Inside Track: From a Federal Judge to "Diamond Joel," 50-year Members Going Strong:

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  • From a Federal Judge to "Diamond Joel," 50-year Members Going Strong

    Fifty years ago, in 1967, a new crop of lawyers entered the profession. Some went into politics, others became judges. All have a unique story. Here are a few of them.

    Joe Forward

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    Photos from the 50-year member celebration luncheon, held on May 10 in Delafield.

    May 17, 2017 – A half-century seems like a long time. Fifty years ago, it was 1967 and Lyndon B. Johnson was president. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren was in his 15th year. And a new crop of lawyers were setting their law practice sails.

    It was also a time of unrest. The Vietnam War raged abroad as peace movements gathered steam at home. When Muhammad Ali refused induction to the U.S. Army, on April 28, 1967, he was stripped of his heavyweight title and convicted of draft evasion.

    The effects of racial discrimination reached a boiling point in Milwaukee in 1967, when fatal riots broke out, triggering demonstrations for fair housing legislation.

    In Madison, students protesting recruiters from Dow Chemical, which made napalm, clashed with police in the “Dow riot,” which ended in bloodshed and tear gas.

    This was the nation’s temperature as new lawyers, now celebrating 50 years in the profession, were inducted to the bar in Wisconsin and beyond. Some went into politics. Some became judges. All shared a common bond, as members of the class of 1967.

    In this article, we highlight a number of lawyers and judges that were admitted to their first bar in 1967 and this year celebrate 50 years as members of the law profession. The 50-year members were honored May 10 at a celebratory luncheon in Delafield.

    Lynn Adelman: A Unique Path

    Lynn Adelman, Louise Tesmer, and Thomas Hauke

    Hon. Lynn S. Adelman, Hon. Louise M. Tesmer, and Thomas A. Hauke share a laugh at the 50-year member celebration luncheon.

    Before President Bill Clinton nominated Lynn Adelman to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 1997, a position he still holds, he had already fulfilled major duties in various roles, including 20 years in the Wisconsin Legislature.

    A graduate of Shorewood High School, Adelman attended Princeton before graduating from New York City’s Columbia Law School in 1965. He worked for a law professor on child abuse reporting legislation, then for the Legal Aid Society of New York, admitted to the New York bar in 1967.

    Adelman returned to Wisconsin in 1972, after three years of private practice work, mostly in criminal defense. Back home, he landed a job at what was then Coffee, Lerner & Murray. The firm split and Adelman joined partner Robert Lerner.

    “In the meantime, I was getting into politics,” Adelman said. “I ran for Congress in 1974 but lost to a state senator named Bob Kasten.”

    Undeterred, Adelman was elected to the state senate in 1976, where he stayed for 20 years. At the same time, he went into law practice with Ken Murray, a well-known lawyer in Milwaukee. Adelman’s wife, an assistant U.S. attorney, also joined.

    “I was involved in a few other campaigns, too. I ran for Congress a couple of times and lost,” Adelman said. “I was seriously in debt because of all the campaigns, so my wife and I buckled down with Ken and built Adelman, Adelman & Murray.

    “We built a good firm, probably 10 lawyers at one point. We had a general practice and did a lot of pro bono work, too. I think I took at least four cases to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, including one challenging bail practices in Wisconsin.”

    It was a lot of fun to argue in the U.S. Supreme Court against Attorney General Doyle.

    – Lynn Adelman

    Adelman’s firm also represented a number of Milwaukee judges who challenged a law that said judges could not appoint counsel to parents involved in parental termination cases. And Adelman challenged two of Gov. Tommy Thompson’s vetoes.

    “We have a very broad gubernatorial veto power, and he had vetoed a couple budget bills in a way I thought was broader than allowed by law. I think we won on one.”

    But Adelman the litigator wasn’t quite done. He challenged a Wisconsin hate crimes law that allowed penalty enhancers if the crime was motivated by racial or religious animus.

    That case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. “We argued that it was a thought crime. The enhancer was punishing thought, and we argued on First Amendment grounds.”

    Adelman won at the Wisconsin Supreme Court. But then Wisconsin Attorney General Jim Doyle sought a writ of certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court.

    “We lost 9-0. The case was Wisconsin v. Mitchell. But it was a lot of fun to argue in the U.S. Supreme Court against Attorney General Doyle,” Adelman said.

    Someone was paying attention to Adelman’s career. In 1997, President Bill Clinton nominated Adelman to the federal bench, in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The U.S. Senate confirmed Adelman the same year to succeed Judge Thomas J. Curran.

    “I can’t say it was a lifelong desire to be a federal judge, but as your career unfolds, you start thinking about the different possibilities. It has been very interesting.”

    In addition to his Wisconsin caseload, Adelman serves as a visiting judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco every year. And when the Southern District of Indiana recently announced a judicial emergency, Adelman volunteered to help.

    “They have a shortage of judges, so Judge Griesbach and I are on the draw down there. We haven’t had to go down there yet, but we might if there’s a trial or something.”

    Louise Tesmer: Fearless Pioneer

    Louise Tesmer

    Louise Tesmer

    In 1967, the legal profession was very much dominated by men. Louise Tesmer didn’t care. Only one of five women members of the State Bar to graduate in 1967, Tesmer blazed a fearless path in private practice, in politics, and eventually, on the bench.

    “I always knew I was going to go to college and I literally started saving nickels, dimes, and pennies when I was four years old,” she said. “My father wanted to be a doctor, but it was his misfortune that the Depression hit. I came from a family that valued education and intellectual pursuits. I was very fortunate to grow up in that environment.”

    A 1964 graduate of U.W.-Milwaukee, Tesmer attended U.W. Law School, graduating in 1967. “There were such stars on the faculty at that time,” Tesmer recalled via a phone interview. “They were outstanding in their field and wonderful teachers. Willard Hurst, we used to call him God. We’d say, ‘what did God say in his lecture today.’”

    Tesmer really enjoyed property and real estate law with Prof. Jacob Beuscher. “At the time, criminal law was my least favorite subject. I told my friends I would never practice criminal law,” she said. “Turns out, that’s the area I was involved with most of my life.”

    In 1966, at age 23, Tesmer was elected as a municipal judge for the city of St. Francis. At that time, she was the youngest person ever elected to a judicial office in Wisconsin.

    After law school, she was appointed to serve as assistant district attorney for Milwaukee County. There were 17 assistant DAs, but no women on the trial calendar.

    I told him I wasn’t sitting in the office anymore. I told him I wanted the trial experience.

    – Louise Tesmer

    “When Mike McCann was elected, I said I would stay on,” Tesmer said. “But I told him I wasn’t sitting in the office anymore. I told him I wanted the trial experience, just like the men. So I was the first woman on the regular trial calendar, at least in Milwaukee.”

    At that time, only 3 percent of lawyers in the U.S. were women. “I interviewed with one firm, and they said, ‘you would be great in the firm but our wives would kill us if we hired you,’” Tesmer said. “As an assistant DA, I was not treated the same. I was not treated badly, it was just that I was excluded from networking. That was how it was.”

    At age 30, and after five years as an assistant DA, Tesmer was elected to the legislature, where she served for 17 years while working in general private practice.

    During her time in the legislature, she chaired several committees and became the first woman ever elected to a leadership position in the legislature, as speaker pro tempore of the Assembly in 1980. Tesmer was now leading a charge for women in politics.

    “They asked me to give a speech on the floor of the Assembly. I received a standing ovation. That was pretty swell,” she said. “It was very exciting to be part of the process in making public policy and law. It was also a different time in Wisconsin politics.”

    Tesmer, a Democrat, said she worked with people on both sides of the aisle. “Everybody would argue on the floor and then go have a drink,” she said.

    She co-sponsored a bill that prohibited various forms of discrimination, including housing and employment, based on sexual preference, religion, and age.

    She also helped pass the “Life Means Life” bill, which let judges impose life sentences without parole in egregious cases. It was an alternative to the death penalty at a time when forces were pushing for the death penalty in Wisconsin, which she opposed.

    In 1989, a new pursuit. She was elected to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court bench. She retired after her term expired in 2001, choosing not to seek reelection.

    “It sounds corny, but I really liked the opportunity to do justice for people in many different areas, to try and make sure that people would get a fair outcome,” she said.

    On the criminal docket, Tesmer began requiring young people to get their GED as a condition of probation. She didn’t pile on conditions, but felt it was important for them to get a diploma and to work, even if just 10 hours a week. “Those are big steps forward. That was my personal view of how to help people move in the right direction.”

    Joel Hirschhorn: “Diamond Joel”

    Joel Hirschhorn

    Joel Hirschhorn

    A 1995 article in The New Yorker explained how Joel Hirschhorn got his nickname, “Diamond Joel.” In the 1980s, Miami was booming, a product of the drug trade.

    “Joel Hirschhorn was Diamond Joel then,” writer Fredric Dannen wrote in “The Thin White Line.” “He wore a diamond tie tack, a diamond pinkie ring, a gold bracelet, and a gold Rolex with a diamond bezel, which he said was called a Miami Timex.”

    Hirschhorn, a 1967 graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School, had made a name for himself in international narcotics defense in the 1980s.

    “Miami was called the Casablanca of the Western world,” said Hirschhorn by phone. “There was so much cash floating around it was crazy. I was representing mostly alleged money launderers but also drug importers. We didn’t know it was a Columbian cartel at the time. The cartels didn’t surface until the late 80s, early 90s.”

    By 1989, Hirschhorn was out of drug defense. The U.S. Supreme Court had decided a case that authorized the forfeiture of legal fees from lawyers who handled such cases. So Hirschhorn stopped that line of business and started white collar crime defense.

    Hirschhorn is candid. He made a lot of money in Miami’s heyday. But it wasn’t that far removed from his law school days in Madison, clerking for William Dyke’s firm.

    “They paid me $1 per hour my first summer, then $1.25 per hour the second year. My third year, I worked 40 hours per week during school at $1.50 per hour,” he said.

    It’s the love of the game, the overwhelming odds, fighting for the underdog. I love it.

    – Joel Hirschhorn

    Hirschhorn, born in Brooklyn and raised in Connecticut, was encouraged to attend U.W. Law School by an English professor at the University of Connecticut, Robert Wooster Stallman. Stallman, a leading authority on author Stephen Crane, was from Wisconsin.

    After Hirschhorn was admitted to the Wisconsin bar, he moved to Florida. He knew someone whose father was a pawn broker, and authorities had just seized 23 gold coins from the shop, claiming they were stolen property. It was Hirschhorn’s first case.

    “I had studied the Uniform Commercial Code, I think under Robert Skilton, one of my favorite professors up there. I argued, under the U.C.C., that my client was a good faith purchaser for value in the ordinary course of business. I won the case.”

    The pawn shop owner paid Hirschhorn $10 per month as a lifelong retainer fee and began to send referrals to him. Diamond Joel was born. Although the Miami boom days are over, Hirschhorn is still a household name among the criminal defense bar.

    Hirschhorn, who has a satellite office in Rhinelander, has been admitted pro hac vice in 44 different courts nationwide, has practiced in 34 state courts, and has argued in every federal circuit court but one. And he once argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

    He’s particularly proud of his status as a Wisconsin lawyer. “I do believe I’m treated with more respect when I announce my Wisconsin bar membership,” Hirschhorn said. “It really has been quite a ride, and I’m so grateful to those who helped me, including Prof. Stallman, my mentor Bill Dyke, and my excellent law school professors.”

    Hirschhorn, past president of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Nonresident Lawyers Division (2006) and a fellow of the Wisconsin Law Foundation, is still going strong.

    His Miami practice continues to thrive, and he takes cases in Wisconsin on occasion, visiting his home near Lake Tomahawk several times per year.

    “I get up every morning and can’t wait to see the challenge I will face that day,” he said. “It’s the love of the game, the overwhelming odds, fighting for the underdog. I love it.”

    David Werth: A Way of Life

    David Werth

    David Werth

    For David Werth, small town living is a fine way of life. And for the last 50 years, he has lived the life while practicing law in Weyauwega, a small town in Waupaca County.

    A native of Oconomowoc, he was the first member of his family to attend college and thought about a career in forestry at his mother’s urging. But while attending U.W.-Madison, he succumbed to peer pressure: some of his friends decided on law school.

    “That decision was a slow process, but somewhere I developed a latent desire to engage in the thought process with a need for continuing education,” Werth said. “I really had to overcome, and did, the idea that I could not achieve that upward mobility.”

    He was married before starting law school at Marquette University, commuting from Oconomowoc while his wife, of Wild Rose, taught English. But after graduation, the couple moved to Weyauwega, where a job was waiting for him at Van Epps and Gull.

    Ruth Van Epps, who was admitted to the bar in 1936 without attending law school, had opened the firm in the 1940s. She and partner Jerome Gull added Werth’s name to the firm on day one, creating Van Epps, Gull & Werth. Werth has remained there since.

    “I wasn’t added as a partner, but for purposes of identifying my involvement with the firm,” Werth noted. “That’s what they wanted, and I didn’t really have a say in it.”

    I developed a latent desire to engage in the thought process with a need for continuing education.

    – David Werth

    It was a general practice firm, the only one in town. But Van Epps had done a lot of tax preparation, and the firm continued that as a good way to get people in the door.

    “Back then it was a lot different,” Werth said. “People in the community came to us for everything, a variety of legal matters. Now, they might be inclined to visit the bigger cities for specialized work, but back then we did things in litigation and transactions.”

    Still, Werth said the firm’s downtown location remained vibrant, with multigenerational clients coming to what is now Van Epps, Werth & Boelter for most of their legal needs.

    “We’re a family-based law firm,” Werth said. “Most of the people we do represent are families that have been clients for years. If their parents came here, they come here.”

    Werth said he enjoys the small-town practice because it allows him to engage in the community. He does service work through the Lions Club and served as the city attorney for more than 40 years. “I could do things for the city in that way,” he said.

    He’s also active in the Chamber of Commerce, and the local church. “I try in any way I can to be a representative of the community and promote the community,” he said.

    But here’s another great aspect of life in Weyauwega: Werth, an outdoorsman all his life, has world-class outdoor activities at his fingertips. He has hunted from the first year he arrived and continues to do so, mostly hunting deer but also ducks.

    He also golfs. “There’s a lot of opportunity. I was at a State Bar meeting, and a judge from Milwaukee said, ‘you can do all year long what we can only do on vacation.’”

    And after 50 years in practice, Werth said he’s got things down. “When I first started, the partners would send referrals. Clients would ask questions and I would say, ‘I’ll have to check that out and get back to you.’ I had no source of experience, no knowledge to advise that you only develop through time. I can answer those questions now.”

    Scott Engroff: A Double Life

    Scott Engroff

    Scott Engroff

    Scott H. Engroff spent 40 years building a highly successful pension law practice at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP in Milwaukee.

    But, in 1985, Engroff started leading a double life: building one of Wisconsin’s premier youth soccer clubs in Mequon. Engroff served as president through various iterations of what is now Fusion Soccer Club, hanging those cleats up just three years ago.

    It is strong evidence that high-level success can be achieved without compromising family and love of sport, in this case, soccer. “It was a godsend to me,” said Engroff, who retired from Michael Best a decade ago but still practices pension law on his own.

    “It got me out of the office, doing something that I really enjoyed. It enabled me to participate in the sport vicariously through my own two boys.”

    Living this double life required an important trait that Engroff possessed in large quantities: work ethic. The son of a steel mill worker, Engroff grew up in Pittsburgh and worked summers at the steel mill while attending MacMurray College. He was a four-sport athlete in wrestling, soccer, golf, and baseball. And he married a girl named Joy.

    Upon graduation from college, Engroff decided on law school at the University of Michigan. After his first year, he clerked for his uncle’s large law firm in Pittsburgh. The second summer, though, he was back at the steel mill, grinding away the hours. It paid better.

    “We worked hard, long hours, as much as possible,” Engroff said. “My wife and I were putting me through law school. So we both wanted to work as much as we could.

    I played sports all my life and between sports and working like that, you develop a certain attitude.

    – Scott Engroff

    “That work ethic absolutely carried over to law practice,” he said. “You become mentally tough. I know that can be a trite statement, but I played sports all my life and between sports and working like that, you develop a certain attitude.”

    So there wasn’t much stopping Engroff as a young lawyer. He was offered his first job at Michael Best in 1967.  “It was a busy time when I graduated,” said Engroff. “Large law firms across the country were hiring like crazy during that period of time.”

    When he arrived at the firm, a veteran lawyer named Joe Filachek asked if Engroff wanted to learn something about pension law. He was a partner. “What was I supposed to say?” Engroff recalled. “I told him I had always wanted to work in the pension plan area. Then I told my wife. She asked what that was. I said I had no idea, but I start Monday.”

    Engroff worked in that area for the next 40 years, representing trustees who managed pension funds for skilled laborers, including carpenters, bricklayers, and other unionized workers. Some pension funds held billions of dollars, and the law was changing.

    “It was the kind of field that, even though I didn’t know a damn thing when I started, it was all-consuming, very complex,” Engroff said. “We were always scrambling to make sure we knew what the hell we were supposed to know.”

    As Engroff was building his pension law practice, he was also raising a family, two boys and girl. His two boys discovered soccer in the 1980s and he volunteered to coach. In 1985, he started the Mequon Soccer Club, serving as club president.

    The Mequon Soccer Club ultimately attracted some of the state’s top soccer players - including Wisconsin high school All-Americans - won numerous state championships at all levels (boys and girls), and prepped hundreds of players for the collegiate level.

    Engroff stayed heavily involved in what is now Fusion Soccer Club long after his boys cycled through youth soccer and into college. He stepped down just three years ago.

    “I really enjoyed law practice,” Engroff said. “But I also loved being involved in soccer, which was something I loved as a kid and something my kids really loved doing.”

    Now, Engroff practices law at his own pace and spends ample time with grandkids and Joy, his wife of 54 years. “Joy and I are always on the go,” he said. “My mom gave me good advice when she told me to marry her before she got to know me too well.”