Matt Woleske (2015-16)

Aide to Justice Dallet

As so many others have said, the Chief (and though she had been recently removed from that position by constitutional amendment, that was always what I called her) worked incredibly hard.  So much so that I remember realizing at one point that she and I had surely spent more hours together that year than she’d spent with Seymour, even including time they were asleep.  Most of our time together was spent in the law clerk’s office, her office having long ago been given over to the tremendous volume of papers, books, trinkets, and awards she’d accumulated over the years.  She sat at the intern desk across from me, scribbling her often inscrutable edits in pencil onto the front (and frequently the back) of the drafts I had just given her. 

Most weekdays we’d both arrive by 8:30 AM, though I struggled to get there that early often enough that she more than once had to call me and say “Matt, I need you here.” We usually wouldn’t leave until at least 8 PM, often after midnight.  Indeed, the picture I’ve attached is from one of those nights–my phone tells me it was taken at 10:23 PM on a Thursday night.

Justice Abrahamson, hard at work at the intern desk.
Justice Abrahamson, hard at work at the intern desk.

On the weekends I would usually get there between 10 and 11 and find her there already, scribbling yet more edits, but often with a pastry that she’d picked up for me at Graze, and we’d work until well into the evening.  I remember one stretch from New Years’ Day until mid-April where she and I were in the office 7 days a week.  I was exhausted.  

One particularly long night, probably on draft 37 or so of an opinion, I remember looking up from my desk at her and saying, pitifully, “Chief, why are we doing this?”  I’ve never forgotten her response: “Because I care.

That year she traveled to both Thailand and Morocco.  I wish I could remember which trip this story is from, but let’s say it was Morocco.  After returning she told me she’d been offered the chance to ride a camel–something she’d done before.  She told me she’d declined.  “Once you’ve ridden one camel, you’ve ridden them all.”  She had a wonderful sense of humor, and though we often argued, we always ended up laughing.  

Since leaving the clerkship, I practiced for a while in New York and worked for several other courts before returning to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where I now work for Justice Dallet.  I think of the Chief nearly every day, and like to think that I help keep her memory alive at the court.  It was an honor to know her, and to work with her closely for a short while.  We are all fortunate for her dedication to the work of the court and the people of Wisconsin.