Wisconsin Statehouse

Biography of James E. Doyle, Sr. By: Melita Schuessler, J.D. Candidate 2012, UW Law School

James E. Doyle, Sr., served as U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin. After his appointment by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, Judge Doyle occupied the bench for 22 years, including the years he served as a senior judge after his retirement in 1980.

Born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on July 6, 1915, Doyle graduated from the University of Wisconsin (1937) and Columbia Law School (1940). Early in his legal career, he worked as an attorney in the criminal division at the U.S. Department of Justice and clerked for United States Supreme Court Justice James F. Byrnes. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a naval reserve lieutenant, he returned to Madison where he was Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District (1946-1948) before entering private practice at LaFollette, Sinykin, Doyle and Anderson (1948-1965).

During the post-war period, Doyle and his wife, Ruth Bachhuber Doyle, rose to statewide prominence as political leaders. They were influential members of a group credited with revitalizing and modernizing the Democratic Party in Wisconsin at a time when the Republican Party held power. Doyle served as statewide Democratic Party chairperson from 1951 to 1953.

During his tenure as a federal judge, Doyle earned the admiration of his colleagues in the legal profession for his clarity of his written opinions, his unwavering impartiality, and the soft-spoken eloquence and gentle humor he displayed on the bench. Throughout his judicial career, he adhered to the principle that the courts must serve the American people. He remained a staunch champion of individuals' rights to free speech and due process, even in times of social upheaval and controversy.

Judge Doyle died in Madison on April 1, 1987, leaving his wife of almost 50 years and four children, including former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.

You can also read the Federal Judiciary Center biography of Judge Doyle.