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James concentrates his practice on aggressively litigating complex commercial disputes venued in state and federal courts across the country. Although litigation remains his primary focus, James’ skillset allows him to serve his clients in a broader role: as a trusted advisor on whom they can always rely to offer shrewd advice and pragmatic solutions irrespective of the legal issues they encounter. 

Regardless of how or where a dispute arises, James approaches each matter with the same governing philosophy: how does the client define a win, what options are available to achieve that win, and which option maximizes the chance of success in the most efficient way possible? 

This type of common-sense lawyering has earned James the trust and respect of his clients and colleagues alike. He has consistently been recognized by Super Lawyers and The Best Lawyers in America as one of the most formidable commercial litigators in the country. Additionally, Barton Cerjak S.C. has been repeatedly nominated in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of Best Law Firms in the region for its work in commercial litigation.

Prior Experience

Before founding Barton Cerjak S.C., James was a partner at Hansen Reynolds LLC, a litigation boutique with offices in three states. Prior to his time at Hansen Reynolds, James was an associate in the litigation practice group at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, one of Wisconsin’s oldest and largest law firms.

Outside Interests

When he’s not practicing law, James enjoys watching college football, wrangling his two kids, and enjoying a glass of wine with his wife—simultaneously, in many instances.

Notable Engagements

  • Lead counsel for a North American machine tool distributor in an international arbitration against a Korean manufacturer with more than $10MM in dispute, which is pending before JAMS International; in prior litigation, Mr. Barton obtained a permanent injunction to halt a parallel foreign suit that the manufacturer initiated before the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board in Seoul, Korea. See Dynamic Intl of Wisconsin, Inc. v. SMEC CO., LTD., Case No. 2:18-cv-00582 (E.D. Wis.).
  • Lead counsel for the plaintiff in a multi-million-dollar shareholder oppression dispute concerning his interest in one of the country’s largest independent insurance agencies; after eighteen months of litigation and a series of favorable depositions, Mr. Barton defeated defendants’ case-dispositive motion, which sought dismissal of the entire suit; the case settled weeks later under terms extremely favorable to his client. See McClone v. Brenn et al., Case No. 2018-CV-000203 (Winnebago County Circuit Court).
  • Lead counsel for the Plaintiff in a shareholder dispute concerning the value of a leading luxury brand; Mr. Barton first-chaired the private, four-day arbitration where he was responsible for handling all motion practice, cross-examining the lead defendant, and examining numerous experts; following the hearing, the panel issued a $5MM arbitration award in favor of Mr. Barton’s client, which was dramatically in excess of the amount proffered by Defendants and their experts.
  • Represented Milwaukee Brewer, Ryan Braun, in a lawsuit against his former friend who asserted claims against Mr. Braun for breach of contract, fraud, and defamation; Mr. Barton briefed and argued numerous motions before the court, including the motion that resulted in the dismissal of all claims against his client; Mr. Barton also successfully defended the appeal, which affirmed the trial court’s dismissal order. See Sasson v. Braun, 2015 WI App 58, review denied, 2016 WI 2.
  • Successfully defended one of the Unnamed Movants in the State’s John Doe IIInvestigation, which was halted and declared unconstitutional by the Wisconsin Supreme Court; the arguments advanced in Mr. Barton’s briefing to the court were then adopted and codified into law by the Wisconsin Legislature. See State ex rel. Two Unnamed Petitioners v. Peterson, 2015 WI 85,  denied, 137 S. Ct. 77 (2016); Wis. Stat. § 968.26(5)(c) (codifying the Fourth Amendment’s neutral-and-detached magistrate requirement into the John Doe statute to prevent John Doe Judges from unilaterally issuing search warrants in the criminal inquests they oversee).
  • Integral member of the litigation and trial team that represented a Native American Tribe and its casino in a multi-fora $90MM dispute stemming from a failed bond transaction, which was pending for eight years in the Western District of Wisconsin (twice), the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (twice), the Lac Du Flambeau Tribal Court, and the Waukesha County Circuit Court; after multiple bond documents were declared void under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. § 2701, et seq., the remaining aspects of the case were slated for a seven-week jury trial before the Waukesha County Circuit Court; Mr. Barton successfully briefed and argued numerous pre-trial motions, including two Daubertmotions that preserved the testimony of his clients’ liability and damages experts; the case settled during voir dire following these rulings under terms extremely favorable to his clients. See Saybrook Tax Exempt Investors LLC et al. vs. Lac Du Flambeau Band Of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians et al., Case No. 2012-CV-000187 (Waukesha County Circuit Court).
  • Lead counsel for a French client seeking recognition of a foreign judgment that the client obtained against a Wisconsin-based defendant after a protracted, six-year lawsuit in France; obtained summary judgment that recognized the French Judgment as valid in the United States to allow Mr. Barton’s client to initiate collection activities in Wisconsin. See Societe D’Amenagement et de Gestion de L’Abri Nautique v. Marine Travelift, Inc., Case No. 16-CV-785 (E.D. Wis.).
  • Lead counsel for a national transportation company in a contract dispute venued in the Northern District of Ohio; after obtaining dismissal of many of the plaintiff’s claims on a motion to dismiss, the matter was settled out of court under extremely favorable terms to the client. See Amrate, LLC v. AIM Brokerage Services, LLC et al., Case No. 1:17-cv-00676-SO (N.D. Ohio).
  • Lead counsel for the defendant in a copyright infringement action against plaintiffs seeking a seven-figure damages award for willful infringement; Barton obtained summary judgment in defendant’s favor on all copyright claims, which prompted an extremely favorable settlement in his client’s favor given the fee-shifting provisions under the Copyright Act. See Boehm v. Legends of the Field, LLC et al., Case No. 15-CV-00683 (W.D. Wis.)
  • Member of trial team that secured a complete defense verdict in a complex product-liability dispute venued in Volusia County, Florida with nearly $1MM in dispute; Mr. Barton handled all motion practice and examined numerous witnesses at trial. See MSC Waterworks Company, Inc., f/k/a Mainline Supply of Florida, LLC v. Masci Corporation, et al., Case No. 2012-31274-CICI (Volusia County Circuit Court).
  • Member of trial team that secured a complete defense verdict in a U.C.C. case involving commodities futures; Mr. Barton cross-examined the principal plaintiff. See Alsum et al. v. Didion Inc., Case No. 2012-CV-197 (Columbia County Circuit Court).
  • Obtained dismissal on the pleadings of a lawsuit brought by a corporate plaintiff against its former employee alleging violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 et seqSee Centec, LLC v. Plutshack, Case No. 15-C-1401, 2016 WL 3645184 (E.D. Wis. June 30, 2016).
  • Obtained dismissal on the pleadings of a patent infringement lawsuit against a technology client on personal jurisdiction grounds. See Sonic Foundry, Inc. v. Astute Tech., LLC, Case No. 13-CV-00087, 2013 WL 6148111 (W.D. Wis. Nov. 22, 2013).
  • Argued before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in connection with the pro bono representation of a criminal defendant to challenge the sentence he received for his role in an international fraud conspiracy. See United States v. Cerna et al., 676 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 2012)