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Speedy judge once known as ‘Dr. No,’ ran ‘rocket docket’

Updated: October 5, 2012 6:12AM

MADISON, Wis. — Senior U.S. District Judge John Shabaz, a conservative lawmaker who became an efficient and demanding federal judge, has died. He was 81.

Mr. Shabaz’s wife, Patty, told the Associated Press that her husband died Friday after an illness.

Mr. Shabaz was appointed to the federal bench in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan and became known for his speed in moving cases through the court, earning the Western District of Wisconsin the nickname “the rocket docket.” He went on senior status in 2009.

“The entire court family is saddened by the news of Judge Shabaz’s passing,” Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Conley said in a statement. “He left an indelible mark on this court by his unwavering commitment to securing ‘the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding’ that came before him.”

From 1964 until 1981, Mr. Shabaz was a Republican state representative and had a reputation as a fiery debater. He served as minority leader from 1973 to 1979. While in the Assembly, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, he earned the nickname “Dr. No,” for his efforts with then-Rep. Tommy Thompson to thwart Democratic legislation.

Mr. Shabaz was “a dedicated public servant committed to upholding the rule of law and the efficient administration of justice,” Gov. Scott Walker said in a written statement. “He will be sorely missed.”

Mr. Shabaz was born in Milwaukee and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned his law degree from Marquette University.

After he took senior status, he spent more time at Okauchee Lake, and enjoyed swimming, boating and fishing. An obituary released Saturday said he also loved walking the beach for hours at his vacation spot in Florida.

Along with his wife, he is survived by four children.


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