Robert G. Siebecker (1854-1922)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice
Chief Justice (1920-1922)
"There is romance in the career of this boy from the farm who closed his life as the Chief Justice of this great court." - Judge E. Ray Stevens, Siebecker's memorial service (1923)
Robert George Siebecker was born in Sauk County, Wisconsin, on October 17, 1854. His parents emigrated from Germany a few years earlier and settled on a farm in Wisconsin. At 17, Siebecker left the farm and moved to Madison to attend the University of Wisconsin. There he met his wife Josephine La Follette.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1880, Siebecker entered into a law partnership with his brother-in-law Robert M. La Follette (future governor of Wisconsin and U.S. Senator). Siebecker practiced law until April 1886, when he was elected city attorney for Madison. In 1890, Governor William D. Hoard appointed him judge for the 9th Judicial Circuit. Siebecker served in that position for the next 13 years.
In April 1903, Siebecker was elected to the state Supreme Court for a term beginning in January 1904. However, shortly after his election, a vacancy occurred on the Supreme Court caused by the death of Justice Charles V. Bardeen. Governor La Follette appointed Siebecker to fill this seat. Siebecker was twice re-elected to the Supreme Court and became the chief justice upon the death of Chief Justice John B. Winslow in July 1920.
It was said at Siebecker's memorial that he was a kind and courteous circuit court judge who "rendered thoughtful, well-reasoned decisions." As a justice, Siebecker tackled tough constitutional issues on the subjects of taxation, insurance and regulation of public utilities.
An excellent speaker, Siebecker had a "fine presence and rich and pleasing voice." He was often asked to address community groups. He loved nature and spent his leisure time outdoors. He and his wife Josephine had four sons. Three sons survived them: Karl, Robert and Lee.
Siebecker died February 12, 1922.