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Meet 2017 Forward Under 40 Award Recipient Peter Tempelis ’01, MPA ’06, JD ’06

Meet 2017 Forward under 40 Award recipient Peter Tempelis ’01, MPA ’06, JD ’06.

March 01, 2017
Peter Tempelis ’01, Mpa’06, Jd’06

UW Majors: Political Science, Public Affairs, and Law with Certificate in Integrated Liberal Studies
Age: 38 | Pewaukee, Wisconsin
Assistant Attorney General, Wisconsin Department of Justice

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.

“As a proud UW alumnus, I strive to fulfill the Wisconsin Idea as my father did before me.”

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 a remarkable 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 2011 UW 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.”

Q&A with Peter

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent.” — Calvin Coolidge

What is the one thing every UW student must do?

Go to a Badger football game at Camp Randall, starting with the Band’s pre-game concert at Union South, and stay through the famous “Fifth Quarter” — regardless of whether the Badgers win or lose. It’s the best college game day experience, excluding attending a Wisconsin game at the Rose Bowl following the Tournament of Roses Parade.

What advice would you offer to graduating seniors?

Find a mentor(s). I am a product of the university and those — including faculty, staff, and alumni — who generously gave their time to mentor me. Any success I’ve had is also theirs.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Eating a dish of UW’s Babcock ice cream — orange chocolate chip, in particular — at the Memorial Union Terrace

If you could meet any person, living or dead, who would it be?

Lance Sijan, a Wisconsin pilot who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He was shot down in Vietnam fifty years ago and evaded capture despite suffering injury. Once captured, Captain Sijan endured torture for information, but refused, providing only name, rank, and serial number. He epitomizes the American and Wisconsin spirit of serving others — even sacrificing his own life for the protection of others.

What is your favorite quote?

“So you’re telling me there’s a chance.” —

What was your proudest UW achievement?

This award, because of what it represents. I graduated with a dual degree in law and public affairs from the Wisconsin Law School and the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs. I gained admission to the UW Law School after being first denied, waitlisted upon re-application, and then admitted on a deferred basis for the third year — during what is considered the most competitive period in law school admissions history. All because I wanted to be a Badger lawyer.

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