About Susan

“Profound inequities and disparities afflict our criminal justice system. My goal is not only to do justice in every case, but to work collaboratively on reforms to make the justice system more accountable, cost-effective, and fair for all citizens.”

A Progressive Record as a Civil Litigator

A partner at the Madison law firm Pines Bach, Susan has advocated for constitutional rights and public interests in the Dane County Circuit Court, including fighting for voting rights, defending public education, suing government officials for access to public records, and protecting women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

Prepared for Criminal Court

Susan handled hundreds of criminal cases in the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals as an Assistant Attorney General. She is prepared to preside over criminal trials as judge for Branch 1.

Highlights of Susan’s legal career

Voting Rights and Fair Elections

  • Susan has defended the voting rights of Wisconsin citizens in several cases challenging state laws as impeding fair elections and the right to vote.
  • Susan was co-counsel for the League of Women Voters in a constitutional challenge to the Wisconsin Voter ID law in the Dane County Circuit Court and Wisconsin Supreme Court (League of Women Voters et al vs. Scott Walker et al., no. 2011CV4669, 2011-2014)
  • Susan submitted several amicus briefs advocating for voting rights in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Frank et al. v. Walker et al., One Wisconsin Institute et al. v. Thomsen, Whitford v. Gill, 2016)
  • Susan served as counsel of record for an amicus brief in the Wisconsin Supreme Court arguing that the Constitution allows the state to prohibit state candidates from coordinating political expenditures with outside groups (Two Unnamed Petitioners v. Peterson, 2015).
  • Susan co-authored an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court opposing Wisconsin’s gerrymandered legislative districts. (Gill v. Whitford, 2017)

Access to Reproductive Health Care

  • Susan advocated for women’s access to reproductive healthcare in cases before the Dane County Circuit Court and the federal courts.
  • Susan was part of a legal team that successfully challenged a Wisconsin law requiring physicians who provide abortion services to have “admitting privileges” at a local hospital in federal court.(Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Inc. et al. v. Schimel, no. 3:13-cv-465, 2013-15)
  • Susan represented Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin in Dane County Circuit Court in a case that clarified an ambiguous Wisconsin law that threatened healthcare providers with felony penalties if they prescribed medications to terminate early-term pregnancy. (Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin et al. v. J.B. Van Hollen et al., no. 2013CV438, 2013-16)

Environmental Protection and Renewable Energy

  • Susan has worked to support renewable energy and strengthen environmental protection.
    Susan serves on the Board of Directors for Renew Wisconsin, the leading state advocacy group for renewable energy.
  • Susan advises and assists renewable energy developers in obtaining permits and regulatory approvals for renewable energy projects in Wisconsin.
  • Susan participated in a legal challenge to a Michigan municipal utility’s coal-fired power plant on behalf of the Sierra Club, resulting in a settlement to phase out coal at the plant.
  • Susan was administrator of the Wisconsin DNR’s Division of Enforcement and Science in 2008-09, working to strengthen enforcement of state environmental laws.

Public Education

  • Susan has advocated for the interests of public school teachers and public education in several court cases.
    Susan sued the Wisconsin Employment Relations commissioner for access to public records in annual union certification elections on behalf of Madison Teachers, Inc. The Dane County Circuit Court ruled that the official had violated the public records law by refusing to provide the records. The case is now in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. (Madison Teachers, Inc. v. James Scott, case no. 2015CV3062, 2015-present).
  • In 2016, Susan won a significant victory for public education in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The Court held upheld the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s constitutional power to supervise public education without obtaining the governor’s permission to adopt administrative rules. (Coyne v. Walker et al., case no. 2011CV4573, 2011-15).
  • Susan was part of the legal team that challenged Act 10 in Dane County Circuit Court on behalf of Madison Teachers, Inc., blocking the state from enforcing the law against MTI for several years. (Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Walker, no. 2011CV003774) (2011-14).

Criminal Justice

  • Susan handled hundreds of felony criminal appeals in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and Wisconsin Supreme Court and prosecuted health care fraud and patient abuse as an Assistant Attorney General from 1997 to 2003. She served as director of the criminal appeals unit, the largest legal unit at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, from 2000-2003.
  • Susan was executive assistant at the Department of Corrections from 2006-2008, serving as chief of staff to the department secretary and overseeing the agency’s legislative, public information, and public outreach functions. Susan worked on key policy initiatives to reduce recidivism, improve public safety, and confront racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
  • In 2009-10, as chief legal counsel to Governor Doyle, Susan chaired the pardon advisory board, hearing petitions from hundreds of citizens seeking pardons for decades-old convictions.

LGBT Rights

While serving as chief legal counsel in the office of Governor Jim Doyle, Susan Crawford was tasked with ensuring that the Domestic Partnership law, which granted legal rights and status to same-sex couples, was upheld, when opponents claimed it violated the “marriage amendment” to the Wisconsin Constitution. Susan worked closely with outside counsel to develop the constitutional defense of the law. After incoming Governor Scott Walker refused to defend the law, the Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the domestic partnership law. (Appling et al. v. Doyle et al, no. 2010CV4434, 2010).

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