Peter Tempelis ’06 receives Forward Under 40 Award

Peter Tempelis
Photo by Andy Manis

When crime strikes, Peter Tempelis fights back with Wisconsin superpowers: a lawyer’s mind and a Badger’s heart. In his decade of public service, Tempelis has prosecuted some of Wisconsin’s toughest cases. He seeks justice through what he calls a “dual focus on both law and policy”—and it’s paid off.

In 2015, Tempelis’s peers named him Wisconsin Assistant District Attorney (ADA) of the Year for bringing about two milestones in justice. At the time, he was leading the Milwaukee County Domestic Violence Unit, for which his team achieved an 80 percent conviction rate at trial.

He’d also enacted a program that helps to identify victims at the greatest risk of serious injury or death due to domestic violence. Tempelis used the assessments to prioritize cases and partnered with social-service agencies to quickly provide support for victims and families.

“In addition to enforcing state laws, we aspired to serve the public by applying social science to solve a problem,” he says.

Tempelis was also credited with making sure that experienced lawyers are ready to serve Wisconsinites in need. When he saw a rise in prosecutors leaving state service after only a few years, he commissioned a study, which found out why: ADAs were moving on due to low salaries. Since his inquiry, the state has invested in keeping district attorneys and public defenders on the job with pay that matches their years of service.

As a member of the UW Marching Band, the second-generation Badger grad marched at back-to-back Rose Bowl games alongside his brother and sister, and he continues to carry his UW pride with him through every step of his life and career. His latest big move? Tempelis is now serving all of Wisconsin by prosecuting cases of Medicaid fraud and elder abuse.

“A society’s value is judged by the protection it provides the public and the most vulnerable,” Tempelis has written. And, he says, “As a proud UW alumnus, I strive to fulfill the Wisconsin Idea as my father did before me.”