Navigate this section

The Third Branch

Foley Family takes judging to heart

In the winter 2014 edition of The Third Branch, we featured sibling judges who currently serve on the bench. In this issue we begin a series of articles about children who have followed in a parent's career footsteps as judges by profiling Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Christopher R. Foley and his father, the late Leander J. Foley. Other parent/child judge pairs will be featured in future editions.

Judge Christopher R. Foley
Judge Christopher R. Foley

Christopher Foley was first appointed to the bench in 1985. He was elected in 1986 and re-elected four times, most recently in 2010. His father began his career as a judge in 1959 and served 26 years on the bench, and was recognized as one of the best family law judges in the state. Leander Foley died Dec. 26, 1996.

The Foleys
In 1985 Christopher was appointed to replace his father, Leander, who retired after first being elected in 1964. According to an article in the Milwaukee Journal covering the younger Foley's swearing in ceremony, there was much laughter and tears in the courtroom that day, as Leander cried while he administered the oath to his son, and Christopher cried as he spoke of his father.

"If you think he is an outstanding judge, you should know him as a father," Christopher is quoted as saying.

The elder Foley presented his son with a statue of Thomas More and told him "Christopher, mom and I are proud of you," according to the article.

Judge Christopher R. Foley recalls:

Humility was one of my father's great attributes and, as a result, he would take great offense at my saying that he was a revered judge (the family law lawyers in Milwaukee named their chapter of the Inns of Court after him when he died).  So at my investiture, at which he swore me in, I stated that if you had to succeed a judicial legend, the best way to prepare was to be raised by him.  For as good a judge as he was, he, in tandem with my mother, was a better parent.

My dad never lost sight of the fact that in each case he was dramatically impacting the lives of the people involved.  Everyone who appeared in front of him knew he recognized that and was committed to doing what was right.  Even those who lost walked out knowing they had been treated respectfully and fairly.  I can only hope that I convey that same sense to those appearing before me.

Perhaps my favorite story about my dad as a judge came from Julia Vosper, a guardian ad litem who is now a court commissioner.  She had acted as guardian ad litem for a young mother who conceived unexpectedly.  She had made the crushing decision to consent to termination and allow adoption.  At the consent hearing, emotionally overwrought, she could not proceed with the consent and dad adjourned the hearing to allow her to again consider her options.  She returned several days later and, again emotionally overwrought, proceeded with her consent, assuring Dad that she felt it best for her child.  She left the courtroom weeping uncontrollably.  Dad had left the courtroom and exited through a back exit.  Vosper was delayed in exiting and came around the corner of the hallway to find the young woman collapsed in the arms of my father, who she had accidently encountered and who was gently consoling her and assuring her that she had done a remarkably selfless and loving act for her child.  I suppose in this day and age that is something that would land you in front of the judicial commission, but it was the essence of my father and his recognition of the personal impact that judicial acts have on the people involved.

Back to top

Back to The Third Branch current issue