Former Chief Justice Roland B. Day remembered
Madison, Wisconsin - July 29, 2008
Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Roland B. Day is remembered by Court colleagues for fostering collegiality and working toward more prompt release of opinions. Day is remembered by friends and family for his good sense of humor, commitment to public service and dedication to family. He died July 26 at the age of 89.
Day chose to serve just one year as chief justice before retiring, but he used that time wisely to help improve the administration of justice and to encourage better public understanding of the courts, said Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson.
“He used his sense of humor, foresight and administrative skills to move the court forward,” Abrahamson said.
Chief Justice Day reinstituted the practice of having justices eat lunch together at least once a month. He made one rule about the lunches: justices were not allowed to discuss any court business. The result was a friendly, conversational atmosphere that carried back into the conference room, where differences can become confrontational, Abrahamson said.
Abrahamson, the next most-senior member of the court when Day served as chief justice, worked closely with Day, at his request, on a variety of education and outreach programs.
They worked to improve programs, such as “Justice on Wheels” in which the Supreme Court travels to hear oral arguments in other Wisconsin counties, and a judicial exchange program in which Court of Appeals’ judges and circuit court judges trade places. They also worked successfully to bring more volunteers in to aid the Court in its work, Abrahamson said.
Day was elected in 1976 and was reelected in 1986, after first being appointed by then-Gov. Patrick J. Lucey in 1974. Day became chief justice on August 1, 1995, and retired a year later, at the end of his second term.
Day was born June 11, 1919, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and was raised in Eau Claire. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1942 and a law degree in 1947, both from the University of Wisconsin. He served overseas in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Day was a law trainee in the Office of the Attorney General 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 U.S. Sen. William Proxmire in Washington, D.C.
Upon returning to Madison, Day resumed law practice until 1974. He served as special counsel to Governor 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.
While on the Supreme Court, Day was a member of the Judicial Council and the Council of Criminal Justice. From 1986 to 1991, Day served as state chair of the Wisconsin Bicentennial Committee on the U.S. Constitution. His name appears on a bicentennial commemorative plaque in the Capitol Rotunda, along with an original copy of the Wisconsin Constitution of 1848.
A funeral service is scheduled for 1 p.m., Friday, Aug. 1 at Cress Funeral Home, 3610 Speedway, (608) 238-3434. Visitation will start at 11 a.m. Burial with full military honors well be at Forest Hill Cemetery.