Inside Track: Four Wisconsin Governors Talk about Their Legacy of Civic and Political Service:

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  • Four Wisconsin Governors Talk about Their Legacy of Civic and Political Service

    At a particularly memorable evening in late September, Martin Schreiber, Anthony Earl, Tommy Thompson, and James Doyle, recipients of the Wisconsin Law Foundation's Charles L. Goldberg Distinguished Service Award, talk about the importance of service to community and clients.

    Shannon Green

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    Former Wisconsin Governors Martin Schreiber, Anthony Earl, Tommy Thompson, and James Doyle are distinguished recipients of this year’s Wisconsin Law Foundation Charles L. Goldberg Distinguished Service Award.

    Oct. 4, 2017 – Four Wisconsin lawyers have several things in common: They are former Wisconsin governors who each embrace a legacy of civic and political service to the community as the cornerstone of their careers. They also model what it means to battle by day in the political arena and then come together for a beer at the end of the day.

    Former Wisconsin Governors Martin Schreiber, Anthony Earl, Tommy Thompson, and James Doyle now share the honor as distinguished recipients of this year’s Wisconsin Law Foundation Charles L. Goldberg Distinguished Service Award.

    The award is presented to members of the State Bar of Wisconsin with a long-standing record of service both to the legal profession and to the public.

    The governors received their awards at a celebration in Madison on Sept. 27, where 35 new Fellows were inducted into the Fellows of the Wisconsin Law Foundation.

    The awards are given to the governors for their lifetime of public and citizen service as Wisconsin lawyers, said Foundation President Cheryl Daniels.

    “As attorneys with careers that included public service, each represented the residents of Wisconsin to the best of his ability,” Daniels said. “It is a privilege for us to present each of them with this award.”

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    James Doyle: It’s About the Needs of Your Clients

    James Doyle has served as Dane County district attorney, Wisconsin attorney general, and eight years as Wisconsin governor. While governor, he concentrated his efforts on education, and signed into law domestic partnership benefits for state workers.

    Doyle grew up in a family where being a lawyer meant service. It was a lesson he learned “the hard way.”

    Inspired as a young man by John F. Kennedy’s call to public service, he spent several years after college providing education and legal service in the Peace Corps in Tunisia, North Africa, and on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona.

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    Former Wisconsin Gov. James Doyle listens to Gov. Tommy Thompson.

    In Arizona, as a young lawyer just starting out, he was approached by a Navajo man who had been cheated on his purchase of a truck. Filing a class action, the case went as far as the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals – actually much further than his client wanted, he later learned.

    “I thought I was changing the world,” he said. Then, one day, the Navajo man returned to speak with him, and asked, “When am I going to get my truck?”

    “I realized then how badly I had served this client. He wanted a pickup truck, and I had the biggest test case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said.

    The experience was “humbling.” And a lesson in what service was about: It was not about what he wanted. “It was about making sure I was listening to who I was helping out,” Doyle said, “and figuring out what they need.”

    Tommy G. Thompson: Lawyers Have an Obligation to Serve

    Tommy Thompson served not only as Wisconsin governor from 1987 to 2001, but also as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary from 2001-2005. He has since worked on developing innovative solutions to health care challenges in the U.S.

    “I never thought I’d get out of law school,” he joked at the event. “This award is a tremendous honor.”

    Thompson lauded his fellow award recipients as well as State Bar members who work to serve the public. Charles Goldberg, he said, would appreciate the “tremendous public service … including what you do for attorney referrals, public education, reduced fee legal assistance, and those with low income,” Thompson said.

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    Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson at the podium after receiving his award.

    “I am joined today by three outstanding former governors whom I share both a profession with and a great deal of respect for. All of these individuals have served this state with great honor and dignity. Isn't it amazing that you see these three governors and not see any corruption, any dishonesty?” Thompson said.

    Six out of Wisconsin’s last 10 governors earned law degrees, he noted. “Perhaps the fact that the voters of our great state are so frequently willing to place their trust in lawyers is a tribute to the tireless efforts of the members of the State Bar and the practice of law in our great state.”

    Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward G. Ryan “spoke with great passion of the obligation of those in the legal profession,” Thompson said, “that the peaceful social order, the integrity of the state, and every sacred right are in the keeping of us as lawyers. … All of us, as lawyers, have an obligation to serve,” he said.

    Anthony Earl: Politics Need Not Be Combative

    Prior to serving as governor from 1983 to 1987, Anthony Earl headed the Department of Natural Resources. As governor, he took the state from a $1 billion budget deficit and 12-percent unemployment rate into fiscal soundness, and passed initiatives improving the environment, education, and equal opportunity.

    Earl said he is proud to receive the award at an event that celebrates with his fellow governors, representing both sides of the political spectrum, whom he has worked with and known for many years. “We served with one another, we’ve occasionally crossed swords, and on occasion had a harsh word or two, but it was a wonderful experience,” Earl said.

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    Former Wisconsin Gov. Anthony Earl listens to Gov. James Doyle during the event.

    Such service isn’t to be taken for granted, and should be encouraged in those from differing persuasions, he said. It is important to celebrate those who work in politics, who, while coming from differing political persuasions, demonstrate that politics “needn’t be a combat but can really be an exchange of ideas, moving us forward in the same direction.”

    Martin Schreiber: A Remarkable Experience

    Martin Schreiber served as governor of Wisconsin from July 1977 to January 1979. Before that, he was the youngest senator in Wisconsin history, elected at age 23 in 1962. While governor, he oversaw reforms within the state’s civil service system, a reorganization of the Wisconsin court system, and creation of the Wisconsin Fund to help local communities and industries develop and pay for clean water programs.

    He is most recently known for his work as an author and speaker on the challenges faced by caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease.

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    From left: Judge Richard Brown, Gov. James Doyle, Gov. Martin Schreiber.

    The award is an honor, and receiving it with the other governors is a “remarkable experience,” Schreiber said. “We have a combined average of seven years as governor,” he said.

    For more on the celebration, see 35 New Fellows Inducted into the Law Foundation, in this issue of InsideTrack.