Vol. 81, No. 9, September
Former Supreme Court Justice Roland B. Day remembered for humor and
Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Roland B. Day died on
July 26. He was 89. He is remembered by supreme
court colleagues for fostering collegiality and working toward more
prompt release of opinions. "He used his sense of
humor, foresight, and administrative skills to move the court
forward," said Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson.
Day was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court by Gov. Patrick
Lucey in 1974 and was elected in 1976
and reelected in 1986. He became the chief justice in August 1995 and
retired a year later.
"Day chose to serve just one year as chief justice, but he
used that time wisely to help improve the administration
of justice and to encourage better public understanding of the
court," said Abrahamson, who became chief justice when
Day retired. Retired Justice Jon P. Wilcox recalls,
"When dates and times were in question, the court turned to
Justice Day. He had a photographic memory and was a living
encyclopedia of knowledge not only of the law, but of a vast array
Former State Bar president and long-time friend John Skilton
said, "Justice Day was a well-respected jurist who left
his mark on Wisconsin law in seminal cases such as
Chart v. General Motors - the hotly-contested Corvair case that
set the stage for the `modern' products liability case in Wisconsin.
Justice Day was known for his sharp wit - which was
occasionally biting. He gave proud service to the state of Wisconsin,
and we the lawyers, in turn, are proud of him."
Born in 1919 in Oshkosh and raised in Eau Claire, Day received
his J.D. from the U.W. in 1947 after serving in the
U.S. Army during World War II.
Day was a law trainee in the Attorney General's office in 1947
and was the first assistant district attorney for
Dane County from 1949 to 1952. From 1957 to 1958, he served as legal
counsel to Sen. William Proxmire in Washington, D.C.
After returning to Madison, Day resumed law practice until 1974.
While on the supreme court, Day was a member of the Judicial
Council and the Council of Criminal Justice. He was
a member of the inaugural Class of Fellows of the Wisconsin Law
Foundation. He served as chair of the Madison Public
Housing Authority, which during his tenure built the first public
housing units in Madison. He was special counsel to Gov. John
W. Reynolds in the reapportionment case before the Wisconsin Supreme
Court, which became the first state court in the nation
to reapportion legislative districts on the basis of one person, one
vote. He also represented the Madison mayor in a civil
action challenging his right to go forward with the building of the
Monona Terrace Civic Center and served on the U.W. System's
Board of Regents from 1972 to 1974. In 2002, at the request of Bishop
William Bullock, Day chaired the Madison Catholic
Diocese Review Board on Sexual Abuse.