Rock County judge among recommendations for federal bench

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Nico Savidge
Thursday, August 1, 2013

JANESVILLE—A Rock County judge could fill one of the longest-running judicial vacancies in the federal court system if he's chosen from a pool of three finalists for the job.

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson announced Thursday they will recommend Judge Michael R. Fitzpatrick and two other men to be a federal judge in Wisconsin's Western District Court in Madison, a position which has been vacant for more than four years.

President Barack Obama will nominate one of the men, who would then need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

A bipartisan commission chose the three from a field of candidates.

Fitzpatrick, who has led the third branch of Rock County Circuit Court since 2008, thanked Johnson and Baldwin in a statement Thursday.

“I am honored and humbled by their confidence,” he said.

Fitzpatrick did not respond to a request for an interview and said he would not make any further comment, “Out of respect for the appointment process.”

His competition for the job is the current U.S. attorney for the western district, John W. Vaudreuil, and James D. Peterson, an intellectual property lawyer and president of the Wisconsin Bar Association.

“Each of the nominees Senator Johnson and I are recommending to President Obama are experienced, highly qualified, and would make an outstanding federal district judge,” Baldwin said in a joint statement with Johnson.

The Wisconsin Federal Naming Commission chose the men after accepting applications this spring. Six state bar members make up the commission, with Johnson and Baldwin appointing three apiece.

Johnson thanked Baldwin for working with him “to fill this important judicial vacancy in a balanced, bipartisan way.

“This is a win for the citizens of Wisconsin,” he said.

If approved, one of the men will fill a seat at the federal courthouse that has been vacant since January 2009.

It's the fifth-longest judicial vacancy in the federal court system, according to judicialnominations.org, a website managed by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

Obama nominated former state Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler to the position in 2009, but the Senate repeatedly returned the nomination.

The next nominee will have to clear the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate before being confirmed.

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