U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa, whose rulings included one that temporarily blocked a John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s ultimately successful campaign to overcome a recall attempt, has died.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Cary Biskupic confirmed that Randa had died following a battle with cancer that sent him into semi-retirement in February. Randa died early Monday.
Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday that Randa was a great man and outstanding jurist.
“He was well-respected by his peers and those in the legal profession,” Walker said in an official statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Melinda and their family.”
Randa, who was born in Milwaukee and earned his law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School, was appointed to the federal bench by George H. W. Bush in 1992. Before that, he had served in the Army for two years during the Vietnam War, earning a Bronze Star.
Randa, who was 76 when he died, had also worked in the Milwaukee city attorney’s office and as a judge in the state trial and appeals courts.
In 2014, Randa handed down a ruling that placed a block on the secret John Doe probe that public prosecutors were conducting into Walker’s campaign to avoid being recalled from office. An appeals court overturned that decision and sent the case back to the Wisconsin courts.
Four years before, Randa handed down a ruling striking a blow at what is known as “risk contribution theory” – the crux of several pending lead paint lawsuits. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his decision in 2014.
The next year, the appeals court went on to reverse Randa’s ruling that a $55 million cemetery trust fund should not be used to settle claims from sex-abuse victims involved in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s bankruptcy case.
Randa’s death leaves one vacancy in the federal district courts in Wisconsin and is third vacancy for the federal courts that feed into the 7th Circuit. At the federal district-court level, there are 75 vacancies and 42 pending nominations, according to the U.S. Courts website.
The federal court system as a whole has 96 open seats and 57 nominations pending.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, for instance, has two vacancies, including one that typically goes to a Wisconsin judge. That seat has been vacant since 2010, when Judge Terence Evans took senior status. Attorney Donald Schott was nominated in January for the position, but has not yet been confirmed.
Federal judicial appointments usually take longer to fill than vacancies in the state judiciary. Federal judges, including those who sit on the courts of appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court and the district courts, are nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report