Patrick Willis (judge)

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Patrick Willis
Patrick Lee Willis

(1950-02-01) February 1, 1950 (age 69)
Other namesPat Willis

Patrick Lee Willis (born February 1, 1950) is a Circuit Court judge in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.[1] Willis gained national recognition when he presided over the highly publicized Steven Avery homicide trial in 2007; his rulings regarding the admissibility of certain key pieces of evidence were frequent sources of news stories.

Early life[edit]

Willis grew up in Manitowoc, Wisconsin He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1972 with an honors degree in history.[citation needed] Willis attended law school at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, graduating with a law degree in 1975.[citation needed] During law school, he served as an editor of the Wisconsin Law Review.[citation needed]

Legal career[edit]

Willis was admitted to the state bar of Wisconsin in June 1975.[2][3] He first worked as an attorney for the law firm of Muchin & Muchin in Manitowoc. In May 1977 he was hired as the City Attorney for the city of Manitowoc. His tenure as city attorney involved serving as a legal advisor to the mayor and the common council. Willis helped bring the S.S. Badger car ferry back to Manitowoc and was instrumental in the revival of the Burger Boat Company.[1][4]

Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson appointed Willis as Manitowoc County Circuit Court judge in 1997 to fill a vacancy left by Allan Deehr.[5] Upon completion of his interim term, Willis successfully ran for the same position in 1998, receiving more than 80% of the vote.[6]

Willis presided over the highly publicized Steven Avery Teresa Halbach Murder Case in 2007.[7] Because Avery had been exonerated of rape and freed in 2003 after serving 18 years in prison, the trial attracted national media attention.[8][9] In 2015, the Avery trial was the subject of Netflix's true crime documentary series Making a Murderer.[10]


  1. ^ a b Young, Rob. "Life Behind Bench New for City Attorney", Herald Times Reporter, 1997-07-03.
  2. ^ Wisconsin State Bar number:1016344
  3. ^ State Bar of Wisconsin Attorney Search.
  4. ^ Resolution adopted by the Manitowoc Common Council on Aug 4, 1997.
  5. ^ "Manitowoc City Attorney Pat Willis Named the new Circuit Court Judge", Lakeshore Chronicle, 1997-07-20.
  6. ^ Pankratz, Pat. "Patrick Willis Wins Circuit Court Seat By Landslide Over Grieg", Herald Times Reporter, 1998-04-08.
  7. ^ Appleton Post-Crescent: Your Fox Cities News Source - Avery trial to start as scheduled in February
  8. ^ Man cleared of rape charged with murder - Crime & courts -
  9. ^ - Transcripts
  10. ^ Butler, Bethonie (25 December 2015). "Where do the cases at the center of Netflix's 'Making a Murderer' stand now?". Washington Post. Retrieved 31 December 2015.

External links[edit]

  • "Life Sentence In Photographer's Murder", New York Times, 2007-06-02, Section A9. Retrieved 2007-06-18.
  • "The Steven Avery Trial", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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