Court of Appeals
John A. Decker
District I (1978-1984); Chief Judge (1978-1983)
John A. Decker was the first chief judge of the Court of Appeals. Commenting on the selection and noting his strong interest in administration, the Milwaukee Sentinel said, "Now he can carry out his views on a wider scope than just a courtroom on the fourth floor of the Courthouse, where he's been [a trial judge] for many years." The Sentinel described him as an "open, scholarly man,a hard worker with the reputation of being better prepared for a case than the attorneys involved in it."
When Decker retired from District I six years later, the Milwaukee Journal said he had "played an instrumental role in making the new court work." The judge in turn praised administrative staff for accomplishing "in four months the seemingly impossible task of establishing a court of 12 judges, 12 law clerks, four staff attorneys and 24 administrative, clerical and secretarial personnel in five locations in four different cities," as well as his fellow judges for their cooperation and energy in handling the heavy workload that followed.
A Milwaukee native and a 1939 graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School, Decker was an assistant city attorney, a lawyer in private practice, and, for twenty-three years before entering the appellate branch in 1978, a judge in Milwaukee county and circuit courts. He taught at Marquette University Law School (where students voted him Outstanding Law School Teacher) and at the National Judicial College in Reno and Wisconsin Judicial College. When he retired in 1984, Decker served as a reserve judge and as an arbitrator and mediator with the Milwaukee firm of Decker & Gunta.
Decker was recognized not only as a court administrator but also as an expert on the law of evidence, having served as reporter and draftsman for the Wisconsin Rules of Evidence. His publications included Research and Commentary to Wisconsin Rules of Evidence, as well as articles on the subjects of special verdict formulation and comparative negligence.
Decker once told the Journal , "My father was a doctor, and I wanted to be a doctor. But he talked me into being a lawyer, and I have been delighted ever since." Decker died in 2006 at the age of 91. He was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret. His son, Attorney John Decker, daughter-in-law Sandra, and granddaughter Jennifer survive him.