This week’s Know Your Judge features James D. Peterson of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.
Peterson was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2014. Before joining the federal bench he worked at law firm Godfrey & Kahn SC as a partner since 1997. Earlier this year, Peterson became chief judge.
In a recent benefits case, Peterson allowed a former Jeff Foster Trucking Inc. executive to advance claims that the company and its owner retaliated against him after he took nearly nine weeks of protected leave to treat depression and alcoholism. Last year, he held that Eli Lilly & Co. didn’t owe benefits to a pharmaceutical sales representative who became disabled in 2000 and later worked for nearly a decade as an “internationally acclaimed dog trainer.”
Peterson refused to dismiss a recent employment lawsuit, and allowed a Wisconsin county sheriff’s deputy to pursue her claims against the county’s human resources director for allegedly ordering her back to work even though she was on job-protected medical leave. A year ago he held that a satellite TV technician wasn’t bound by an arbitration agreement that refers only to a predecessor company and not his current employer.
Numbers & Statistics
Peterson tends to grant more motions to dismiss in employee benefits cases than when such motions involve employment law matters. He has granted 75 percent of these motions in benefits cases, while granting only 15 percent of them in employment cases. He is more likely to deny dismissal requests in employment actions.
As to Peterson’s record in appeals, so far his rulings in employment and labor law have been fully affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit—the federal appeals court that reviews decisions from federal district courts in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois.
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