Diane S. Sykes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Diane S. Sykes
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Assumed office
July 3, 2020
Preceded byDiane Wood
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Assumed office
July 1, 2004
Appointed byGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byJohn Louis Coffey
Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
In office
September 7, 1999 – July 1, 2004
Appointed byTommy Thompson
Preceded byDonald W. Steinmetz
Succeeded byLouis B. Butler
Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge for the Milwaukee Circuit, Branch 43
In office
August 1, 1992 – September 1999
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded byMarshall Murray
Personal details
Diane Elizabeth Schwerm

(1957-12-23) December 23, 1957 (age 66)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
EducationNorthwestern University (BS)
Marquette University (JD)

Diane Schwerm Sykes (née Diane Elizabeth Schwerm; born December 23, 1957)[1] is an American jurist and lawyer who serves as the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She served as a justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 1999 to 2004.

Early life and education[edit]

Sykes graduated from Brown Deer High School in 1976 and then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism at Northwestern University in 1980,[2] and a Juris Doctor at Marquette University Law School in 1984.[2] Between college and law school she worked as a reporter for The Milwaukee Journal.[2][3][4]

Legal career[edit]

After law school, from 1984 to 1985, Sykes clerked for Judge Terence T. Evans of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.[2] From 1985 to 1992, she worked in private practice as a litigator for Whyte & Hirschboeck, a medium-sized law firm in Milwaukee. Sykes won election to a newly created trial judge seat on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 1992, serving in the misdemeanor, felony, and civil divisions.[2]

She left the trial court in 1999 when she was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, to fill a vacancy for Justice Donald W. Steinmetz.[2] After being appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, she was elected to the Supreme Court in April 2000, defeating Louis B. Butler, who was later appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court by Governor Jim Doyle in 2004.[5]

Federal judicial service[edit]

President George W. Bush nominated Sykes to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on November 14, 2003.[6][7] The Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination by a 14–5 vote on March 11, 2004. The United States Senate confirmed her on June 24, 2004 by a 70–27 vote.[8] She received her commission on July 1, 2004.[7] She became Chief Judge on July 3, 2020.[9]

In 2005, President George W. Bush seriously considered nominating Sykes to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court of the United States.[10] In 2017, Sykes was on President Donald Trump's list of potential Supreme Court justices.[4][11]

On June 7, 2017, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas's 1st congressional district commented on her conservative judicial philosophy: "There are only two reliable originalists on the Seventh Circuit, Michael Kanne and Diane Sykes."[12]

Notable cases[edit]

In May 2015, the Supreme Court reversed a unanimous panel opinion Sykes joined which had found that Article Three of the United States Constitution forbids bankruptcy courts from creating jurisdiction over a claim through the litigants consent.[13][14] In Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran (2016), Sykes wrote for a unanimous court when it found that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act did not grant terrorist attack victims the right to attach a foreign state's property.[15][16] That judgment was unanimously affirmed by the Supreme Court in February 2018.[17]

In April 2017, Sykes dissented when the en banc Seventh Circuit, by a vote of 8–3, found that LGBT Americans were protected from sex discrimination by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[18] In her dissent, Sykes argued the court should have applied a "textualist decision method" instead of the majority's "sex stereotyping" reasoning or the "judicial interpretive updating" Judge Richard Posner promoted in his concurrence.[19] In April 2018, Sykes wrote for the unanimous court when it found that the Americans with Disabilities Act did not require an employer to grant a multi-month leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation.[20][21]

In December 2017, Sykes supported the 4–3 en banc decision to reverse an earlier federal magistrate judgment that a confession had been unlawfully coerced from Brendan Dassey. The dissenting opinion described this decision as "a travesty of justice".[22]

In July 2018, Sykes wrote for the unanimous panel when it found that a new Illinois law that required previously convicted sex offenders to relocate their residences away from newly opened daycares did not violate the Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause.[23][24]

Personal life[edit]

In 1980, she married Charlie Sykes, who went on to become a conservative talk-show host on WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee. The couple had two children and divorced in 1999.[25]

Sykes is a member of the Federalist Society.[2][4]

Wisconsin Supreme Court[edit]

  • Baierl v. McTaggart[permanent dead link], 245 Wis. 2d 632 (2001) – Dissent urging use of common law to overturn statutory rescission remedy in landlord-tenant law.
  • Putnam v. Time Warner, 255 Wis.2d 447 (2002) – Dissenting in part, denying statutory action for wrongful charges on cable bill, using "voluntary payment doctrine."
  • Bammert v. Don's Super Valu, 254 Wis. 2d 347 (2002) – Opinion of the Court refusing a cause of action for retaliation involving terminated wife of police officer who ticketed a drunk driver.
  • State v. Carlson, 261 Wis.2d 97 (2003) – Dissent urging affirmation of verdict involving non-English speaking juror.
  • Tietsworth v. Harley Davidson, 270 Wis.2d 146 (2004) – Opinion of the Court denying statutory cause of action under Wisconsin Deceptive Trade Practices Act, using "economic loss doctrine".
  • State ex rel. Kalal v. Dane County Circuit Court, 271 Wis.2d 633 (2004) – Opinion of the Court outlining the originalist and textualist method of statutory interpretation and clarifying the role of deference to the legislature's policy determinations in judicial review.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit[edit]

Separate opinions[edit]

  • Casey K. v. St. Anne Community High Sch. Dist. No. 302, 400 F.3d 508 (7th Cir. 2005) (dissent)
  • United States v. O'Neill, 437 F.3d 654 (7th Cir. 2006) (dissent)
  • In re United Airlines, 438 F.3d 720 (7th Cir. 2006) (concurring in part and dissenting in part)
  • Johns v. Laidlaw Ed. Serv.,199 Fed. Appx. 568 (7th Cir. 2006) (dissent)
  • Currie v. Paper Converting Machine Co., 202 Fed. Appx. 120 (7th Cir. 2006) (concurrence)
  • Loubster v. Thacker, 440 F.3d 439 (7th Cir. 2006) (concurring in part and dissenting in part)
  • Laskowski v. Spellings, 443 F.3d 930 (7th Cir. 2006) (dissent), vacated sub nom. Notre Dame v. Laskowski, 127 S. Ct. 3051 (2007)
  • Winkler v. Gates, 481 F.3d 977 (7th Cir. 2007) (concurrence)
  • IBEW v. Ill. Bell Telephone Co., 491 F.3d 685 (7th Cir. 2007) (dissent)
  • Mainstreet Org. of Realtors v. Calumet City, 505 F.3d 742 (7th Cir. 2007) (concurrence)


  • Hallows Lecture: Reflections on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, 89 Marq. L. Rev. 723 (2006)
  • "Of a Judiciary Nature": Observations on Chief Justice Roberts's First Opinions, 34 Pepp. L. Rev. 1027 (2007)
  • Religious Liberties: The Role of Religion in Public Debate, 20 Regent U. L. Rev. 301 (2008) (introductory remarks)
  • Citation to Unpublished Orders Under New FRAP Rule 32.1 and Circuit Rule 32.1: Early Experience in the Seventh Circuit, 32 S. Ill. U. L. J. 579 (2008)
  • Independence versus Accountability: Finding a Balance Amidst the Changing Politics of State Court Judicial Selection, 92 Marq. L. Rev. 341 (2008)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary" (PDF). United States Senate. February 11, 2004.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (2001). Barish, Lawrence S.; Meloy, Patricia E. (eds.). State of Wisconsin 2001–2002 Blue Book. Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Legislature Joint Committee on Legislative Organization. p. 10. Appointed to Supreme Court 1999 to fill vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Donald W. Steinmetz. Elected to full term 2000.
  3. ^ Supreme Court, Former justices: Diane S. Sykes (1957– ), Wisconsin Court System. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c de Vogue, Ariane (January 24, 2017). "Examining the top contenders on Trump's Supreme Court list". CNN. Atlanta, Georgia. Retrieved January 28, 2017. A former journalist, she flexed her interviewing skills in 2013 by sitting down with Justice Clarence Thomas for a talk to discuss his jurisprudence.
  5. ^ "Sykes locks up a term of her own". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. April 5, 2000. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  6. ^ "Presidential Nomination 1109, 108th United States Congress". United States Congress. November 14, 2003. Retrieved June 30, 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Sykes, Diane S." Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  8. ^ On the Nomination (Confirmation Diane S. Sykes, of Wisconsin, To Be U.S. Circuit Judge)
  9. ^ "Paralegal or Judicial Assistant to Circuit Judge Diane S. Sykes when she assumes the role of Chief Judge of the Seventh Circuit on July 3, 2020" (PDF). United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. May 19, 2020. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  10. ^ Andrew Zajac. "Selecting Next Justice Could Prove To Be Volatile Archived January 8, 2018, at the Wayback Machine". Sun Sentinel, July 2, 2005.
  11. ^ Sherman, Mark; Colvin, Jill. "Trump's Supreme Court list underscores election's importance". Associated Press. Archived from the original on May 19, 2016. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
  12. ^ Gohmert, Louie (June 7, 2017). "Issues of the Day". Congressional Record, 115th Congress, 1st Session. 163 (97): H4693–H4698.
  13. ^ Note, The Supreme Court, 2014 Term — Leading Cases, 129 Harv. L. Rev. 201 (2015).
  14. ^ Wellness International Network, Ltd. v. Sharif, 727 F.3d 751 (7th Cir. 2013).
  15. ^ Note, Recent Case:Seventh Circuit Holds that FSIA Does Not Provide Freestanding Basis to Satisfy Judgment Against State Sponsors of Terrorism, 130 Harv. L. Rev. 761 (2016).
  16. ^ Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 830 F.3d 470 (7th Cir. 2016).
  17. ^ "Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran". Oyez Project. Retrieved July 2, 2018.
  18. ^ Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, 853 F.3d 339 (7th Cir. 2017) (en banc).
  19. ^ Note, Recent Case: Seventh Circuit Holds Sexual Orientation Discrimination Is a Form of Sex Discrimination, 131 Harv. L. Rev. 1489 (2018).
  20. ^ Note, Recent Case: Seventh Circuit Rules that a Multimonth Leave of Absence Cannot Be a Reasonable Accommodation, 129 Harv. L. Rev. 201 (2018).
  21. ^ Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc, 583 F.3d 339 (7th Cir. 2017).
  22. ^ Bruce Vielmetti and Tom Kertscher. "U.S. Appeals Court upholds conviction of Brendan Dassey in 'Making a Murderer' case". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 8, 2017.
  23. ^ Note, Recent Case: Seventh Circuit Holds Sex Offender Residency Restriction Does Not Violate Ex Post Facto Clause, 132 Harv. L. Rev. 2352 (2019).
  24. ^ Vasquez v. Foxx, 895 F.3d 515 (7th Cir. 2018).
  25. ^ "Family Court Divorce Filing" (PDF). WisOpinion.com. WisPolitics.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 19, 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2016.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Preceded by Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Preceded by Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit