Don C. Prachthauser Recipient of 2007 Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year Award


The Wisconsin Association for Justice (WAJ) bestowed upon Don C. Prachthauser the Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.  Attorney Prachthauser received the award at the Annual Dinner on Friday, November 30, 2007 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

The Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year Award is given to a WAJ member who has made an outstanding contribution to the public interest or who has demonstrated compassion and commitment to advocacy on behalf of injured consumers.  

WAJ President Robert L. Jaskulski noted in his introduction, “Don is a great example of a true advocate.  He is never driven by anger or animosity.  Reason rules his thoughts.  Hundreds of his clients have benefited by his reason, patience and passion.  His conduct and demeanor, both inside and out of the courtroom, have won him praise from both plaintiff and defense counsel.  His many contributions make him a fitting recipient of the Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year award.”

Don Prachthauser received his law degree from Marquette University Law School in 1977.  Since 1980, he has practiced with the law firm of Murphy & Prachthauser, concentrating his practice on major injury cases related to product liability, medical negligence and motor vehicle accidents. 

Don served as president of the WAJ in 1997-98.  During his tenure two ordinary citizens, Barbara Schultz and Patty Millar from Menomonie, Wisconsin, led the fight to raise Wisconsin’s wrongful death cap.  Don said at the time, “It is truly remarkable that the “Justin and Lindsey Reform Bill” was passed by the Wisconsin Legislature during the heart of the so-called “Tort Reform” movement.”  He observed, “As trial lawyers, we must never forget that we have tremendous power and incredible opportunity, experienced by few in society, to make a real difference in the lives of the people we come in contact with.  Our profession allows us to plunge deeply into the stream of life, experiencing triumph, despair, battles, and passions.  We are very fortunate people who must never abuse or take lightly the power and privileges granted to trial lawyers.”

Among many other professional activities, Don is a past president of the American Board of Trial Advocates, Wisconsin Chapter and has been certified as a diplomate of the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys.  He has served on the Milwaukee Bar Association Judicial Selection Committee and has been an instructor in the trial practice course at the University of Wisconsin Law School.  He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and has been elected to the American College of Trial Lawyers and the International Association of Barristers. 

Recently, Don, along with WAJ member Kevin Kukor, represented Hjalmer Heikkinen and his family in a personal injury action in which the then eighty-two-year-old Mr. Heikkinen was severely injured, requiring the amputation of one of his legs and causing him to lose bladder and bowel functions.  The traffic accident was caused by a volunteer for the Christ King Legion of Mary, acting on behalf of the Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, who while delivering a statue of the Virgin Mary, ran a red light and collided with a vehicle driven by Heikkinen.  The jury found that the negligent driver was a religious volunteer using her own automobile on behalf of the Archdiocese and other protected persons and awarded Mr. Heikkinens a substantial sum for his debilitating injuries.  The case was appealed and affirmed by both the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.  Heikkinen v. United Services Auto. Ass’n, 2007 WI 124 (3-3 split decision which affirmed Court of Appeals) 2006 WI App 207, 296 Wis. 2d 438, 724 N.W.2d 243

Below are the comments Don made when he received the Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year Award on November 30, 2007 in Milwaukee.

Thank you for this honor.  It means a great deal to me.

Nearly everyone who has experienced any success in life has had help along the way.  I have been the beneficiary of more than my share.  It is hard for me to believe that it was 27 years ago that Jim Murphy invited me to lunch and subsequently invited me to work for him.  I suspect he was too busy to interview anyone else.  I have been very fortunate to have had Jim as my mentor, role model and friend for all of those years.

Jim created a very powerful team of lawyers and support staff, most of whom are here this evening.  To the extent I have had success as a lawyer, it is because I have had a role as a part of an outstanding group of people.  Thank you.

Speaking of help along the way, I wish to thank my wife Joan for her wise counsel, support and her love.  Many of you know that it is not always easy being married to a trial lawyer.

I consider myself to be a very fortunate person to have been able to earn my living as a trial lawyer.  As lawyers we have the opportunity and power to make a profound difference in the lives of the people we serve.  Many times at gatherings such as this, I hear lawyers praising lawyers.  I have a somewhat different take on this.  I believe that I have been blessed to be able to do work which frequently provides me with the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people I’ve been given the opportunity to represent.  I know that many of you agree.

Finally, I have benefited greatly from my years as a member of this organization.  Not only have you educated me, I am pleased to say many of my best friends are lawyers who are here this evening.  Thank you.

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