Nicholas J. McNamara

Adjunct Professor


J.D., University of Wisconsin Law School


Exemplifying the UW Law School's rich tradition of Law in Action, Nicholas McNamara brings to his classes insight and a perspective that comes from a career in the courtroom, first as a trial attorney in civil litigation and then as a circuit court judge presiding over a busy criminal docket.

Judge McNamara rejoined the UW Law School Adjunct Faculty in 2020 to teach Evidence and present lectures in criminal procedure, advanced criminal practice seminars and clinical internship programs. As Adjunct Faculty from 1999 until 2008 Judge McNamara regularly taught Trial Advocacy and Litigation in General Practice. He is a frequent presenter at both judicial and attorney continuing education programs, most recently focusing on topics related to the use of actuarial instruments in judicial decision-making, sentencing in criminal cases, and the special, complex issues related to jury trials.

Judge McNamara began his judicial career in 2009 after practicing civil law as a trial attorney for 16 years.  He graduated with a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1993, where he received the University League Award for exceptional student service and scholarship.  He earned a B.A. with Honors from the University of Iowa in 1987.  In 1987-88 he was awarded a Fullbright scholarship to study philosophy in Germany.

Judge McNamara has served two terms as the Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division in Dane County Circuit Court. Since 2009 he has presided as judge for more than 200 jury trials, most of which involved criminal matters at all levels of seriousness.  Some of his current judicial administrative service includes membership on the Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, the Planning and Policy Advisory Committee (PPAC) for the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Director of State Courts, the Effective Justice Strategies Subcommittee for PPAC, the Court Research and Justice Statistics Advisory Committee, and Chair of the Pre-Trial Services Subcommittee of the Dane County Criminal Justice Council.

Prior to taking the bench, Judge McNamara was a trial attorney and shareholder with the law firm of Habush, Habush & Rottier, S.C. for 16 years. His practice specialized in plaintiffs’ personal injury cases with primary focus on auto, general negligence, and care facility liability cases, along with additional litigation work in product liability and medical malpractice cases.  He successfully negotiated and settled more than 600 personal injury cases and was the sole attorney for 55 jury trials, obtaining 3 verdicts in excess of $1 million, including the largest personal injury verdict in Wisconsin in 2007 as reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal: Schaitel v. Sentry Ins. Co. et al., Monroe County Case No. 04-CV-256.  He earned certification as a Civil Trial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in 2000.

Before joining the Habush law firm, Judge McNamara served as law clerk for the Honorable Susan R. Steingass and the Honorable George W. Northrup, Dane County Circuit Court.

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