Peter Tempelis Bio

I am a proud graduate of the ILS program.

Educational Background and Experience:

I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I majored in Political Science, while pursuing my ILS certificate.

During college, I served as an intern for the Chief Legal Counsel for Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson for a semester. I also worked for Waterman & Associates, a Capitol Hill government relations firm, for a summer. I lived at Georgetown University.

Throughout college, I also was a member (tuba) of the Wisconsin Marching Band, which included performances at the 1999 and 2000 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl Championship games.

I graduated in May 2001 and took a gap year and lived in Washington, D.C., where I served as a civil litigation paralegal to former State Bar of Wisconsin president John S. Skilton, a prominent, international civil litigator and trial attorney.

Living on the East Coast, I was in New York City the weekend before September 11th, taking in a show before Broadway suddenly closed. I was working near the White House during the attack. I visited each of the three Ground Zeros that year to honor those who lost their lives, including the heroes on Flight 93 who prevented the flight from hitting the White House (where I was located) or Capitol.

I returned to Madison in August 2002 when I started a master’s program at the University of Wisconsin Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs with an emphasis in public management. I served as a graduate intern in management and law at the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office under E. Michael McCann in 2003 for a summer. This was my first exposure to work in the courtroom, aside from prior service as a foreperson on a criminal jury in Milwaukee.

I was admitted to the University of Wisconsin Law School and started classes in Fall 2003. I served as a law clerk at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin in 2004-05, including a summer. I assisted J.B. Van Hollen with his successful campaign for Wisconsin Attorney General immediately after he left service as U.S. Attorney.

During law school, I serve as an editor for the National Symposium on Enforcement Litigation of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, entitled “Law and Freedom.” It focused on issues of liberty and security after 9/11.

In my final year, I served as an intern-prosecutor under the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s practice privilege, prosecuting cases in the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, which is in a rural area between Milwaukee and Madison. I was offered and accepted a full-time position as a Public Service Special Prosecutor in January 2006, handling criminal and juvenile delinquency cases there. This was before graduation and rather unusual but approved by DA David Wambach and the courts.

Professional Background and Experience:

Upon graduation, I was sworn in as a state Assistant District Attorney. In that capacity, I prosecuted misdemeanor, felony, juvenile delinquency, and children in need of protection and services cases for the State and County of Jefferson. After less than two years, I was approached to run for district attorney by outgoing DA Wambach—who was departing to be the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s statewide cold case homicide prosecutor.

While in Jefferson, I tried 25 jury trials, countless fact-finding hearings, a homicide jury trial to guilty verdict, and drafted the legal policy and procedure for the first-of-its-kind Juvenile Drug Treatment Court (DTC) in Wisconsin. Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson later presided over the graduation of the first defendant from the program. DTC is a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) best practice program, aimed at rehabilitating drug users, so they can re-enter society as productive members of the community.

In 2009, after losing the November 2018 election, Milwaukee County District Attorney John T. Chisholm offered me the opportunity to join his office. I served seven years as an Assistant District Attorney in Milwaukee. I served first as a chronic offender prosecutor, before being appointed to Team Captain of the Domestic Violence Unit, where I supervised 10 prosecutors.

After the Azana Spa massacre, I helped lead an effort with the Milwaukee County Law Enforcement Executives Association, comprised of chiefs of police and the Sheriff, to bring the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) and the High-Risk Team (HRT) Initiative to Milwaukee County and Wisconsin. Both are focused on targeting relationships where there is a high risk of homicide based on risk assessments and outreach by training professionals, including victim advocates and treatment providers. Both also are U.S. DOJ best practice programs.

Milwaukee’s HRT is unique in that it includes application of the District Attorney’s Witness Protection Unit, comprised of investigators who focus on targeting witness tampering and intimidation of victims and witnesses. It was created by the District Attorney after the execution of a witness in a violent crimes case.

I also helped Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern lead the Domestic Violence Unit’s transition to the Sojourner Family Peace Center, a Family Justice Center (FJC), which is another U.S. DOJ best practice program. It provides a single location for victims and their children to receive comprehensive services, including from victim advocacy, medical and legal professionals.

Opening the Domestic Violence Unit at the Sojourner Family Peace Center required coordinating remote access for prosecutors co-located at Sojourner, which is blocks away from the Milwaukee County Courthouse—years before the COVID-19 pandemic made that sort of remote access required for professionals such as attorneys.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, among other publications, has covered the success of the LAP, HRT, and FJC programs.

In 2016, I left Milwaukee for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, where I was sworn in as a state Assistant Attorney General by AG Brad Schimel. In that capacity, I prosecuted health care fraud and abuse cases in its Medicaid Fraud Control & Elder Abuse Unit (MFCU). MFCU is another U.S. DOJ best practice program. It is based on the concept arising out of New York state, of creating a collaborative unit of civil and criminal attorneys and investigators to pursue criminal activity that occurs in the health care system. In that capacity, I also collaborated with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin, located in Milwaukee and Madison, respectively.

During my tenure at the MFCU, I prosecuted Wisconsin’s case as part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Federal Health Care Fraud Takedown, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. This takedown was publicized by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions as the largest takedown in American history.

After three years, I joined the Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office, where I have served the past four years. Here, I serve in the Sensitive Crimes Unit, where I prosecute sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, and elder fraud cases. I am also involved in the Elder Justice Initiative (EJI) in Wisconsin. EJI is another best practice program, aimed at improving coordinated community response to elder fraud and abuse.

The Value of My ILS Education and Experience:

I greatly value my ILS education and experience. Based on Alexander Meiklejohn’s concept of “The Experimental College,” the ILS program provides a liberal arts program that is unique for a university of Madison’s size. Indeed, Professor Meiklejohn aimed to create an ideal liberal arts program that developed students into “thinking, caring, involved citizens.”

A friend of mine once said that the downside of large universities is that they do not provide the sort of one-on-one student to faculty or small group environment that prestigious, East Coast liberal arts colleges provide. To the contrary, I found that exact environment at UW-Madison and particularly at the Meiklejohn House and North Hall, where the Political Science Department is located. For example, I have memories of meeting one-on-one with ILS Professor Booth Fowler in the Meiklejohn House, having apple cider and cookies for a small group around the fireplace at Professor Dennis Dresang’s residence near Madison West High School, and assisting in a controlled burn at Professor Graham Wilson’s farm.

Today, society is increasingly focused on providing education and training programs focused on readying students for specialized areas of employment in the community. While that is certainly appropriate, especially at a time when there are concerns about the cost of higher education, I believe there is no substitute for learning how to think critically, not just in a specialized employment area, but generally as a citizen in a nation where we have a representative democracy. The aims of ancient thinkers, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle at The Academy in Ancient Greece, remain relevant today, that is, to seek ways to improve the human condition.

Interestingly, my paternal grandfather was born in Greece in 1900 and grew up as a sheepherder. He benefitted directly from the evolution of human thought. During his lifetime, he saw the advent of motor vehicles, flight, space travel, computers, and cures for deadly illnesses. Indeed, there has been more progress in the past century than ever before.

As a global society, the work is not finished, however. We need to continue to work together to improve the human condition. One of the most challenging areas of this effort is addressing human conflict. Unfortunately, despite the advances my grandfather saw, war, homicide, and abuse remain prevalent throughout the world. The trauma that results often leads to a cycle of violence or abuse that becomes generational.

In the domestic sphere, the government provides a place for citizens to address and resolve disputes civilly, rather than through violence, power and control, or intimidation. Our nation operates under the rule of law, which is developed through our system of government, by and for the people through the legislative branch. In the criminal context, the rule of law is enforced through prosecution by the executive branch before the courts, the third branch of government.

I believe our efforts in this next century should be focused on improving the justice system so that it renders fairer and just results, and enhancements in efforts to rehabilitate offenders. The goal is to reduce our society’s dependence on the correctional system, that is, our jails and prisons. I believe that is accomplished by curbing the cycle of violence. That will be accomplished by leadership and collaboration across the various disciplines of human thought—those disciplines that exist at large universities like UW-Madison. The hope is to focus those immense dollars, instead, on enhancing the community, rather than responding to the cycle of violence.

I believe those with a liberal arts education, like that envisioned by Professor Meiklejohn nearly a century ago, are best situated to provide that leadership because they are educated in, value and appreciate the multitude of human thought disciplines.