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2007

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan S. Heffernan remembered

Madison, Wisconsin - April 13, 2007

Heffernan served on the Supreme Court from 1964 to 1995 and as Chief Justice from 1983 to 1995. His 31-year tenure on the Court made him the third longest-serving justice in Wisconsin history.

He'll be kindly remembered for his lengthy and dedicated service to the state, said Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson. The Court's sympathies are with the family, Abrahamson added.

"He authored many opinions and participated in many more that helped shape Wisconsin law. His work will continue to guide development of the law," Abrahamson said.

Supreme Court Justice Jon P. Wilcox, the only other remaining member of the Court to have served alongside Heffernan, regarded Heffernan as a mentor.

"He was a great leader, and he had a keen, perceptive legal mind," Wilcox said.

Heffernan's work on the bench distinguished him as a top scholar with eclectic opinions and a good sense of humor. He was well-known for his commitment to civil liberties and women's rights and is recognized for his involvement in the court reorganization of 1978, which created a Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

At age 43, Heffernan was appointed to the Court by Gov. John W. Reynolds in 1964. Before that, he served two years as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin - a position to which he was appointed to by President John F. Kennedy.

From 1959 to 1962, Heffernan served as deputy attorney general for Wisconsin. From 1948 to 1959, Heffernan was in private law practice in Sheboygan at the firm of Buchen & Heffernan. He served as assistant district attorney in Sheboygan County from 1951 to 1953 and city attorney of Sheboygan from 1953 to 1959.

Heffernan taught summer courses on appellate administration and opinion-writing at New York University Law School and was an adjunct professor of appellate practice and procedure at the University of Wisconsin Law School for 15 years.

Nathan Stewart Heffernan was born August 6, 1920, in Frederic, Wisconsin. He attended school in Sheboygan and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1942. During World War II, Heffernan took time out of his studies to serve in the U.S. Navy. He later attended the Harvard Graduate School of Business and graduated Order of the Coif from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1948.

Heffernan retired from the bench in 1995. At the time, he told The Milwaukee Journal, "For me, it has been the fulfillment of my aspirations as a lawyer and a continuing opportunity to render worthwhile public service... [b]ut it's time to step down and enjoy life."

Funeral arrangements are pending at Cress Funeral and Cremation Service, 3610 Speedway, Madison, WI, (608) 238-3434.

For more information contact:
Tom Sheehan
Court Information Officer
(608) 261-6640

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