Diane S. Sykes

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Diane Schwerm Sykes
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Assumed office
July 1, 2004
Appointed by George W. Bush
Preceded by John Louis Coffey
Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
In office
September 1999 – July 1, 2004
Appointed by Tommy Thompson
Preceded by Donald W. Steinmetz
Succeeded by Louis B. Butler
Personal details
Born Diane Schwerm
(1957-12-23) December 23, 1957 (age 60)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Education Northwestern University (B.S.)
Marquette University Law School (J.D.)

Diane Schwerm Sykes (born December 23, 1957)[1] is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and former Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Early life[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[1] and a Juris Doctor at Marquette University Law School in 1984.[1] Between college and law school she worked as a reporter for The Milwaukee Journal.[1][2][3]

Legal career[edit]

After law school, from 1984 to 1985, Sykes clerked for Judge Terence T. Evans at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.[1] 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.[1]

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.[1] After being appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, she was elected to the Supreme Court in April 2000, defeating Louis B. Butler, Jr., who was later appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court by Governor Jim Doyle in 2004.[4]

Seventh Circuit of Appeals[edit]

President George W. Bush nominated Sykes to a seat on the Seventh Circuit on November 14, 2003.[5] The Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination (14–5) on March 11, 2004,[5] and she was confirmed 70–27 by the United States Senate on June 24, 2004.[5]

In 2005, President George W. Bush seriously considered appointing Sykes to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court.[6] In 2017, Sykes was on President Donald Trump's list of potential Supreme Court justices.[3][7]

On June 7, 2017, Rep. Louie Gohmert (Texas Dist. 1) noted her conservative judicial philosophy, stating that: "There are only two reliable originalists on the court, Michael Kanne and Diane Sykes."[8] President Trump ultimately nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Court on January 31, 2017.[9]

Notable cases[edit]

Wisconsin Supreme Court[edit]

  • Baierl v. McTaggart, 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[permanent dead link], 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.

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

  • Christian Legal Society v. Walker[permanent dead link] 453 F.3d 853 (2006) – Opinion for the panel reversing the district court's denial of Christian Legal Society's motion for a temporary injunction.
  • Chapman Kelley v. Chicago Park District, 635 F.3d 290 (2011) – Opinion for the panel holding that wildflower art is not copyrightable
  • Ezell v. City of Chicago[permanent dead link] (2011) – Opinion for the panel holding that firing ranges are protected under the Second Amendment and granting preliminary injunction against Chicago's ban on firing ranges

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)

Personal life[edit]

In 1980, she married Charlie Sykes, who was a conservative talk show host on WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee. The couple had two children and divorced in 1999.[10]

Sykes is a member of the Federalist Society.[1][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h 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. 
  2. ^ Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Diane S. Sykes (1957- ), Wisconsin Court System, access date January 28, 2017.
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ "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. 
  5. ^ a b c "Biographical Directory of Federal Judges: Sykes, Diane S". Federal Judicial Center. Washington DC. Retrieved January 28, 2017. Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Nominated by George W. Bush on November 14, 2003, to a seat vacated by John L. Coffey. Confirmed by the Senate on June 24, 2004, and received commission on July 1, 2004. 
  6. ^ >Template:Http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2005-07-02/news/0507010709 1 supreme-court-justices-priscilla-owen-senate-democrats
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Gohmert, Louie (June 7, 2017). "Issues of the Day". Congressional Record, 115th Congress, 1st Session. 163 (97): H4693–H4698. 
  9. ^ Ford, Matt. "Trump's Supreme Court Nominee: Neil Gorsuch". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-02-06. 
  10. ^ "Family Court Divorce Filing" (PDF). WisOpinion.com. WisPolitics.com. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Donald W. Steinmetz
Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Louis B. Butler
Preceded by
John Louis Coffey
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit