Richard D. O’Brien (1923-1939)

Richard Dillon O’Brien was born on August 16, 1874 in St. Paul, Minnesota to parents Christopher Dillon and Susan E. (Slater) O’Brien.  He was educated in the St. Paul public school system and graduated from St. Paul Central High School in 1894.

O’Brien enrolled in law school at the University of Minnesota, but his legal studies were interrupted when he left to serve as a regimental quartermaster sergeant of the Fourteenth Minnesota Infantry in the Spanish American War.  After serving, he returned to finish law school and graduated in 1900.  His first job as an attorney was with the firm owned by his father, Christopher D. O’Brien, and his uncle, Thomas D. O’Brien, located in the Globe Building in St. Paul. 

He led a distinguished political career as well as a legal one.  Soon after joining his father’s firm, he was elected to the St. Paul City Council, and then, in 1907, he was elected to be Ramsey County Attorney (an office that his father, uncle, and later, his brother, Christopher D. O’Brien, Jr., also held).  During his tenure as County Attorney, Governor A.O. Preus also appointed O’Brien to the Board of Trustees for the Soldiers’ Home. 

As County Attorney, O’Brien oversaw many cases covering a variety of crimes, such as bank robbery, election fraud, and of course, murder.  The most famous criminal case he tried was against Frank Dunn for the murder of his wife Alice, see 140 Minn. 308 (1918).  The case was quite scandalous, as Mr. Dunn had apparently hired hit men from Kansas City to kill his wife because local criminals did not want to take the job.  

O’Brien was a fervent advocate of abolishing the death penalty in Minnesota.  The death penalty had long been a controversial subject since the death of Ann Bilansky in 1860.  In 1906, the circus-like atmosphere of the botched hanging of William Williams (which led to his suffering for 15 minutes until he died), and the subsequent lawsuit against the newspapers that reported the hanging meant that the death penalty was at the forefront of Minnesota politics.  O’Brien felt that the death penalty would have a negative impact on convictions due to moral objections that potential jurors would have against the death penalty. 

O’Brien served as Ramsey County Attorney for 16 years until 1923 when Governor Preus appointed him to the Ramsey County District Court to replace Judge Louis Kelly upon his retirement.  Judge O’Brien served on the bench for the next 16 years until his death in 1939.  As an attorney and judge, he was known for his scrupulous preparation for his cases. At a memorial service, friends said that he was calm, had courage of conviction, and had a strong sense of justice.  His colleagues on the bench remembered his belief that “justice delayed is justice denied”; thus he strove to keep the court calendar up to date and to give all litigants a speedy trial.

In addition to his work as a judge, he also taught at the St. Paul College of Law.  His area of expertise was criminal law and procedure.  In 1937, he was elected to the law school’s Board of Trustees.

On February 23, 1939, Judge O’Brien fell suddenly ill and died in St. Paul at a friend’s home.  He was buried in St. Paul, Minnesota.  His wife, Edith, preceded his death, but he was survived by their four daughters.

Judge O’Brien’s portrait was one of the 29 portraits of District Court Judges commissioned by the Ramsey County Bar Association in 1930.  The artist, Edward Brewer, painted these portraits as well as the portraits of many prominent Minnesota families – the Cargills, the Daytons, and both Governors C. Elmer Anderson and Elmer L. Anderson.  To see a very interesting photo of the artist Edward Brewer painting Judge O’Brien’s portrait with the half-finished portrait displayed, please see Patricia Condon Johnson’s article, “Edward Brewer:  Illustrator and Portrait Painter” published in Minnesota History


Anne E. Cowie, “Two Horses and One Buffalo Robe: All the Frailties of Human Nature:  The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office and Its 150 Years”, Ramsey County History, Fall 2000, Vol 35, #3, pp. 4-16.

Patricia Condon Johnson, “Edward Brewer:  Illustrator and Portrait Painter,” Minnesota History, Spring 1980, pp. 2-15.

Memorial Services for Deceased Members of the Ramsey County Bar held at the Courthouse on April 8, 1939


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.


Otis H. Godfrey, Jr. (1924-2002)

Judge Otis H. Godfrey, Jr. served on the Ramsey County District Court from 1968-1991.
Judge Otis H. Godfrey, Jr. served on the Ramsey County District Court from 1968-1991.

Otis H. Godfrey Jr. was born in 1924 and was grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  He attended Central High School, but later transferred and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy.  During World War II he served in the Army Air Corps as a nose gunner on a B-24 crew in the South Pacific.  After the war, he married Jean Keys in 1946.

After graduating from Yale University he followed his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps into the legal profession.  He studied law at the University of Minnesota Law School, graduated in 1950, and started his legal career as a sole practitioner in St. Paul.

In 1961, Governor Elmer L. Anderson appointed Godfrey to the St. Paul Municipal Court.  Seven years later, he was elevated to the Ramsey County District Court by Governor Harold LeVander to fill the seat left vacant by Judge A.S. Pearson.  Judge Godfrey served on the Ramsey County bench until he retired in 1991.

During those years, Judge Godfrey was an active member of the Ramsey County Bar Association, the Minnesota State Bar Association, the Minnesota District Judges Association, and the International Academy of Trial Judges.  Judge Godfrey served on the Ramsey County Law Library Board of Trustees for 15 years, and he also oversaw the law library remodeling project.

Judge Godfrey was also a leader in his community, and was involved with several organizations.  He had leadership roles with The Loft/Summit University Teen Center, Hallie Q. Brown Center, Martin Luther King Center, Ramsey County Friends of the Park, and the YMCA.  He loved hockey, and he coached youth hockey for 35 years.  He was married to his wife Jean for 56 years, and together they raised seven children:  Otis III (“Tracy”), Carol, Louise, Barbara, David, Paul, and Timothy.  Three of their children, Carol, Paul, and Timothy, are fourth generation attorneys.

Judge Godfrey passed away on July 17, 2002, at his home in St. Paul.  Judge Godfrey’s portrait was donated to the law library by his wife, Jean Keyes Godfrey, and hangs in the law library’s north reading room.

Judge Otis Godfrey served on the Ramsey County District Court from 1968-1991,

Judge Godfrey solemnly surveys the north reading room.

The portrait was painted by Robert Charles Knutson, M.D. who was born in Iowa in 1922, but grew up in Blue Earth, Minnesota.  He graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1947 and specialized in anesthesiology.  He subsequently was a founding partner of Associated Anesthesiologists where he practiced at Miller, St. Luke’s, United, Children’s, St. Joseph’s, and Shriner’s Hospitals until he retired in 1987.  In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Knutson studied classical realism for 20 years at Atelier Lack and created many beautiful landscapes, still lifes, and portraits of family and friends, of which, Judge Godfrey was one.  Dr. Knutson passed away in 2013.


Godfrey, Otis H. (Obituary) St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 19, 2002

For the Record: 150 Years of Law & Lawyers in Minnesota, Minnesota State Bar Association, 1999.

Knutson, Robert Charles, M.D. (Obituary) St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 29,2013.


While the law library occasionally hosts CLE programs, the one on June 10 was very special.  On that day, the family of Judge Otis Godfrey donated a portrait of the late Judge Otis H. Godfrey, Jr. to the law library, and his portrait became the latest addition to the law library’s unique judicial portrait collection.

To help celebrate this occasion, Paul Godfrey, one of Judge Godfrey’s sons, and Former Ramsey County Chief Judge Gordon Shumaker shared personal memories of Judge Godfrey.  In addition to the remembrances of Judge Godfrey, Ramsey County Chief Judge John Guthmann talked about several historic cases that were litigated in Ramsey County.

In attendance were many members of Judge Godfrey’s family, including his wife of over 50 years, Jean Keys Godfrey, as well as several of his children and siblings.  Many friends and colleagues also attended this celebration.  Below are some pictures taken at the CLE.


20190610_120242Ramsey County Chief Judge John Guthmann and
Law Library Board chairman John Trojack.


20190610_121602MSBA President Paul Godfrey

The Honorable Gordon W. Shumaker, Former Chief Judge Ramsey County Court and Former Judge Minnesota Court of Appeals

The Honorable Gordon W. Shumaker, Former Chief Judge Ramsey County Court and Former Judge Minnesota Court of Appeals


Ramsey County Judges Adam Yang, Richard Kyle, Jr., and Thomas Gilligan

Ramsey County Judges Adam Yang, Richard Kyle, Jr., and Thomas Gilligan


Jean Keys Godfrey and son.

Jean Keys Godfrey and son.


The family of Judge Godfrey with his portrait.

The family of Judge Godfrey with his portrait.


Steve Kirsch and Bob Murnane.

Steve Kirsch and Bob Murnane.


Attendees of the CLE.

Attendees of the CLE.

Spot the librarians attending the CLE.

Spot the librarians attending the CLE.


Ramsey County Law Library Director Sara Galligan.

Ramsey County Law Library Director Sara Galligan.


MSBA CEO Cheryl Dalby and RCBA CLE & Events Director Sharon Elmore with the portrait of Judge Otis H. Godfrey, Jr.

MSBA CEO Cheryl Dalby and RCBA CLE & Events Director Sharon Elmore with the portrait of Judge Otis H. Godfrey, Jr.








Arthur A. Stewart (1946 – 1970)

Judge Arthur Stewart

Arthur Stewart was born in St. Paul on January 29, 1888 to parents John and Anna, who had settled in St. Paul in the 1870s.  John originally had a hardware store at Seventh Avenue and John Street (close to the present location of Red’s Savoy Pizza), but lost his business in the 1893 crash. John eventually became an executive with the Smyth Printing Company. According to a St. Paul Dispatch article, young Arthur got his lucky break at age seventeen when he landed a job in the clerk’s office of the Minnesota Supreme Court. That’s where then-Chief Justice Charles M. Start took a liking to him and urged him to go to law school. Arthur Stewart graduated from the St. Paul College of Law in 1908, and was admitted to the Minnesota Bar the following year. In August of 1917 he enlisted for service in World War I and was commissioned a first lieutenant of the infantry. After his honorable discharge in December of 1918 he returned home to St. Paul, where he had married Hermione Peterson the previous January. The couple later had two children, Hermione and Charles.

Stewart took up law practice of law in the firm of Barrows Stewart & Metcalfe, where he stayed for the next twelve years. (Their office was on the fourteenth floor of the Pioneer Building in downtown St. Paul.) In 1922 he became assistant corporation counsel for the City of Saint Paul, working under senior counsel Carlton F. McNally. He himself became corporation counsel for the City in 1925, when McNally was appointed to the bench of the Ramsey County District Court. Stewart also served on the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners, as well as the City Hall and Court House Building Commission in its planning of the present courthouse. He was serving as a member of the State Industrial Commission when he was appointed to the Ramsey District bench in 1946 to fill the vacancy left by the death of Judge James C. Michael.  Judge Stewart served in this position until he died in 1970, at the age of 82.

Judge Stewart’s portrait was painted by local artist Ken Fox, who is the last known surviving artist of the portrait collection.  We were honored to have Mr. Fox attend our 80th Anniversary celebration and tell about his work as an artist.  Additionally, history buffs may be sad to learn that Judge Stewart is the last judge of the portrait collection to be featured on this blog, but there are other historical figures of the local legal community that can be explored here.  Please share if there are any particular ones you would especially like to read about.


J.A. Burnquist, Minnesota and Its People (S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1924) p. 3:342-343. 

Stewart–Judge Arthur A. (Obituary) St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 23, 1970 p. 20.

“Thye Selects Former City Attorney,” St. Paul Dispatch, April 10, 1946.



Marshall F. Hurley (1908-1960)

Judge Marshall F. Hurley (1959-1960)

Judge Marshall F. Hurley (1959-1960)

Marshall Hurley was born on Feburary 13, 1908 in St. Paul, Minnesota. His father, Joseph “J.J.” Hurley was apparently one of the prominent undertakers of the St. Paul community of the time, and was elected to the Minnesota Legislature two years after his son’s birth.  Marshall attended St. Mark’s Parochial School, St. Thomas Military Academy, and St. Thomas College (now the University of St. Thomas.) He received his L.L.B Degree from the University of Minnesota in 1931 and was admitted to the Minnesota Bar that same year. Sometime not long after that he married Catherine Donohue and they had two sons, Marshall and John.

Hurley engaged in private practice with the firm of Walsh, Jackson, Walsh and Yackel until 1940, when he became Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of St. Paul.  He held this position until 1954, when he was promoted to the office of Corporation Counsel. There he served until 1959, when he was appointed to the Ramsey District Court by Governor Freeman to fill the vacancy left by the sudden death of Royden Dane from a heart attack. Hurley’s tenure ended less than 15 months later when he had a sudden heart attack of his own and died on May 13, 1960.

Judge Hurley’s portrait is one of two in the library painted by artist James Artig, the other being Judge Carlton McNally.


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.


Other Sources:

“The Bench and Bar of Saint Paul” p. 34-36, (1897).

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.


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.



“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



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!


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.



“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.)