Vol. 76, No. 6, June
Letters to the editor: The
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Interesting photo placement
I thought there was some rather unplanned and unintended humor in a
recent brochure advertising the State Bar convention, with pictures of
four persons famous in the history of the Wisconsin bar. The photographs
included Rhoda Lavinia Goodell (first female admitted to practice law
before the Wisconsin Supreme Court) and Chief Justice Edward G. Ryan.
The caption at the top of the brochure was "Celebrate the Past. Prepare
for the Future."
I am sure that the juxtaposition of Ms. Goodell's picture, which was
somewhat overlapped by that of Chief Justice Ryan, was accidental, but
it added an additional humorous note to the brochure. At least to some
of us older lawyers, it recalled the colorful language used by Chief
Ryan in the court's order denying Ms. Goodell admission to the bar (35
Wis. 232, 1875). Speaking for the unanimous court, Ryan's opinion
emphasized the sanctity of womanhood and the need to protect women from
language that lawyers dealt with, including such things as rape, incest,
and so on. If you haven't read that opinion lately, I invite you to do
so, just for the laughs.
Four years later, the same application of Ms. Goodell was again
before the court, but in the meantime the Wisconsin Legislature had
legislated that "[n]o person shall be denied admission or license to
practice as an attorney in any court of this state on account of sex,"
and our supreme court reluctantly granted Ms. Goodell's petition. After
expressing reservations as to whether the Legislature had the power to
legislate such matters, the court stated that it was admitting Ms.
Goodell "in deference to the wishes of a coordinate branch of the
government, without considering the question of power." (48 Wis.
A footnote to that opinion adds to the humor: "The publication of
this decision, in the reports, has been delayed in the expectation that
a dissenting opinion would be prepared by the Chief Justice. - Rep." One
suspects that in the several months the court awaited the Chief
Justice's dissenting opinion, Chief Ryan was unable to write a dissent
in words that were acceptable to the mores of the time, and he simply
gave up trying to do so.
Daniel T. Flaherty
Convention was magnificent
I write to offer my highest regards and congratulations to the entire
staff of the State Bar of Wisconsin for putting on a magnificent
convention. I do not recall ever learning more, seeing more interesting
people, and having more fun than I did at the Milwaukee convention. I
had the opportunity to observe our staff in action and to meet many of
them, and I was very impressed. They are a very professional group of
As a State Bar Governor representing District II, I was very pleased
with the entire convention. All the staff involved should be very proud
of what you achieved. Likewise, the State Bar's Convention and
Entertainment Committee deserves great credit for this successful event.
I look forward to seeing the great things that will be offered at the
2004 convention in Madison.
Nicholas C. Zales