The Third Branch
Judging is family tradition for Fairchilds, Currans
Editor's note: The Third Branch's second installment of parent/child judges features federal judges, Supreme Court justices, and a circuit court judge.
Chief Justice Edward T. Fairchild
Justice Thomas E. Fairchild
In 1930, Edward T. Fairchild was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, after serving as a circuit judge for Milwaukee County for 14 years. He became the chief justice in 1954. Upon his retirement in 1957, Chief Justice Fairchild swore in his son, Thomas E. Fairchild as a justice of the Supreme Court, where he served until his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in 1966.
According to Thomas, in an oral history conducted in 1999 by Collins Fitzpatrick, circuit executive to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit:
"By that time we had pretty well decided that Wisconsin was a good place for me to get my law training because I might have opportunities here because of my father being on the Court. He served on the Supreme Court of Wisconsin from 1930 to 1957, the last three years as Chief Justice," the younger Fairchild recounted.
"Of course, my dad, in addition to being the father of the family, was a great influence in terms of the law. Every once in a while, now, on this court (federal judges, you know, they think they can do anything) an opinion will say, 'the trial court is affirmed,' or something like that. Well, I just can't stand that, and my Dad couldn't stand that. You're not affirming a court, you're not affirming a judge, you're affirming a judgment!"
Being the son of a justice influenced Thomas, even before his career path was set, he said in being interviewed for the oral history project.
"I certainly was in the courthouse at times when he was trying a case, but not often. Of course that was high school or earlier. I used to go the Supreme Court once in a while, and listen to an argument. No law clerks were provided for state judges in those days. He had the right to name a secretary and pay $150.00 a month under the statute. He inhereted a particular secretary when he came, somebody that had been a secretary for his predecessor, and he kept her until she reitered. But after that, he had a system of hiring as a secretary, a senior law student, with the understanding that the student would work through the senior year, and a year afterwards. And he or she would do as much law clerking as there was time for. You had to type the opinions, but my dad didn't demand much in the way of letters and that. There was an occasional letter. He didn't dictate a lot, although we tried to learn shorthand. But he'd write out stuff a lot. So we could get the typing done and still do a certain amount of research and checking of cases cited in briefs, and that sort of thing, and helping, to some extent, with opinions. He carried that on for a great many years. I was number three in succession."
Juneau County Judge Paul S. Curran, left, is sworn into office in 2008 by his father, the late U.S. District Judge Thomas J. Curran. Paul Curran's wife, Gail Carlson, looks on, holding the Bible.
Juneau County Circuit Court Judge Paul S. Curran attended Marquette University, where he received his bachelor's and his law degrees. He worked in private practice before being elected to the circuit court bench in 2008.
According to Curran:
My father, Thomas J. Curran, served as a United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin from 1983 until his retirement in 2007. He passed away in 2012. It is important to note that my father was not the first in his family to be a judge. His brother, my uncle, William R. Curran, served as county and later circuit judge in Juneau County from 1950 until 1979.
I have often been asked if my dad influenced me to become a judge myself.
My dad's style of parenting seldom involved urging, coaxing, or cajoling. Rather, he influenced by the example he set.
Dad was a great believer in service - service to his country, service to his community, and service to his church. He did so in a gentlemanly, charming, and witty manner.
I am one of six children of Tom and Collette Curran. The example they set has caused all of us to serve our communities and our churches in numerable ways, just as they did. My service as circuit court judge in Juneau County is simply one example of the service that my brothers and sisters all perform as a result of trying to live up to the example our parents left us.