other information you feel would be helpful to your application.
As a Judge I have presided over hundreds of jury trials, bench trials and other dispositive proceedings, and since assuming my current rotational assignment in August 2013, I have conducted eighteen (18) jury trials alone.
As to my appellate record, my trial court decisions have been appealed and the matters have been resolved, ninety-nine (99) times to date. Of those ninety-nine appeals in which I was involved in some capacity, I have been reversed five (5) times. The remaining ninety-four (94) decisions were affirmed by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court, with a number of those decisions having been published. In briefly reviewing the same, however, I would note that none of my decisions, in my opinion, departed from established legal precedent in the state of Wisconsin, such that my rulings: (1) addressed an issue of first impression; (2) created a bright-line rule; or (3) represented a marked shift in the way Wisconsin courts view a particular principle of law. Rather, they were generally affirmed as having correctly applied the relevant law.
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