Joe is a trial attorney practicing primarily in the areas of products liability, class action defense, wage and hour litigation, employee benefits litigation, regulatory compliance, shareholder/member litigation, and complex commercial litigation. In this capacity, he:
- Handles complex product liability matters in numerous fields including construction/farming equipment, consumer products, home construction products, food products and medical devices
- Counsels clients on compliance with complex environmental regulations and permitting schemes including challenging denials of permits and the legality of rules, regulations and standards
- Routinely helps clients deal with class actions suits across all subject matters
- Handles all aspects of complex employment litigation including wage and hour suits arising under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and applicable state laws, plus benefits litigation including claims arising under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
- Helps clients navigate the intersection of business and government, including negotiations and litigation with both government regulators and private entities under complex regulatory schemes
- Counsels clients on compliance with various anti-trust laws, conducts internal investigations into possible violations, and litigates anti-trust matters when necessary
- Counsels clients on compliance with the numerous state dealership laws, negotiates agreements to maximize any advantages available under those dealership laws, and helps clients ensure any changes to a dealership relationship are made in accordance with the appellate laws and litigates dealership cases when necessary
- Counsels clients on political giving, including the creation of political action committees (PACs) and compliance with federal and state campaign finance laws
- Helps clients enforce their shareholder/member rights in the face of majority shareholder oppression, in breach of fiduciary duty lawsuits, and when businesses are dissolved
In addition to his trial practice, Joe has handled numerous appellate cases in state and federal court and has had the honor of arguing before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Joe is also the Vice President of Michael Best strategies, the firm’s dedicated government relations subsidiary. Before joining the firm, he served as a legal intern for Justice N. Patrick Crooks of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Protecting Wisconsin's dairy farmers from regulatory overreach
Joe and Michael Best Attorney Dave Crass were hired by the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association to challenge the Wisconsin DNR’s creation and enforcement of new standards regulating runoff from feed storage piles and calf hutch lots. Joe drafted and filed a detailed complaint that carefully walked the court through the DNR’s lack of legal authority to impose these new standards. In the face of the complaint, the DNR immediately capitulated and agreed to a settlement agreement admitting the new standards were illegally imposed and agreeing to cease enforcement of the standards. In the words of Dairy Business Association President Mike North, “More than anything, this is a victory for the rule of law.”
Establishing the Wisconsin pleading standard
Joe successfully litigated the case that clarified the pleading standard for Wisconsin courts. Wisconsin's pleading standard had been in flux since the U.S. Supreme Court announced the Twombly/Iqbal standard. Joe represented the lead defendant in Cattau vs. MidAmerica Administrative & Retirement Solutions, Inc., etal, 2019 WI 46. The case reached the Court of Appeals twice and was ultimately decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Joe successfully argued the case, securing a victory for his client and clarifying the pleading standard. Commentators have noted that this case is one of the most significant decisions the Wisconsin Supreme Court has issued in the last 25 years.
Defending Wisconsin’s collective bargaining reforms
Joe was appointed Special Counsel to assist the Wisconsin Attorney General in defending the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s recent reforms of the collective bargaining privileges for public employees. These reforms dramatically restricted public sector collective bargaining, resulting in 2.7 billion dollars in tax savings over a the first two years of the reforms. These reforms also spurred six lawsuits, four of which reached the Wisconsin Supreme Court or the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Joe and his team successfully defended all six cases.
Creating a new judicial review standard for retiree benefit plans
Together with his partners, Paul Benson and Charlie Stevens, Joe handled a case that resulted in the creation of a new and more favorable standard of judicial review of an employer’s modification to retiree benefit plans. As a result of the successful outcome of the case, employers may now legally update retiree benefit plans as long as the updates are “reasonably commensurate” with the previously provided benefits when taking into account changes to the landscape of employee benefits over time.
Favorable settlements for healthcare class action lawsuits
Joe represented two hospital systems in two separate class action lawsuits seeking a combined $100 million in damages. The suits claimed hospitals were charging uninsured patients unreasonable rates. Joe managed successful early stage litigation yielding very favorable settlements for the clients.
Fighting paid sick leave ordinances
On behalf of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, Joe challenged the constitutionality of an ordinance requiring private sector employers to provide paid sick leave. Joe’s team successfully obtained an injunction in the trial court preventing the law from taking effect. While the injunction was in effect and the case worked its way through the appellate courts, Joe’s team worked with the Wisconsin legislature and the governor to pass a state law preempting any local ordinances dealing with sick leave, saving millions of dollars for the individual members of the chamber of commerce.
Honors & Recognitions
- "Super Lawyers" list by Super Lawyers Magazine, 2016-present
- The Best Lawyers in America®, Commercial Litigation, 2015-present
- Rising Star, Employment Category, Law360, 2015
- Who’s Who Legal: Management, Labour & Employment, International Law ABA Section, 2011-present
- Wisconsin “Rising Stars” list, Super Lawyers Magazine, 2006, 2008-2009, 2013
- "Leading Lawyers" list, Milwaukee's M Magazine, 2012-present
- Member, Wisconsin Bar Association
- Member, Milwaukee Bar Association
- Member, Seventh Circuit Bar Association
- Member, Federalist Society
- Member, DRI