The Thomas E. Fairchild Lecture

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Thomas E. Fairchild

Thomas E. Fairchild

December 25, 1912 - February 12, 2007

Judge Fairchild was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1956 and served from January 1957 to August 1966. Although reelected in 1966, he did not serve a second term because on August 11, 1966, President Johnson appointed Judge Fairchild circuit judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He began service on August 24, 1966, and served as chief judge from February 7, 1975, to July 1, 1981. Judge Fairchild took senior status on August 31, 1981, and until his death, served as a senior circuit judge for the Seventh Circuit and, by designation, for eight other federal circuit courts.

Judge Fairchild attended Deep Springs College and Princeton University and received an A.B. degree from Cornell University in 1934. Graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1937, he received his LL.B. after completing office practice in 1938. He served as Attorney General of Wisconsin, 1948-1951, and United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, 1951-1952. He also acted as chairman of the Governor's Commission on Constitutional Revision, 1960-1965, served on the Judicial Conference Committee on Administration of the Probation System, 1969-1972 and was a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States, 1975-1981. Judge Fairchild received honorary degrees from the University of Wisconsin, St. Norbert's College, Carthage College and the John Marshall Law School.

Judge Fairchild was a member of the American Bar Association; the state bar associations of Wisconsin and Illinois (honorary); the Federal and Seventh Circuit Bar Associations; the Milwaukee, Chicago, and Dane County Bar Associations; the James E. Doyle Inn of Court (honorary); the American Judicature Society; the Institute of Judicial Administration; and the American Law Institute, where he served on its council. Judge Fairchild also regularly and enthusiastically attended the annual meeting of the Tri-County Bar Association.

Judge Fairchild and his wife, Eleanor (also deceased), had four children: Edward T. Fairchild, Susan Fairchild Chase, Jennifer Fairchild Lord and Andrew D. Fairchild; eight grandchildren: Elliot T. Fairchild, Justin M. Fairchild, Laura K. Chase, Thomas E. Chase, Mitchell F. Watson, Robyn L. Fairchild, Ned A. Fairchild and Emily A. Fairchild; and four great-grandchildren: Zachary S. Watson, Andrew Watson, Kaylin Watson and Nicole Watson.

Thomas E. Fairchild Lecture

The Thomas E. Fairchild Lectureship was established in 1988 at the University of Wisconsin Law School as a tribute to Judge Fairchild. Judge Fairchild, a 1937 UW Law School graduate, was Wisconsin Attorney General, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, circuit judge, justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and then later chief judge and ultimately senior circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit until his death on February 12, 2007. For 50 years, Judge Fairchild demonstrated both a scholarly regard for those principles of law that generations have molded into the American definition of justice and equality and a remarkable sensitivity to the ever-changing human conditions that make the search for justice and equality an ongoing one.

Initiated by Judge Fairchild’s former law clerks, the lectureship brings to the University of Wisconsin Law School a distinguished member of the legal profession — from the bench, bar, or academia — to speak on a topic of importance to the profession.

2015 Fairchild Lecture

All in the Family:  A Judicial Legacy-
Edward and Thomas Fairchild


Nils Olsen

4 p.m.
Friday, April 24, 2015

Godfrey & Kahn Hall, Room 2260
University of Wisconsin Law School
975 Bascom Mall, Madison, Wisconsin

Reception immediately following

Online Registration

For more information: 
Contact Lynn Thompson at or (608) 262-4915

2015 Fairchild Lecturer

Nils Olsen

Nils Olsen was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin-Madison awarded him a BA with distinction in 1969. After a year’s service as a VISTA Volunteer in Escondido, California, he attended Columbia University Law School and received his JD in 1974, as a James Kent and Harlan Fisk Stone Scholar. He also was awarded the Robert Noxan Toppan Prize for excellence in constitutional law.
Olsen clerked for Judge Fairchild from July 1974 through August 1975. He began his clerkship in Milwaukee, moving to Chicago when Judge Fairchild became chief judge. After his clerkship, Olsen served as a clinical instructor at the University of Chicago Law School for two years, where he focused on welfare law.

In 1978, Olsen joined the faculty of the State University of New York at Buffalo as an associate professor. In addition to classroom teaching, he directed SUNY Law School’s clinical education program, which became the first nationally to develop a complex transactional curriculum in community economic development and affordable housing. His clinical teaching for more than a decade focused on federal post-conviction remedies on behalf of incarcerated state prisoners and associated civil rights litigation. He brought a successful federal habeas corpus class action on behalf of more than 200 prisoners incarcerated within New York State Appellate Division, Fourth Department, whose direct appeals had not been resolved within two years of conviction. The lawsuit was settled with significant spending increases for appellate representation and administrative oversight of such appeals by the court. For the past 20 years, he has supervised an environmental policy clinic specializing in representation of small rural townships and community groups opposing concentration of commercial solid and hazardous waste facilities. The clinic was instrumental in defeating a concerted effort by a large, multinational company to site hazardous waste incinerators at the only commercial hazardous waste landfill in the northeast.

As vice dean for academics from 1994 to 1998, Olsen implemented a new, practice-related curriculum. In 1998, he was appointed dean of SUNY Law School, serving until 2007. Olsen will retire from the law school in May, after 37 years on the faculty.

Olsen and his wife, Sandy, have two sons, two daughters-in-law, three grandchildren, and one daughter, who is a former Badger and recent graduate of NYU Law School. Considering their time in Buffalo as akin to a rewarding, interesting and enjoyable diplomatic posting with nice people, interesting local food, and a misunderstood and underappreciated pro football team, they plan to move back to Wisconsin, to a home in the Fort Atkinson area that overlooks Lake Koshkonong.

Directions to the Law School and Parking Information

Parking: We recommend people park in either Lot 7 under the Grainger Hall School of Business at the corner of University Avenue and Brooks St.(entrance to Lot 7 is on Brooks Street.) and the Lake Street Ramp, located on N. Lake Street. [More Campus Parking Info]

Previous Fairchild Lectures

A Judge's Use of History
       Justice John Paul Stevens
1989 Wisconsin Law Review 223
The Development of Legal Doctrine Through Amicus Participation:
The SEC Experience
 Dean David S. Ruder
1989 Wisconsin Law Review 1167
The Court of Appeals and the Future of the Federal Judiciary
               The Honorable Kenneth W. Starr
1991 Wisconsin Law Review 1
The Judicial Function and the Elusive Goal of Principled Decision Making
                The Honorable Harry T. Edwards
1991 Wisconsin Law Review 837
Appellate Justice:  Fairness or Formulas
              The Honorable Mary Schroeder
1994 Wisconsin Law Review 9
1994 Refreshing Institutional Memories:
Wisconsin and the American Law Institute
                   Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson
1995 Wisconsin Law Review 1
The Life of the Law:
Principles of Logic and Experience from the United States

            Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
1996 Wisconsin Law Review 1
1996The Shelf Life of Justice Hugo L. Black
John P. Frank, Esq.
1997 Wisconsin Law Review 1
Moment of Truth for the Legal Profession
Sol M. Linowitz, Esq.
1997 Wisconsin Law Review 1211
The Future of the Independent Counsel Statute
              The Honorable Lawrence Walsh
1998 Wisconsin Law Review 1379
Old and In the Way: 
The Demographic Transformation of the Legal Profession and Its Implications for the Delivery of Legal Services

    Professor Marc Galanter
1999 Wisconsin Law Review 6
Will the Death Penalty Remain Alive in the Twenty-First Century?
       Mr. Stephen B. Bright, Esq.
2001 Wisconsin Law Review 1
The Market for Data: 
The Changing Role of Social Sciences in Shaping the Law
     Professor Elizabeth Warren
2002 Wisconsin Law Review 1
Revitalization of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in the
Mid 20th Century

       The Honorable Patrick Lucey
        The Honorable Gaylord Nelson
Mrs. Ellen Proxmire
    Mr. Alexander Shashko

2003 Wisconsin Law Review 1
The Role of District Courts
     The Honorable Reena Raggi
2004 Wisconsin Law Review 1
Citizenship in a Time of Repression
 Mr. Michael Traynor, Esq.
2005 Wisconsin Law Review 1
Upholding an Oath to the Constitution:  A Legislator's Responsibilities
    The Honorable Russ Feingold
2006 Wisconsin Law Review 1
Thomas E. Fairchild:  A Judge's Legacy
                 The Honorable Joan Humphrey Lefkow
2007 Wisconsin Law Review 1
Snapshots from the Seventh Circuit:  Continuity and Change,
1966 to 2007

 The Honorable Diane Wood
2008 Wisconsin Law Review 1
Thoughts On How the Legal System Treats Jurors
          U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald
2009 Wisconsin Law Review 1
Its Only Words:  Thoughts of a Lawyer and a Novelist
Mr. Scott Turow, Esq.

Abraham Lincoln, A Lawyer for the Ages
           Mr. John Skilton, Esq., Perkins Coie

2011 Wisconsin Law Review 1
Federal Sentencing Policy:  A Path For The Future
            The Honorable William K. Sessions III

2012 Wisconsin Law Review 1

Inequality, Individualized Risk and Insecurity
Professor Michael J. Zimmer

2013 Wisconsin Law Review 1
2013The War on Drugs
                               The Honorable William J. Bauer                                                                      
2014 Wisconsin Law Review 1
2014Protecting the Fourth Amendment So We Do Not Sacrifice
Freedom for Security

                    Mr. Collins T. Fitzpatrick, Esq.                                                                
2015 Wisconsin Law Review 1

Audio & Video of Previous Events

Fairchild Lecture 2009

Streaming Video

Fairchild Lecture 2008

Fairchild Lecture 2008

Streaming Video
Video Download

Fairchild Lecture 2007

Fairchild Lecture 2007

Streaming Video
Video Download

Fairchild Lecture 2006

Fairchild Lecture 2006

Streaming Video
Video Download

Fairchild Lecture 2005

Fairchild Lecture 2005

Streaming Video
Video Download

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