In the most recent issue of the Ramsey County History magazine, Ramsey County Chief Judge John H. Guthmann’s piece on Clara Anderson is one of the featured articles. In this well-researched article, he describes the circumstances that led up to Ms. Anderson’s case, clearly explains the legal arguments that supported her case, and then outlines the changes to the law after she lost her final appeal in the Minnesota Supreme Court in the late spring of 1948.

Long-time readers might remember this bit of Ramsey County history from a previous blog post, but here is a quick reminder of who was Clara Anderson, and why her case is so interesting. Ms. Anderson started as a waitress at the Frederic Hotel in St. Paul, MN in 1936. In 1940, she changed jobs, and was then identified as a bartender at the same hotel. Her salary increased dramatically; as a waitress she received $45 a month (plus tips), but as a bartender, her pay increased to $200, with her room, board, and meals included.

When World War II ended and men came back from the war, they found that many of the jobs at home were being performed by women. Bartender unions, many with “male-only” membership requirements, pressured governments across the county to ban women from the lucrative bartending positions so that their male members could step into these jobs. The St. Paul City Council, with the strong encouragement of the St. Paul’s Bartender Union Local 287, passed Ordinance 8604 which prevented women (except for the owner’s wife) from tending the bar.  Understandably upset at the prospect of losing her job, Ms. Anderson sued the City of St. Paul.

We encourage you to read Judge Guthmann’s article to find out more about the case, and what happened afterwards. (Hint – eventually, St. Paul amended Ordinance 8604 in 1970.) In addition to the excellent research, the article has many pictures showing pictures of the judges, attorneys, and parties in the case, as well photos of historical downtown St. Paul. And a small plug for the law library: There is nice picture of Judge Carlton McNally, who was the first judge to weigh in on Ms. Anderson’s case. The portrait is part of the Ramsey County Law Library’s Judicial Portrait collection.

 

March is Women’s History Month

Her Honor

 

 

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution which legalized a woman’s right to vote.  In Minnesota, 1922 was the first year that women could run for office in the Minnesota legislature, and four of the eight women candidates who ran for office won.  In the book Her Honor:  Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement author Lori Sturdevant provides intriguing and interesting facts about the twentieth century women’s movement in Minnesota:

  • The Minnesota Women’s Suffrage Association agitated for the full enfranchisement of women for forty years before achieving success.  The organization morphed into the Minnesota League of Women Voters.
  • Cornelia “Coya” Gjesdal Knutson—12 years Rosalie’s senior—was born on a farm in North Dakota.  Despite family struggles, she rose to political significance by financing her own campaign for election to the U.S. Congress, which she won in 1954, becoming the first woman in Minnesota to do so.  Sadly, her 1958 re-election bid failed due to false statements made about her family life and troubled marriage—attributed to her DFL colleagues and husband.  Coya Knutson was a victim of the inherent sexism of her time.
  • Rosalie Wahl went to law school by financing her own way; her family was well-established by then, and yet she gave birth to a fifth child while in law school.  Overcoming many obstacles, defeats, and triumphs, Rosalie became the first woman justice appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1977.  Her appointment came amidst Minnesota’s politically active feminists maneuvering for political office.
  • After her appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court, Justice Wahl “viewed her role as helping her colleagues see justice from the bottom up—that is, from the vantage not only of women, but also of disadvantaged people of all kinds, including those accused of serious crimes.”  In 1987, the “Minnesota Supreme Court Task Force for Gender Fairness in the Courts” was established; it was headed by Justice Wahl.
  • Justice Wahl retired from the supreme court on August 31, 1994.  She involved herself in community service, including leadership training for young women.  She lived to see more women take on leadership roles in Minnesota: Kathleen Blatz was elevated to first woman Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court; Amy Klobuchar was elected Minnesota’s first woman U.S. Senator; and DFLer Betty McCollum was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since voters sent representative Coya Knutson home in 1958.

Her Honor:  Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement is available for check-out from the Ramsey County Law Library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diversity in the Bar Association: Then and Now

This photo of the bench and bar of Ramsey County from 1958 was donated to the Law Library by Tom  Boyd.

This photo of the bench and bar of Ramsey County from 1958 was donated to the Law Library by Tom Boyd.

On Monday, September 24, the Ramsey County Law Library and the Ramsey County Bar Association sponsored a CLE entitled Diversity in the Bar Association:  Then and Now.  The CLE featured four speakers: Thomas Boyd, Winthrop and Weinstine, PA;  Emeritus Professor Douglas Heidenreich, Mitchell Hamline College of Law; Paul Nelson, attorney, historian, and author; and Honorable Nicole Star, Second Judicial District.  Preregistration for the program indicated about 20 for this session, but many spur-of-the-moment attendees filled the north reading room.

The program started with Tom Boyd presenting to the law library a photograph of the membership of the Bench and Bar of Ramsey County from 1958.  The photograph was received by John Trojack, Chair of the Law Library Board of Trustees.

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Mr. Boyd then went on to give a brief overview of diversity (and the lack thereof) in the early years of the Bar Association.

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He was followed by Professor Heidenreich, who described how discrimination within the bar association started in the law schools.

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Professor Heidenreich was followed by Mr. Nelson, who continued with brief biographies of four well-known African American attorneys in the early years of Minnesota. Frederick McGheeCharles Scrutchin, William R. Morris, and James Anderson.  (Note of interest, Mr. Nelson is the author of a book about Frederick McGhee, and if you would like to read it, both the Ramsey County Law Library and the Minnesota State Law Library have copies.)

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The session concluded with Judge Starr speaking about her experiences, and she referenced the MSBA Diversity Strategic Plan as a resource for identifying ways to increase diversity and inclusiveness.

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For a better look at the photo of the Bench and Bar presented by Tom Boyd, please visit the Ramsey County Law Library.

 

Courthouse

As President Trump interviews his short list of U. S. Supreme Court candidates, various media outlets inundate us with the political overtones and sneak previews of who might be nominated.  The notoriety and long-term significance of a Supreme Court Justice are historic in American government. Even George Washington, in his 1789 letter to John Jay (the first Chief Justice) stated “It is with singular pleasure that I address you as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, for which your commission is enclosed….and I have a full confidence that the love which you bear to our country, and a desire to promote the general happiness, will not suffer you to hesitate a moment to bring into action the talents, knowledge and integrity which are so necessary to be exercised at the head of that department which must be considered as the keystone of our political fabric.”

Minnesota has the distinction of having sent three notable men to the U.S. Supreme Court.  They are Pierce Butler (1923-1939), Warren Burger (1969-1986) and Harry Blackmun (1970-1994).  These three Justices also had ties to St. Paul and Ramsey County, according to  For the Record: 150 Years of Law & Lawyers in Minnesota (Minnesota State Bar Association, 1999):

Pierce Butler—although he was born in Dakota County, he moved in 1887 to St. Paul and joined a law firm before being elected Ramsey County attorney in 1893 and 1895.  He maintained a private practice in the law firm Butler, Mitchell, & Doherty. President Warren Harding nominated Butler to the Supreme Court in 1923.

Warren Burger—born in St. Paul, Burger attended the St. Paul College of Law and was admitted to the bar in 1931. He joined the St. Paul law firm of Boyesen, Otis, Brill & Faricy.  He was later appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals.  In 1969 Richard Nixon nominated Burger to replace Chief Justice Earl Warren.

Harry Blackmun—Blackmun graduated from St. Paul’s Mechanic Arts High School and then attended Harvard.  In 1932 his first job out of law school was with Judge John Sanborn at the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals; Sanborn had been a Ramsey County judge in the early 1920s. Blackmun also served as an adjunct professor at the St. Paul College of Law.  President Richard Nixon nominated Blackmun to the Supreme Court in 1970.

 

 

Testimony: Remembering Minnesota's Supreme Court JusticesThe beginnings of Minnesota’s judicial system could hardly be more humble. In fact, its central player was anything but a respected legal figure.

Minnesota was established as a territory in 1849.  Prior to that time there were local justices of the peace in the area, who likely thought they handled local justice needs just fine, thank you.  But the day Minnesota’s territory status became official, President Zachary Taylor appointed David Cooper and Bradley Meeker as justices to the territorial supreme court, and Aaron Goodrich as its chief justice.  Goodrich’s selection was probably a return favor for the campaigning Goodrich had done to get Taylor elected.  Goodrich was a native of New York who later moved to Tennessee.  He likely would never have studied law, but the failure of his family’s bank in 1838 probably motivated him to complete his legal studies while in Tennessee.  He was one of the last members of the Whig Party, and was serving in the Tennessee Legislature when he was appointed to Minnesota’s territorial supreme court.

This ad hoc bench of three justices was predictably informal.  Minnesota territory had been split into three judicial districts, and each of the three justices served as the district judge for one of the districts.  Then, the three together would make up the higher court.  Goodrich presided over Minnesota’s first, or Stillwater district, with St. Paul’s Mazurka Hall serving as the “courthouse.”   This building left much to be desired, as litigants once needed umbrellas due to failure of the leaky roof to keep out a rainstorm.  Apparently Goodrich was also known to nurse a glass of liquor and a wad of tobacco as he presided over his court.  Meanwhile, American House in Saint Paul would serve as the first “judicial center” for the territorial supreme court, but the second and third terms were moved to the local Methodist Episcopal Church. (This interesting article about Goodrich reported that the local gossip was that Goodrich’s relationship with the landlady of American house was more than just business.)

Goodrich himself accomplished little to establish himself as a popular legal figure.  To start, he had been tasked by a commission to prepare a system of codified law for Minnesota, but he was not a fan of either law’s codification or its strict application. (Read his dissent in Dosnoyer v. Hereux 1 Minn. 17 (1950) to understand his frame of mind.)  The result was a loose collection of provisions, one stating that questions not otherwise answered in his written compilation should be resolved by the “ancient statutes.” There was also a general dissatisfaction with him among locals, and subsequent lobbying to have him removed.  Even territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey believed that Goodrich possessed “utter incapacity for his place.”   President Fillmore assumed the presidency in upon the death of Taylor in 1850, and removed Goodrich for what he referred to as his “incompetency and unfitness.”  Goodrich practiced law after his removal, but his most notable client, Souix Indian “Zu-ai-za,” would be convicted of murder and hanged in Minnesota’s first official execution.  He made few friends when he later wrote a book attacking the character and motives of popular historical explorer Christopher Columbus.  Goodrich was also a charter member of the Minnesota Historical Society, however, and one of the founders of Minnesota’s Republican party.

The fact that we expect a certain competence and decorum from our judicial officers may be more than just a craving for fancy formality.  It may have been partly the result of the relatively poor impression made by Minnesota’s first chief justice.  To learn more of this piece of Minnesota history, consider checking out Testimony: Remembering Minnesota’s Supreme Court Justices, written and published by the Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society.  Meanwhile you can read this excellent William Mitchel Law Review article.

 

 

 
Minnesota Capitol from Ramsey County Law Library

The Minnesota Capitol is visible from the law library

Last weekend the Minnesota Capitol hosted its open house to celebrate its recent extensive renovation and remodel project yet some might be surprised that the 112 year old building is actually Minnesota’s third capitol.  The history and timeframe of Minnesota’s capitols has some interesting parallels to the history of the Ramsey County courthouses. Each has had three buildings, with the present ones standing apart from the rest for their architectural significance and their longetivity. Similarly, their second buildings are both noteworthy for their short lifespans due to dissatisfaction of their users.  You might recall that Minnesota’s original capitol burned to the ground in 1881.  Built in 1854, it had become a patchwork of expansions by the end of its 27-year life.  The second capitol is the one probably most forgotten, for it served in its original capacity for a rather short time. Indeed, the state began planning the third capital in 1893, only ten years after the second one was dedicated.  The third-and-present capitol was completed and occupied in 1905, leaving the second vacated after just 22 years.  Ironically, this second building served another thirty-plus years as meeting space, storage, and parking until its demolition in 1937. This story of short-lived usefulness is similar to the second Ramsey County courthouse, which at least managed to serve its original function for 43 years before it was replaced and demolished.

Why such a short lifetime for a state capitol?  Granted, it had been hastily built, what with the need to replace what had been lost in the fire. The budget for the new capitol was also very lean and strict, with a misdemeanor penalty for exceeding the budget. (Never mind whether or not the finished project would last through the next generation.) Apparently, it was the faulty ventilation that led the push to replace this nearly-new building so shortly after its construction.  It was also postulated that the second capitol was insufficient in that it was little more than a “glorified county courthouse,” and inadequate to represent the grand state that many Minnesotans felt their state was becoming. (Decide for yourself if the capitol then looked like the county courthouse  located down the street.)

Minnesota’s trial-and-error history of building a capitol that could function and inspire through the ages is all the more reason to celebrate this recent renovation project.  If you missed the festivities, you can always take a tour or check out the excellent restoration photos.  Alternatively, track down the new book Our Minnesota State Capitol by Denis P. Gardner.

 
The very beginnings of the courthouse! (Courtesy of the MN Historical Society)

The very beginnings of the courthouse! (Courtesy of the MN Historical Society)

You may not have time to visit a museum during your workday, but courthouse employees are often delighted to discover the what lies on the other floors of the building.  We welcome these resident visitors to the law library, where they can appreciate historical and architectural details here, as well as the fantastic judge portrait collection.   Stunning though the library space is, however, it is only the frosting on the cake of this this historic architectural confection.  Indeed, for those who have never visited, entering the courthouse itself can feel like stepping onto a vintage movie set.  This is why a formal tour is probably the best way to discover some of the lesser-known details of this building, and can easily be arranged by contacting the Ramsey County Historical Society.

The tour includes information on the historical beginnings of the courthouse.  This present-day courthouse basically resulted from a general dissatisfaction with the previous courthouse, which was dedicated in 1889.  Perhaps local leaders felt slightly embarrassed when a grand jury remarked in 1925 that the then-36-year-old courthouse was “antiquated, inconvenient, and an architectural mistake.” Surely the pressure was then on to build something not only beautiful for the community, but also something functional and timeless for future generations.  After much planning and construction, the final result was our current courthouse, which was dedicated on November 21, 1932. (See this write-up of the festivities held that day.)  Indeed this building has survived well beyond its novelty stage, as it was inducted into the National Register of Historical Places in 1983.  (See also the original nomination form.)

What often gets overlooked in the courthouse is the impressive list of artistic masters showcased here.  To start, the building was designed by Holabird & Root of Chicago and Thomas Ellerbe & Co. of St. Paul.  Holabird and Root were masters then of what we call art deco, the style famous for sleekness of form and simplicity of ornament.  The actual construction was performed by Foley Brothers, Inc. of St. Paul.  The most obvious and familiar of the art installations is the onyx Indian God of Peace by Carl Milles, but fewer people may know that the actual hands-on carving was done by local St. Paul stonecutter John Garatti and his crew.  The exterior stone decorations are the work of Lee Lawrie, who was the most successful American architectural sculptor of his time.  (See this fantastic article about his work.)  There are also the six bronze elevator doors which were made by Albert Stewart.  The city council chambers feature murals which were painted by John W. Norton.  For quick reference see this handy brochure of the artistic features throughout the courthouse and the people behind them.

Unfortunately, these walls can’t talk, so sign up for a tour to hear what they would tell you if they could!

 

For Women’s History Month, let’s consider an oddly sexist chapter in our local past. As this blog has pointed out before, our state and community have not always been so progressive and forward-thinking as we may like to think.  In this particular chapter, the St. Paul City Council had passed Ordinance No. 8604 back in 1945*, which prohibited women (except licensees, wives, or managers if the licensee was serving in the military) from working as bartenders.  (One can only speculate as to the council’s motives, but V-E Day had been declared only three days earlier.)  Clara Anderson had worked as a bartender at the Frederic Hotel in St. Paul for nine years, but was barred from continuing due to this ordinance.  Ramsey District Court Judge Carlton McNally denied her request for a temporary injunction to delay operation of the ordinance, which Ms. Anderson claimed was unconstitutionally discriminatory.  In the resulting case of Anderson v. City of St. Paul et al., the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the ordinance in a tight 4-3 decision The Court noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had previously held that selling intoxicating liquor for beverage purposes was not a right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.  But it also applied the standard Fourteenth Amendment equal protection litmus test for discrimination, holding that the council need only meet the standard of having a “rational basis” in making its gender-based distinction, and that it had so met this need.

This case illustrates an earlier interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment and its equal protection clause where gender is concerned. The U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t establish a heightened scrutiny standard against gender discrimination until Craig v. Boren, wherein the Court struck down an Oklahoma statute allowing 18 year-old women to purchase 3.2 beer, but not 18 year-old men.  Offending Ordinance No. 8604 has since been stricken from the books, for St. Paul Ordinance Sec. 183.01 now declares that “…[t]he public policy of Saint Paul is to foster equal opportunity for all to obtain employment, education, real property, public accommodations, public services, contract and franchise without regard to their race, creed, religion, sex, sexual or affectional orientation, color, national origin, ancestry, familial status, age, disability, marital status or status with regard to public assistance, and strictly in accord with their individual merits as human beings.”

Attorney Don Lewis

Attorney Don Lewis

The American Bar Association has designated “The Fourteenth Amendment: Transforming American Democracy” as this year’s Law Day theme.  At this time we are pleased to announce that our own Law Day CLE event will take place on May 4 at 3:00 PM here in the Court House in partnership with the Ramsey County Bar Association (RCBA)We are extra-pleased to announce that Minneapolis attorney Don Lewis will speak on Equal Protection of the Laws: The Journey from Jim Crow to Gay Marriage.  Mr. Lewis is no stranger to the Second Judicial District, having grown up in St. Paul and recently serving as a special prosecutor for the Ramsey County Attorney’s office.  Visit the RCBA website for more information, then mark your calendars for this engaging event!

 

*Updated May 2020:  the St. Paul City Council amended the St. Paul Legislative Code in June of 1970 and removed the provision that prohibited women from working as bartenders.  For more information about Clara Anderson’s case, see the article written by Judge John Guthmann, Clara Anderson v. City of St. Paul: A Woman’s Fight to Save Her Job in the Face of Discrimination in the Spring 2020 issue of Ramsey County History Magazine.

 
Reporters at the Minnesota State Law Library


Some of these early reporters at the Minnesota State Law Library show fire damage.

For Minnesotans, March 1, 1881 is perhaps a “day that will live in infamy,” for it was on this date that the Minnesota Capitol burned to the ground.  And although though the law librarian profession has no official hero or mascot, this date marks the true story of someone who might be deserving of such an honor.

This disaster took place toward the very end of the legislative session, when both the House and Senate were in late evening sessions trying to get legislation wrapped up.  This was likely why no one had noticed that the outside common areas had filled with flames.  Someone hollered a fire alert to the Senate, but the House only got the message after a flaming ember fell down from the ceiling.  Nearly 300 people managed to escape by a single narrow stairway, while others had to escape via windows with ladders and ropes. The entire story is dramatically captured in this old article from the Minneapolis Tribune, reprinted in the Star Tribune.

Predictably, many books and irreplaceable records were lost in this fire. “The most serious loss…is the state library, which contained 12,580 volumes. But a few lucky books did survive, due to the heroism of a one-armed janitor named Charles Chappel.  He hauled loads of books out of the burning building in his single arm.  When a falling beam hit him in the head he grabbed one last armful and finally left the building for good.  Unfortunately, little information about Mr. Chappel survives today.  With the help of ancestry.com, a federal census report from 1880 lists a 26-year-old Chas E. Chappel that was marked as “maimed, crippled, or otherwise disabled.”  Another from 1920 lists a 76-year-old Charles E. Chappel living in St. Paul that worked as superintendant of the State Capitol.  Though it’s very likely, it cannot be stated with absolute certainty that these records refer to our heroic book rescuer. Nonetheless, today we can give a moment of appreciation for this unsung champion of what was probably Minnesota’s earliest government law library.

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Additional Sources:

Darrell Ehrlick, It Happened in Minnesota (Twodot, 2008).

Ben Welter, Minnesota Mayhem:  A History of Calamitous Events, Horrific Accidents, Dastardly Crime & Dreadful Behavior in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes (The History Press, 2012).

 

 

Slavery in Minnesota – The Eliza Winston Story

Boat on RiverYou and your neighbors might have your political differences, but try and imagine how challenging it would have been to finesse different outlooks on slavery back in 1860. Imagine further the awkwardness if you were a staunch abolitionist and your neighbor’s business brought Southern guests to your community with their slaves in tow.  Remember that the case behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott ruling three years earlier had involved an army surgeon who kept his slave at hand while serving at Minnesota’s Fort Snelling. Indeed, the Dred Scott  holding that slaves were not entitled to their freedom despite residency in a free state had opened up a new Minnesota tourist industry geared to Southerners seeking to enjoy cooler summers in northern states.  African American History Month is a good time to look at an incident in Minnesota’s history that illustrates both the tense political differences of the day, as well as how public opinion is often at odds with official law and policy.

Back in 1860 the city of St. Anthony was home not only to staunch abolitionists, but also to Winslow House, a popular summer destination for Southerners.  Minnesota’s three-year-old constitution barred slavery, yet many of its citizens didn’t see this as cause to interfere with the property rights of visitors.  So with this casual attitude and the recent Dred Scott ruling, Southerners frequently traveled up the Mississippi River to enjoy Minnesota’s mild summer climate.  That year the Richard Christmas household had traveled from Mississippi with their house slave, Eliza Winston, to stay at Winslow House.  During her stay, Winston met local abolitionists through her acquaintance with a free African American couple.  One of these abolitionists later filed a legal complaint asserting that Winston was being “restrained of her liberty by her master.” Meanwhile, the Christmas household had moved from Winslow House to a Lake Harriet cabin in Minneapolis. That’s where the Hennepin County Sheriff found Winston, who indicated to him that she wanted to be free.  Winslow was then brought to the Hennepin County Courthouse where Judge Vanderburgh heard Winston’s testimony, and then ruled in her favor.  Meanwhile, angry mobs had gathered in and around the courthouse, and began migrating into the community and storming the homes of local abolitionists.  Winston managed to escape the crowds, but ultimately had to leave Minnesota for her safety.  And as local business owners had feared, the Winston case did indeed slow Southern tourism to Minnesota.  (The Civil War’s eruption the following year would effectively make such river tourism a non-issue.)

The Winston case revealed some interesting twists in Minnesota’s early political climate.  Even though the state constitution forbade slavery, business interests often benefited from trade with Southern slaveholders.  Additionally, Minnesotans could be quick to form angry mobs.   And whereas changing the law can be a lofty and idealistic pursuit, changing public opinion is usually a much grittier undertaking. Such task becomes even more challenging where profit motives stand against wished-for change.  Finally, one must ask how “free” was Ms. Winston if she was forced to leave the free state of Minnesota.  This story and numerous such observations are presented in this article by Dr.  William Green, published in Minnesota History magazine.