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Barbara Crabb

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Barbara Crabb
Barb Crabb.jpg
Court Information:
United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
Title:   Senior Judge
Position:   Seat #2
Appointed by:   Jimmy Carter
Active:   11/2/1979-12/31/2009
Chief:   1980-1996; 2001-2010
Senior:   12/31/2009-Present
Preceded by:   92 Stat. 1629
Succeeded by:   William Conley
Past post:   U.S. Magistrate
Past term:   1971-1979
Personal History
Born:   1939
Hometown:   Green Bay, WI
Undergraduate:   University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1960
Law School:   University of Wisconsin Law School, 1962

Barbara Brandriff Crabb is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. She joined the court in 1979 after being nominated by President Jimmy Carter. She served the court as chief judge from 1980 to 1996. On December 31, 2009, Crabb assumed senior status.[1]

Early life and education

Born in Green Bay, Crabb graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with her bachelor's degree in 1960 and her LL.B. in 1962.[1]

Professional career

  • 1970-1971: Research Assistant, American Bar Association Project on Minimum Standards for Criminal Justice
  • 1968-1969: Research Assistant, George Bunn, University of Wisconsin Law School
  • 1962-1964: Attorney in private practice, Madison, Wisconsin[1]

Judicial career

Western District of Wisconsin

Crabb was recommended by former Senator Wiliam Proxmire to be nominated by President Jimmy Carter on July 21, 1979, to a new seat created by 92 Stat. 1629. Crabb was confirmed by the Senate on October 31, 1979, and received her commission for the Western District of Wisconsin on November 2, 1979. Crabb served as the chief judge from 1980 to 1996. Crabb also served as U.S. Magistrate judge for the Western District of Wisconsin from 1971 to 1979.[1]

Unexpected senior status announcement

On March 20, 2009, Judge Crabb unexpectedly announced her intention to take on senior status.

In her release issued to the Wisconsin media, Crabb stated:

Over the past several years, this court’s ever-expanding and increasingly complex caseload has required extraordinary efforts from all of the judges and court staff in order to provide the prompt resolution of cases that all litigants have a right to expect. All indicators suggest that this trend will continue unabated.[2]
One solution would be to ask Congress to authorize a third judgeship for this court, but this would be a time-consuming and expensive proposition. A more cost-effective and immediate solution would be for me to take senior status. This would allow me to continue my work for the court at a less frenetic pace while opening a full-time position for another federal judge. Given the nation’s current economic straits and the immediate needs of this court, I have decided after considerable reflection that this is the best course for all concerned. Therefore, I have written President Obama to report my intention to take senior status as soon as my successor can be appointed.[3][2]

Notable cases

Same-sex marriage in Wisconsin (2014)

     United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Wolf and Schumacher et. al. v. Walker et. al., 14-cv-64-bbc)

Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional on June 6, 2014. Crabb wrote in her decision:
Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by the United States Constitution.[4][2]

However the ruling did not remove the ban, it simply stated that the law was unconstitutional. It did give plaintiffs and defendants until June 16th to file proposals as to what actions should be taken in regards to this ruling of constitutionality.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed motion to have the order stayed by Judge Crabb, while he begins the appeal process to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The motion to stay was filed in response to some county clerks issuing same-sex couples marriage licenses.[5] The motion to stay was denied by Judge Crabb on June 9, 2014. In the hearing Crabb restated the fact that she had just ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and she had not issued an injunction allowing marriage licenses to be issued.[6]

National Day of Prayer challenge (2010)

     United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc., v. President Barack Obama and White House Press Secretary Robert L. Gibbs, 3:08-cv-00588-bbc)

Judge Crabb ruled on April 15, 2010, that the "National Day of Prayer," which was established by Congress in 1952, was unconstitutional. The Madison, Wisconsin based Freedom from Religion Foundation filed the lawsuit against both the Obama and Bush administrations in order to block the presidents from making the customary annual proclamation of the event.[7]

Judicial free speech rights (2009)

     United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Honorable John Siefert, v. James C. Alexander, et al., 3:08-cv-126)

Judge Crabb ruled in a case in which Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge John Siefert had sought the right to join the Democratic party, endorse then presidential candidate Barack Obama, and personally solicit campaign contributions.[8] Each of these activities was prohibited by the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct.

In March of 2008, Siefert brought suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin against the current sitting members of the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, arguing that the restrictions violated his First Amendment free speech rights.[8]

On February 18, 2009, Judge Crabb ruled based on a precedent established in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, stating that the Wisconsin Judicial Commission's stance on the code of judicial conduct restricts speech in a way which violates the First Amendment.[8]

See also

External links


Political offices
Preceded by:
NA-New Seat
Western District of Wisconsin
Seat #2
Succeeded by:
William Conley