7th CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS
On June 24, 2004, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Diane Sykes to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals by a vote of 70-27 (3 senators did not vote). The Senate Judiciary Committee had approved her nomination (14-5) on March 11, 2004. Justice Sykes has expressed her support for demonstrators convicted of obstructing entry to abortion clinics and ruled against the rights of the accused. She refused to give her views on Roe v. Wade to the Senate Judiciary Committee. NCJW opposed Justice Sykesí confirmation.
- Justice Sykes was born in 1957 in Milwaukee, WI. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1980 with a BS degree and in 1984 received a JD from Marquette University Law School.
- From 1984 to 1985, she was a law clerk for US District Court Judge Terence T. Evans of the Eastern District of Wisconsin. In 1985 she joined the firm of Whyte & Hirschboeck, SC, as an associate.
- In 1992, Justice Sykes became a Milwaukee County circuit court judge, and in 1999 she was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
- Justice Sykes has shown she cannot separate her apparent anti-abortion rights sentiments from her role as a judge. Although known as a "law and order" jurist, she expressed extraordinary sympathy for two anti-abortion protesters while presiding over a trial in which they were convicted of blocking entry to a Milwaukee abortion clinic by binding their legs with welded pipes to the front of a car. Both protestors had to be forcibly removed by firefighters with blowtorches, but during sentencing, Justice Sykes commended the defendants for their "fine characters" and "pure" motivations, and expressed her "respect... for having the courage of [their] convictions and for the ultimate goals [they] sought to achieve" by their blockade. She sentenced the defendants, who together had been arrested 100 prior times for anti-abortion protests, to 60 days in jail with work-release privileges.
- Otherwise, Justice Sykes often disregards the rights of the accused. She refused to overturn a conviction in a case where one of the jurors could not speak English. The juror had stated as much on his juror form and the jury itself sent a note to the trial judge to that effect during deliberations, but the defendant was convicted anyway. She was the only justice to vote to uphold the conviction. In another egregious case, she was the sole dissenter when the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that evidence gathered as a result of interrogating a person in custody who had not been issued a Miranda warning had to be excluded from trial.
- Justice Sykes was in the minority when she voted that the state of Wisconsin had no responsibility to provide an adequate public school education. Although the court held that the school funding program in effect did not completely deprive students of a basic education and therefore did not violate the stateís constitution, the majority decision did set forth the standards that school funding had to meet in the future, allowing future challenges.
- Justice Sykes was made a trial judge after minimal experience in the courtroom and was apparently elevated to the Wisconsin Supreme Court for ideological reasons. She has been active for many years in the Federalist Society, a group of conservatives and libertarians dedicated to combating "orthodox liberal ideology" and promoting "traditional values." When asked about her judicial views at her confirmation hearing, including those on the right to privacy and Roe v. Wade, she declined to answer, although she has shared those views as a public speaker.
Alliance for Justice
Americans for Democratic Action
NARAL Pro-Choice America
National Abortion Federation
National Employment Lawyers Association
National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
National Organization for Women
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
April 30, 2003
NCJW Opposes Nomination of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Diane Sykes to 7th Circuit Court of Appeals