The Third Branch
David H. Hass
David H. Hass
Director of Judicial Education
Director of Judicial Education David H. Hass passed away suddenly on Aug. 28 of an apparent heart attack. His passing prompted stunned expressions of grief and many fond remembrances from judges and court staff across the state.
Judge Lisa K. Stark, dean of the Wisconsin Judicial College where Hass presented the annual judicial seminar for new judges just days before his death, summed up the reaction:
"Impossible to believe, especially for those of us fortunate enough to share last week with Dave at the Judicial College," Stark wrote in an e-mail. "The College ran perfectly thanks in great measure to the planning and hard work of Dave, along with Dona and Tammy. We will miss Dave's technological expertise, his dedication, professionalism and patience, his wit and quiet sense of humor and his commitment to ensuring Wisconsin continues as a leader in Judicial Education."
Director of State Courts A. John Voelker called Hass "an integral part of the court system team [who] was recognized as a leader in judicial education." Voelker went on to say, "His presence, talent and sense of humor will be missed."
Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson echoed these sentiments.
Hass began working as director on March 24, 1997, filling a vacancy created by the departure of former Director V. K. Wetzel.
Hass came to the Office of Judicial Education from the Michigan Judicial Institute, where he worked as a program manager and fiscal analyst. He began his career as a probation officer in Michigan after receiving his bachelor's degree in history from Andrews University. In 1988, he received his master's degree from the University of Notre Dame.
In his role as director of Judicial Education, Hass worked side-by-side with his staff, Dona Everingham and Tammy Hennick, and also with the team responsible for municipal judge education, Atty. Karla Baumgartner and Carol Koschel. Hass was responsible for overseeing the statewide continuing education program for all judges, a job which included organizing the annual Judicial College and Judicial Conference.
"I've had the opportunity to work with Dave and his staff at Judicial Education on committees in the past," Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge William D. Johnston said in an e-mail. "He was always ready for the matters we were working on, and was an excellent facilitator at those meetings. His programs for the judiciary were always top tier. He worked well with the judiciary. He will be missed."
Hass is survived by his wife, a daughter, a son and three grandchildren.
Justice Donald W. Steinmetz
Wisconsin Supreme Court
Justice Donald W. Steinmetz
Justice Donald W. Steinmetz, who retired from the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1999 after 19 years of service, passed away on Saturday, Aug. 31 in Milwaukee. He was 88.
Steinmetz was elected to the Court in 1980, edging out an opponent who would later become a good friend – and a Supreme Court justice in his own right – Louis J. Ceci. In 1990, Steinmetz was reelected to the seat over challenger Richard S. Brown, who is now chief judge of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
Steinmetz once was described by veteran newspaper reporter Cliff Miller as looking "so much like a judge, he could play one in the movies." But, Miller added, "He probably couldn't win the part. He's too gregarious to fit the stuffy Hollywood stereotype."
Steinmetz said that his only hobby was the fine art of conversation. Both he and his wife, Marjorie, who survives him, were active in a variety of civic and social organizations and in the activities of their three daughters and two sons.The role of father and grandfather shaped him in ways his colleagues appreciated.
"By the time I got to know him, he was the model, like the kind of grandfather everyone wishes they had," Justice Michael J. Gableman told The Journal Sentinel. "Always welcoming, always willing to hear your issues, personal or professional. Typically, he'd have an experience very relatable to whatever you were going through. Do his best to come up with good advice."
As a young man, Steinmetz dreamed of becoming a political science professor. He was determined that this course of action would be preferable to following his father and two brothers into the practice of law. But then reality set in. In 1949, with one child and another on the way, he calculated that a law degree would cost a lot less and pay off sooner than a Ph.D.
After graduating from the UW Law School in just two years, Steinmetz took a job at an insurance company and then worked in the Milwaukee City Attorney's Office and the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office. In 1966, he was elected to the bench in Milwaukee County by a small margin that was upheld in a recount. His campaign, he recalled, consisted largely of door-to-door visits, handing out matchbooks and, once, funding an ad on the side of a Milwaukee bus after his opponent "bought up all the billboards."
Steinmetz served on the bench in Milwaukee until his 1980 election to the Supreme Court.
In a 2001 interview for the Wisconsin court system's Oral History Project, Steinmetz recalled handling 200 small claims cases and performing six weddings on his first day on the bench in Milwaukee County.
"I think there were only six county judges at the time in Milwaukee County, and I think the five of them got together and gave me the small claims calendar," he said.
Steinmetz' former colleagues on the Supreme Court praised his work on opinions and his contribution to the many court system committees on which he served.
"Justice Steinmetz … dedicated much of his professional life as a lawyer to public service," said Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson. "He served well, not just as a Supreme Court justice, but also as a Milwaukee county judge, circuit court judge, assistant state attorney general, assistant district attorney and assistant city attorney in Milwaukee. Our condolences go to his family."
Justice David T. Prosser Jr., who joined the Supreme Court just one year before Steinmetz' retirement, called Steinmetz "A great justice and a wonderful human being." Prosser went on to say that, "Although he was an expert in insurance law, he also wrote memorable opinions on many subjects, including the rights of protectively placed individuals, criminal law including juror bias, and the constitutionality of school choice. He will be greatly missed."