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Supreme Court clerk Schanker remembered for legal acumen, creativity

Wisconsin Supreme Court Clerk of Court David R. Schanker died July 5 from complications following a heart transplant. He was 55.

Schanker was hired in 2007 and, during his tenure, championed the use of technology throughout the court system to include aspects such as online court records and electronic filing of briefs.

He earned his law degree from Indiana University and spent four years in private practice before becoming Deputy Clerk of the Indiana Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Tax Court for seven years.

In 2009, Schanker served as a prestigious Toll Fellow a program that recognizes emerging state leaders from across the nation.

On the court’s website, Justice David T. Prosser, who endorsed Schanker’s nomination as a Toll Fellow, said Schanker provided valuable insight to the Supreme Court in analyzing pending rules petitions.

Beyond his work in the legal profession, the New Jersey native also enjoyed success as a playwright and novelist. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Schanker earned an MFA from Columbia University and worked as playwright-in-residence at the off-Broadway theatre company ReCherChez for two years.

He authored several short stories and two legal-themed novels: “A Criminal Appeal” (St. Martin’s Minotaur, 1998) and “Natural Law” (St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2001). More recently, he wrote “Kiritsis,” a play performed by the Forward Theatre Company in Madison.

In the obituary posted on the Wisconsin Court’s website, Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson said, “David was not only an exceptionally skilled clerk, but a talented author and playwright. Many people, both inside and outside the court system, benefited from and appreciated his many talents,” Abrahamson said.

Abrahamson attended a recent reading of Kiritsis, in Madison, which the author attended shortly after his operation.

“I was just delighted David was there,” she said. “And unlike David who was quiet and laid-back, his play was about two people with high emotions.”

Schanker had returned to work in late June and worked part time before complications arose from the transplant, Abrahamson said.

“He was a man of courage and was always going to do the right thing regardless of maybe untoward personal consequences,” she said. “Such people are sometimes rare to be found when the chips are down.”

On July 8, the court issued an administrative order naming Director of State Courts A. John Voelker acting clerk of Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, effective July 9, 2010.

Voelker will temporarily fill the role of clerk until a replacement can be found.

Jack Zemlicka can be reached at [email protected].

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