June 1, 2011 – Chance is a funny thing. For several lawyers celebrating 50 years as State Bar of Wisconsin members, fateful moments of chance led to distinguished careers in politics, state government, academia, and law practice.
In fact, this year marks a milestone for one of the state’s top litigators, a former university president, a former Wisconsin governor, a sitting federal judge, and a “pioneering” woman who entered a male-dominated profession to eventually serve an important role for low-income residents.
To honor these and other distinguished members who have contributed to the collective prosperity of Wisconsin and beyond, the State Bar will host the 50-year Member Recognition Luncheon June 22 at the Delafield Hotel.
The following article highlights some of those 50-year members, admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1961, and their contributions as lawyers.
The governor: Anthony “Tony” Earl
Tony Earl of Madison didn’t intend to be a lawyer, or a Wisconsin governor, but he did both with a little encouragement and a mantra to “seize opportunities” when presented.
On advice from a college advisor, Earl attended the University of Chicago Law School (’61). Fifty years later, Earl recalls opportunities that helped him attain the governor’s seat, other key positions within state government, and a partnership with the Madison office of Quarles & Brady.
“I never thought I would get into politics, and never thought I would become governor, but I learned to seize opportunities when they came along,” said Earl, who obtained four years of legal training as a judge advocate in the U.S. Navy before moving to Wausau.
He practiced law in Wausau until 1969, the year he was elected to the Wisconsin Assembly. In 1974, then-Wisconsin Gov. Patrick Lucey named Earl Department of Administration secretary after he lost the state Attorney General race against Bronson La Follette. Earl later served as secretary for the Department of Natural Resources.
“I very much enjoyed the DNR position because I’ve always cared deeply about environmental issues,” said Earl, who in 1993 authored “Protecting the Great Lakes,” published by the University of Toledo Law Review.
Starting in 1982, Earl served as Wisconsin’s governor, the pinnacle of his political career. He ran against incumbent Lee Dreyfus, who unexpectedly dropped out of the race.
“I was sort of an accidental winner,” Earl said. “Everyone thought Dreyfus was a shoe-in, but I thought someone else should run. Serving as governor was a wonderful experience for me.”
Earl noted that Wisconsin’s budget situation was worse in 1982 than it is now, “by a longshot.” It was a very difficult time, recalls Earl, who imposed a 10 percent income tax surcharge that may have contributed to his 1986 loss against Tommy Thompson, a four-term governor.
“From that day on I was known as ‘Tony the Taxer,’” Earl said of his early tax hike. “But we got the deficit under control, so I have no regrets about that.”
Earl finished out his career as partner with Quarles & Brady, where he maintains an office as retired partner and serves on various boards. He hopes politics can return to the “noble undertaking it once was,” rather than the “bloodsport it has become.”
The litigator: Robert Habush
Very few have trouble recognizing the name of Robert Habush of Milwaukee, renowned litigator and current president of Habush Habush & Rottier. There’s that $99 million verdict he won in the Miller Park crane crash of 1999, and countless other achievements to ring one’s bell.
Like former Gov. Earl, chance played a part in the career of Habush, who obtained an accounting degree in college and intended to be a business lawyer.
After law school (U.W.-Madison, ‘61), and his service in the U.S. Army, he turned down offers from Chicago law firms to help his father, a Milwaukee lawyer, who had suffered a heart attack and needed help to keep his firm afloat.
“Of course, I knew very little about practicing law at that point,” said Habush. “But I ended up trying about a case a week for a year. And I got pretty good.”
He said insurance companies, facing an inexperienced Habush, would lowball settlements and force him to try most cases, which fueled his competitive spirit. Habush realized he liked the courtroom and decided to continue as a trial lawyer in personal injury law.
“As I say, the rest is history,” said the Milwaukee native, who went on to build one of the state’s top plaintiff’s firms, obtain multimillion dollar settlements, receive countless awards, and contribute to Wisconsin’s legal community in many leadership positions.
“I suppose the talent was there, but it just needed to be developed,” said Habush, who obtained substantial jury verdicts early in his career, often in products liability. “That really launched my reputation in Wisconsin, because very few lawyers were doing those cases.”
Once established, Habush began building his law firm, recruiting some of the best lawyers he could find. From there, it snowballed, he said. A pioneer in television advertising, Habush said the pinnacle of his trial law career was the $99 million verdict he obtained while representing the widows of three iron workers killed during construction of Miller Park.
The highly publicized trial lasted eight weeks. Habush talks about the case in a behind-the-scenes interview on his law firm’s website.
“That was certainly one of the most satisfying trials in all my 50 years,” said Habush, who enjoyed the excitement, drama, and competitiveness of life as a trial lawyer. “The courtroom was a natural place for me to be. And, as they say, it was a great run on Broadway.”
The federal judge: Hon. Richard Cudahy
Richard Cudahy, currently a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, took what he called a rather “tortuous path” to the bench, in a good way.
Like other 50-year members, Judge Cudahy used chance opportunities to weave his way through various positions in state government, business, and law practice before attaining his desired position as federal judge.
“The planets sort of aligned for me,” Judge Cudahy said. “I found myself in a position to have the job I always wanted. But I think my other experiences have helped me as a judge.”
A 1944 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Cudahy intended to be a professional army officer, but his plans changed. During military service, he decided on law. He went to Yale Law School (’55), then clerked for Charles E. Clark, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The famous Judge Learned Hand was on that court.
“Ever since I was a law clerk, I thought if I ever got a chance to be a judge I would really like to do it,” said Cudahy, who was appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.
But it took a while to get there. After his clerkship, Cudahy worked for the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C., then moved to Chicago to practice law at Isham Lincoln & Beale. Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Lincoln, was a co-founding partner of that firm. But chance happened, which led Cudahy, a Milwaukee native, back to Wisconsin in 1961.
The family meat-packing business, Patrick Cudahy Inc., fell on hard times. The family asked Cudahy to help save it, and he served as president and CEO of the company from 1961-71. He also taught law at Marquette Law School during that time, and practiced law with Godfrey & Kahn. In 1968, he ran but lost the race for state’s attorney general.
“I really enjoyed being in business because I seemed to be relatively successful at it,” said Cudahy, who helped the business recover during his 10-year stint. “I felt a real sense of accomplishment in keeping the company going.”
In 1972, Cudahy was appointed to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, where he stayed for three years. In 1975, Isham Lincoln & Beale tapped Cudahy to open its D.C. office.
But in 1979, a federal judgeship opened up on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the rest is history. Judge Cudahy took the job, moved to the Chicago area, and has been on the bench for 32 years. Now 85 years old, Judge Cudahy is in senior status with a lighter caseload. He spends time fishing in Wisconsin, a place he was reluctant to leave in 1979.
Recalling 50 years, Judge Cudahy said he is grateful and fortunate his winding path led him to the federal bench. My appointment, he said, “was the most memorable of my career.”
The university president: Dr. David Adamany
Born in Janesville and raised in Green Bay, David Adamany, now of Philadelphia, stumbled upon teaching while earning a master’s degree at the U.W.-Madison. His academic path eventually led to academic positions in law, political science, and as president of two universities.
Adamany, a graduate of Harvard Law School (’61), attributes his success in part to to his legal training, and the state government positions he held while living in Wisconsin.
“I had wonderful opportunities as a resident and lawyer in Wisconsin, and always remember how I got my start there,” said Adamany, retired president of Temple University in Philadelphia, who still calls Wisconsin home.
After college and law school at Harvard University, Adamany attended U.W.-Madison to attain a master’s and Ph.D in political science. He worked in the state attorney general’s office, then served as pardon counsel to then-Gov. John Reynolds.
“That was an interesting legal assignment because in those years, the lieutenant governor presided over the state Senate, so we were very much involved in legislation,” Adamany recalls. “I was called upon to prepare memos on the procedural points that were being raised.”
At night, while in graduate school, he taught undergraduate courses in political science. He earned a Ph.D. in 1967, and went on to hold various academic positions at colleges and universities across the country. He also wrote countless scholarly articles and papers.
“My time at U.W.-Madison got me on the academic path,” Adamany said. “It was an experience that just came to me while working as a lawyer in Wisconsin, and I just ran with it.”
From 1972-77, he served as associate and full professor of political science at U.W.-Madison, and served as Wisconsin’s Secretary of Revenue from 1973-76. But his true calling came in 1982, when he became president of Wayne State University. He stayed for 17 years.
“The institution was in quite a bit of trouble,” Adamany said. “My training as a lawyer and previous experience in state government were invaluable to help turn the place around financially, then strengthen it academically.”
In 2000, he became president at Temple University. Now retired as president, Adamany teaches election law as a law faculty member, and teaches political science.
The pioneer: Rosemary Elbert
In the late 1950s, few woman lawyers attended law school. In fact, Rosemary Elbert of Wausau was just one of three women to graduate from Marquette University Law School in 1961. Now, Elbert serves an important role as executive director of Wisconsin Judicare, Inc.
An English major in college, Elbert developed an interest in law. But she didn’t realize it was a male-dominated profession at the time, and she didn’t realize her determination to succeed in law would help carve the way for future woman lawyers.
Elbert’s classmate, Nancy Simos, called the threesome “pioneers” in leading a charge to entrench woman lawyers in the practice of law. “We didn’t know it at the time, but we certainly were pioneers,” Simos said.
Elbert has spent her law career in Wausau, and joined the staff at Wisconsin Judicare in 1998. The agency takes on about 2,100 cases per year, and provides civil legal services to low-income individuals in various areas, including family law, bankruptcy, housing, mortgage foreclosure, and landlord-tenant issues.
“Everybody [at Judicare] has a true interest in helping less fortunate people, and that’s a good environment to be in,” Elbert said.
She became the executive director in 2004, the most memorable point in her career. But she is concerned about the future. Elimination of funding, $350,000 for the coming year, and debt burdens that drive new lawyers away from public service, create challenges.
However, just as Elbert faced and met the challenges of a male-dominated profession in 1961, she is ready to face the challenges Wisconsin Judicare must meet in 2011.
“We just have to keep working to provide the best legal services possible for less fortunate individuals,” she said.
The tax lawyer: Tom Ragatz
Thomas Ragatz of Madison did something other lawyers don’t get the opportunity to do: argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. In March 1980, Ragatz represented Exxon Corp. in Exxon Corp. v. Wisconsin Dept. of Revenue, 447 U.S. 207 (1980). With precedent against him, he lost. But the retired Foley & Lardner partner had many other wins during his career.
A 1961 graduate of U.W. Law School, Ragatz spent his career primarily practicing corporate and tax law, representing multinational companies like Exxon and U.S. Steel. He also served on many corporate boards, one of the keys to his success.
“Sitting on boards, and staying active with the client and the community helped me better understand the issues,” Ragatz said. “It just made me a better lawyer.”
Ragatz began his career as law clerk to former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice George Currie, then practiced law with the Boardman Law Firm. A certified public accountant, Ragatz spent the last 25 years of his career in Foley & Lardner’s Madison office, which he helped manage.
During his career, Ragatz argued many cases before the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission, and went 6-0 in the U.S. Tax Court. He served as a member of the State Bar Board and chaired both the Finance Committee and the Taxation Section.
He also served as president of the Dane County Bar Association, and on a major corporate board for 39 years. Now, he’s president-elect of the Senior Lawyers Division.
“Tom has an envious record as a professional, outstanding, and effective advocate,” said Senior Lawyer Division President Joseph Melli. “He’s a role model for the many lawyers he has worked with at both the Boardman and Foley law offices and those he has come in contact with over these fifty years of law practice.”
After 50 years, Ragatz spends much of his time traveling to visit grandchildren in three states, and vacationing in Florida. And he doesn’t lose sleep over his U.S. Supreme Court debut.
50-year Member Recognition Luncheon
Who: State Bar members admitted to practice law in 1961.
When: Wed., June 22, at 11:30 a.m.
Where: Delafield Hotel, Delafield
The State Bar congratulates the following members who were admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1961.
- David W. Adamany, Philadelphia
- Gerald C. Baker, Lanham, Md.
- John Gordon Bell, Roseville, Minn.
- Joseph J. Binsfeld, Scottsdale, Ariz.
- Anders Birkeland, Folsom, Calif.
- Richard S. Bolte, Milwaukee
- Dennis R. Boyle, Burlington
- Philip R. Brehm, Green Bay
- Edward William Brown, Wilton, Conn.
- John G. Byrne, Milwaukee
- Colyn E. Carter, Eagle River
- J Edward Clair, Delavan
- Barnes A. Clark, Madison
- Denis J. Conlon, Chicago
- A David Cook, Milwaukee
- James R. Cripe, Janesville
- Hon. Richard D. Cudahy, Chicago
- Michael B. Cwayna, Amery
- Deane C. D'Aoust, Jefferson
- Howard A. Davis, Delray Beach, Fla.
- John P. Derning Jr., Scottsdale, Ariz.
- William A. Diedrich, Stevens Point
- James A. Drill, New Richmond
- Thomas W. Duffy, Hayward
- Anthony S. Earl, Madison
- Allan D. Edgarton, Fond du Lac
- Hon. Russell A. Eisenberg, Milwaukee
- Rosemary R. Elbert, Wausau
- Phil Elliott Jr., West Allis
- William D Engler Jr., Chilton
- Reginald J. Falkowski, Horseheads, N.Y.
- Victor E. Ferrall Jr., Orfordville
- David H. Fleck, Whitefish Bay
- William F. Fox, Milwaukee
- Katheleen Geddes, Fairfax, Va.
- Gerald G. Geyso, Kenosha
- Gerald A. Goldberg, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
- James Grant, Waupun
- Peter B. Grinstein, Youngstown, Ohio
- Ole Gulbrandsen, Viroqua
- Robert L. Habush, Milwaukee
- Stanley F. Hack, Thiensville
- James R. Hanley, Glendale
- William M. Hayden, Columbus, Ohio
- Stratton R. Heath Jr., Boulder, Colo.
- James R. Hebbe, Appleton
- Robert R. Henzl, Racine
- William E. Hertel, Chilton
- John R. Hoaglund Jr., Pewaukee
- Myron L. Joseph, Milwaukee
- James L. Katz, Highland Park, Ill.
- Kenan J. Kersten, Mequon
- Warren L. Kreunen, Milwaukee
- Robert E. Kuelthau, Milwaukee
- Theodore J. Long, Madison
- Donald N. Malawsky, Bradenton, Fla.
- John D. Mariani, Minneapolis
- Jere D. McGaffey, Milwaukee
- Donald G. McNamara, Oconomowoc
- Alphonsus C. Murphy, East Lansing, Mich.
- Richard G. Neuheisel, Tempe, Ariz.
- Darryl K. Nevers, Wauwatosa
- Richard C. Ninneman, Milwaukee
- Ralph E. Osborne Jr., Sparta
- David C. Pappas, Deerfield
- Harry F. Peck, Tumacacori, Ariz.
- Jerold I. Perlstein, Silverthorne, Colo.
- Albert H. Petajan, Kewaunee
- Ronald L. Piette, Brookfield
- Bernard J. Plotkin, Milwaukee
- Anthony W. Ptacek, Mascoutah, Ill.
- Joel J. Rabin, Baltimore
- Thomas G. Ragatz, Madison
- Franklin E. Robinson, Nekoosa
- David I. Rothstein, Milwaukee
- Robert L. Sanderson, Milwaukee
- Arvid A. Sather, Cross Plains
- Werner E. Scherr, Milwaukee
- Paul J. Schierl
- John S. Schlom, Waupun
- Werner H. Schulte, Saint Petersburg, Fla.
- Gilbert D. Sedor, Janesville
- Garth R. Seehawer, Oconto Falls
- Jeremy C. Shea, Madison
- James M. Shellow, Milwaukee
- Nancy A. Simos, Milwaukee
- Francis J. Skiba, Las Vegas
- George B. Sletteland, Pigeon Falls
- Donald W. Smith, Madison
- Andrew L. Somers Jr., Tucson, Ariz.
- Thomas J. Springob
- L William Staudenmaier, Milwaukee
- Bernard S. Stein, Mequon
- Robert F. Strange, Los Angeles
- Thomas R. Timken, Eagle River
- Thomas E. Torphy
- Jack W. Van Metre, Madison
- David L. Walther, RR1 Mar, Ontario
- Richard J. Weber, Wausau
- James E. Webster, Madison
- John B. Werra, Brookfield
- Nelson H. Wild, San Francisco
- Curtis D. Worden, Rockford. Ill.
- Arthur Wojta, Crossville, Tenn.
- Clyde Wynia, Marshfield
- Thomas D. Zilavy, Madison
If you know of members who were admitted to the Bar in 1961 whose names are missing from this list or know how to contact a person included in the list above who has no location listed, please contact org skonhai wisbar Sonabai Kanhai at (608) 250-6181 or (800) 444-9404, ext. 6181.