The strangest detail in the exceptionally nasty divorce battle between Supreme Court Candidate Janet Protasiewicz, then 34, and her estranged husband, conservative Milwaukee County Judge Patrick Madden, 70, was Protasiewicz’s fight to keep a Madden family grave plot next to the judge’s long-time first wife, Virginia, who had died of a stroke after being diagnosed with cancer, court records show.
In the end, Madden paid Protaseiwciz more than $400 to get it back.
“It was creepy,” says Protasiewicz’s former stepson, Dr. Mark Madden, of the grave plot. “It kind of blew up over the grave plot, which is a weird, weird thing. She wanted to be buried with my dad and my mom, I guess,” says Protasiewicz’s former stepdaughter, Sheila Casey.
“The matter of the gravestone – she wanted to be buried on my mother’s side, which was, you know. Everybody was aghast at that, but she was digging in on that one, at that point,” Michael Madden, Protasiewicz’s other stepson, said.
According to the voluminous divorce records, reviewed by Wisconsin Right Now, Madden’s close relationship with his three children was a bone of contention for Protasiewicz. There were “conflicts between her and Patrick regarding Patrick’s close relationship with his children and grandchildren,” the court records say.
“His heart lies with his children, not his wife,” said Protasiewicz in a court affidavit. Protasiewicz wished to be buried next to Patrick and Patrick’s first wife, court records allege.
The Protasiewicz-Madden divorce file, which consists of hundreds of pages at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, gives a window into an ugly time frame in Protasiewicz’s life that she has talked little about.
Even today, many years after the 1997 divorce battle, the three Madden children are still baffled, and frankly pretty horrified, by their former short-term stepmother’s determination to be buried next to Virginia Madden, who died suddenly only months before Protasiewicz and Madden started dating. Virginia was buried in the middle of a three-plot area.
Virginia’s death was tragic. Only 68, she died after suffering a stroke on Christmas Day after being diagnosed with cancer, according to a 1994 Milwaukee Sentinel article. That article describes Patrick Madden as “widely known and respected…He is deliberate, low-key, conscientious, concerned. Always concerned.”
According to the Milwaukee Sentinel, Virginia Madden, who had been married to Patrick since 1952, “was quietly devoted to the underdog, working for several organizations that helped the unfortunate. She was a strong, determined woman with deep convictions.”
According to the court records, Janet, a prosecutor, started dating Madden, a sitting judge, off-and-on in a 2.5 year courtship beginning in 1994, the same year Virginia died. Madden, his obituary says, was a Milwaukee County Judge from 1972 through 1996. In June 1998, the court granted Madden a decree of absolute divorce. He died in 2018.
Judge Daniel LaRocque eventually ordered that Patrick should give Janet money for a different plot so that Patrick and his family could have the adjoining plot, the records show.
Indeed, although Protasiewicz came forth with a list of demands and accusations (that she was not allowed to bathe, that she was the victim of “fraud” or coercion), LaRocque sided with Protaseiwciz on almost nothing.
Far from “fraud,” LaRocque found that the marital property agreement (Protasiewicz told the court she signed the document without reading it) was “procedurally and substantively fair” although an addendum to it was “ambiguous.” LaRocque ordered that Protasiewicz should get only $12,000 – not the more than $114,000 she requested – from the elderly judge. Gifts that Madden purchased for his children were not to be considered marital property. Protasiewicz demanded an annulment; LaRocque instead granted Madden’s request for divorce.
“Janet is in good health, earns a good income, holds a law degree and has a good earning capacity. In light of these facts and the short term of the marriage, as well the parties’ age disparity, Janet’s claim for maintenance is denied,” LaRocque wrote.
He denied her request to be reimbursed for her mother’s expenses for the wedding. “She is awarded $485 for the value of the cemetery plot. Her request for the plot is denied,” LaRocque wrote.
Patrick Madden’s brief says that he had accumulated “some modest wealth” through hard work and his Navy career and the marriage “created a great deal of hostility in Janet. The level of this hostility shows its teeth in Janet’s outrageous demands. She attacks the marital property agreement she signed and seeks a sum of money without any rational basis in fact or law.” In fact, Protasiewicz accused Madden of “fraud” over a prenuptial agreement. She said she signed it without reading it, court records allege.
Protasiewicz had accused Patrick Madden of “fraud involving the essentials of marriage,” but produced no examples of it, court records allege. Court records filed by Patrick’s lawyer say Protasiewicz “has not specifically identified any single act of fraud.”
The divorce file contains a detailed itemization of wedding gifts, transcripts of conflicting testimony, and Protasiewicz’s lengthy list of monetary demands. Judge Madden challenged his wife’s claims, saying she wasn’t being truthful.
After about 10 months of marriage to the elderly, bereaved judge, the much-younger assistant district attorney entered court with a laundry list of demands. Judge Madden’s three children believe the elderly Navy veteran was vulnerable because of his wife’s death; for her part, Protasiewicz has said very little about that time period in her life, mostly just slamming Michael’s allegations, which are backed up by a second non-family witness, that she also physically abused her elderly husband and used racial slurs. She has refused our requests for comment.
Protasiewicz was a 34-year-old assistant district attorney in Milwaukee County when she married the staunchly conservative and newly retired Judge, age 70. Married on Jan. 11, 1997, they separated by October of that same year and by December, she wanted an annulment and was accusing him of “fraud,” court records show.
At first, Madden’s three children say, they supported the marriage despite the massive age difference, hoping it would make their father happy after their mother’s death.
However, signs of trouble quickly emerged, sometimes associated with heavy drinking, the brothers said. Today, the three Madden siblings have extremely negative things to say about their once stepmother.
Even though they were married for less than a year, the court documents show that Protasiewicz demanded half of the personal property acquired during the marriage, rent for her mother, food costs for her mother, reimbursement of money her mother paid for their wedding, attorney fees, car payments, moving costs, costs for personal property storage, a gym payment, annulment costs, moving expenses to a new home, income tax contribution, and, although there was conflicting testimony on the latter, possible participation in Judge Madden’s pension benefits. She also wanted him to pay $4,000 in monthly maintenance per month for 18 months.
Court documents say that Janet reviewed Madden’s checking account and credit cards his kids used and claimed they were marital property. She was interested in insurance reimbursements of property owned by Michael, court records allege.
Patrick Madden claimed the demands were “preposterous,” adding that she wanted to be awarded 60% of all estimated purchases on Madden’s credit cards without knowing whether any purchases were made.
Even though she was making $60,000 a year, she wanted the court to order Patrick to assist in payment of her $500 per month rent to her mother and $150 per week food bill, court records say.
It was Protasiewicz’s first marriage, court records show, and she was childless and 36 years his junior. He still pulled in almost double the income she did, but she had a good job in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office. Today she has remarried to a Franklin lawyer.
Judge Madden did not raise physical abuse accusations during the divorce case, documents show. His children say he was an old-school Navy veteran in his 70s and was not the type to tell anyone about something like that.
Protasiewicz admits ‘intentional neglect’
Protasiewicz told the court that she signed a lengthy prenuptial document without reading it due to “pressure” from Madden, even though she allegedly asked for several amendments before signing it, Judge Madden said in court records. She admitted “intentional neglect” for allegedly failing to read the agreement but said she was under “duress,” court records filed by Madden’s attorney show.
Patrick had requested the prenuptial agreement to protect his assets for the benefit of his children, the prenuptial agreement says, but he did agree to name Janet as a beneficiary of his state pension, and she signed a document that said each party believed the prenup was fair and equitable. Janet had not signed an addendum, however.
Protasiewicz said she signed the prenuptial agreement based on Madden’s representation to her that he was adamantly opposed to divorce and, if he were to die, “I would have his state pension.”
However, the conservative Catholic Judge Madden, who carried a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket, wrote about his beliefs on divorce in a letter to the editor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel several years before the marriage. The letter makes it clear that he was open to divorce in at least one circumstance: if a spouse is abusive.
“Any society that champions the judge-created right of a woman to destroy her own offspring and opens the door to ‘no-fault’ divorce strikes at the very foundations of civility,” he wrote, adding, “No one can object to abortions that are truly to protect the life of the mother – nor can anyone object to legal separations from abusive spouses.”
“I refused to read the agreement, and Patrick was aware of this but continued to pressure me to sign the agreement and marry him. I signed the agreement under duress,” claimed Protasiewicz in the divorce records.
What was Patrick’s side? “She testified she read it four months after marriage,” court documents allege. “Despite that contention, Janet admits she made at least two requests for changes to the agreement prior to its final execution.” Specifically, Judge Madden alleged, Janet wanted to stay in the house for six months after his death but didn’t want to keep up with repairs.
Protasiewicz told the court she didn’t read the prenuptial agreement because “it was too painful to me.” She said it “sat in the trunk of my car for several weeks. I would not look at him. I told him that document broke my heart.” She said that Patrick summarized parts of it to her. There were a few parts of it “we changed,” she said, adding that Patrick changed them with “his own pen.”
She also, court documents say, executed, in the presence of a notary, a memorandum of assets, liabilities and income compiled from a list she prepared before Nov. 18, 1996.
Judge Madden wasn’t a pauper, but he wasn’t an extremely wealthy man; it turned out he had assets of about $371,000, liabilities of about $304,000, and income of about $111,000. His income included a Navy pension, court records show.
After she filed for the annulment, Michael Madden accused Protasiewicz of going through Judge Madden’s home with her mother and “cataloging everything, top to bottom,” including some belongings that he owned.
Court records said the new marriage quickly began to “spiral downward.”
Judge Madden insisted he “deeply loved Janet” at first, but said she was unhappy that his son Michael was living in the basement. He wanted to ensure that the majority of his estate went to his children when he died, court records show. In fact, Michael Madden says he owned the Fox Point home.
Patrick testified that, after a mere 10 months of marriage, Patrick told Janet that he had a “bombshell,” which was a request for divorce. He told the court his adult son Michael – who was almost exactly Protasiewicz’s age – had found the addendum to the marital property agreement and was disturbed about a transfer of a grave plot to Janet.
In her affidavit to the court, Protasiewicz claimed that Madden did not like the routine of marriage and craved freedom. She claimed that she was told she could not quit her job or work part-time, had no joint credit cards, and wasn’t able to move pictures on the wall, do the laundry without pre-approval or grocery shop alone. She even claimed she “could not bathe.”
Protasiewicz’s lawyer claimed that Patrick testified that Protasiewicz offered at one point to return the grave plot in an effort to save the marriage, but he declined. However, the grave plot remained a point of contention all the way to the bitter end, with Patrick eventually having to pay Janet to get it back. It comes up constantly in the divorce file.
Protasiewicz asked for ½ of all personal property acquired during the short marriage, the grave plot or a plot of equal value and maintenance, court records say.
In her affidavit, Protasiewicz said that, after a full day at work and without warning, she was asked to vacate her home with virtually only the clothing on her back. Patrick offered Janet money for one night’s lodging in a hotel. Michael Madden says his father wanted Janet out because of the alleged abuse, which she denies.
Janet entered the marriage in good faith “and with a now destroyed belief that Patrick was a good honest and responsible man,” her lawyer wrote.
Janet said the marital property agreement was “inequitable.” Her lawyer’s motion said that Protasiewicz made no claims to Patrick’s salary, pensions, life insurance policies, deferred compensation, social security benefits, securities, his home or his car.”
The lawyer called the provisions of divorce in the marital property agreement “unconscionable,” saying that Janet had given away her household goods and was left with only the clothes on her back and a bedroom set. It accused Madden of tossing her aside “like a used toy,” and accused him of coercing and intimidating Janet into signing an agreement that “gave him all the benefits of a ‘rent a wife’ contract.”
According to her lawyer, the lifestyle she enjoyed was less costly “than the lifestyle enjoyed by the Madden dogs.”
She wanted $37,000 for personal property and for outstanding personal property claims for damage to the property in a flood, totaling $114,814.
“Janet does work full time but she simply cannot be on any type of solid financial footing without maintenance payments and a proper division of property,” her lawyer said, indicating she had wedding debt. Court records call it a “dysfunctional household.”
The records say that the parties entered the marriage from “different places in the economic spectrum,” as Madden had “completed his active work life and was reaping the fruits of his many years of labor with comfortable retirement payments.”
Janet had virtually no estate and had started her professional work life only a few years earlier and was still in process of eliminating educational and other debts.
Madden’s lawyer slammed the “ridiculousness of Janet’s demands.” He said she wanted Madden to pay her monthly car lease, moving costs, membership at the Jewish Community Center, $500 for an annulment, and “Janet wants Patrick to pay for a second move she is making to a home she has not as yet purchased.” She wanted him to help pay her taxes. She requested a portion of his pension benefits, then said she made no such claim, and then reversed herself, court documents allege.
“The divorce case has now lasted as long as the marriage,” the lawyer wrote, criticizing her “outrageous demands.”
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