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Diane S. Sykes

Diane Sykes
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Assumed office
July 1, 2004
Appointed by George W. Bush
Preceded by John Coffey
Personal details
Born (1957-12-23) December 23, 1957
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Alma mater Northwestern University
Marquette University

Diane Schwerm Sykes (born December 23, 1957)[1] is a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and former Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.


  • Background 1
  • Seventh Circuit nomination and confirmation 2
    • Notable cases 2.1
      • Supreme Court of Wisconsin 2.1.1
      • Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals 2.1.2
        • Separate opinions
  • 3 Law review articles
  • Personal 4
  • Possible Supreme Court nomination 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Sykes graduated from Brown Deer High School in 1976 and then earned a B.S. degree in journalism at Northwestern University in 1980 and a J.D. at Marquette University Law School in 1984.

After law school, Sykes clerked for Judge Terence T. Evans at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. From 1985 to 1992, she worked in private practice as a litigator for Whyte & Hirschboeck, a medium-sized law firm in Milwaukee. Sykes won election to a newly created trial judge seat on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 1992, serving in the misdemeanor, felony, and civil divisions. She left the trial court in 1999 for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where she served until her appointment to the Seventh Circuit in 2004. After being appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, she was elected to the court, defeating Louis B. Butler, Jr., who was later appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court by Governor Jim Doyle in 2004.

Seventh Circuit nomination and confirmation

President Seventh Circuit on November 14, 2003. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination (14-5) on March 11, 2004, and she was confirmed 70-27 by the U.S. Senate on June 24, 2004. She was the first judge appointed to the Seventh Circuit by Bush.

On joining the Seventh Circuit, Sykes began serving on the court with Judge Terence T. Evans, for whom she had clerked.

Notable cases

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

  • Baierl v. McTaggart, 245 Wis. 2d 632 (2001) -- Dissent urging use of common law to overturn statutory rescission remedy in landlord-tenant law.
  • Putnam v. Time Warner, 255 Wis.2d 447 (2002) -- Dissenting in part, denying statutory action for wrongful charges on cable bill, using "voluntary payment doctrine."
  • Bammert v. Don's Super Valu, 254 Wis. 2d 347 (2002) -- Opinion of the Court refusing a cause of action for retaliation involving terminated wife of police officer who ticketed a drunk driver.
  • State v. Carlson, 261 Wis.2d 97 (2003) -- Dissent urging affirmation of verdict involving non-English speaking juror.
  • Tietsworth v. Harley Davidson, 270 Wis.2d 146 (2004) -- Opinion of the Court denying statutory cause of action under Wisconsin Deceptive Trade Practices Act, using "economic loss doctrine".

Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals

  • Christian Legal Society v. Walker 453 F.3d 853 (2006) -- Opinion for the panel reversing the district court's denial of Christian Legal Society's motion for a temporary injunction.
  • Chapman Kelley v. Chicago Park District, 635 F.3d 290 (2011) -- Opinion for the panel holding that wildflower art is not copyrightable
  • Ezell v. City of Chicago (2011) -- Opinion for the panel holding that firing ranges are protected under the Second Amendment and granting preliminary injunction against Chicago's ban on firing ranges
Separate opinions
  • Casey K. v. St. Anne Community High Sch. Dist. No. 302, 400 F.3d 508 (7th Cir. 2005) (dissent)
  • United States v. O'Neill, 437 F.3d 654 (7th Cir. 2006) (dissent)
  • In re United Airlines, 438 F.3d 720 (7th Cir. 2006) (concurring in part and dissenting in part)
  • Johns v. Laidlaw Ed. Serv.,199 Fed. Appx. 568 (7th Cir. 2006) (dissent)
  • Currie v. Paper Converting Machine Co., 202 Fed. Appx. 120 (7th Cir. 2006) (concurrence)
  • Loubster v. Thacker, 440 F.3d 439 (7th Cir. 2006) (concurring in part and dissenting in part)
  • Laskowski v. Spellings, 443 F.3d 930 (7th Cir. 2006) (dissent), vacated sub nom. Notre Dame v. Laskowski, 127 S. Ct. 3051 (2007)
  • Winkler v. Gates, 481 F.3d 977 (7th Cir. 2007) (concurrence)
  • IBEW v. Ill. Bell Telephone Co., 491 F.3d 685 (7th Cir. 2007) (dissent)
  • Mainstreet Org. of Realtors v. Calumet City, 505 F.3d 742 (7th Cir. 2007) (concurrence)

Law review articles

  • Hallows Lecture: Reflections on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, 89 Marq. L. Rev. 723 (2006)
  • "Of a Judiciary Nature": Observations on Chief Justice Roberts's First Opinions, 34 Pepp. L. Rev. 1027 (2007)
  • Religious Liberties: The Role of Religion in Public Debate, 20 Regent U. L. Rev. 301 (2008) (introductory remarks)
  • Citation to Unpublished Orders Under New FRAP Rule 32.1 and Circuit Rule 32.1: Early Experience in the Seventh Circuit, 32 S. Ill. U. L. J. 579 (2008)
  • Independence versus Accountability: Finding a Balance Amidst the Changing Politics of State Court Judicial Selection, 92 Marq. L. Rev. 341 (2008)


Sykes was married to conservative radio talk show host Charlie Sykes of WTMJ in Milwaukee, but they are now divorced. Sykes has two children from that marriage.

Sykes is a member of the Federalist Society.

Possible Supreme Court nomination

Sykes was mentioned as a potential nominee to the Supreme Court for President Bush[2] and seems likely to be a leading contender in the next GOP administration.[3][4]

See also

  • George W. Bush Supreme Court candidates


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^  
  3. ^
  4. ^ Toobin, Jeffrey (18 March 2014). "THE SUPREME COURT FARM TEAM". New Yorker. Retrieved 29 April 2014. 

External links

  • Diane S. Sykes at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  • White House Nomination Announcement Announcement | Judiciary Committee hearings text, PDF | Senate debate (150 Congressional Record S7360-S7366) | Senate vote
  • 2006 Speech reviewing the Wisconsin Supreme Court's previous term
  • Biographical article from the Wisconsin State Bar Association website.
Legal offices
Preceded by
John Coffey
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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