Diane Sykes of Wisconsin has served as a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 2004. Prior to her federal appointment, Judge Sykes had been a Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court since 1999 and a Wisconsin trial court judge of both civil and criminal matters before that. Judge Sykes received her law degree from Marquette.
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While serving on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, then-Justice Sykes dissented from a decision invalidating a conviction because one of the jurors indicated he could not understand English. Justice Sykes reasoned that impaneling the juror was harmless error.
Judge Sykes majority opinion held the Second Amendment protects firing ranges, and on that basis issued a preliminary injunction on Chicago’s firing range ban.
On direct appeal, the respondent challenged the constitutionality of the U.S.S.G. career offender’s residual clause. Judge Sykes, writing for an en banc Seventh Circuit found the residual clause void for vagueness.
An association of Indiana convenience stores filed this lawsuit because Indiana law allowed certain kinds of stores to sell cold beer, but not convenience stores. The issue was whether the law violated the Equal Protection Clause by discriminating against convenience stores. Judge Sykes and the Seventh Circuit upheld the law, finding that restricting the sale of immediately consumable beer to stores that are more rigorously regulated was rationally related to the legitmate goal of curbing underage drinking.
Judge Sykes found a magistrate’s decision to issue a search warrant supported by probable cause. She reasoned that an FDA agent’s affidavit gave the judge probable cause because it described drugs found in intercepted packages. An anonymous tip corroborated the agent’s suspicions and the defendant’s own website listed the drugs for sale.
In this speech to the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association’s annual meeting, Judge Sykes reflects on the history of judicial elections and offers her hope that the State of Wisconsin’s reforms to the process do not go so far as to abolish judicial elections altogether. Published in the Marquette University Law Review.