After almost 18 years as a Dane County judge, Patrick Fiedler has decided to leave the bench and go into private practice.

“I feel now is the right time,” said Fiedler, 58, who is the second-most-senior of Dane County’s 16 judges. One of the county’s 17 judicial branches is currently vacant.

“It was something that in the last several years I recognized in myself, that I missed being a lawyer,” Fiedler said. “Over the course of the last several years this feeling just got bigger and bigger that I wanted to go back to being an advocate and being a lawyer.”

The move is effective Sept. 30.

His career shift will take him back to private practice, where he worked from 1985 until 1987, when he was appointed U.S. attorney.

He left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1991 when he was appointed state corrections secretary. He was appointed Branch 8 judge in November 1993.

Fiedler’s father, James Fiedler, was a judge in Iowa County for 24 years.

In his new job, Fiedler will be a trial lawyer with the Axley Brynelson law firm.

Fiedler’s announcement gives Gov. Scott Walker another Dane County judicial appointment. Walker is currently deciding who to appoint in Branch 11, where Daniel Moeser was judge for almost 32 years until his retirement in June.

Last week, the governor’s office identified the finalists for that job as Madison Assistant City Attorney Roger Allen and private practice lawyers Catherine Furay and Marta Meyers.

One of the things Fiedler said he’s enjoyed most about being a judge is working with highly skilled, well-prepared lawyers and teaching areas of the law to lawyers, law students and new judges. And he’s enjoyed experiencing a huge variety of cases in every facet of law heard in state court.

“It sounds nerdish, but I love the law and find it fascinating,” he said.

Among the cases he said are most memorable in his judicial career are the cold-case murder trial of Eugene Zapata in 2007, the Penny Brummer murder trial in 1995 and the Oto Orlik trial in 1999.

“They’re always going to be the ones where I had really good lawyers,” Fiedler said.

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