Municipal Building story by James Doyle and Jessica Doyle

James E. Doyle, Jr. and Jessica Doyle recount their memories of the Madison Municipal Building, most prominently memories of Governor Doyle's father, James Doyle, who was a federal judge in the building.

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  • INDEX:

    0:12- JUDGE DOYLE




    Interviewer: Okay. Okay, go.

    Narrator (James): Uh, James Doyle, D-o-y-l-e.

    Narrator (Jessica): Jessica Doyle, D-o-y-l-e.

    Narrator (James): Well, of course this building has special meaning for us, because this is where my father was a judge for many years before they built the new federal courthouse. So my memories of the building are, are just old, are memories of my father, I mean, and, and how important, uh, this building and that job was to his life. He was truly a person who was, I think, born to be a judge, and he was a wonderful judge and a wonderful father.

    Narrator (James): Um, I was here as a college, I think freshman, um, when he was, uh, sworn in as the judge in the, in the now redone courtroom here. After a bitter political in-fighting that had gone on for a number of years over who would be the new federal judge in Madison, there was only one federal judge at the time. And, um, but ultimately he was appointed by President Johnson and was sworn in and he, you know, I was in the building many, many times but not as a lawyer, I was here as a son, you know, coming in to see my father. For six years I was the Dane County District Attorney, and my office was directly across, right here, Martin Luther King, and so my office, I can see it from where we're looking right now, and I would, you know, look over where my father was the judge. The courthouse was the center in those days of the—sixties and seventies, the center of just an enormous amount of public attention, uh, that many significant cases came through this court. It was the busiest federal court in the country—busiest. Per judge, he had the biggest caseload of any federal judge.

    Narrator (James): And there were a lot of really ground-breaking decisions that he made that, um, that came out of this courthouse in free speech and prisoners' rights. He was, you know, widely regarded around the country. So I was proud to be, you know, his son and his namesake. He was also, uh, Jim Doyle, and that's largely my memory of the building, was really—it's a memory of my father.

    Narrator (Jessica): I was lucky enough to serve on a jury in this courtroom where Judge Doyle was the judge. It was in the late 70s, and I was a teacher at Orchard Ridge Middle School, and I was selected to be on the federal judge panel for one year. So every single, uh, first Monday of the month, I would have to leave lesson plans for my class, and I would come into this building. And just entering Judge Doyle's courtroom was just so special for me. I knew him, of course, as my father-in-law, but when he was in court he just became such a person of great magnitude in the sense that he kind of cast a spell on the courtroom. I knew he was sensitive and caring and a wonderful man already, but everybody who entered that courtroom was just captivated by his spirit.

    Narrator (Jessica): He could talk to all kinds of jurors, and I usually got eliminated from the jury. Some lawyers thought that I would be too tough because I was married to the district attorney, and some lawyers thought I’d be too soft, I guess, being a teacher. So, I, I rarely made it to the jury. But one time I did. And I could see the influence of Judge Doyle, and the building, and that special room, on all the jurors. It really made you think of what it is to be a citizen and to be fair-minded, and I don't think just any judge could have done all that. I, I felt that we all counted in that room, and I think he'd really be happy to see it today. It's really part of a lovely part of his life and also the story of this building.

    Interviewer: Good. Thank you.

    Narrator (James): All right?

    Interviewer: Anything else you'd like to add? Did you have free run of the building because he had an office here?

    Narrator (James): (laughs)

    Interviewer: Or, on the weekends, did you come and—

    Narrator (James): I was a college student when he was appointed, so it wasn't like we were little kids running around in this building. And, um, you definitely had the sense that you were in—the first floor, which I've been in, like every Madisonian was in, you know, and this was the downtown post office, so the first floor was just, um, activity all the time. I mean, those pre-email days when—and if you had, like I did, a little law office in town, what you did—it was just the correct thing to do—was you had a post office box here, and then you came every single day and got the [mail]—which was essentially your workload for the day. I mean, that's how the lawyers worked in those days, you'd get a stack of letters, and then you'd spend your day answering those letters, and you'd mail those and they'd get, uh, typed up and they'd get mailed out. It seems so, you know, 1850s now, but that's how the world was up until, you know, through much of the 1990s.

    Narrator (James): Um, so the first floor, a lot was going on all the time. You met people. But then you [INDISTINCT] went up to the second floor with the courtroom, and that was—you didn't mess around up there. The FBI office was upstairs, if I remember, too, you know, you didn't mess around. It was a, it was a really serious matter. You knew you were in a—you know, you were at the—you weren't at the— I, my life has been largely, [I] was a lawyer, was in the state courts, a fair amount of federal courts, but state courts are—you know, things are going on all the time. There are criminal arraignments going on, the police are in and out of there, the jurors—it's just—but the federal court was, and still is, a very different thing. It's quieter. It's much more august. You have a sense this is where the big constitutional decisions are being made. So, no, we didn't. I didn't run around [INDISTINCT] but I assumed if I—[if] this had all happened, you know, ten years earlier—something—we probably would have.

    Interviewer: Good.

    Interviewer: Uh, that was Jacki Lawton asking the questions, and that will be it for here.