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Keenan thrives on the complex cases

Brian Keenan Department of Justice (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Brian Keenan
Department of Justice (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

For Brian Keenan, his work during the past few years as assistant attorney general with the Wisconsin Department of Justice has been a highlight of his career, and it may be a pivotal point for our country.

He is awaiting the United States Supreme Court’s ruling on Whitford. V. Gill, a case involving partisan gerrymandering that he helped prepare briefs and oral arguments for. Even though a decision is not expected until this summer, Keenan knows his work has made a contribution.

“It has been a great experience to be part of such a groundbreaking legal case that involves a combination of law, politics and statistics,” he said. “To be able to work with experts, and analyze voting patterns and maps has been a unique and interesting process.”

The case was brought to light after Republicans used computer models and voting data to redraw political boundaries of the state Assembly in 2011. In the three elections since, Democrats have never won more than 39 of the 99 seats, even when they won a majority of the votes. Keenan defended the maps and said there is too much uncertainty to adopt the efficiency gap as a definitive judicial standard in evaluating new district boundaries and said the measurement doesn’t accurately consider demographic and voting patterns in the state.

While this case may have gone to the highest level, it is one of many complex cases Keenan has been a part of since joining the DOJ in 2013. He continues to strive to meet the department’s mission of promoting excellence in analysis, training and service to the community and serves the organization with integrity and uncompromising quality.

“Brian quickly became a leader in handling complex, high-profile litigation. It was extraordinary that he could immediately jump in with any task and be a team player,” Charlie Gibson, an assistant attorney general with the state’s DOJ, said. “He is able to address complexities of a case and helps us see the big picture.”

Pursuing law was a natural choice for Keenan. His father was also an attorney, but the younger Keenan is making a name for himself as a public servant to the state of Wisconsin.

“Brian is the rarest find — an attorney whose skills are at the highest level in both realms — trial level and appellate work,” David Meany, administrator of the Wisconsin DOJ’s Division of Legal Services, said.

Meany added Keenan’s talents are particularly beneficial to the DOJ and his judgement is respected across the department.

As for what comes next, Keenan is currently lead counsel preparing a case against major tobacco manufacturers involving the Master Settlement Agreement with potentially more than $100 million at stake for the state.

“With every new case there are new things to learn. I try to embrace the challenges and look for opportunities to understand the opposing side,” he said.

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