Richard L. Cates



Richard L. CatesRichard L. Cates earned his law degree from the University of Wisconsin School of Law in 1951, with distinction, and was a member of the Wisconsin Chapter of The Order of the Coif. He is the co-founder of the Lawton & Cates, S.C. law firm in Madison, Wisconsin. Mr. Cates is highly respected as a trial lawyer. His philosophy in practicing law is to represent each client at the highest possible level of skill, ability and personal integrity to maintain the public's belief in and respect for the legal system, which provides freedom and preserves human dignity.

In 2005 Mr. Cates was presented the Charles Goldberg Award for Lifetime Service by the State Bar of Wisconsin. Attorney Robert Habush stated that Dick Cates deserves the honor because, "Few have contributed as much as you [Dick] to the Bar and the community at large. On a personal note, from the first time I saw you demonstrate your trial advocacy skills (and that was many years ago) I have tried to fashion my delivery to a jury in your down home, low key, yet intense style. I would like to think that part of the successes I have had were due to you. Thank you on a very personal level."

"Dick Cates has always been one of my favorites among the lawyers I have known starting with our early years when we were colleagues," comments Attorney Joseph Melli. "I was sufficiently impressed that later I referred the Gregory Esser murder case to him which turned out to be a landmark case because of his thoroughness and artful advocacy. Dick has always been a responsible, hardworking, thorough, creative and highly intelligent lawyer. He merits the Charles Goldberg award."

The American College of Trial Lawyers admitted Mr. Cates as a Fellow in 1973. He is currently a life member of the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation, a member of the Dane County Bar Association, and a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association.

Mr. Cates' contributions to the legal profession include teaching law school and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses for over twenty-five years. He taught numerous courses for the University of Wisconsin School of Law and McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California. He was a lecturer and participant in CLE programs presented in Wisconsin, Illinois, California, Michigan and Wyoming to bar, judicial, media, medical and industrial groups.

Dick Cates' commitment to the legal profession also included a leadership role in the State Bar of Wisconsin. He served on the Board of Governors from 1985 through 1989.

Mr. Cates' leadership and service to the legal profession carried over into public service. Governor John Reynolds appointed him Special Prosecutor for the John Doe hearings in Milwaukee from 1963 through 1967. Governor Warren Knowles appointed him Special Counsel to the University of Wisconsin following the Commerce Building takeover in 1967.

From fall 1979 through summer 1980 the Public Defender Board appointed Dick Cates as Acting Interim Wisconsin Public Defender.

Mr. Cates was appointed Associate Special General Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee by Chairman Peter Rodino, and served in that capacity from November 1973 through August 1974, during the Impeachment Inquiry involving President Richard Nixon. Mr. Cates was again appointed Special Counsel to House Judiciary Committee in 1986, for the Impeachment Proceedings involving Judge Harry Claiborne.

Congressman Robert Kastenmeier commented, "My friend Dick Cates has done many, many good things in his remarkable career. But I know him best for his outstanding work in Washington counseling and guiding the Congress in the Impeachment process, both Presidential and Judicial. He did so selflessly and effectively. For that, the nation owes Dick its eternal gratitude."

In addition to a long-standing record of service to the legal profession, Dick Cates has a long record of serving the general public. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and the Korean War. He served as Dane County Deputy District Attorney from 1957 through 1958 and as a member of the State Assembly from 1959 through 1960. Cates was a member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Visitors from 1963 through 1969. He also served on the Madison Board of Education during the 1960s.

Mr. Cates' many contributions to the legal profession and the public at large span more than 60 years. The time and effort that he has devoted to this service is immense.

Senator Gaylord Nelson wrote, "Wisconsin and the Nation are deeply indebted to Dick Cates. As an outstanding graduate of our University Law School, he went on to a long and distinguished career as partner to my close friend and mentor, John Lawton. He was an outstanding legislator when I was Governor. He has served the University as a lecturer, and the Madison community as a prosecutor and school board member. Most of all, he is widely known and respected for his role as Senior Associate Counsel to the House Judiciary committee during the extremely serious Watergate crisis. At every level in his career, he has been an enormously talented and effective defender of the rule of law, and a steadfast advocate for the rights of the common man."

Areas of Practice

Bar Admissions
Wisconsin, 1951; U.S. Federal Court, 1954; U.S. Supreme Court, 1970

Professional Associations and Memberships
Impeachment Inquiry, House Judiciary Committee, 1973 - 1974 (Associate Special Counsel)
University of Wisconsin, 1963 - 1969 (Member, Board of Visitors)
Wisconsin Legislature, 1959 - 1961 (Representative)
State Assembly, 1959 - 1960 (Joint Finance Committee)
State Assembly, 1959 - 1960 (Chairman Interim Legislative Committee on Commercial Code)
Madison Board of Education, 1966 - 1967
State Bar of Wisconsin, 1985 - 1989 (Board of Governors)
Medical Malpractice Committee, 1975 - 1977
Committee on Professionalism, 1988 - 1989
Impeachment Proceedings, House Judiciary Committee (Special Counsel)

Honors and Awards

  • Knapp Fellowship, University of Wisconsin Law School, 1952 - 1953
  • Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers
  • Fellow, American Bar Foundation

University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, 1951 LL.B., Honors: Order of the Coif
Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1947 B.A.

Classes/Seminars Taught
  • Lecturer, Military Law, Negligence Law, University of Wisconsin, 1958 - 1962
  • Lecturer, Trial Courses, University of Wisconsin, 1953 - 1977
  • Lecturer, Evidence, University of Wisconsin, 1979 - 1981
  • Lecturer, Evidence, Juris Prudence and Trial Courses, McGeorge School of Law-University of Pacific, Sacramento, CA, 1982 - 1985
  • Lecturer, Continuing Legal Education

Past Employment Positions
United States Marine Corps
Dane County, Deputy District Attorney, 1957 - 1958
Milwaukee John Doe, Special Prosecutor
University of Wisconsin, Special Counsel, 1967 - 1969
McAndres and Milli, Associate
Stroud, Stebbins, Wengert and Stroud, Associate
Wisconsin Public Defender, Acting Interim, 1979 - 1980

office locations icon

Lawton & Cates S.C.
146 East Milwaukee Street, Suite 120
P. O. Box 399
Jefferson, Wisconsin 53549
phone:  (920) 674-4567
fax: (920) 674-4726
(visitors should use Center Avenue entrance)