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Stephen P. Hurley

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Steve Hurley's more than 35 years of practice provides clients with the background necessary to litigate complex cases. Steve is highly regarded throughout the state for his expertise in criminal defense. His persuasive presentation in the courtroom and knowledge of the law make him an effective litigator for civil cases as well. Steve was nominated and elected by his peers to the American College of Trial lawyers. His reputation earns him many referrals from colleagues for both criminal and civil cases.

Steve practices before agencies, state and federal courts, and has successfully represented clients at all stages: from pre-suit or pre-charging negotiations, through appeals before the appellate and supreme courts.

Various bar associations frequently request Steve to lecture on evidence, trial advocacy and criminal defense topics. Since 1989 he has been an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin law School, a popular teacher on evidence and trial advocacy. In 1998 Steve was appointed by Governor Tommy Thompson as a member of the Criminal Penalties Study Committee, composed of judges, lawyers and corrections officials, which provided advice about implementation of Wisconsin's Truth in Sentencing Law and which rewrote the penalty structure for criminal offenses.

Steve was profiled by the Isthmus magazine in a cover story titled "Hurley for the Defense," available here. In addition, the American Bar Association Journal had a feature article on Steve's recent victory on behalf of a client. The article is available here.

The 2008 Wisconsin Super Lawyers® magazine featured Steve in its cover story.

On going to court
"I prepare. What you see in court is a show – not one line is unrehearsed. Liken it to a play written, produced and performed by one person for one show. You can’t do it without preparation."

On understanding
"You must listen well. Empathy follows as does understanding. In the end, they have to trust me and I have to respect that trust."


Criminal Defense in the state and federal court

Bar Admissions

U.S. District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois
U.S. District Court Western District of Wisconsin
U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals 8th Circuit
U.S. Supreme Court


University of Illinois College of Law, Champaign, Illinois, J.D.
Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, B.A.

Honors & Awards

Warren L. Stopler Award to the Most Outstanding Adjunct Member of the Instructional Staff, University of Wisconsin Law School, 2004

Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers The Best Lawyers In America, 1995 - Present Superlawyer®, 2005 - 2006

Who's Who in American Law Leading Wisconsin Attorney, 1999

Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Legal Defense Service, Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, 1994

Certificate For Contributions to the Drama Series "Picket Fences" Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1992 - 1993

Representative Cases

People ex rel. Rice v. Cunningham, 336 N.E.2d 1 (Ill. 1975)

Green v. Associated Milk Producers, Inc., 692 F.2d 1153 (C.A.8 (Minn.) 1982)

County of Door v. Hayes-Brook, 449 N.W.2d 601 (Wis. 1990)

Jackson v. Benson, 578 N.W. 2d 602 (Wis. 1998)

Uhl v. Zalk Josephs Fabricators, Inc., 121 F.3d 1133 (7th Cir. 1997)

State v. Wulff, 557 N.W.2d 813 (7th Cir. 1997)

State v. Hicks, 549 N.W.2d 435 (Wis. 1996)

State v. Hicks, 536 N.W.2d 487 (Wis. 1995)

DeWitt, Porter, Huggett Schumucher & Morgan, S.C. v. Kovalic, 991 F.2d 1243 (7th Cir. 1993)

John Doe Case No. 2003 JD 001 v. The Honorable J. Mac Davis and State of Wisconsin, 2005 WI 70 (2005)

United States of America v. Georgia Thompson, 484 F.3d 877 (7th Cir. 2007)

Professional Associations & Memberships

Chair, Board of Federal Defender Services Wisconsin Inc., 2009-2010

Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Former Member of the Board Directors

Vice President, Board of Trustees, Madison Opera, 2009-2010

Wisconsin Defender
Member, Editorial Advisory Board

Dane County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association

Dane County Bar Association

State Bar of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Education Fund (U.S. Representative Scott Klug), 1992 - 1994

Western District Bar Association, Standing Committee on Criminal Justice
Former Chairman

American Inns of Court, James E. Doyle Chapter, 1992 - 1999
Master Bencher

Published Works

Can Defense Counsel Ethically Breach A Plea Agreement?, Wisconsin Defender (Reprinted in Plea Bargaining and Penology: An Appraisal, M.N. Bhavani, ed., 2008, Amicus Books of Icfai University Press), June 2005

The Attorney-Client Privilege: The Self Defense Exception To The Attorney-Client Privilege, Wisconsin Defender, January 1998

Straw, Sticks or Bricks: How Strong is the Attorney-Client Privilege? A Cautionary Tale for Defense Counsel, Wisconsin Defender, June 1998

"Sharp Practice:" The Use of Section 908.01(4)(b) Admission by Party-Opponent to Hoist A Prosecutor By His Own Words, or the Lessons of State v. Cardenas-Hernandez, Wisconsin Defender, December 1999

Wisconsin Criminal Defense Manual, 1992

Defense Juvenile Case in Wisconsin, 1993

Best in Show: Admissibility of Police Dog Evidence., Hurley, Burish & Stanton, 2011

Stand and Deliver: Tips on Trying Your First Case, American Bar Association Journal Podcast, May 7, 2012


K-9 Dogs and Drug Searches, Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, Appleton, Wisconsin, September 30, 2011

Introduction to the American Legal System, East China University of Political Science and Law, Shanghai, China, February 18, 2011 - March 5, 2011

K-9 Dogs and Drug Searches, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Seminar, Las Vegas, Nevada, November 19, 2009

Crossing Dogs: Drug Dogs, Cadaver Dogs, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Seminar, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 1, 2008

Doggone Dogma: Dogs, Alerts & Admissibility, Dane County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, April 8, 2008

Evidence, Trial Advocacy, University of Wisconsin Law School, 1989 - 2009

Wisconsin Evidence Workshop, Professional Educations Systems, Inc., 1992 - 2004

American Jurisdiction over Foreign Business, National Cheng Chi University, Taiwan, 1996