Joan F. Kessler

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Joan F. Kessler (born 1944) is an American jurist and a judge of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, serving since 2004. Kessler previously served as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin from 1978 to 1981.

Life and career[edit]

A native of Louisiana,[1] Kessler graduated from the University of Kansas in 1966 and from Marquette University Law School in 1968.[2] She worked as a law clerk for United States District Judge John W. Reynolds, Jr. in Milwaukee from 1968-69 before entering private practice.[1][2] Kessler was a supporter of Jimmy Carter's candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976; in 1978, Carter appointed her as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.[1]

As United States Attorney, Kessler received praise for her performance in court and her open-door policy toward criminal defense attorneys,[3] but clashed with Milwaukee City Attorney James Brennan over her investigation into the Milwaukee Police Department's hiring and promotion practices.[4] She resigned in March 1981, following Carter's 1980 defeat to Ronald Reagan, and entered private practice with the Milwaukee firm Foley and Lardner.[5] Kessler specialized as a divorce attorney at Foley and Lardner and was eventually selected as a partner in the firm.[6]

In 2004, Kessler challenged incumbent Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Charles Schudson for his seat on the court's Milwaukee-based District I.[6][7] The campaign was hotly contested; Kessler's campaign alleged that Schudson had committed several violations of judicial ethics, charges he vehemently denied; Schudson later levied ethics allegations against Kessler.[7][6] Kessler unseated Schudson in the April general election, but was not cleared of ethical wrongdoing until 2010.[8]

Kessler has participated in several notable cases during her tenure as an appellate judge. In December 2014, she authored a decision affirming the conviction of Kelly Rindfleisch, deputy chief of staff to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker when he served as Milwaukee County Executive.[9] In July 2015, Kessler wrote a concurring opinion in a decision reinstating Milwaukee's employee residency rules, which had been voided by a Milwaukee County circuit judge.[10]


  1. ^ a b c "Carter Picks Joan Kessler for US Post". The Milwaukee Journal. February 28, 1978. Retrieved July 31, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Judge Joan F. Kessler". Judges. Wisconsin Court System. Retrieved July 31, 2015. 
  3. ^ Aikin, Jeff (June 5, 1979). "Joan Kessler, prosecutor, one year later". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved July 31, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Brennan asks probe of Mrs. Kessler". The Milwaukee Journal. April 21, 1980. Retrieved July 31, 2015. 
  5. ^ "US Dist. Atty. Kessler to step down in March". The Milwaukee Sentinel. January 16, 1981. Retrieved July 31, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Bice, Daniel; Spivak, Cary (February 22, 2006). "Judge may have to state case before court". The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved July 31, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Attorney to run for appellate seat". The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. July 18, 2003. Retrieved July 31, 2015. 
  8. ^ Vielmetti, Bruce (October 14, 2010). "Kesslers will not be disciplined over 2004 ethics complaints". The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved July 31, 2015. 
  9. ^ Stein, Jason (November 12, 2014). "Appeals Court rejects Rindfleisch appeal of John Doe conviction". The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved July 31, 2015. 
  10. ^ Willms, Molly (July 22, 2015). "Wisconsin Cities Can Tell Workers Where to Live". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved July 31, 2015.