A Glorious Day

Article excerpt

Executive Director's Report

September 29, 2004, will forever be etched in my mind. I was called a liar on that day by Larry Hammond, the president of our great organization, in front of two of my heroes and about 275 other people. Between you and me, I must plead guilty.

We were in Madison, Wisconsin, for the presentation of the First Dwight D. Opperman Award for Judicial Excellence to Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. As many of you know, on a pretty fall day Madison is as beautiful a place as you'd ever want to be. This was a stunning day. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the temperature was in the seventies, and there was a light breeze. The award ceremony took place on the beautiful grounds of the Executive Mansion, which sits on Lake Mendota. The lake was dotted with small boats.

Now you need to know how much Shirley Abrahamson and Dwight Opperman mean to me, because that is what really made the day so special. Chief Justice Abrahamson has served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court since 1976. She is nationally and internationally recognized for her legal scholarship and magnanimous spirit. Chief Justice Abrahamsoii's understanding and fulfillment of her responsibilities as a public servant are unsurpassed. She works tirelessly to learn about the actual and perceived issues impacting the administration of justice; thoughtfully address those issues; involve the community in the work of the judiciary; and educate the public, both youth and adults. (If you run into Shirley, ask her how she uses Tootsie the Goldfish to teach kids to think like a judge.) And she does it all with such grace and charm.

In the words of the Honorable Frederic W. Fleishauer, who nominated Shirley for the Opperman Award along with Chief Justice Miriam Shearing of the Nevada Supreme Court and Justice Richard Teitelman of the Missouri Supreme Court,"Shirley Abraharnson has a unique ability to engage people from all walks of life in a familiar manner. From treating visitors to the Supreme Court to unexpected welcomes in her chambers, to meeting with legal professionals in boardrooms across the country, she exudes the same personal charm and warmth. She's like a grandmother with wit and an intellectual edge, who has standards." Actually, she is a grandmother and her beautiful grandson was in attendance at the ceremony, along with her lovely daughter-in-law, son and husband Seymour.

On September 29, I woke up in Madison expecting to see Shirley in the afternoon at the event. …