Robert W. Hansen (1911-1997)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice (1968-1978)
"Hansen is the colorful justice-in appearance, personality, judicial attitude, individuality." - The Milwaukee Journal (1976)
Robert Wayne Hansen was born on April 29, 1911, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated magna cum laude from Marquette University Law School in 1933.
Hansen was devoted to the Eagles organization. At 27, he was elected chapter president and became the youngest state president and national president. He served as editor of The Eagle, the order's national magazine. In 1950, he resigned as editor over a differing opinion with other members. He said the organization was becoming "an insurance company more than a fraternal organization." He resumed the editorship in 1953.
In 1951, Hansen became chief examiner of the Milwaukee Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, where he worked until his appointment to Milwaukee County district court in 1954. He served as circuit judge in the family court division from 1961 to 1968.
In April 1967, Hansen defeated state Supreme Court Chief Justice George R. Currie, becoming the first candidate to unseat a chief justice. While campaigning, Hansen noted that Currie, 67, could serve only a little more than two years of a ten-year term because of the mandatory retirement age then in effect for judges.
On the Supreme Court, Hansen was known for his colloquial writing style. In one decision involving obscenity and redeeming social value, Hansen wrote: "An orange floating in an open sewer does not change it to fruit salad."
In 1977, Hansen chose not to seek re-election. When asked why, he said: "A little bit of the bubble has gone out of the champagne." He also noted that the mandatory retirement age then in effect would only allow him to serve three years of the term. Upon his retirement, The Milwaukee Journal referred to Hansen as "an unorthodox gent who has been known to walk, lost deep in thought, in stocking feet in the Supreme Court chambers."
Hansen and his wife Dorothy had four children: Susan, John, James and Karen. He died June 9, 1997.