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Legal community mourns death of retired judge

One of state Attorney General Brad Schimel’s fondest memories of Patrick Snyder, a retired Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge who died Wednesday, comes from a retirement party held at the Waukesha County Courthouse in 2010. There were two cakes, and at the end of the festivities, one was left untouched.

“Judge Pat suggested that the uncut cake get sent to the jail as a treat for the inmates, rather than having it go to waste,” wrote Schimel in an email Friday. “A smart-alecky district attorney made a joke about his sometimes light (criminal-sentencing) practices and said, ‘Why, no one in the jail has any idea who you are?’

Schimel said Snyder thought it was the funniest thing and repeated the story whenever they were in a room together.

Schimel, along with the rest of the state’s legal community, is mourning the loss of Snyder, who was also a mediator.

“He was a great judge and a great friend to many of us,” said Bill Mulligan, a lawyer who had known Snyder for 58 years and graduated from Marquette Law School with Snyder.

Snyder, who was 79 when he died, is survived by his wife, three children and nine grandchildren. Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday at St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in Oconomowoc.

“We’ll all miss his smile and his chuckle,” said Judge Paul Reilly of the District 2 Court of Appeals, who replaced Snyder on the Waukesha County Circuit Court. Snyder was one of Reilly’s mentors and a close friend. Reilly ran against Ness Flores, now a retired Waukesha County Circuit Court judge and another close friend of Snyder’s, for the position.

Frank Gimbel, a criminal defense lawyer and another of Snyder’s friends, frequently appeared before Snyder while he was on the bench from 1978 to 2003 at the Waukesha County Circuit Court.

“He always treated me with interest and an open mind,” said Gimbel. “It was a great experience to go in front of him.”

“Pat was a very conscientious judge,” said Mulligan, “who treated litigants and counsel very fairly and comfortably in his courtroom and was very thorough and wanted to conscientiously and correctly decide matters coming before him.”

Also, after Snyder retired in 2010, he practiced mediation. Gimbel and his firm, Gimbel Reilly Guerin & Brown LLP, often turned to him.

Gimbel said Snyder’s friendly bearing during mediation helped people feel comfortable gathering around a table, relaxing and looking at the practical realities of a case.

“He was a bridge between people,” said Gimbel.

Gimbel said Snyder could also find common ground with people who did not share his political views. Snyder was a liberal Democrat in predominantly Republican Waukesha County.

“You don’t find a lot of those in Waukesha County,” he said. “He really swam against the stream.”

Snyder did not let politics get in the way of his job and knew how to overcome difficulties, said Reilly. That was what made him a great judge, he said.

“He thrived as a Democrat in a Republican county,” said Schimel, “because he always put justice before politics. I personally learned that lesson and a great deal more about faithful public service from him. Waukesha County is a far better place thanks to Judge Pat and he will be missed by the scores of people who loved him and were blessed to call themselves his friend.”

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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