2011 Howard B. Eisenberg Lifetime Achievement Award
Attorney, Legal Aid of Milwaukee
Attorney Tom Cannon has been associated with the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee for more than three decades – including two stints as Executive Director (1977-81, 2005-present) and one as President (1995-2003).
Cannon has successfully litigated numerous individual and class-action cases in state and federal court on behalf of welfare mothers, prisoners, children, and the mentally ill. He has testified before various legislative committees to urge passage of laws designed to promote the cause of Wisconsin’s huge poverty population, now estimated to include more than one million state residents.
Last month, Cannon appeared before the Wisconsin Supreme Court to advocate adoption of the Civil Gideon petition that John Ebbott and he co-signed. The petition would mandate appointment of counsel for poor litigants in civil cases involving the necessities of life: food, shelter, clothing, heat, medical care, safety and child custody.
Cannon has written and spoken widely on the topic of poverty law. He is the author of Equal Justice: A History of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee (Marquette University Press, 2010). His most recent publication, “Wisconsin’s Poor Are Entitled to an Equal Shot at Civil Justice,” appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on October 13, 2011.
Throughout his forty-year career, Cannon has been inspired by the motto of his grandfather, Ray Cannon: “In the thousands of cases I’ve tried, I have defended the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, but never the strong against the weak and never the rich against the poor.”
Cannon graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1971. He was a professor of constitutional law and legal ethics at Marquette University Law School and a partner in the O’Neil, Cannon & Hollman law firm in Milwaukee. Other community activities include service as President of the Wisconsin Coalition Against the Death Penalty and President of the Hunger Task Force.
Photo Credit: Wisconsin Law Journal