Arts & Sciences, Law

Difference maker Judge Christopher Foley

Bringing compassion and a sense of mission to the family business of circuit court, Judge Christopher Foley, Arts ’75, Law ’78, changed the lives of thousands of children for the better.

Judge Folely with adopted children illustration
Illustration by Karlotta Freier.

It seemed preordained for Judge Christopher Foley to attend Marquette and serve on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court bench. The son of Judge Leander Foley, Jr., Arts ’43, Law ’48 — who succeeded his own uncle, Judge Francis Jennings, Law ’11, Hon Deg ’30 — Christopher Foley helped the family serve Branch 14 for 97 years.

Completing this near century of service, Foley retired this past summer. No one in the family will succeed him. Yet, what he, and his family, leave behind is a legacy born on Wisconsin Avenue, he says. “That’s the Jesuit education, always encouraged and urged to do things that lift people up to make the community better,” Foley says. “For 38 years, I tried to do that.”

Most of his nearly four decades were spent in Children’s Court, where he felt he could be that difference. In presiding over 4,000 adoptions involving children in need, Foley often went beyond customary legal follow-up to build bonds outside the courtroom. What he called “coloring outside the lines.”

“When the judicial duties were done, I would go to basketball games, birthday parties, visit group homes, attend school events,” Foley says. “You help families and you help kids by interacting with them.” It’s these relationships that he will remember, and continue, in retirement. He’s taken children to Marquette home games at Fiserv Forum, officiated some weddings and mentored many others to various careers and life paths.

“There really aren’t a lot of perks in Children’s Court,” Foley says. “It’s a tough place, but the greatest reward in my life is these relationships. That’s all Jesuit teachings — I bought into them, hook, line and sinker.”