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The Third Branch

Siblings bring new meaning to 'family court'

With the recent appointment of Judge Maureen D. Boyle to the Barron County Circuit Court bench, there are now three sets of siblings serving as judges in the Wisconsin circuit courts. The other sibling pairs include Mel and David Flanagan, and Howard and Roderick Cameron.

A little research by the Wisconsin State Law Library staff reveals sibling judges are not a brand new phenomenon to Wisconsin courts.

Wiram Knowlton was elected judge to the newly created Sixth Judicial Circuit in 1850, and as a result, served as a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court until a separate state Supreme Court was created in 1853. His brother, James H. Knowlton, served as a probate judge for the newly organized county of La Fayette at the time.

The musical Boyle family, from left: Tim, Meg, Maureen, and Mark (also an attorney), pictured sometime between 1987-89.

The musical Boyle family, from left: Tim, Meg, Maureen, and Mark (also an attorney), pictured sometime between 1987-89.

A number of father-son judge pairs have served at various times over the years, and Justice Patience Drake Roggensack and her daughter, Judge Ellen R. Brostrom, Milwaukee County Circuit Court, hold office concurrently.

But the idea of having three pairs of siblings serving as judges in the state court system at the same time seemed unique enough for The Third Branch to explore.

The Boyles

Maureen's brother, Racine County Circuit Court Judge Timothy D. Boyle, had the honor of swearing his sister in.

"Tim and I have always been close and have shared lots of wonderful times together, but the day he swore me into the bench has to be the greatest," Maureen said of the event. "We've always had so much in common and shared a similar perspective on life. We are truly blessed indeed."

But as Timothy Boyle pointed out during her investiture, neither sibling had a career in law in mind originally.

"Rather we always thought we were destined to be rock stars or at the very least have our own show like Donny and Marie," Timothy said in his remarks. "Well, this original dream of being a dynamic duo actually started in a coat closet in our home, when we were about eight and ten respectively, where we sat for what seemed like hours singing at the top of our lungs Barry Manilow's hit 'Mandy' as a duet."

Eventually, their two other siblings, Mark and Meg, joined in, and the four put together a family band.

"Unfortunately, there really wasn't much hope of making any money at it so we all had to continue in the real world, earn degrees and get real jobs," he continued.

Both Boyles credit their father, Dennis R. Boyle, for their decision to pursue a legal career. The Boyle Law Office was started by their grandfather, Edwin J. Boyle, as a small town general practice firm, where their uncle Joseph also practiced until his death.

After graduating law school, Timothy also joined the family practice, where he continued to work until his election to the circuit court in 2012.

Maureen has fond memories of the family practice, where her father would some times bring them on weekends.

Big brother David (right) distributes presents to all 7 siblings as two-year-old Mel (left) holds court from her highchair, circa 1954.

Big brother David (right) distributes presents to all 7 siblings as two-year-old Mel (left) holds court from her highchair, circa 1954.

"I remember he had a closet in the office with some old toys, including Mr. Potato Head. So we would play with that while Dad worked in his office," she recalled. "I also remember going to court with Dad and was awed by the huge courtroom and the judge up on the bench. I thought it was pretty cool when Dad was up at the table talking with the judge."

The Flanagans

Dane County Circuit Court Judge David T. Flanagan and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Mel Flanagan also followed in their father's footsteps. The elder Flanagan practiced law in Missouri when they were children. David earned a degree in civil engineering from the Missouri School of Mines, and has worked as a radio announcer, land surveyor, deep sea diver, and septic tanker welder.

Eventually, he settled in Wisconsin and attended UW Law School. Mel moved around a bit, including New York City, where she attended art school, Japan, Alaska, and Hawaii, where she received her bachelors degree from the University of Hawaii-Manoa, before also attending UW Law School. Both were appointed to the circuit court bench by former Gov. Tommy Thompson, Mel in 1993, and David in 1999.

Mel has served as a member of the National Association of Women Judges and the International Association of Women Judges. In 2011, she was able to meet with members of the Bangladesh Women Judges Association while visiting her daughter, who was working in the country with UNICEF.

David was among a group of judges invited to attend the Sir Richard May Seminar on International Law & International Court in the Hague, Netherlands in 2006. He has also served as a guest lecturer for the Shanghai People's High Court.

David Flanagan explains he and Mel Flanagan "come from an Irish family of seven children, and the other five find that two siblings in the law is quite enough."

Four-year-old Rory in back, and 22-month-old Howard (Billy) in the front, in 1953.

Four-year-old Rory in back, and 22-month-old Howard (Billy) in the front, in 1953.

The Camerons

Not surprisingly, law is also a family business for brothers Howard W. "Billy" Cameron (St. Croix County Circuit Court), and Roderick A. "Rory" Cameron, Chippewa County Circuit Court. Their father's uncle, William, received a law practice in Rice Lake as a graduation gift from his father in 1927. Their father, Howard Sr., joined the practice in 1947.

After majoring in mathematics at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., Roderick Cameron received his law degree from UW Law School. In 1983, he was appointed to the Chippewa County Circuit Court bench by Gov. Anthony Earl.

Howard Cameron did not originally intend to practice law. Instead, he earned a degree in agricultural education and became a herdsman on a dairy farm in Michigan. After teaching high school vocational agriculture and trying his hand at dairy farming, he eventually decided to attend UW Law School. In 2008, he decided to run for the newly created Branch 4 in St. Croix County.

Rory told him that campaigning would be "like having a second full-time job." But Howard survived the five-person primary, and was sworn in by his brother that August.

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