Former Gov. Jim Doyle confesses that he's a bit biased on the subject of his dad, whose name is attached to what is poised to be the most expensive city project in Madison's history: Judge Doyle Square.
"This is just his proud son talking, but I think you'd find universal praise of him," the former governor says of his father, who died in 1987. "He was the model of what a judge should be."
Most people today are more familiar with Gov. Doyle than Judge Doyle. But the elder Doyle was a force in Wisconsin politics. After World War II, Doyle and his wife, Ruth Bachhuber Doyle, who served in the state Assembly, helped reinvigorate the state's Democratic Party.
In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson nominated Doyle to the federal bench. He served during a turbulent time and heard many cases involving protests and free speech. He sentenced antiwar protester Karleton Armstrong for the 1970 bombing of the UW's Sterling Hall. He also ruled in favor of prisoner rights and clarified Native American rights.
"He believed very strongly that the state has extremely limited authority over the expression of ideas," his son says.
One of his most famous quotes is commemorated on a plaque on the City County Building: "How do we choose to live? I choose freedom. I choose an open society. I choose the wellspring of renewal in every generation. I choose the First Amendment, which lets the sun shine in. And if we fail, I choose to fall in flight, rather than to smother on the ground in the dust of fear."
Gov. Doyle says the quote comes from a rare speech his dad gave at a time when he was ruling on some heated issues. He used it to express his judicial philosophy.
"At the time he gave the speech he was a very controversial person," Doyle says. "That quote got a lot of attention around the country."
Ald. Mike Verveer says the city is contemplating at least two ways of memorializing Judge Doyle. One would be preservation of the Municipal Building's room 260, which was Doyle's courtroom for much of his career. "Much of the original interior is intact and unchanged," he says.
Another idea is to permanently close the 200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to traffic and create a plaza between the City County and Municipal buildings, with landscaping, benches and a plaque or statue to honor the judge.
At some public meetings, people have invoked Judge Doyle in arguing that the Municipal Building should be kept as a public space, in honor of the judge's dedication to open government.
The younger Doyle says he doesn't take a position on whether the building should be a public or private facility. But he notes that his dad worked hard for the construction of the Robert W. Kastenmeier U.S. Courthouse, which opened in 1984 on Henry Street.
"That sort of surprised me, because things like physical surroundings didn't concern him," Doyle says. "He would have been a judge in a rundown building if that's where they put him, and he wouldn't have complained."