Supreme Court

Former justices

Leo B. Hanley (1908-1994)

Leo B. Hanley

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice (1966-1978)

"In such a noisy place as the law, Hanley long has been known as the quiet man." - William Jane, The Milwaukee Sentinel (1976)

Leo B. Hanley was born on April 27, 1908, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He attended Milwaukee public schools and graduated from Marquette University Law School in 1933, during the depths of the Great Depression. He earned his way through school by working at the Wisconsin Club.

In 1936, Hanley was appointed assistant city attorney for Milwaukee. He was commanding officer of the U.S.S. Wildwood during World War II, transporting bombs to Europe. After the war, he returned to the city attorney's office.

In February 1949, Hanley was appointed a civil court judge for Milwaukee County. He was later elected to the circuit court and became the chief judge. He served as chair of the Milwaukee Board of Judges from 1955 to 1956.

Hanley was a widely respected trial judge and was often referred to as "the great conciliator" because of his ability to settle cases before trial. He was soft-spoken and even-tempered. Someone once said that if Hanley jumped into a swimming pool, he would not make a wave.

Governor Warren P. Knowles appointed Hanley to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1966. He was elected in 1968. At Hanley's memorial service, Justice John L. Coffey, who appeared before Hanley as a lawyer in trial court and later served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, said: "Leo was successful in life because he was imbued with a wonderful dedication to his family, his church and his country, as exemplified by his 57 years in government service; 44 years on the judiciary...[a]s a judge, he was always prepared, often knowing the subject matter better than we litigators."

Justice Donald W. Steinmetz said of Hanley at the memorial: "He worked very hard: he wrote 492 majority opinions; he participated in 40 concurrences and dissents. He is remembered for his demeanor, patience. I never saw him in any but a pleasant manner."

Hanley retired at the end of his term in 1978. He and his wife Sophia Wabiszewski had three sons: James, Robert and Dennis, all of whom graduated from Marquette University Law School.

Hanley died on May 12, 1994.

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