William C. Gleisner, III Recipient of
2005 Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year Award


William C. Gleisner, III of Milwaukee is the 2005 recipient of the Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.  He received his award on December 2, 2005 at the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers (WATL) Dinner in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year Award is bestowed on that member of our organization who has made an outstanding contribution to the public interest or who has demonstrated compassion and commitment to advocacy on behalf of injured consumers.  

Bill has certainly dedicated his life and practice to bettering the public interest and furthering the common law.  Bill graduated from Marquette University Law School in 1974 and received his L.L.M from Georgetown Law Center in 1988.  He served for a number of years as General Counsel to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and prosecuted numerous cases on behalf of the NFB in state and federal courts throughout the nation in both trial and appellate courts.

Bill has been an active WATL member serving as an officer and on the Board of Directors in the mid-80s. He was the first editor of The Verdict, WATL’s quarterly publication, beginning in 1981. He was a principal strategist on WATL’s Constitutional Challenge Committee in the late 90s.  Bill now chairs WATL’s Amicus Curiae Brief Committee and has written numerous briefs on behalf of the Academy over the past 20 years. 

A recent Lexis-Nexis search lists Bill as an author or co-author of 38 amicus briefs on behalf of WATL, many involving important statutory and constitutional issues.  In the last Supreme Court term alone, Bill served as amicus counsel or co-counsel in the following cases:  Strenke v. Hogner, 2005 WI 25, (punitive damage standard); Wischer, et al v. Mitsubishi Industries, 2005 WI 26, (punitive damage standard); Petta v. West Bend Mutual Ins. Co., 2005 WI 18, (made-whole doctrine in wrongful death cases); Walberg, et al v. St. Francis Home, Inc., 2004 WI 64 (savings statute for disabled citizens, he also participated in oral argument); Amanda Carney-Hayes, et al. v. Northwest Wis. Home Care, et al., 2005 WI 85, (application of Alt privilege for defendant health care providers); Lagerstrom v. Myrtle Worth Hospital, et al., 2005 WI 124 (collateral source rule in medical malpractice cases); Insurance Company, of N.A. v. Cease Electric, Inc., 2004 WI 139, (application of economic loss doctrine to service contracts); Kaloti Enterprises, Inc v. Kellogg Sales Co., et al, 2005 WI 111, (fraud in the inducement exception to economic loss doctrine); G. Grams, et al v. Milk Products, Inc., et al., 2005 WI 112 (other property exception to economic loss doctrine).

Bill is a prolific writer authoring or co-authoring numerous articles for The Verdict on important issues for the plaintiff’s bar.  In the Fall 2005 Verdict issue, Bill co-authored an article called, “The Constitutional and Historical Antecedents of Ferdon v. The Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund,” explaining that the Ferdon decision builds upon finest traditions of Constitutional analysis and statutory construction as developed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court from time immemorial.  Other important articles he has authored include: “Why Alt v. Cline Violates the Constitutional Rights of Plaintiffs” (The Verdict, Summer 2003); “Jandrt v.  Jerome Foods: Stormy Weather — No Safe Harbor” (The Verdict, Winter 2000); and “A Plaintiff Without Fault is a Child of the Common Law” (The Verdict Winter 1998).

Bill was also been instrumental, working with Lynn Laufenberg and Mark Thomsen, in having the Wisconsin Supreme Court adopt Federal Rule 11 as amended in 1993.  The Court adopted the rule and it went into effect on July 1, 2005.  The rule repealed current § 802.05 and § 814.025 and in so doing, the Court effectively overruled Jandrt v. Jerome Foods, 227 Wis. 2d 531, 597 N.W.2d 744 (1999). Bill explained the importance of adopting this new rule in The Verdict article, “Supreme Court Repeals §802.05 and §814.05 and Adopts Instead a Version of Current FRCP 11.” (Spring issue 2005)

Bill is also an experienced computerized litigation specialist. In 2005, he co-authored a book with Jay Grenig entitled, “eDiscovery and Evidence.”  It is a practical guide that discusses preservation and retention policies, discovery, disclosure, cost sharing, spoliation and admissibility of digital evidence, including computerized business records and computer-generated evidence.  Bill also has extensive training and background in all forms of computerized litigation, electronic document management and electronic discovery. He is a Summation Certified Trainer (SCT) and a former Microsoft certified systems engineer. He has provided summation training and electronic litigation support to numerous small and large law firms throughout the U.S.  He has written extensively on the subject of computers in the legal profession, co-authoring “The Computerized Lawyer” feature for the Wisconsin Lawyer with Professor McChrystal of the Marquette University Law School and Attorney Mike Kuborn.

Former WATL President Lynn Laufenberg wrote of Bill, “Bill has a unique combination of analytic talent, knowledge of constitutional law and seemingly limitless energy to the task at hand. He listens to the very general, diverse and sometimes conflicting ideas from Academy members, then distills them into cogent constitutional considerations and articulates them in well-reasoned, persuasive written argument. He has immersed himself in volumes of constitutional and legislative history, always coming away with new and unique insights. Bill’s selfless efforts in preparing for and supporting [tort ‘reform’] battles demonstrate the compassion and commitment to the cause of injured consumers which deserve recognition through the Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.”

WATL President-Elect Rob Jaskulski said, “Bill always made himself available when called upon by WATL. His dedication of time and energy seemed boundless. Most impressive, however, is his dedication to the cause of the Academy.”

In receiving the award from incoming President Dan Rottier, Bill delivered the following remarks.

Thank you Dan, and good evening everyone.  I am deeply humbled by the honor that you are bestowing on me tonight. I am especially grateful because this award bears the name of Bob Habush, who has been my hero and my role model for many, many years. However, as I look around the room, there are so many here who are more deserving of this award. I think it’s time to review the secret nominating process by which an honoree is selected.

So, you may ask, “What makes me tick?”  I know many of you have speculated on this subject from time to time.  Some of you have even shared with me your sometimes unflattering thoughts on this subject. Because you have seen fit to bestow this wonderful award, I owe you a little explanation.

First you should know that as former civil rights lawyer my passion for justice is best expressed using the words of James Madison in Federalist Paper No. 51.  According to Madison, the very essence of justice is the protection of the weak by the strong.

In the words of Madison in Federalist Paper No. 51: “Justice is the end of government.  It is the end of civil society. … In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign, as in a state of nature where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger.”

Second you should know that besides my wife and my family, I have always loved the law, or more correctly, the science of the law.  I never cease to be amazed at the wisdom of our Common Law, and that is why I never tire of researching, reading and writing about appellate decisions. It is through and by the common law that we can insure that the collective wisdom of our courts throughout the ages can be accessed in order to insure that justice is served. But what is the Common Law exactly?  What is this “Common Law” that we write about in our briefs and read about in our decisions?  As our Wisconsin Supreme Court so eloquently put it over thirty years ago:[1]

“The Common Law is judge-made law, designed to accomplish the effectuation of recognized social policies within the framework of legal history. When a rule of law thwarts social policy rather than promotes it, it is the obligation of a Common Law court to undo or modify a rule that it has previously mad. The Common Law system could not have survived through the centuries if it had been no more than a method of perpetuating its own past. It has survived and is healthy today because it is a system that calls for growth, one that builds on the past to meet the needs of the present and the future. The system will not tolerate hogwild innovation, but without innovation, it will die.”[2]

Third, you should know why I belong to this Academy. It is because this Academy has a profound dedication to justice and the science of law, and that is why I am proud to have been part of this wonderful organization for over twenty-five years.

The members of this Academy are the scientists who labor with the juries of our citizens in the laboratories of our courts to find and define justice.

I am so very, very proud that I have had the opportunity and privilege to work with the excellent members of this Academy as they use the science of law in the pursuit of justice.

Thank you again for this honor.


[1] State v. Deetz, 66 Wis. 2d 1, 224 N.W.2d 407 (1974).

[2] Id. at 15-16.

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