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The Third Branch


Judge Ralph Adam Fine

Judge Ralph Adam Fine

Judge Ralph Adam Fine
District I Court of Appeals

District I Court of Appeals Judge Ralph Adam Fine died on Dec. 4, 2014 at the age of 73.

Fine was first elected to the Court of Appeals in 1988. He had previously served on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, beginning in 1979.

“Judge Ralph Adam Fine will be sadly missed by his colleagues in the Wisconsin court system and by legal professionals thoughout the state and country,” Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson said in a statement. “Judge Fine’s experience and understanding of the law were at both the trial and appellate levels. He will be remembered as a highly regarded legal expert and author, whose books, articles and decisions guide the practice of law.”

Fine graduated from Tufts University and Columbia Law School. He was an elected member of the American Law Institute and a recipient of the William J. Brennan Jr. Award for his contributions to the teaching of trial advocacy. He authored several legal publications, including Fine’s Wisconsin Evidence, The “How-To-Win” Trial Manual, The “How-To-Win” Appeals Manual, Escape of the Guilty, The Great Drug Deception, and Mary Jane versus Pennsylvania, as well as over 20 professional journal articles. He was also a continuing legal education instructor for programs around the country and a lecturer at the George Washington University National Law Center.

Before taking the bench, Fine had worked as a reporter for a Milwaukee CBS affiliate from 1974-75, winning two awards from the Milwaukee Press Club for journalistic excellence. From 1975-78 he hosted a program called “A Fine Point,” which had included guests such as Nobel laureates Elie Wiesel and Milton Friedman. He had appeared as a legal analyst on programs like “60 Minutes,” “Nightline,” “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” “Both Sides with Jesse Jackson,” “Crossfire,” and “Larry King Live.”

“During his many years of service as a judge he was known for his intelligence and work ethic as a judge and an author of legal treatises and a true teacher of the law,” Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement. “We honor his memory and recognize his many years of great service to the state as we mourn his loss.”

Fine is survived by his wife, Kay, and son, Matthew.

Judge Donald G. Gurnoe Jr.
Red Cliff Tribal Court

Red Cliff tribal Court Judge Donald G. Gurnoe Jr. passed away on Dec. 29. He was 69.

Gurnoe was a graduate of the University of North Dakota, and served in Vietnam as a U.S. Army medic. He had previously worked as the executive secretary of Minnesota’s Indian Affairs Inter-Tribal Council before becoming an associate judge for the tribal court. In 2006 he became the tribal court’s chief judge.

“Judge Gurnoe was instrumental with creating open, productive and friendly cooperative agreements with the circuit courts and he had a keen understanding of the importance of the two court systems sharing information and working together in areas of policy,” Bayfield County Circuit Court Judge John Anderson said.  “It should also be remembered that Judge Gurnoe arranged for the presentation of the Red Cliff Tribal flag to be placed in the Bayfield County circuit courtroom. That act showed how far we have come together as one people with two cultures.”

Gurnoe is survived by his daughter and three grandsons.

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