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Charles Clevert

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Charles Clevert
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Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
Title:   Senior Judge
Position:   Seat #4
Appointed by:   Bill Clinton
Active:   7/29/1996-10/31/2012
Chief:   2009-10/31/2012
Senior:   10/31/2012-Present
Preceded by:   Terence Evans
Past post:   U.S. Bankruptcy Judge
Past chief:   1986-1995
Past term:   1977-1995
Personal History
Born:   1947
Hometown:   Richmond, VA
Undergraduate:   Davis and Elkins College, 1969
Law School:   Georgetown University Law Center, 1972

Charles N. Clevert, Jr. is an Article III federal judge serving in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. He joined the court in 1996 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton.

Clevert served as the court's Chief Judge from September 1, 2009, until he assumed senior status on October 31, 2012.[1]

Early life and education

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Clevert attended Davis and Elkins College, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1969. He earned his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in 1972.[2]

Professional career

After graduation from Georgetown Law, Clevert worked as an assistant District Attorney in Milwaukee County from 1972 to 1975. In 1975, Clevert joined the U.S. Attorney's Office as the Assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin from 1975-1977. In 1977, he was appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice as an Special Assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois before becoming a bankruptcy court judge in the Eastern District of Wisconsin later that year. Clevert also served as a lecturer at the Wisconsin Law from 1989-1990.[2]

Judicial career

Eastern District of Wisconsin

Clevert served as a U.S. bankruptcy judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin from 1977-1995 and also served as the chief judge of the Bankruptcy Division of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin from 1986 to 1995.[2]

On recommendation from U.S. Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, Clevert was nominated by President Bill Clinton on December 7, 1995, to a seat vacated by Terence Evans as Evans was elevated to a judgeship on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Clevert was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 17, 1996, on a majority voice vote and received commission on July 29, 1996. Clevert served as the court's chief judge from September 1, 2009, until he assumed senior status on October 31, 2012.[2]

Judicial Style

It has been reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel when previewing the 2009 Milwaukee County Pension scandal trial, that Judge Clevert works long days in his court in which he can sometimes keeps juries into the night for a verdict or late testimony. Clevert is a judge who strictly favors formality in his court, and is especially intolerant of late lawyers and cell phones ringing in his courtroom. On the lighter side, Clevert has been known to also have a quick wit, making occasional humorous remarks from the bench.[3]

Notable cases

Gender Identity Disorder & inmates rights to sex change drugs (2010)

     United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (Andrea Fields, et al., v. Warden Judy P. Smith, et al., 2:06-cv-00112-CNC)

Judge Clevert issued a ruling on March 31, 2010, that struck down a Wisconsin law prohibiting prison inmates from receiving drugs from doctors for gender reassignment therapy.

The lawsuit was filed in 2007 over a Wisconsin state law which prohibited taxpayer dollars from being used for procedures related to gender reassignment therapy.

Judge Clevert found that the 2005 law amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, and was thus a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[4]

The Wisconsin Attorney General's office then appealed the ruling to the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, but Judge Clevert's decision was upheld, and the Wisconsin law was struck down in its entirety. A petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court was also denied, and Clevert's and the Seventh Circuit's decision stands.[5]

  • Judge Clevert's decision is available at the link above; other legal documents and the remainder of the case docket may be found here.

Public school graduations in church (2009)

     United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (Does 1, 7, 8, and 9, individually; et al., v. School District of Elmbrook, 2:09-cv-00409-CNC)

On May 28, 2009, Judge Clevert heard arguments in a case in which Americans United for the Separation of Church and State sued the Elmbrook School District in suburban Milwaukee over their practice of allowing two public schools to have their graduation ceremonies at a church in Brookfield. The move was made because of space constraints at both Brookfield East and Brookfield Central High schools.[6]

During a three hour hearing in front of Judge Clevert, attorneys for the Washington, D.C. based advocacy group argued against the Elmbrook School District on behalf of nine unnamed plaintiffs. They challenged the school districts actions, asserting that allowing Brookfield Central and East to hold their graduations in the church amounted to coercing students and their guests to enter a religious facility, and thus a governmental establishment of religion, in contradiction of the Constitution.[6]

The plaintiffs argued that by requiring students to enter a Christian place of worship to attend their graduation ceremonies, school officials were imposing religion on students in a manner even more intrusive than public school prayers, which have already been found unconstitutional.[6]

Elmbrook School District's legal team defended the choice of the mega church, and contended the district considered only space and convenience in selecting the church with a capacity of 3,200. At the time, the suburban Milwaukee school district did not have alternative plans for graduation ceremonies. After hearings, Clevert stated that he would issue a ruling before the scheduled graduation rehearsals at the church.[6]

Alex Luchenitser, senior litigation counsel for Americans United, stressed during his arguments that students and their families must spend their two-hour graduation ceremonies facing a large cross and confronted by other Christian iconography and material in the church. He went on to assert that "no person should be coerced to enter a religious environment as a price for attending your own graduation."[6]

Attorneys representing the Elmbrook School District rebutted that the district's intentions were not to promote religion, but simply a choice of a more convenient and cost-efficient accommodation as compared to any secular facilities in the Milwaukee area. "A reasonable person attending one of the high schools' graduation ceremonies would not think the district was promoting religion or linked to the church in any way," Elmbrook School District attorney Lori Lubinsky said.[6]

Judge Clevert, on June 2, 2009, issued a ruling dismissing the claims of the anonymous student plaintiffs and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The judge held that the Elmbrook School District did not violate the United States Constitution by holding their graduation ceremony at a church. Upon issuing the ruling, Judge Clevert said, "A ceremony in the church does not necessarily constitute a church ceremony."[7]

Clevert's decision was subsequently appealed to the Seventh Circuit, where it was initially upheld. The plaintiffs then requested a rehearing with a full panel of Seventh Circuit judges. On July 23, 2012, the Seventh Circuit reversed its previous decision, finding that it was unconstitutional for the public school district to have held its graduation ceremonies at a church.[8]

The Elmbrook Board of Education then voted to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is still deciding whether it will grant certiorari and hear the case. If certiorari is granted and the Supreme Court hears the case, it will be the most significant separation of church and state case in many years.[8]

Milwaukee county pension scandal (2009)

     United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (Milwaukee County, et al. v. Mercer Human Resource Consulting Inc. f/k/a William M. Mercer, Inc., 2:06-cv-00372-CNC)

Judge Clevert presided over a high-profile federal trial concerning the Milwaukee County employee pension program that began on May 5, 2009. Milwaukee County sued Mercer, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in pension benefits, for over $100 million in damages, alleging negligence and fraud for advice that led to massive losses from the county's pension fund.[9][10]

The high-stakes trial included testimony from former County Executive Thomas Ament and there was a possiblity that then County Executive and future Wisconsin governor Scott Walker would be testifying.[10]

As the first week of the trial began, Judge Clevert set the tone of the trial when Milwaukee County attorney Kenneth E. McNeil inserted a bit of argument into his opening statement, counter to Clevert's courtroom protocol.[10]

Clevert warned the lawyer, saying, "Counsel, this is an opening statement, not argument," and then gave him a few minutes to wrap it up.[10]

After another week of testimony including a videotaped deposition from the late Gary Dobbert, a former personnel director who played a significant part in the pension deal, on May 19, 2009 attorneys for both parties agreed to a settlement. Per the agreement Mercer did not admit liability, but agreed to pay $45 million to Milwaukee County; the county received about $32 million after paying reasonable legal fees.[11]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Terence Evans
Eastern District of Wisconsin
Seat #4
Succeeded by:
Pamela Pepper

WisconsinWisconsin Supreme CourtWisconsin Court of AppealsWisconsin Circuit CourtsWisconsin Municipal CourtsUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of WisconsinUnited States District Court for the Western District of WisconsinUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern District of WisconsinUnited States bankruptcy court, Western District of WisconsinUnited States Court of Appeals for the Seventh CircuitWisconsin countiesWisconsin judicial newsWisconsin judicial electionsJudicial selection in WisconsinWisconsinTemplate.jpg