Olin B. Lewis (1861 – 1936)

Judge Olin Lewis

Olin Bailey Lewis was born on March 12, 1861 in Weyauwega, Wisconsin. He graduated from Omro High School in 1879 and entered the University of Wisconsin the same year.  He taught school to support himself during this time, including as a chemistry instructor at the University. During this time he also married Della Barnett in 1885, and they eventually had one son and two daughters. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1889. After being admitted to the bar he came to St. Paul and formed a law partnership with Oscar Hallam

Lewis was nominated and elected to the St. Paul City Council in 1894. In this capacity he formally represented the city at the launching of the ocean liner “St. Paul.”  In 1896 he was also a member of what became known as the “retrenchment committee,” which was committed to reducing government expenditures and revaluing the City’s real property.  The movement ultimately reduced the valuation of property of St. Paul by $30,000,000.  Lewis was nominated for a Ramsey County District Judgeship in 1896, and was elected that same year.  Under Lewis’s direction as senior judge, the Ramsey Judicial District likewise gained a widespread reputation for docket efficiency, but Lewis’s page on history is not for his efforts to reduce government expense.  His most notable case as a judge was the double murder trials of Gottschalk and Williams, wherein both were sentenced to hang.  Gottschalk committed suicide before his execution, but Williams’ execution was the botched hanging which ultimately led to Minnesota ending capital punishment.

Judge Lewis retired in 1929. He had been ill and applied to the governor for this retirement with a note from his doctor. He stated in his application that he had “become incapacitated physically from performing the duties of my office.”  The doctor’s note also indicated that Lewis suffered a stroke the previous November, leaving him brain damaged and his left arm and leg paralyzed.  Judge Olin Lewis died on March 28, 1936.

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Other Sources:

“The Bench and Bar of Saint Paul” p. 34-36, (1897).  http://www.minnesotalegalhistoryproject.org/assets/St.%20P%20B&B%20(1897).pdf

J.D. Bessler, Legacy of Violence: Lynch Mobs and Execution in Minnesota, p. 141-160 (2003).

E.V. Smalley, A History of the Republican Party from its Organization to the Present Time to Which is Added a Political History of Minnesota from a Republican Point of View and Biographical Sketches of Leading Minnesota Republicans, p. 276-277, E.V. Smalley  (1986).

Olin B. Lewis, Judge Here for 30 Years, Dies.  St. Paul Dispatch, March 28, 1936.

 

So You’re NOT a Kid…Or Are You?

teenaged girlThe same legal issues that snag adults can just as easily snag minors.  But answers and solutions might be different simply because of the age factor.   If you are an adult seeking expungment of a criminal record, being a minor at the time of the offense could bear on the expungment remedy available.  Working a job when you are a minor has special limitations and caveats.   You might earn a paycheck, but your tax obligations may boil down to whether or not someone else claims you as a dependent.

In Minnesota you are an adult if you are eighteen years old,  but where do you stand if you are under 18 and on your own?  For instance, do you always need parental consent for medical treatment?  If you are living on your own you may be able to consent to your own treatments.  If you have been married or have given birth, you may also consent to treatments for you or for that of your minor child, plus you are responsible for the payments of such.   See this brochure from www.mncasa.org for more information about minors and medical treatments.

Are you are a minor but don’t want to (or cannot safely) stay with your parents?  You may have other options.  Are your parents willing to let someone else take on the authority of being your parent?  A Delegation of Parental Authority might be the answer.  If you feel you have been abused, you may file for an Order of Protection.  If you believe the circumstances are such that you feel you should be able to live independently and make your own decisions, see about emancipation.

If you are a minor and have run away from home, can your parents force you to come back?  Probably, because you can’t legally live away from home except in cases of consent, marriage, enlistment, or having a court order to do so.  You might also consider the online resources available through the Children’s Law Center.  Even though their mission is providing legal representation to foster children, wards of the state, or kids who have been removed from their homes, their publications are a great place to start.  For instance, their Resources for Youth Experiencing Homelessness is a comprehensive list of organizations that can offer assistance to homeless youth. For legal information, also consider the huge Homeless Youth Handbook with its extensive coverage of numerous issues.

If you still have questions consider consulting a lawyer.

 

Voter Disenfranchisment?

Voter registration card

Wisconsin, North Dakota, Texas and North Carolina all had voter fraud laws struck down recently by various federal courts.  In each case, the state law in question was found to disenfranchise nonwhite voters. North Carolina was the leader of this pack, with laws that the Court found to be tailored with “surgical precision” to disenfranchise black voters. All of these cases come a mere 3 years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down essential parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in  Shelby County v. Holder.  In that case, the Supreme Court determined that the Act’s more “extraordinary measures” and “disparate treatment of the states” were no longer necessary tools to combat voter discrimination.  Previously the Act had required that states identified with a history of discrimination obtain approval from the federal government before they could make changes to their election laws that might restrict voting rights.  Looking at the named four states, only parts of North Carolina had been specifically targeted by the 1965 Act.  But with the exception of Texas, the offending laws for each of these states had been enacted shortly after the Supreme Court’s Shelby County ruling.

Minnesota enjoys high voter participation, likely the result of such voter-friendly tools as same-day and online registration However, Minnesota’s voter registration has not always been completely inclusive.  The word ”white” remained in the Minnesota statutory requirements for voter registration until 1868, and Minnesota only ratified the 15th Amendment in 1870.   Even today, Minnesota’s big voter disqualifier remains the ineligibility of felons to vote until their civil rights have been completely restored, including (sometimes lengthy) time spent on probation or parole. It can be argued that the effect of felon disenfranchisement is disproportionately race-skewed, and some might say intentionally so, given that many such laws were enacted shortly after the Civil War.

If you would like to learn more about the history and application of the Voting Rights Act, consider reading The Most Fundamental Right: Contrasting Perspectives on the Voting Rights Act edited by Daniel McCool.  It is available here in the law library.  If you would like to hear more about voter eligibility and registration in early Minnesota, be sure to attend our program this September 26, wherein Dr. William Green will present ”Civil Rights in Minnesota: The Early Years.”

 

Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines

Courtroom 052

Be aware that today the 2016 Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines (MSG) go into effect.  Now if you or a client have recently been charged with a felony, you probably don’t need to worry about these new updated Guidelines.  As explained on the front page, the Guidelines only apply to “felonies committed on or after the effective date,” so the 2015 Guidelines would still apply to you.  These are still available in the Guidelines  archive, along with all of the other old Guidelines going back to the original 1980 version.

The most notable change to the 2016 Guidelines pertains to drug offenses, essentially reducing penalties and enhancing treatment options for first-time offenders of small quantities.  These changes were made as part of the goal of the Commission to send more addicts to treatment and reduce the state’s prison population.  The Guidelines Commission adopted changes to reduce sentences for first-time offenders, and allow judges and prosecutors to use mitigating factors to reduce sentences for people with addiction issues.  The commission added new aggravating factors, including selling drugs to a minor  or selling drugs in a broad geographic area.  Reflecting these changes is the incorporation of a whole new sentencing grid for drug offenders.

The Guidelines still allow judges much discretion in sentencing due to its use of mitigating factors, aggravating factors, and suggested sentencing ranges.  They also allow judges additional flexibility to make departures from recommended sentences based on various factors, for which the judge must submit a departure report.  Earlier this summer Ramsey District Court Judge Judith Tilsen gave a thoughtful interview for Minnesota Public Radio about a judge’s role in determining sentences, including application of the MSG grids.

When they first came about in 1980, the MSG were a groundbreaking tool.  The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission was established by the Minnesota Legislature in 1978 with the task of eliminate gross disparities that might be related to race, income levels, or the judge who issued your sentence.   Minnesota went on to become the first jurisdiction to implement state-wide sentencing guidelines drafted by a sentencing commission.   Since their adoption, federal government has since adopted such guidelines and 19 states have also followed.

 

 

Charles C. Haupt (1854-1922)

Judge Charles C. Haupt

Charles C. Haupt was born on February 10 1854 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. His family moved to Michigan when he was ten. He attended the Franklin Marshall College in Pennsylvania and later “studied law” with S.C. Coffinberry at Constantine, Michigan. He was admitted to practice in Michigan shortly thereafter.  After he moved to Minnesota in 1882 he was admitted to practice here, settling first in Wilmar and later in Fergus Falls. He married Ida Trenchard of St. Paul in October of 1884, and their daughter Mary was born in 1888. He continued to practice law in Fergus Falls until 1902 when he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as U.S. District Attorney for Minnesota, at which time he and his family moved to St. Paul.  According to an editorial published in the St. Paul Globe, Haupt was supported by Senator Moses E. Clapp in order to avoid the controversy of choosing between a candidate from either Hennepin or Ramsey County.

Minnesota Governor Burnquist signed legislation creating additional judgeships for the Ramsey County judiciary in 1917, and Haupt was appointed to the Ramsey County District bench in May of that year.  He was subsequently elected to that position in November of 1918. He was actively serving on the bench when he died on December 1, 1922. According to a Pioneer Press article from the next day, he was the judge in charge of multiple cases of taxpayers seeking assessment reductions.  He had been working on his decision when he was suddenly struck ill and died shortly thereafter.  It was predicted that his death would require retrial of twenty Ramsey County tax cases.  He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Maplewood, MN.

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Sources:

“Bar to Honor Judge Haupt,” Pioneer Press Saturday December 2, 1922.

“Did Him No Good:  Senator Clapp’s Support of C.C. Haupt Not Considered Wise Move,” St. Paul Globe April 28, 1902

History of the Bench and Bar of Minnesota, “Charles C. Haupt” p. 126 Hiram F. Stevens

“Many New Laws on the Statutes,” Warren Sheaf. (Warren, Marshal County, Minn.) April 25, 1917

United States Federal Census 1900 (Accessed via Ancestry.com)

 

 

Dr. Green books and announcementThe Ramsey County Law Library would like to announce that we will be celebrating our 80th Anniversary this fall. To mark both this occasion and the completed restoration of the judicial portrait collection, we will be presenting a day of festivities on Monday, September 26, 2016. The focal point of this day will be a special CLE presentation by Augsburg professor Dr. William Green, “Civil Rights in Minnesota: The Early Years.” You may be familiar with Dr. Green’s books, Degrees of Freedom: The Origins of Civil Rights in Minnesota, 1865-1912 and A Peculiar Imbalance: The Fall and Rise of Racial Equality in Early Minnesota (both available in our library for checkout). Dr. Green’s noontime presentation will be open to the public and is co-sponsored by the Ramsey County Bar Association (RCBA).  Go to their website to read all the details and preregister.

Following Dr. Green’s presentation we will host an open house with refreshments, tours, and a brief program on the judicial portrait collection.  You will recall that Phase II of the portrait collection restoration through Minnesota Legacy Grant funds was completed this year. (Phase I was completed in 2013.)  So plan on joining us for this celebratory event!

 

Wiping a Criminal Record Clean

cleaning a mirrorA pardon might be the closest thing Minnesota law offers to a “magic wand” to clean up a criminal record. This extraordinary remedy is not the same as expungement, which is the sealing of criminal records which can then be unsealed by court order.  A pardon means that one never has to disclose this prior conviction in any situation other than in a judicial proceeding or as part of a licensing process for peace officers. See MN Statute 638.02 subdivision 2 (2).

There are two types of pardon: The absolute pardon and the pardon extraordinary. The first is a forgiveness that exempts a convicted person from serving their sentence.  (A commutation, in comparison, substitutes a lesser sentence for the one originally imposed.)  The pardon extraordinary is for those past their convictions and sentences, and essentially sets aside and nullifies the past conviction. (See MN Statute 638.02 subdivision 2 (2).)   The pardoned person thereinafter will never be required disclose the conviction at any time or place other than per the exceptions noted above.

Pardon is indeed an extraordinary remedy and relatively rare. In order to get an offense pardoned, you must convince the legal trinity of the governor, attorney general, and chief justice of the supreme court that you deserve one.  That does not a majority of them, but all three. (You can see from last month’s pardon voting record that this is a very tough audience.) Plus, the very makeup of this group makes it obvious that there is little recourse for an appeal.  One can apply for a rehearing, however, if there are new substantiated facts not previously considered in the prior hearing.  Pardons were examined in a recent issue of Minnesota Lawyer, because The Minnesota Board of Pardons heard 18 applications for pardons last month, and granted six of them. To consider how stringent the threshold is, 0ne woman was apparently denied a pardon after she appeared to laugh off speeding offenses on her record.

If you decide to seek the pardon extraordinary for a past conviction, take care to make sure you are eligible.  You will want to ecome familiar with the statute and the administrative rules as well as look at the Board of Pardon’s webpage. Before you even think about a form, call for a brief interview with a representative to determine your eligibility. From there, if the Secretary of the Board of Pardons decides that you meet the qualifications, the official application will be sent to you.  And finally, you will be well advised to work with an attorney in pursuing this powerful remedy.

 

Bernard Comes Down to Breath vs. Blood

Man driving vehicleLast week the 8-member U.S. Supreme Court released its opinion in the much-watched Birchfield v. North Dakota, which the Court heard in a consolidation with two other cases, including Minnesota’s own Bernard v. Minnesota. Remember that Bernard started as a 2012 police encounter on the river bank in Dakota County wherein the intoxicated-appearing defendant refused the breathalyzer test.   It is significant because of Minnesota’s implied consent statute criminalizes the refusal to take a DWI test (instead of mere grounds for license revocation).  (Minnesota adopted this more punitive law in 1989.  See 1989 Minnesota Laws, Ch. 290, Art 10.) Minnesota’s statute also states that one who drives in the state consents to chemical testing of breath, blood, or urine.

In its opinion, the Court (Justice Alito and four of his colleagues) held that the breathalyzer was not an intrusive test, and therefore its administration can be part of a legitimate search incident to a lawful arrest.  The Court drew the line at blood tests, holding that they were too invasive to be part of a lawful search incident to a lawful arrest, and thus required a warrant. So, Minnesota’s implied consent statute still stands, at least as far a breath testing as concerned. Three of the justices disagreed that there was a difference in blood and breath tests for Fourth Amendment purposes.  Justice Sotomayor (joined by Justice Ginsburg) dissented, pointing out that most breath tests in Minnesota are performed about 45 minutes after a person is detained, with plenty of time to get a warrant. Arguing the reverse, Justice Thomas’ dissent objected to “splitting hairs” between breath tests and blood tests, proposing that neither tests require warrants.  The Court did not analyze the constitutionality of testing urine in this context, which one might guess falls somewhere between breath and blood in the Court’s Birchfield analysis.

So what does this ruling mean for Minnesota and other states?  Expect to continue seeing this gadget in the criminal justice arena, despite challenges to its accuracy and effectiveness.

(Legal history buffs who enjoy this blog should read the Birchfield opinion for the information treats provided by the Court.  For instance, the opinion in State v. Noble (1926), 119 Ore. 674, 250 P. 833 is from an early case analyzing early drunk driving laws on Oregon.)

 

Elderly womanMost of us missed the fact that World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was last week.  And when it comes to elder abuse, financial abuse is the most common and fastest-growing form of it.  Whether it’s because they’ve accumulated more assets than other age groups, or perhaps it’s simply because our population is getting older, financial crimes against the elderly continue to grow at an alarming rate.   Victims might hesitate to report crimes due to embarrassment of not remembering something, or the desire to not be seen as a vulnerable adult. But one big reason for not reporting relates to the perpetrators.  The biggest category of financial abusers is not unscrupulous financial advisors, nor is it phony mail offer schemes or shady home contractors.  For many such seniors, the financial abuse is coming from a relative or loved one.  (Similarly, read this list of the top ten scams that target seniors, with special attention to the closely-related ”grandparent scam.”)

There are some state-specific resources to help, including the Minnesota Elder Justice Center, and a statewide elder abuse reporting hotline – (844) 880-1574.  There are also the Seniors Legal Rights handbook and the Seniors Guide to Fighting Fraud from the Minnesota Attorney General’s office.   Federal resources include Money Smart for Older Adults from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where you can also submit a complaint.  There are tools to help prevent seniors from falling victim to fraud such as trusts and powers of attorney, but the simplest might be to keep seniors connected in family and social loops.  Seniors who aren’t isolated are less vulnerable to scams, and their friends and relatives can tell if something in granny’s life that seems off, such as a sudden and new “best friend” or “handyman.”  If you suspect you or another senior has been financially scammed, Minnesota’s Vulnerable Adult Act spells out how to report incidents of elder abuse, including financial exploitation.  The Minnesota Attorney General also urges you to submit a fraud report.

 

John William Graff (1903-1977)

Judge John William Graff

Judge John W. Graff

John William Graff was born in 1903 at New Ulm, Minnesota. He received his B.A. degree from the College of St. Thomas in 1925 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1930. In 1936 he received a doctorate of jurisprudence from Georgetown University. He  in 1934. He practiced law in New Ulm until 1934, when he married his high school sweetheart Thelma Rinke and joined the Agricultural Adjustment Administration.  In 1939 he became assistant U.S. District Attorney. In 1948 he was appointed U.S. District Attorney for Minnesota by President Harry Truman, where he served for a little over a year. He then practiced with the St. Paul law firm of Hoffman and Donahue, which later became Graff, Schultz & Springer.  until he was named to the Ramsey County District Bench.

Graff was appointed to the Ramsey County District Bench on May 5, 1949 by Governor Orville Freeman, succeeding the late Judge Carlton F. McNally.  Graff served 15 years on the Ramsey County District Court Bench, and was Chief Judge when he retired from the bench on May 5, 1974. He stayed on as a “senior judge” until he was stricken with illness shortly before his passing.

John W. Graff died on April 28, 1977 at the age of 73. He was survived by wife Thelma and their three daughters, Teresa, Joan, and Constance.

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Sources:

“Hon. John W. Graff” obituary, The Bench and Bar of Minnesota, July 1977 p. 80

“Thelma Graff” obituary, Saint Paul Pioneer Press, June 16, 2004

(NOTE:  Information sources for the life of Judge John W. Graff were surprisingly scarce.  Please feel free to share any memories or information you might have on his life and career.)