My clerkship year with Chief Justice Abrahamson was fascinating and challenging. It was fascinating because the Wisconsin Supreme Court has discretion over which appeals to hear. Every case the Court takes involves issues of first impression, with many important doctrinal and policy choices for the court to make. It was challenging because the workload was intense. We had around 90 cases that term, and I was the only law clerk in the Chief’s chambers. We had a lot of help from interns, though. Working for Chief Justice Abrahamson taught me the meaning of hard work. She typically worked from 9 a.m. […]
My clerkship with Shirley was both inspiring personally and foundational to my legal development. She stood as a living example of how to navigate a career dedicated to public service and built on a bedrock of ethics. To this day, I keep of photograph of her in my office that I can see from my desk as a reminder that she is both watching me, and watching over me. In addition to a foremost legal mind, Shirley was tough as nails, and all business in the courtroom, often displaying a rather stern demeanor with the litigators. For instance, during the […]
I clerked for “the Boss,” as I still call Shirley in my mind to this day, during Justice Day’s lone year as Chief (Shirley’s nickname was bestowed by her assistant during my year there: Sue Fieber). Legends (and fables) be damned: what I saw, all year, was a lovefest between Chief Justice Day and the Boss, who would become Chief upon Justice Day’s retirement. For all their disputes and differences, ideological and philosophical, these two long-serving Justices shared an abiding commitment to the Court as an institution that’s been MIA during the ensuing quarter century, during which one of the […]
This is a photo from the wedding that Shirley performed for me and my husband, Greg Boyer, in Madison on June 28, 2002. (When I suggested swapping “husband and wife” in our minimal vows for “partners,” she admonished that the statute – providing the citation off the top of her head – required “husband and wife.”)
My memories – Still maybe the best job ever, and a boss I will always admire greatly. I learned lessons that I have passed down to many of the interns and attorneys who have worked for me. I was reminded that “We must thoroughly address every party and every argument” after I failed to address an argument in a pro se brief based on the Declaration of Independence.
I had the privilege to clerk for the Chief when she had only been on the bench ten years. One classic story is that she called me on a Saturday morning to offer me the job. I was dating a guy in Nashville where I attended law school so was on the fence about a move. I asked if I could have the weekend to think it over. She said, “No, you can have an hour.” So I quickly called around and talked to my Vanderbilt professor who told me she was a rising star and I should accept a […]
She was an incredibly important influence on my life, and I’ve always been grateful to her for what she did for me. She taught me how to write – and how to work very, very hard. Even more important, she was my first real professional role model, and she helped to convince me that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. I had really never known a female lawyer before – and certainly not one who was so eminent and so brilliant. During my first year of law school at Columbia (in 1981), there was not a single […]
By far the most interesting case I worked on was State v. Gilbert, 115 Wis. 2d 371, 340 N.W.2d 511 (1983), which dealt with the issue of whether a child, who was the only witness to her mother’s murder, had to testify. The court established standards for arranging courtrooms to accommodate children. This work on this case set me on a career of dealing with children who are victims of child abuse and neglect. I was not involved in elections! (1982-83) However, one of the fun things Shirley authorized was playing Dreidel in the back of chambers. I introduced the […]