March/April 2007 issue
In Memoriam: Judge Donald P. Lay
Judge Donald P. Lay of the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Eighth Circuit died on Sunday,
April 29th, in North Oaks,
Minnesota, after a prolonged
illness. He was 80 years old.
Donald Pomery Lay was born in Princeton, Ill.,
on Aug. 24, 1926. He had intended to serve in
the military but as a student at the U.S. Naval
Academy, he suffered a back injury while
playing for the football team. He graduated from
the University of Iowa in 1949 and received his
law degree there in 1951.
He then went to work as an associate at
Kennedy, Holland, DeLacy, & Svoboda in
Omaha, Nebraska. In 1953 he relocated to
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as an associate with
Quarles, Spence & Quarles. In 1954 he returned
to Omaha as a partner with Eisenstatt, Lay,
Higgins & Miller.
In 1966 he was appointed as a Circuit Judge for
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
He was the second youngest judge ever
appointed to a federal court of appeals. (William
Howard Taft was the youngest.) From 1979 to
1992 he served as Chief Judge for the Circuit.
During his time on the bench he wrote more
than 2,000 opinions. In Morrissey v. Brewer, his
dissent reasoned that the rights of two prisoners
had indeed been violated when the Iowa State
Parole Board revoked their parole without
hearings, 443 F.2d 942 (8th Cir. 1971). The U.S.
Supreme Court later agreed.
In Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co., 130 F.3d 1287
(8th Cir. 1997), a sex discrimination case that was
the basis for the 2005 film North Country, he
reasoned that “although money damages cannot
make these women whole or even begin to repair
the injury done, it can serve to set a precedent
that in the environment of the working place such
hostility will not be tolerated.”
He upheld the treaty rights of an Indian tribe to
hunt and fish in Minnesota, and the U.S.
Supreme Court later affirmed. Mille Lacs Band
of Chippewa Indians v. Minnesota 124 F.3d 904
(8th Cir. 1997).
Throughout his legal career, Judge Lay also
served as a part-time instructor at Omaha
University, William Mitchell, and University of
Judge Lay is survived by his wife, Miriam, and
their five daughters, Catherine Lay, Betsy Lay,
Susan Lay, Cindy Elston and Debbie Ford.