Former state Supreme Court justice to teach at UW Law School

Sept. 24, 2008

by Dennis Chaptman

Louis Butler Jr., a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice and the first African American to sit on the state's highest court, will teach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School.

"Justice Butler's work as a lawyer, a teacher and a jurist make him a significant addition to the law school and a remarkable role model and resource for our students," says Law School Dean Kenneth B. Davis Jr. "I am truly delighted that we were able to persuade Justice Butler to join our faculty."

Butler, who served on the Supreme Court from 2004-08, will serve a two-year stint as the school's Justice in Residence.

His duties will include teaching courses in criminal law, appellate advocacy and legal process. Butler will also work with students and faculty in the Law School's moot court and clinical programs and other areas of the curriculum that can benefit from his body of experience.

"I'm excited about this chance to return to the UW Law School," says Butler. "It's a wonderful opportunity to work with a top-notch faculty and to teach these promising young lawyers. To be able to come back to the place that taught me to be a lawyer is a privilege."

For the past 12 years, Butler has been a faculty member of the National Judicial College in Reno, Nev., which provides judges from across the nation and around the world with continuing judicial education. He has frequently lectured on criminal, appellate and municipal law since 1983 and formerly directed the Wisconsin Public Defender Clinical Program at Marquette University Law School as an adjunct assistant professor of law.

Butler also serves as a member of the bench in the Southwestern Law School Moot Court Competition in Los Angeles. He has lectured numerous times on various aspects of the law and is a panelist next month in a Georgetown University Law School forum titled "Our Courts and Corporate Citizenship," sponsored by the Sandra Day O'Connor Project on the State of the Judiciary. He has also been appointed to serve on the American Bar Association's Special Committee on Judicial Independence.

"We take pride in our law-in-action approach to teaching law, and Justice Butler will give our students an exceptional window into the workings of the law at all levels," Davis says.

Butler, who earned his law degree at the Law School in 1977, worked in the state public defender's office from 1979-92 as both a trial lawyer and an appellate practitioner. He was appointed as a judge on the city of Milwaukee Municipal Court in 1992, where he served for 10 years before his election as a Milwaukee County circuit court judge in 2002.

Shortly after leaving the Supreme Court, Butler was named to head a city of Milwaukee task force looking into how the city awards and renews liquor licenses. He will also be part of a panel that will address merit selection as opposed to judicial elections at the Judicial Conference in Minnesota in December.