Former justices

Justice Chester A. Fowler

Justice Chester A. Fowler

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice: 1929–1948
Life: 1862–1948

"An unsuspected sense of humor, a vast capacity of work, a broad experience at the bar and on the bench, an intuitive sense of what the law should be, together with a complete willingness to search the facts and the books for the right rule always characterized him." – John P. McGalloway, Supreme Court Centennial (1953)

Chester Almeron Fowler was born on Christmas Eve 1862, in Rubicon, Wisconsin. His father was a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War. After graduating from Whitewater Normal School in 1884, Fowler served one year as a grade school principal and two years as a high school principal.

Fowler graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1887 and studied law at a private firm in West Union, Iowa. He practiced law in Omaha, Nebraska, from 1889 to 1894.

In November 1894, he and his law partner returned to Wisconsin and opened law offices in Portage and Montello. They owned one of the best private law libraries in the state. While in Portage, he held the office of city attorney for six years. He also became an avid curler, a sport he enjoyed until the age of 80.

Fowler was elected judge to the newly created 18th Judicial Circuit in 1905. He was chair of the Board of Circuit Judges for 10 years. In 1916, he ran unsuccessfully for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1929, upon the death of Chief Justice Aad J. Vinje and won election in 1931 and 1941.

While on the Supreme Court, Fowler wrote 862 majority, 85 dissenting and six concurring opinions. His sharp criticism of the use of "and/or" in Employers Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Tollefsen (1935) immediately received national notoriety and is still quoted and referred to in both professional and lay publications.

Fowler died on April 8, 1948, while serving on the Supreme Court. He was married to Carrie Julia Smith. They had twins, Dwight and Mary.

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