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.
May 1942, at 68: At the April 15 annual meeting of the Dane County Bar Association, the evening speaker was introduced as "'Dr. Orloff, an exchange student from Russia.' He described everything in Russia in rosy colors and spoke slightingly about the U.W. and other American institutions, customs, and practices. As he continued to make obnoxious comparisons faces grew blacker, and blood pressure rose around the banquet board. One of the circuit judges present became so angry that he passed up a note to the presiding officer severely criticizing the program committee for selecting such a speaker. At the conclusion of the speech Dr. Orloff excused himself, returning shortly thereafter minus his disguise, in the person of one of Madison's well known citizens. Most of the members were taken in by the hoax, and some of those who left before the conclusion of the address did not learn of it until afterwards."
A call to military service
Feb. 1941, at 40: The following is representative of hundreds of similar entries during the early 1940s. "Richard E. Barrett, of Sheboygan, a first lieutenant in the Military Police Reserve, has been called to active duty, to report at Ft. Custer, Michigan, where he has been assigned to the station personnel of the Sixth Corps Area service command."
Who'll mind the store?
Feb. 1941, at 44: This entry is representative of those attorneys called to service who were partners or solo practitioners. "Howard J. Lowry, Madison, a lieutenant colonel in the infantry reserve, has been ordered to Fort Benning, Ga., by the War Department, for a year's service. Col. Lowry has remained with the Wisconsin National Guard since he enlisted as a private in 1915. He has been practicing in Madison since 1922. During his absence his practice will be taken care of by his partner, Gordon Dawson, who has been associated with him since 1930."
Attorney escapes Gestapo
May 1941, at 110: "Friedrich Roetter of Madison, formerly of Berlin, Germany, was the speaker before the Columbus Olivet Men's Club. Mr. Roetter was one of the most famous attorneys in Berlin. He was picked up by the secret police or German Gestapo and was confined in their detention camp. By patience and Herculean efforts he was able to escape to England with his wife and family and all are now living in Madison."
Magnanimous on 87th birthday
May 1941, at 99: "In celebrating his 87th birthday on March 26, Frank J. Winter entertained the La Crosse County Bar Association and on that occasion presented the gold headed cane, that was given him by the association when he was 75 years old, to one of the members of the association, whom he thought needed it more than he did."
Microfilm reading machine now at U.W. Law Library
Aug. 1941, at 178: "The U.W. Law Library has installed a microfilm reading machine, and has subscribed for films for the cases and briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, beginning with volume 305 U.S. These valuable briefs are thus made available to the legal profession of Wisconsin through the generosity of the regents of the University."
1915 Bar examinee nets perfect rating
Nov. 1941, at 253: "George L. Mensing, 72, died at his home in Milwaukee on Nov. 6. Born in Germany, Mr. Mensing came to this country at the age of 10, and settled in Milwaukee. He attended the German-English academy and later studied law while teaching German in public schools. In 1915 he took the bar examination and made a perfect rating, the only man in the history of the state to do so."
Never too old to build your business
Feb. 1942, at 24: "James A. Stone, Reedsburg, who, at age 85, continues in the active practice of law, has recently been licensed to sell real estate."
The difference between the rule-maker and the doer is ...
Feb. 1941, at 34: "Judge Joseph R. McCarthy of the tenth judicial circuit has streamlined procedure in his circuit by disregarding the statutory terms scheduled for each county. With the cooperation of attorneys in three counties, Judge McCarthy now holds court the year-round in each county. When a case has been started and attorneys agree on the trial date, the judge arranges to hear the case on that date. No adjournments are considered unless the petitioning attorney first pays substantial costs. Litigation is disposed of rapidly and all concerned, including the court, save money."
Mystery surrounds two lives, two deaths
May 1941, at 126: "The bodies of William N. Powers and Margaret A. Powers, his sister, were found in a small shack on the outskirts of Madison. Death was thought to be due to starvation and exposure. Several Madison people identified the couple by other names - John and Mary Heldt, Mr. and Mrs. August Pautz and others, which provided an atmosphere of mystery to the case. Supreme court records show that William N. Powers was admitted to the bar in November 1904. He attended the U.W. Law School in 1902 and 1903 although he never received a degree therefrom. Mr. Powers, it is said, practiced law in Oshkosh for about 15 years, going there about 1910. Papers found in the shanty showed he had at least two cases before the supreme court in 1920-22. ... The Powers family once owned three large farms near Beaver Dam. A series of deaths left the ... properties without a manager and William gave up his law practice ... to take charge of the family affairs at Beaver Dam along with his sister. He possessed no knack of farm management and the Depression added to the handicaps he experienced in farming. As a result the properties were lost and Powers and his sister went to Madison and resided there since then in the shack in which their bodies were found.
Medical expert testimony emerges
Feb. 1941, at 7: Dr. Ralph Sproule, Milwaukee, president of the State Medical Society of Wisconsin, spoke about medical expert testimony at the State Bar regional meetings in Racine and Platteville. He said "the use of skilled medical men to aid in the trial of a case was first recognized in 1345; and the first recorded expert testimony was found in 1620, in a case which involved the question of the paternity of a newborn child. He estimated that ... the physician's contact with the courts has multiplied perhaps a hundred times during the past 25 years; and that physicians testify in perhaps 50% of all lawsuits tried in the courts. The importance of this testimony is more apparent, when it is realized that the amount of the verdict or judgment is frequently controlled or founded upon the scientific evidence of the physician."