John Franke

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John Franke

John joined Gass Turek in 2009, bringing more than 30 years of legal experience, including 21 years as a circuit judge and ten years as a federal prosecutor. In private practice, he has applied this experience in taking on challenges in a wide range of civil, commercial, and criminal ligation. John’s breadth of experience allows for the creation of a sound and realistic strategy and the identification of the creative means often necessary to achieve the best result. It also allows him to serve as an effective neutral in the mediation and arbitration of contentious claims.

While he continues to represent currently active clients and remains available for mediations, John is presently serving as a reserve judge in Milwaukee County as part of a coordinated effort to reduce the significant case backlog that developed over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. His commitment to this reserve judge project runs through June of 2023.

His private practice has included products liability and personal injury litigation in venues around the country. It has included contract disputes, class actions, other commercial disputes, and federal criminal matters in numerous Wisconsin counties, combined with numerous successful mediations. He has served as an expert in legal malpractice claims, and twice had the opportunity to appear in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. As a prosecutor and judge he handled or presided over nearly 700 jury trials, including any number of high-profile cases.

He has prosecuted organized crime figures and handled a sensitive inquest into a highly publicized police custody death in 2014. His judicial trial experience has included presiding over such disparate matters as the prosecution of NBA star Charles Barkley for assault, the resolution of the City of Milwaukee’s lead abatement claims against NL Industries, and over 30 homicide trials.

  • J.D., University of Wisconsin Law School, cum laude, 1976
  • B.A. in The College of Social Studies, Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, Wesleyan University, 1973
  • Wisconsin
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin
  • Member, Government Accountability Board, the state agency charged with the administration and enforcement of Wisconsin’s election, campaign finance, and ethics laws, 2014-2016
  • Member, Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction Committee, 2003-2008
  • Presenter, Tort Reform: Has It Changed Your Life? Milwaukee Bar Association, January 22, 2016
  • Moderator, Mock Trial, Claims and Litigation Management Alliance, Southeast Wisconsin Chapter, May 2, 2013
  • Moderator, “Getting a Grip on Catastrophic Damages,” Wisconsin Bar Association Business Council Institute, Crisis Management Seminar, November 1, 2011
  • Twice argued cases in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, including as amicus counsel for several law professors on issues of long-arm jurisdiction addressed by the court in Ambac Assurance Corporation v. Countrywide Home Loans.
  • Obtained dismissal of all claims against a chiropractor in an employment contract dispute in Chippewa County.
  • Managed the recruitment and preparation of defense medical experts in catastrophic injury cases in venues around the country, including Florida, New Jersey, Mississippi, and Nevada.
  • Briefed and argued federal preemption in asbestos litigation involving industrial cranes in Illinois, West Virginia, Missouri, Louisiana, Washington, Oregon, and California.
  • Served as an expert witness in legal malpractice litigation.
  • As a judge, presided over more than 650 jury trials, including high profile cases such as the trial of NBA star Charles Barkley for assault and the City of Milwaukee’s lead abatement claims in City of Milwaukee v. NL Industries, in which the city sought to recover $150 million in lead paint remediation costs.
  • Served as the lead counsel in the prosecution of Frank Balistrieri and other organized crime figures in the most wide-ranging and significant organized crime cases ever brought in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
  • Member, Board of Directors, Rotary Club of Milwaukee
  • Conducted the 2014 inquest into the death of Derrick Williams in police custody, serving pro bono as a special prosecutor.
  • Successfully handled the pro bono representation of a criminal defendant sentenced to a lengthy prison term, obtaining a new trial and then negotiating a prompt time-served disposition.

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