Originally published in Wisconsin Lawyer Vol. 76, No.2
In 2003 the Wisconsin Lawyer celebrates 75 years, covering the development of the law and the impact of the organized Bar in Wisconsin.
In September 1927, the State Bar published its first official magazine, Bulletin of the State Bar Association of Wisconsin. Since that first edition, the publication has undergone many changes, including a few titles and formats, a few editors, and editorial focus.
Throughout 2003 the Wisconsin Lawyer will include "From the Archives," a monthly column devoted to lively snippets from past issues. Material is quoted directly to maintain the sensibility of the time as expressed in the language, and is attributed when the contributor is known. More in-depth coverage of the magazine's publishing history will appear as a special focus in September, as part of the State Bar's 125th anniversary celebration this year.
Join us as we look back to the first three years of our official publication. - WL Editorial Board and Editors
40 mph speeds are negligent?
April 1928, at 85: "Since the Attorney General recently handed down a decision that no maximum speed limit exists in Wisconsin, some of the judges are in doubt as to how to proceed with speeders. Some have adopted the policy that those traveling over 40 miles per hour are prima facie guilty of negligent driving under the law. Judge Fellenz, of Fond du Lac, however, recently took under advisement the case of a man who was arrested when traveling approximately 60 miles per hour, owing to some doubt upon the evidence as to whether the driver was going at a speed which endangered the life and property of others."
Youth, height distinguish lawyer
July 1928, at 141: "North Milwaukee claims the distinction of having the youngest City Attorney in the county, if not in the state. He is Haakon Svanoe, 23 years of age and stands six feet six inches tall."
Lawyers save moonlighting attorney from starvation
July 1928, at 138: "Jerome McDonald, Milwaukee, practices law by day and drives a taxi at night in order to tide over the usual starvation period of young attorneys. An alert patrolman discovered that young McDonald was driving on an expired driver's license and took him before Judge Page, who declared that sentence would be suspended upon payment of court costs. McDonald confessed that he did not have the necessary wherewithal to pay the costs, whereupon several attorneys who had been interested and sympathetic listeners to the story came forward with offers of loans, one of which Mr. McDonald accepted and thereby obtained his release."
Bootleggers dynamite D.A.'s home
July 1928, at 139: "The home of District Attorney Lewis Powell of Kenosha was badly damaged by an explosion of dynamite believed to have been placed by bootleggers. Mr. Powell and his four children were in the house at the time, but fortunately were uninjured. ... Mr. Powell has announced his candidacy for reelection to the office of District Attorney. This is a brief but effective answer to the law violators who bombed his home and who have since been sending him notes and warnings. ... Powell's activities in law enforcement have brought upon him national attention. He has been particularly active in prosecuting liquor cases and since January 1, has locked thirty saloons and roadhouses, bringing his total, since taking office, to over seventy."
Women score higher on bar exam
Oct. 1928, at 160: "The 103d Wisconsin Bar Examination was held at Madison, July 17, 18 and 19 by the Board of Bar Commissioners. It was written by 153 candidates, six of whom were women. Of those who took the examination, 72, or slightly less than 50% were successful. ... Four out of six women who took the examination were successful, this being a higher percentage than that scored by the men."
Robes add dignity to court
William J. Anderson, Madison, in the April 1928 Bulletin, suggested that supreme court judges wear robes to add dignity to court proceedings. H.J. Mellum, Kenosha, agreed, writing in the October 1928 issue:
"Anything that can be done to impress upon the litigant, the jurors and the assembled spectators that the trial of a case is a serious and solemn occasion, is most desirable in these days of wanton disrespect for the law. A robe worn by a trial judge in my opinion, will not only add dignity to the proceedings, but to the wearer of the robe as well. ... Perhaps the levity and the ribald administration that prevails in some courts may be dispelled. ... we should have our Supreme Courts clothed in proper robes, and more important than that, every judge presiding over any court of record should be properly robed."
Grin and bear it, or face contempt
Oct. 1928, at 196: "Wm. J. Buckley presides over a Police Court at Fox Point on Lake Michigan, in Milwaukee County. Among those who were recently hailed before Judge Buckley for violating the speed laws was a certain Elkhorn attorney, who made an eloquent but unconvincing plea. 'Ten Dollars and costs,' said the Judge, grinning. 'I'll pay,' said the attorney, 'but I won't be grinned at.' 'Add $10 for contempt of court,' said the Judge, still grinning. 'I apologize,' said the attorney, 'if you will recall that last $10.' The Judge did so and the attorney went on his way, a sadder, but no doubt wiser man."
Keeping up with the Joneses
Oct. 1928, at 198: "At a recent meeting of the Milwaukee County Board, the salary of the Judge of the Municipal Court was increased from $8,500 to $10,000 per year and that of the Judge of the District Court and seven Judges of the Civil Court from $6,000 to $7,500 per year. The salary of William A. Klatte, Clerk of the Civil Court was raised from $4,000 to $5,000 per year."
'Vinegar don't catch flies'
July 1929, at 147: "Justice Fowler, for many years Circuit Judge, and now Justice of the Supreme Court, gave some valuable advice to lawyers, both young and old:
- "Don't indulge in sarcasm in addressing court or jury, 'Vinegar don't catch flies.'
- "Avoid positive and dictatorial statements. Use Franklin's method of prefacing conclusions with 'it would seem' or 'is it not true' or the like.
- "Treat opposing counsel with courtesy and show of respect. Never charge him with misconduct apart from the instant situation. General incrimination brings discredit to the bar as a whole - attorneys who indulge in it are like 'birds who befoul their own nest.'"
You snooze, you lose
July 1929, at 156: "(From the Capitol Times) Louis A. Brunckhorst, the well known law partner of A.W. Kopp at Platteville, was in the Wisconsin supreme courtroom awaiting his turn to argue a case. While he waited, he sat in a rear seat listening to other cases. There is a heavy, staid atmosphere to that courtroom. Louis, perhaps tired from his journey to Madison, drowsed. His case was called. Louis failed to hear. The court passed along to the next case, then completed its calendar and once more called Louis' case. This time he heard and marched before the bar to argue.
"As he reached the attorney's stand, Chief Justice Marvin B. Rosenberry leaned forward from the justices' bench and with a twinkle in his eyes, said in a low voice, 'Mr. Brunckhorst, you have been indulging in a privilege reserved only for members of this court.'"
Never a shortage of story ideas
July 1929, at 157: "Robert H. Gollmar of Baraboo is the author of a short story entitled 'A Nose for News' which recently appeared in the magazine section of the Sunday Milwaukee Journal. Mr. Gollmar studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin prior to entering the law school." Gollmar would later preside at the trial of Ed Gein in one of Wisconsin's most notorious murder cases and then write a book about it.
No cameras in the hallway
July 1929, at 159: "John F. Kluwin of Oshkosh, during the trial of a case in which he was attorney for the defendant in the Winnebago Municipal Court in April, demolished the camera of a staff photographer who was stationed just outside the courtroom in the corridor of the building waiting to photograph the principals in the trial. Mr. Kluwin defended his action by saying that he was protecting 'from invasion his personal rights and those of his clients.' This incident recalls a similar one which happened 30 years ago, in which Attorney Charles Felker of Oshkosh demolished the camera of a photographer who was attempting to 'shoot' Mrs. Rose Sharpe of Oconto, who was on trial for mayhem."
All in the family
Oct. 1929, at 234: "Barron County claims the unique distinction of being the only county in the state which can claim that two municipal courts therein are presided over by father and son. Judge Clarence C. Coe of Barron presides over the first municipal court, and his son, Laurence S. Coe, presides over the second."
With dignity and justice for all
Oct. 1929, at 233: "A defendant in the civil court in Milwaukee County, before Judge Cordes, when sued by a finance company, told the court that he was unable to make two final payments of $25 each, and interest on a note because of adverse circumstances. He was co-signor on a note when the company loaned $360 to his widowed sister. He had also recently paid a large hospital bill for another sister, and was paying $45 a month alimony. The attorney for the finance company would not listen to his plea for an extension of time, but demanded immediate payment. The extension was refused, even when Judge Cordes pleaded with said attorney to grant it. The judge thereupon wrote his check for $113.47, to cover costs and attorneys' fees and the balance of the debt. 'I know you will pay me back,' he said to the defendant."