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Home / 2012 Women in the Law / Lazar grabs plenty of headlines as DOJ attorney

Lazar grabs plenty of headlines as DOJ attorney

Maria Lazar, Wisconsin Department of Justice

Law degree received from: Georgetown University Law Center, 1989

Staff photo by Kevin Harnack

When she applied for the role of Wisconsin assistant attorney general, Maria Lazar thought it looked like a challenging opportunity but never realized “high-profile” could describe the role.

She started in November 2010, quickly and quietly settling in.

“Then things got much more interesting in March 2011,” Lazar said.

Wisconsin already had made national headlines with protests over a bill to eliminate public employee collective bargaining, among other controversial budget items. Thousands were occupying the state Capitol.

On March 1, 2011, she joined executive assistant attorney general Steven Means defending the state in the Capitol Access case, which ultimately ended by stipulation.

“It felt like there were injunctions coming every other day,” Lazar said.

Then their attention quickly turned to the open government issues raised in the passage of the collective-bargaining bill, now known as 2011 Wisconsin Act 10. Lazar served as lead counsel before the trial court. The state prevailed before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in June 2011.

The whirlwind pace of her work continued into the summer. Lazar successfully represented the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in bankruptcy court with respect to Olsen Brothers Enterprises, recovering the full amount owed, $2.4 million.

There was scant time to catch her breath before the redistricting litigation began.

Lawmakers had redrawn the boundaries for state and U.S. Congressional districts in Wisconsin Acts 44 and 43, which Gov. Scott Walker signed in August. The contentious case was tried in February. Her client, the Government Accountability Board, prevailed in all but a portion of one claim, of the nine plaintiffs brought, Lazar said. That will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

While she continues working on that, her next assignment is assisting in the defense of the state’s new Voter ID Law in four pending lawsuits.

In between all the headline-grabbing cases, Lazar successfully has represented the state in a pair of adoption cases pitting foster parents versus adoptive parents. She anticipates there will be more cases like them, going forward.

There have been highs and lows, and many late nights, she said, but added, “It’s been the time of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Neither would Means.

“Maria has everything you want in an attorney,” he said. “She’s smart, has excellent judgment and works tirelessly in the best interest of her client.”

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