Originally published in Wisconsin Lawyer Vol. 76, No.5
To celebrate its 75th anniversary, throughout 2003 the Wisconsin Lawyer will include "From the Archives," a monthly column devoted to lively snippets from past issues. Material is quoted directly and attributed when the contributor is known. More in-depth coverage of the magazine's publishing history will appear in September, as part of the State Bar's 125th anniversary celebration this year.
Prison overcrowding still an issue
April 1932, at 118: "Warden Oscar Lee, of the state prison at Waupun, ... pointed out that there are now 1,793 inmates, though the place was built for a maximum population of 936. He stated that only a small group, not more than 75, are desperate men; that the big problem in the prison is to provide work for the inmates; that every new idea is met with opposition from the outside, on the grounds that it will compete with free labor. ... He advocated the enlargement of the prison printing plant, so that more state printing could be done there, and urged the increased use of the parole system to lighten the prison load."
Woman federal judge holds court in Milwaukee
July 1932, at 176: "The only woman federal judge in this country recently held court in Milwaukee. She is Genevieve R. Cline, judge of the court of customs appeals, Washington. A special session of the court was held at Milwaukee, 65 cases being on the calendar. She heard testimony in 10, 15 were abandoned, and all the others continued or suspended. Judge Cline later held court at Kenosha."
And the fees for representing the innocent poor are ...?
July 1932, at 176: "Circuit Judge Robert S. Cowie of La Crosse has given notice that fees for attorneys appointed to defend indigent litigants shall be in the future $5 a day for case preparation and $15 a day for court presentation, instead of $15 and $25 a day respectively as heretofore. ... Judge Cowie believes that fixing low fees eliminates temptation to guilty poor people of having the court provide a lawyer paid for by taxpayers and gamble on winning suits."
Outagamie Bar provides legal aid
Jan. 1933, at 31: "The Outagamie County Bar Association has worked out a system of legal aid, whereby county residents who are without funds will be given free legal advice and service. A committee ... has been formed to which will be referred all cases reported by relief workers in which the persons are in need of legal aid. Such cases as garnishments, ejectments, mortgage foreclosures, etc. will be the most numerous class referred to this committee."
Assistant attorney general to press claims of Indians
Jan. 1933, at 43: "William J. Kershaw has been appointed assistant attorney general to press claims on behalf of the Indians of Wisconsin. Mr. Kershaw is a lawyer of experience, having practiced in Milwaukee for many years, and his mother was full-blooded Menominee Indian."
Judge's decision results in retribution
Jan. 1933, at 47: "The Beloit City Council voted on Oct. 17, 3 to 2, to discontinue the $1,200 salary the city had been paying to Municipal Judge Chester H. Christensen. This was in addition to the $3,000 salary paid Judge Christensen by the county. The resolution was passed after City Attorney Johnston had expressed the opinion that the resolution was illegal. Brannigan, the city manager, whose conviction for contempt of court was recently sustained by the supreme court, contended that the $1,200 salary paid to Judge Christensen was only a gift. The resolution was presented to the city council shortly after Brannigan's petition for executive clemency in the contempt case was presented to Judge Christensen and his approval refused."
Relinquished salaries help state finances
April 1933, at 77: "At the request of the State Senate, the Secretary of State made a report to it late in January, ... giving the names of state officers and judges who had voluntarily relinquished a portion of their salaries in order to help the state out of some of its financial difficulties. ... [A]ll of the supreme court judges and 20 out of the 28 circuit judges took voluntary salary cuts during the current fiscal year."
Finally, jury service is popular
April 1933, at 90: "Judge A.C. Hoppmann of Madison states that the Depression has at last made jury service popular. Many jurors formerly asked to be excused from serving, but now the rule is reversed and Dane County citizens often make strenuous efforts to be called for jury service."
Foreclosure work is downright dangerous
July 1934, at 184: "At a recent foreclosure sale at Frederic, Wis., Attorney Morris E. Yager was threatened by 200 irate farmers with ducking in the lake or worse, the farmers demanding that he desist from foreclosures until consulting holiday officials. As a result, two foreclosure sales were adjourned for 60 days. It is reported that violent action was feared, that a rope and noose were displayed, and dire threats made."
Bar's first legal clinic to be held in Milwaukee
Oct. 1933, at 202: "Pursuant to the plan of the officers and Board of Governors of the State Bar Association to hold one or more legal clinics of a general nature during the year, the State Bar Association and the Milwaukee Bar Association are cooperating in the holding of the first legal clinic of this nature, announced for Dec. 8 in Milwaukee." The day-long program considered: the cooperation of state and local associations with the ABA to carry out the ABA's nationwide plan; securities law; and the economic aspects of the National Recovery Program.
A judge's dying request
Jan. 1934, at 77: "Judge Aldro Jenks, 79, for 35 years Iowa County judge, and active in Masonic circles for more than 50 years, died at his home in Dodgeville, Jan. 1, after a month's illness. Freedom for 20 juvenile delinquents under his supervision was his dying request."
Depression affects residual legatees of wills
April 1932, at 102: Racine County Judge J. Allan Simpson reported that the substantial depreciation of property caused by the Depression is seriously affecting the administration of wills. In many instances, "the real intentions of testators are being frustrated to a large extent by this depreciation in values; that many wills provide for a series of specific bequests and then leave the residue usually to the widow and children or to other people whom the testator wishes primarily to remember in the distribution of his property, with the result that the loss caused by the depreciation falls entirely upon the shoulders of the residuary legatees. He suggested that it is the civic duty of the Bar to call this state of affairs to the attention of the people, to the end that those who have made wills of this type should reconsider them and decide whether ... the wills so made still express the true intent of the testators as to the disposition of their property."
ABA radio series has public focus
Jan. 1933, at 11: A series of radio addresses, sponsored by the ABA, were given over the Columbia network once a week on Sundays beginning on Feb. 12, 1933. They were heard by Wisconsinites over stations WBBM, Chicago; WTAQ, Eau Claire; WKBH, La Crosse; WISN, Milwaukee; and WCCO, Minneapolis.
The series of 15 broadcasts educated the public about what lawyers as a group were doing to improve the functioning of law in society and to render better service to the public; sought the public's cooperation in putting through measures to improve the administration of justice and make it more easily available to the average citizen; and emphasized the necessity of high standards for admission to the bar, of efficient bar examination systems, and of adequate machinery for discipline and disbarment. The series also discussed the growth of the judicial council movement and the necessity to improve methods of choosing judicial officers.