Law Practice: Denver
In the spring of 1959, law school was almost over, except for my need to attend the summer quarter. I chose not to take the law review course, figuring I was well prepared already. The bar exam was given in the Colorado State Capitol in mid-June, and I had fun dressing in a black vest with a Lincoln bow tie. It was a grueling (mainly because of writer’s cramp) 2½ or 3-day test, but I enjoyed it. The results didn’t come out until mid-August, but the large Gorsuch, Kirgis, Campbell, Walter and Grover law firm took me on on a provisional basis pending receipt of the results. I went to work for the firm on the Monday after the summer law school classes were over. (The bar exam was given before the classes were finished.) When I inquired about how I’d done on the exam, I was told I was second out of 118, eclipsed by somebody from a school back east. (Harvard? Who knows.) Damn!
And so it was that I went to work as a brand new attorney for Gorsuch, Kirgis, Campbell, Walker and Grover. The firm’s second story suite at 222 Equitable Building at 17th and Stout was just two floors below my grandfather Pop’s law office. Pop had retired eleven years before, leaving the practice with his partners, who included his brother Gilbert McDonough. My great-grandfather, Frank McDonough, Sr., who died in 1940, had been a member of the firm, even though largely pulled away by his service as a district court judge.
My starting salary at Gorsuch, Kirgis in August 1959 was $375 a month, and there was a $25 a month increase periodically. A friend who did nothing but trial practice with another firm in downtown Denver called me in perhaps 1964 asking whether I would be willing to compare salary information with him, since he wasn’t satisfied with his own income. I told him I was making $700 a month at the time, and he said he was making $675. (It was amusing that the fund raisers for the Universalist Church I attended thought lawyers made a great deal more, and over the years I’ve read no end of glowing and unrealistic stories about starting salaries at law firms. Perhaps the partners became rich, although the young “associates” were mainly on as low-paid labor, willing to work for the experience and the reputation. There was an awfully good older lawyer in Colorado Springs later whose office was in a third-rate building and who couldn’t afford to hire a secretary, and this indicates it wasn’t just “associates” who didn’t make much.)
While I’m on the subject of the financial aspect of law practice, it’s worth mentioning the billing system and hourly rate. The word inside the firm was that our billing was to be at $20 an hour (perhaps equivalent to $300 an hour now). I knew I didn’t know anybody who could afford that, and noticed that the norm was pretty slippery, both at Gorsuch, Kirgis and at the other firms I was with later in Colorado Springs and Wichita. Lots of time would just not be included in a billing, or the rate would be cut selectively, especially if the client was one the firm wanted to attract for hopefully more lucrative business on other matters. We kept time-sheets, accounting for time by the quarter-hour (some lawyers do it by the eighth of an hour). The effect was to make law practice a constant clock-watching grind, very much unlike the relaxed practice upstairs at the McDonough firm, where conversation around a cup of coffee was possible.
There was one humorous episode with my own submission of time-sheets. I entered a quarter hour as being for “Thinking about [such and such] case.” The partner handling the billing called me in and in a friendly way advised that “we can’t tell a client we’re billing for thinking about his case; let’s change it to ‘working on legal brief.’” His point was no doubt a good one so far as not disturbing a client was concerned, but I’ve often thought how artificial it was.
If $20 an hour doesn’t sound high now, consider that Ginny and I rented our first home, half of a duplex in Denver, for $165 a month, and that my mother could fill a grocery cart to the brim with a week’s worth of groceries for just $17. (While this casts some light on the $20 figure, it also shows that the $375 per month salary amounted to somewhat more than it seems.)
The low salary served me well in at least one very important way: it brought an otherwise serious romance to an end when I told the young woman what I made. The information apparently burst a bubble in her mind, since her attitude toward me changed instantly and the romance came to an abrupt end. (I don’t hold that against her; a woman isn’t out of line wanting success and security from the man she marries.) The precious woman I did marry has been of different cloth; she has gone through 54 years of marriage as a supportive partner with me without ever intimating that our comfortable middle class lifestyle (though with a house that’s not on a golf course) isn’t enough. She’s been a blessing.
John Gorsuch was one of the senior partners, and my main work with him was on labor arbitrations at the Climax Molybdenum Company in the mountains deep in Colorado. John, who was a labor arbitrator, would have one of the young associates ride up with him to take notes and write the opinion after returning to the office. I went on about 25 of those jaunts with John. He and the associate would talk over the case on the drive back to Denver, with John making his decision then in what seemed, at least in my case, to be a consensus result. Out of the 25 cases, I think the union won only one of them, despite John’s having to have been pretty much pro-labor to be acceptable as one of the arbitrators named in the labor contract. The reason for the union’s losing so much was that its leadership, challenged by a competing union, was anxious to show the union members that it was stalwartly on their side, so any time the company decided to have anything done a different way than it had been done in the past the union would claim the old way had become a “term of employment” that could only be changed in the future contract negotiations. That argument was rarely successful, but was raised time and time again. On one of the occasions, John and I were taken on a tour of the mine, several hundred feet underground. It’s a different world down there, sloshing through ankle-deep water with the light coming from the lamp on the front of your helmet.
Some of the associates told of being apprehensive as John would drive over Loveland Pass. He liked to look someone straight in the eye as he talked to him, and this meant having his eyes off the road. My own experience didn’t match that, though, and the drives and conversations were always enjoyable. John was quite a nice older lawyer, and I was delighted many years later when his grandson Neil Gorsuch was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Trump. Neil was born about three years after I left the Gorsuch firm.
Fred Kirgis, the other senior-most partner, was no terror, but on the other hand wasn’t as personable as John. Kirgis was the attorney for the Navajo tribe, and Fred decided the tribe should seek the U.S. Supreme Court’s permission to intervene in the water rights case that had been pending for, I think, eight years before a “special master” of the Court about dividing up the water of the Colorado River between the river’s Upper and Lower Basins. Fred was about to take a month-long trip around the world, and assigned me the job of studying the case law on Indian water claims and writing a motion, with supporting brief, to file with the Court for intervention. Fred had no ideas about what the theory behind the Navajos’ claim (asking for part of Arizona’s allotment) should be, so he left it entirely to me. For all the intervening years, my memory has been that my writing was submitted to the Court with no real review by Fred and without my name appearing on the documents. I have dug out my copies of the motion and brief before writing this, however, and after reviewing them don’t feel at all certain that Fred and the others (a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and one in Arizona) played no role, since there is nothing about at least some of the writing that seems distinctively mine. In any event, the Court denied the intervention, saying the Navajo rights didn’t need to be adjudicated in the particular case.
The existence of a “pecking order” protocol wasn’t generally apparent, but such as there was was brought home to me brusquely by Fred Kirgis early in my time with the firm. We represented Phillips Petroleum generally, and it was a defendant, among all the other major companies, in a suit brought by Oriental Refining Company that asserted that the prevailing gas price of 19.9 cents per gallon was set by the majors below cost in an effort to force Oriental, a small company, out of business. I was asked to research the anti-trust law on selling below cost, and attended a conference of perhaps 30 to 35 attorneys from several different firms (representing the other majors) to plan the defense of the case. In the course of the meeting, I spoke up, telling what my research had found. Afterwards, Kirgis chewed me out, telling me associates had no business participating, and should be there just to listen. Since my self-image was as a full-blown professional, and not on a mere apprenticeship, it was a surprise to me. It’s worth mentioning that the collected attorneys chose Peter Dominick as the lead lawyer to present the defense in court. Dominick later became a U.S. Senator from Colorado. After all these years, my memory is hazy, but I believe what happened was that the Denver district court judge ruled in favor of the big oil companies, but Oriental (represented by George Creamer, quite an illustrious and brilliant lawyer who later represented me in my election lawsuit in Colorado Springs) appealed the ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court, which remanded the case back to the trial court for further action. For a number of years thereafter, Creamer himself set the minimum price of gas in Colorado by simply notifying the law firms for the majors that he would appear in court to set the matter for hearing. When he did that, the price would miraculously go back up. So far as I know, the process amounted to a federal anti-trust law price-fixing violation all by itself; but no one ever pursued that.
Attorneys newly admitted to the federal bar were automatically appointed to represent an indigent defendant in the federal criminal system. This occasioned my making several trips out to the jail on Hoover Road past Stapleton Airport to meet with a prisoner there who was being extradited back to Washington, D.C., on a charge of giving a no-account check to the Washington Hilton. My job was to fight the extradition (called by another name under federal law). The only thing the government needed to prove was the identity of the person held and that he was the same person who was charged with the crime in the other jurisdiction. I found that the U.S. Magistrate in Denver had asked my client “Are you (such and such a name)?” and after receiving a “yes” had proceeded to give him the “Miranda warning” that anything he said could be held against him. The problem was that the Magistrate had already gotten half the needed information before giving the warning. I argued the invalidity of this procedure (on the basis of the very artificial “Miranda” rule laid down by the Warren Court) before Judge Doyle, one of my erstwhile D.U. Law professors. He was a very kindly, gracious man, but nevertheless ruled against me, ordering the fellow sent back to D.C. for trial. I then took the matter to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The judges held that an order of federal extradition is not a “final order” that is subject to appeal. They didn’t give their reasoning, and brushed aside my argument that four of the five earlier precedents had just cited the one before it without discussing the legal rationale, and that the first decision had simply stated the conclusion, also without any analysis. In any case, my client was taken back, was convicted, and given a penitentiary sentence. Two or three years later, he showed up in the Gorsuch, Kirgis law office dressed in an expensive suit and full of praise for the service I had done him. The federal court back in Washington had agreed with the point I’d raised and, ruling the extradition had been invalid, had released him from prison. He now wanted me to be his lawyer in civilian life. The first question he asked me had to do with the job he had just gotten as regional sales manager in the Southwest for a company that manufactured devices to fit under trucks to stabilize their wheels. “If I hire someone to be a state manager under me, can I have him pay me a percentage of his salary for having hired him?” I told him, “Sure, so long as you make that known to the company and they agree to it.” He wasn’t pleased with my answer, and that was the last time I saw him.
The Gorsuch firm represented the Colorado Association of Real Estate Boards, and it was decided to challenge the constitutionality of the new Kansas Fair Housing law, which prohibited racial discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. I was asked to write the brief to the Colorado Supreme Court arguing the case for its unconstitutionality. The resulting brief, which reflected my own classical liberal outlook, was an extensive review of the long-established Constitutional principles of freedom of contract, the right of free association, and the right of an owner freely to “alienate” (i.e., dispose of) his property. (My thinking about the Civil Rights Movement was that the bringing together of the races should be done consistently with the traditional principles of personal liberty. To do so would require far more patience than the American Left was ever willing to give. Looking back from the perspective of 2018, it appears the more patient creation of mutual respect would have been far better than what has happened, since there is as much or more racial animosity today [especially on the part of the activists] as there ever was.) As was predictable in the context of the times, the Court upheld the Constitutionality of the Act, and in doing so either obliterated or immensely subordinated the long-proclaimed rights. In effect, the claims of the minority were being given priority over “the freedom of the individual” in general.
A recollection that strikes me as both humorous and disgusting has to do with an appearance I made before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. One of the young attorneys at the firm was the lawyer for the Colorado Rubbish Removers Association, and his job was to oppose any effort by anyone to become a new entrant in the field of rubbish removal. (In Colorado, that business was a “regulated public utility,” and anyone who wanted into it would have to satisfy the PUC that there was a segment of the market that wasn’t being served and that he was capable of rendering good service.) Whenever the young lawyer couldn’t make a hearing, he had me stand in for him. On one of those occasions, I succeeded (to my professional satisfaction but to my personal chagrin) in keeping a young fellow from hauling trash in the area near the front range of the mountains just west of Castle Rock on the ground that an existing hauler was already servicing the area. But I have yet to come to the “humorous and disgusting” part: it is that as I spoke to the Commissioners, they sat behind a high bench – with their feet up on it so that all I could see and address was the soles of their shoes. (Such a scene might well fit into a movie about the Old West in the 1870s, but the early 1960s saw itself as far more advanced than that. Quite obviously, it wasn’t.)
The scene at the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver was an elegant contrast to that at the PUC. The courtroom was small in square feet, but the ceiling went far up, with huge oil portraits of judges on each wall. A purple curtain hung behind the speaker’s stand, separating off the coat racks at the entrance. The three judges sat on a high bench (without putting their feet up!). A red light came on when the speaker’s half hour was over, and the lawyer was not even to finish the sentence he was saying.
Parking in downtown Denver posed a challenge. One of the junior partners, who had by no means reached the point in life where he would experience “senior moments,” couldn’t find his parking stub one day and couldn’t remember what lot he had parked in. He eventually located the car, but through a needle-in-the-haystack search. For my part, I parked far enough away from the office to be outside the parking meter or limited-time zone, and this entailed a considerable walk both going and coming. One day, I forgot I had parked south of the office rather than north. After I’d walked eight blocks to the north, I discovered my mistake and had to walk back 16 blocks the other direction.
What I especially liked was arguing cases in the Colorado Supreme Court, although that was by no means a daily activity. The experience was disillusioning, though. The questions the justices asked about the cases showed they hadn’t studied the briefs before the oral argument. And a friend who had been a clerk for one of the justices told me they didn’t bother to read the briefs, but relied on what the clerk told them about them. I found that serious points can be raised in a case that are never grappled with intellectually by the justices, who simply declare their holding on each point without going deeper into the reasoning involved. This was true, as we’ve seen, in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in the federal system as much as it was in the state high court.
Sometimes the poor quality of the judicial system revealed itself in the most inexplicable of ways. My Uncle Bill and Aunt Reba hired a cement contractor to run a sidewalk from their side door back to their ash pit at the alley. When he billed them for also putting in a sidewalk across their back lawn to form a right angle with the one to the ash pit, they reminded him he hadn’t done that work. He sued them in Denver District Court for the amount he claimed for that second sidewalk. Uncle Bill testified that there was no such sidewalk and that a large tree stood in the way of the path of the walk that the contractor had sketched on a blackboard in court. We asked the judge to go out to the house to see the property, which he and the others of us did, and found that there was no sidewalk there. The contractor, back in court, changed his testimony, saying he had put in a sidewalk that curved around the tree (but, of course, even that had not been there). When the judge’s decision came down, he awarded the contractor half of what he claimed. Needless to say, this was mystifying to us. I wanted to appeal the decision, but Uncle Bill paid the judgment, knowing the cost of appeal would outweigh the benefit of overcoming what was a small judgment. The judge never entered “findings of fact” in the record, and I went to his chambers two or three times asking him to do so, but to no avail. Was this corruption… or favoritism toward an attorney who had contributed to his last campaign… or what? Who knows? I found it disgusting when that judge was the presiding chair at Republican county conventions, and was lauded as deserving high respect.
The judiciary’s poor intellectual quality showed itself in another way, too – the willful expansion of a principle without legal justification. I brought a suit against the foreman of a work crew at Lowry Air Force Base on behalf of a workman whose leg was crushed after he was ordered to do something with a defective wagon of hot tar. The defense raised the argument that the civilian foreman was shielded from suit by “officers’ immunity.” That immunity was first created by court decision in 1896 and applied to high-court judges. A later decision extended it to U.S. cabinet officers. Thereafter, there was a gradual expansion to where the immunity was extended to even minor officials. After the U.S. district court ruled against my client, granting the foreman immunity, I appealed to the Tenth Circuit. My brief pointed out that “There has slowly developed more and more cases of inclusion, with each one paying intellectual homage to the idea that ‘somewhere there is a limit to the immunity, although the instant case does not yet cross it.’” I asked the Tenth Circuit to consider whether “this intellectual homage has been lip-service merely.” It turned out the Tenth Circuit went the further step of extending the immunity to an asphalt-laying crew chief, finding him to have “occupied a significant position” that called for the use of discretion. The rule historically (i.e., before 1896) had been stated by Dicey that “every official, from the Prime Minister down to a constable or a collector of taxes, is under the same responsibility for every act done without legal justification as any other citizen.” The American courts’ mentality is so elastic that between 1896 and 1964 the time-honored rule against immunity was completely obliterated. The problem is larger than the immunity issue, however; it relates to whether there is any “known law” that can be depended upon to be what it says it is. There is also the question of whether such changes are not to be the province of the legislative body, not the courts. (I am stating an outlook that has long been under attack. Roscoe Pound wrote in the 1920s, in effect, that the “old law” should be disregarded by judges, who should feel free to “innovate.” That attitude toward the role of judges has made everything indeterminate.)
I was a lecturer on “Bankruptcy Law” in the D.U. bar exam review course. Oddly, I never had a bankruptcy case to process clear through. I did attend some of the “First Meeting of Creditors” that each debtor was required to attend. An interesting thing about those “meetings” was that they had a Scrooge-like quality that would seem more fitting for something we might imagine from 17th century England (I realize that’s not the right century for Dickens’ Scrooge). The room each time was full of people, some with attorneys. One by one, the debtors were called forward to be questioned by a court officer. The questions were few, and were designed to squeeze a few dollars from each person. “Do you have any money in your billfold?” If so, “that money isn’t within the law’s list of exempt assets, so hand it over.” “Have you paid your rent in advance for this month?” If yes, the value of the “pre-paid rent” was calculated and the person was ordered to pay that in as a non-exempt asset. Debtors who had attorneys were advised by the lawyers how to avoid having to pay that way. They were told (and I told our clients) not to have any money in their possession, and not to have paid their rent already or even to have had the money with which to pay it. (Some clients chose to pay in the amount of the prepaid rent rather than to work out something with their landlords to defer paying until after their next pay check.)
Many of the other recollections I have of those six years at Gorsuch, Kirgis have to do with the countless other things I became involved with other than law practice.
I became a member of Phi Beta Kappa’s C.U. chapter, but it wasn’t until I finished law school at Denver University in 1959. The admission to Phi Beta Kappa was based on my record through my junior year of undergraduate work. (The three-year prelaw course was all I had taken at C.U.). Marilyn Van Derber, a Miss America who had gone to East High after I did, was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa in the same ceremony I was. Her father had his company’s printer do my campaign brochure when I ran for the C.U. Board of Regents in 1960, and I thought well of him, in keeping with his fine reputation in Denver. It was disgusting when later Marilyn went public with an accusation, after her father had died, that he had had sex with her through most of her teens. Her sister backed her up on that, so it may well have been true; but her complicity in the sex and in keeping it from her mother seems obvious, and he was offered no chance to defend himself. My poor opinion of her was reinforced later when I had dealings with her husband, a lawyer for the real estate company that owned the apartment house I moved into right after law school. The landlady had waited until after I had moved in to bring up a lease to sign, and it provided that the real estate company would have no liability for anything (death or injury) that happened to a tenant from an exploding boiler or any other cause. I went to talk to the company’s lawyer (Marilyn’s husband) to ask that this provision be removed, since it was clearly unconscionable. He told me “we’re not going to do that; if you don’t like it, move.” A real credit to the legal profession!
In the aftermath of Goldwater’s defeat, several young lawyer friends of mine and I started “The Colorado Republican-Conservative Association” to try to make the party more committedly conservative. We had a couple of well-attended dinners, but my thyroid catastrophe (which I’ll tell about later) intervened and wiped out my further efforts. The group didn’t continue.
The president of the Denver University Young Republicans invited me out to the campus to speak. It turned out he was the only member to show up. We went out for pop together (I didn’t drink coffee until I married Ginny and she made some I liked). I learned over the years that speakers to local groups need to “hang loose,” being ready for anything, including only one person showing up. I’d be asked to speak at Optimists or Rotary, or the like, for twenty or thirty minutes, but found it good to be ready to pare the talk down to 15 or 10 minutes because the group’s business meeting would take longer than expected or some member would get up and tell long-winded jokes.
It may have been in 1960, or perhaps a later year, that the Denver Young Republicans asked me to represent them in a radio debate about Colorado tax policy. Since I knew almost nothing about the Republican position on it, I made an appointment to meet State Senator Rogers, chair of one of the main committees in the Legislature. When I asked him for an overview of the GOP position, he was quite candid: “We don’t have a policy. We just vote for all the spending, and against all the taxes.” Wow! I called the station and got out of that debate in a hurry. It was some commentary on the substance of the Republican Party.
It was a pleasure debating Roy Romer at a church gathering in Denver. He had been a member of the Gorsuch firm, and later became a Democratic governor of Colorado. The debate was a pleasure because Roy was a gentleman of the highest order.
Another debate had me defending the Republican national platform before a small gathering of Jewish women in a home setting. That was rather miserable, since the Republican platform simply called for the same thing the Democratic one did, but just for less. For example, if the Democrats wanted a certain amount of increase in the minimum wage, the GOP did too, but just a smaller one. Such meagre “me-tooism” removed any possibility of showing a difference in principle.
In early 1965, the Conservative Club of C.U. sponsored a debate between me and a representative of Bob LeFevre (an anarcho-capitalist) at the Freedom School located about four miles north of Palmer Lake. The representative argued the case for no government at all (and for pacifism, which to LeFevre meant not even defending one’s wife from a rapist), while I argued the value of government, though limited. The debate was shortly before the catastrophe of my thyroid problem hit me.
A professor at C.U. whom I met through the Conservative Club there plagiarized a history of the Welfare Clause of the Constitution I had written as part of a manuscript of sent him to read. The whole history (though not the exact wording) appeared in a book of his, without any attribution.
In the spring of 1964, I was invited (on the recommendation of economist Milton Friedman, who had written a favorable review of “Emergent Man”) to attend one of the three founding meetings of the Philadelphia Society, the preeminent conservative intellectual association, and I took a bus from Denver to Indianapolis for it, staying at the YMCA. I’m now one of the few surviving “charter members,” and in about 1984 was the First Vice President and a member of the Board of Trustees. In 1964, Soldiers’ Monument in downtown Indianapolis was black with soot, but when I attended a Mont Pelerin Society meeting in that city in 1987 it was sparklingly clean.
In mid-1960, less than a year after I joined the Gorsuch firm, I decided to run for election to the Colorado University Board of Regents. My campaign theme was “For a Balance of Expression at C.U.,” seeking a redress of the leftist domination of the campus. The campaigning took me all over the state. A good friend who had worked with me on the Right to Work effort two years before was the head of the Chamber of Commerce in Alamosa, and had me speak at one of the Chamber luncheons. He must have done good work on my behalf, because I did better vote-wise in Alamosa than anywhere else in the state. Around Labor Day, I went over to Ridgway south of Montrose and shook everyone’s hand at the annual rodeo there. Magnificent mountains loomed immediately to the south, but I drove east across the state almost to the Kansas line to campaign at the Labor Day barbecue at a small town there. My mother later said those impressive mountains I had seen were the San Juans, and the recollection of them caused me to start vacationing in Ouray (ten miles south of Ridgway) the next fall and many times after that. In 1961 and 1962, I was a boarder at a farmhouse owned by the Kitchens (I no longer remember their first names) a ways up the valley toward Ridgway, most specifically a short distance south of the Ouray cemetery. It rained almost every day during my 1962 three-week vacation there. I spent most of the time reading, parked in the Rotary Club’s small park at the north end of Ouray. An old man showed a slide show with photos of the wild flowers in Yankee Boy Basin every night at 8 p.m. in the upstairs opera house on Main Street. Years later, the show was made over into a five-screen computerized version narrated by C. W. McCall, the balladeer who lived in Ouray and became its mayor. Even further along in time, McCall decided to retire from having it, and when I heard of that I called and left a message that if he were willing to sell it, I would try to get a consortium together in Wichita to buy it. There was no reply from him, and he wound up turning it over to his son.
It’s a small world, as the cliché goes. The campaigning took me way off the beaten path to the town of Cheraw far out in eastern Colorado, where I went into the drugstore to campaign. It turned out the druggist was the father, if I recall, of my secretary.
I didn’t win the Republican primary for the Board of Regents in 1960, so decided to run again in 1962, although I dropped out when I didn’t get a top-line ballot position at the GOP state convention. (It was almost impossible to win for any position in Colorado with a bottom-line position on the voting machines.) What I did there proved somewhat mortifying. I had a large banner made, perhaps 20 feet long or longer, thinking it would be just the thing for a large auditorium. Little did I know! It turned out far out of proportion, and those running the convention wouldn’t fill the back of the stage with it and insisted (rightly) in hanging it over the balcony. It was at that convention that a delegate from Pueblo asked me, so he could report to his delegation, “what’s your position on a four-year college for Pueblo?” If I had had any political sense, I’d have told him I’d like to meet with the delegation and hear their views on it. Instead, I told him I wanted a master plan developed for higher education in Colorado, and that a voucher system allowing students to attend whatever college they preferred would be a good approach. That wasn’t what the delegate wanted to hear, and I wound up getting, if I recall, three out of the delegation’s 80 votes.
I’ve already mentioned that my campaign flyer for the 1960 election was prepared by Francis Van Derbur’s mortuary’s print shop (somebody there even did the art work, a fine job). I gave a bunch of the flyers to a friend in Greeley to distribute there. Long after the election was over, two federal agents (I believe they were FBI, but am not sure) came to my office in the Equitable Building and told me some flyers had been put in mail boxes in Greeley, and that that was against the law. I told them I didn’t know anything about where the fliers had been put. They asked that I pay $2. I declined, knowing that it was nothing more than a trick to get me to admit responsibility, since $2 itself would have meant nothing by way of reimbursing the missing postage. Nothing more ever came of it. In my opinion, the episode reflects very badly on the federal agency involved.
There was a political gathering out in Commerce City to which all candidates were invited. Commerce City, in Adams County, was a heavily Democratic area, but I went despite knowing it was like going into the lion’s den. It turned out I was the only Republican candidate to attend, and I was treated with great courtesy. It always seemed to me that Republican candidates should make a point of presenting their views to all possible audiences, not just to the “already convinced.”
One such meeting was in a black church, which might have caused me to shy away from a straight-forward expression of my view that at C.U. it should be all right to have white-only fraternities as much as black-only. (The double standard was as much insisted upon then as it is now.) I didn’t shy away, though, and I hope I earned the audience’s respect, if not their support, for telling them my honest opinion.
Another member of the Gorsuch firm was active in the Universalist church in south Denver, a church he described accurately as “a group of agnostics sunning their souls around the fires of fellowship.” I attended there regularly at one time, and in late 1962 or early 1963 gave a sermon on “The Affirmatives of Liberal Religion” (this is Item U5 on my collected writings web site). To practice reading it aloud, I found a spot in a parking lot where, with windows rolled up, I proceeded to go through it. Before long, however, a police car drove up and ordered me to go on my way. Someone had called the police, reporting my car as suspicious. It reminded me of the time in San Diego when a policeman had me leave the empty train station one night, causing me to have to return to the Marine Corps base and read in the lavatory, when the San Diego library had closed and I wanted to continue reading “The Fountainhead.”
The church congregation was on the whole conservative politically, and considerable discontent arose when the minister went to a national convention and voted in favor of whatever the Left’s slate of proposals was at the time. That occasioned my leaving the Universalists. The denomination later merged with the Unitarians, who have long been decidedly on the left.
An older businessman and a young Ayn Rand enthusiast and I decided to start a new religion, which unlike the Universalist Church would no longer give lip service to the existence of a God (“lip service” is appropriate for the Universalist position). A church of this religion would service the need for people, and especially families, to meet for reverent reflection, to satisfy the ritualistic needs of weddings and funerals, to provide a wholesome and thoughtful social setting, and to give families a constructive setting for their children.
We had a formal ceremony at the Iliff School of Theology on the Denver University campus to ordain the young man as the minister, and there was a large dinner with his many family members and friends. It turned out, however, that he changed the concept and talked of God. My reading at the ceremony was a passage from my book “Emergent Man,” and with it our doctrinal cleavage was clear. Our breakup soon thereafter was due to that and to a difference over finances; the other two wanted to build a church building on the theory that “if we build it, they will come,” while I was wary of that, wanting to build a congregation and raise the money before building. So far as I know, the newly ordained minister never did have a church to minister to, although he met with a small group for a while. He was so angry at my breaking off that he refused to give me back my copy of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” I can well imagine that there is some ironic humor to be seen in all this.
Immediately after law school and my start at Gorsuch, Kirgis, I began writing my book “Emergent Man.” I didn’t stick to the content of my Marine Corps draft “An Infant’s Cry,” but that first effort provided much of the intellectual framework. The influence both of Ludwig von Mises (whose seminar and classes I had attended at NYU) and Ayn Rand was strong in that book. The first part of the book was done on typewriter, but I shifted to dictating the rest after I got onto using a Dictaphone at the office. (The change is no doubt reflected in a move from a more compact style to one that was looser.) A Denver printing company, Bradford-Robinson, printed the book, which was out right before I took a fishing trip to Lake City (a few miles east of Ouray) in early September 1962. I remember the thrill of seeing the book on the car seat next to me on the drive.
The writing of “Emergent Man” is as good a sign as any of a fundamental redirection that was occurring, without my being especially conscious of it, in my life. My devotion to legal studies slowed greatly despite my entry into law practice, and I took up the broader intellectual interests that had so long filled my thinking. If I had become a judge, the legal emphasis would have resumed, I’m sure; but otherwise I have always been on a quest for the answers to a whole series of questions about society, history, economics, and the like. Almost everything I’ve written has been moved by that desire to know more and to understand the “why” of things. Some of the subjects are large, others small, but they all raise the need to know more.
Pop didn’t like “Emergent Man” (for understandable reasons because of its intensely personal nature in the opening chapters) but a young woman from California did. She called me at Gorsuch, Kirgis and said she was coming to Denver to meet me after reading my book. We wound up having dinner and much discussion. She went back home sorely deflated, however, for what may have been two reasons. One was that as an Ayn Rand enthusiast she was dismayed (and probably saw me as less than intellectually honest) that I considered myself an “agnostic” rather than straight-out as an “atheist.” The second reason is purely my conjecture. Ayn Rand always associated moral excellence with physical attractiveness, as though the body reflects a person’s inner essence. When the California girl saw me rather than a replica of John Galt or Howard Roark, her heart probably sank, since I offered no such heroic appearance.
Marriage; life in Denver
An enormous debt has always been owing to Jeannell Jornod, one of my wife Ginny’s high school friends, who urged her to attend the young adults’ dinner at the Central Presbyterian Church in Denver on June 2, 1963. I was there (although I think it was at the preceding meeting that I had spoken on “Emergent Man”) and met Ginny. I called her the next day for a date and we wound up going to the Denver Bears-Hawaii baseball game at Bears Stadium. Hawaii won, 15 to 9, but I was entranced by how lovely Ginny was. Her eyes and teeth sparkled in the stadium lights, her hair and complexion were gorgeous, and everything about her was like she’s pictured in the oil painting I did of her years later based on a photograph in the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph in 1967. The romance took hold instantly, as can be seen from our having been married that September 14 (and it’s now lasted more than 54 years).
The wedding ceremony was in the chapel at the north end of the Presbyterian church at 2nd and Colorado Avenue; Jack Deeter was the “best man”; Ginny’s sister Florine sang “Ave Maria” and was the maid of honor The reception was at the Red Slipper a few blocks south of the church. Ginny’s loveable Uncle Roy was there and with considerable gravitas whispered the words “Be kind to each other.” That may not seem special by itself, but we took it to heart. Ginny started the process of loosening up my too-constrained ways when it came time for the bride and groom to drink glasses of Champagne. I deferred, and she showed she wasn’t happy about it. So I relented, though not with pleasure, and have had an occasional drink of wine over the years, although none in perhaps the last ten. I just don’t like the stuff.
We spent our wedding night at the Harvest House in Boulder (where our son Brad and his first wife had their wedding reception several years later), and then drove west across Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and California to San Francisco. While we were still in Colorado and stopped for gas, the attendant (those were the days when full service gas stations were still the norm) found a message “Congratulate us, we’re just married” in with the gas cap. We shared a box of ginger snaps on the drive across Utah, which has given ginger snaps a special significance to us. We saw the lights of Reno, Nevada, illuminating the night sky for many miles before arriving there. There were six lanes of heavy traffic in both directions in San Francisco as we arrived there during rush hour, so it was harrowing figuring out what lane to be in to turn off. The days in San Francisco were full of tourist delights: the cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Japanese tea garden, the Golden Gate bridge, the “Renaissance” Russian restaurant with its chicken Kiev.
After two or three days in San Francisco, we went down the coast to visit my brother Larry, his wife Joyce, and their daughter Cindy in their mobile home at Fort Ord. (Larry and Joyce were very much into evangelical Christianity at the time; it wasn’t until he witnessed the horrors in Vietnam that he became an atheist, believing “there can’t be a God who would let such things happen.” This runs counter to the cliche that “there are no atheists in a foxhole.”) Ginny scrapped a knee badly while riding a bicycle there at the mobile home. We spent one day driving a little bit farther south to the resort town of Carmel (where much later Clint Eastwood was the mayor), spending some time on the beach. The last week or so of our honeymoon was in Ouray, Colorado, where we stayed in the Box Canyon motel. A trip over to Telluride resulted in our hiking up the Bear Creek road to the waterfall. Far up on the towering mountains on each side, there were mine tailings evidencing how miners years before had accomplished the superhuman task of getting themselves and their equipment up there, and presumably their gold ore down. Back at the motel, a fellow must have been practicing one night to become a radio announcer, because we heard him, perhaps only two feet away through the wall, reading aloud at great length, sounding authoritatively professional. We don’t suppose he ever surmised there were newly-weds on the other side of the wall.
It wasn’t long after we were married that President Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963. It’s said that “nobody forgets where he was when he heard the news,” and that holds for me. I was in the federal Bankruptcy Court’s clerk’s office in downtown Denver.
Kennedy’s assassination changed the whole tenor of the presidential election the next year, with the newly sworn-in Lyndon Johnson having the benefit of the country’s grief. The Barry Goldwater campaign for president in 1964 kept me busy. Goldwater was a splendid man, but a combination of the liberal Republicans and the media cut him to shreds, with the result that he greatly muted his fall campaign, which turned out to be far more against “crime in the streets” than for conservatism. Ginny and I attended his rally at the Denver Coliseum on October 13, 1964, and there was great enthusiasm there, but not from nearly enough people nationwide to keep him from losing badly to Johnson. Ronald Reagan gave an electrifying radio speech near the end of the campaign, which was on conservative principles, that raised his political stature enormously, leading to his governorship of California and eventual presidency.
The thyroid episode in early 1965 was perhaps the worst period of my life, made bearable by the loving attention given me by Ginny, who was lovely in her maternity clothes at the time. The episode started when I developed a brownish-gray circle in the center of the vision in my left eye, caused by a bubble of fluid under the retina. The eye doctor gave me some strong drugs to make the bubble dissipate, but it wasn’t long before I began to have severe reactions. Ginny and I stopped into a fire station in north Denver one time because I was having a hard time breathing, and another time I woke up seeing non-existent butterflies flapping in front of my sight. The eye doctor then took me abruptly off the drugs, something our family doctor, Dr. Curfman, later said had been a dangerous thing to do. I no longer remember just what mental problems I began to have that caused Dr. Curfman to put me into the mental ward at St. Joseph hospital at about 18th and Emerson Street, but in the course of my time there I ran the whole gamut of mental problems: hallucinations: hearing voices, becoming catatonic (unable to move) at night, paranoid suspicion that someone would drown me in the bathtub, and one particularly powerful time when the sun coming through the hospital window kept getting brighter and brighter, and the room hotter and hotter, until I apparently passed out, since I don’t remember the end to it. One night, I phoned my bother Larry to say goodbye to him. (It’s embarrassing to survive after a dramatic call like that, but he never made a point of it.)
There on the ward, I held onto a sense of worth by doing a charcoal of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the famous photo from World War II where smoke is rising around the church. I had a powerful reaction to Prednisone, with my hands curling up into a fist. Although it was at a time when my hands were OK, I recall playing ping-pong and playing well while having no sense of control over my movements. It was as though I were watching myself play. At about that same time, there was a delay interval between my wanting to say a word and my finally coming out with it, perhaps three seconds later. It was Dr. Curfman who came up with the diagnosis that my problems were founded in severe hypothyroidism, producing what is called “Myxedema madness.”
I began to come out of everything when I was put on thyroid medication, although I remember the perplexing confusion I experienced while Ginny drove me home from the hospital. The level of “synthroid” medicine has been held the same (125 mcg’s) for 53 years, even though I tell our doctor I am extra sensitive to cold and have very dry skin, both of which indicate the medication level is set in at least the lower part of the normal range. Our doctor, though, hasn’t wanted to mess with what has basically been working, and I’ve certainly been willing to go along with that.
During the weeks after the time in the hospital, I relaxed by reading virtually all of Ian Fleming’s “James Bond” books. It was one of the few times I’ve read much fiction (although that’s more true of recent years when I’ve been occupied with writing and editing for the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have read Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Ayn Rand, and various others.)
Early on in high school, I had aspired to become a journalist, but I soon began to want to become a lawyer, both because of my family’s examples and because I believed deeply the country was going in the wrong direction, causing me to want to go into politics for an eventual U.S. Senate seat. As time went on during the Gorsuch firm years, though, especially as I saw what was happening in cases like the Fair Housing Act case, I decided to become a judge, with the long-term goal this time of sitting eventually on the U.S. Supreme Court. When Ginny and I were vacationing in Ouray, I talked with the Republican county chairman there about a judgeship, and was told one was possible in the county. But Ginny didn’t want to live long-term in a small town, a preference I respected despite my love for Ouray. My inquiries took me to Grand Junction, which didn’t seem to suggest any openings, and to Colorado Springs, where the Republican county chairman told me one of the judges would be resigning to run for Congress – and that he (the chairman) didn’t know of any lawyers in the city who seemed to want the position. (That proved wrong; there were plenty of lawyers who wanted it; and I ran into a buzz-saw of opposition as a “carpet bagger” coming down from Denver. Even the county chairman went back on his friendly attitude.)
It wasn’t long after my recovery from the thyroid episode that we left Denver to go to Colorado Springs to seek the district court judgeship. In perhaps late May, 1965, I went down to the Springs to look for a house for us to buy. A funny thing happened that caused some amusement when word of it got around (probably because I didn’t see reason not to mention it). I stayed in a room in a home on Nevada Avenue that rented rooms by the night, and felt uncomfortable lumps through the bed. It turned out there were a couple of bottles of booze someone had stuck under the mattress.
In mid-June 1965 there was a horrific storm that scarred the buttes all along the front range of the Rockies from Castle Rock to Colorado Springs. To move from our rented duplex at 4350 Osceola Street in Denver to our new home in Colorado Springs, we had to go by way of Fairplay southwest of Denver and then down Ute Pass to the Springs, pulling a U-Haul trailer full of our possessions.
Ginny was eight months’ pregnant when we made the move, and she rapidly got a Dr. Pennington as her doctor, who delivered Vickie, our daughter, at Penrose Hospital on July 13. Ginny’s water broke about 6 in the morning, and Vickie was born at 6:45 that night, so it was a long and painful labor, during which I held her hand and she swore vehemently “I’ll never do this again.” (Fortunately for us, and for Brad, she didn’t hold to that.) The hospital allowed fathers to watch the delivery, so I was looking through the glass window and saw Vickie born. She was brought over, ash-purple in color, and laid down on the other side of the glass from me. Until then, I hadn’t known what a rush of love a father would feel toward a newborn baby. It may have been a selfish thing to do, but as mother and baby slept to rest from the ordeal, I went to the Embers restaurant for prime rib to celebrate. (Penrose Hospital was the same one I had been taken to in the late 1930s for stitches in my lower lip after I was hit by a swing in the playground down in “the glen” on the flat by the stream in Palmer Lake. I had been given Novocain for the putting in of the stitches, and that was what apparently caused me to have nightmares during my afternoon naps for several days.)
I wound up joining the Optimist Club that met at the Embers, and that carried over into several years of activity in Optimists in Wichita after we moved there.
The house we bought was at 1115 Westmoor Drive in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood that is in the valley that leads up to the Garden of the Gods. The price: $18,900, which we could afford with the help of a no-downpayment V.A. loan. The Garden of the Gods is a gorgeous place with giant rocks. We came to associate the Garden, unfortunately, with the plague of bees that swarmed around us the one time we went there to picnic. The bees must have liked chokecherry jelly as much as I did.
The home on Westmoor Drive was newly built, and there was only rough ground where the lawn should be, so one of my chores that summer of 1965 was to even out the ground and plant a lawn. I wanted to plant some aspen trees in the front, but was told (wrongly) by a nursery that they couldn’t be transplanted.
Ernie and Pal Cunningham were our neighbors in the house to the north, and they had two daughters, Kim and Arden. Arden was Vickie’s age, which is to say a small baby, but Kim was slightly past the toddler stage. One day, Ginny answered the doorbell, and there stood Kim, saying “Mommy told me not to go to Juna’s.” We still laugh about that, and after all these years continue to exchange Christmas cards with Ernie and Pat, who have lived in California for most of the past half-century. The neighbors across the street were Fred and Sally Laing, who came to have a farm near the Massachusetts border in eastern New York state. We visited them when Brad and his band “The Slipstream” performed at the Gray Fox Festival near the Laing’s farm. Fred was a banjo enthusiast who also performed at Gray Fox with a large group. He died a few years ago, but we’ve exchanged cards with Sally.
The Republican leadership, including the country chairman with whom I had talked, opposed my judgeship candidacy, and found a point of law to bar me from running as a Republican. It was that the Colorado election law specified that someone had to be a registered member of the party he was running on for at least one year before the nominating convention, and that someone moving from one county to another (such as I had done in moving from Denver to El Paso County) “shall on the say he registers” file a certificate from the original county specifying his party registration there. I had not known to do that, and had just registered as a Republican in El Paso County without filing the certificate creating a continuity of party membership. When the leadership barred me from running as a Republican, I got the certificate and filed it. One of the leadership group and I went to Denver to get the opinion of the Attorney General, Duke Dunbar, about whether the late filing disqualified me. My argument was that the statute should be construed liberally to be “permissive” rather than “mandatory” as to the “on the day on which he registers” language. When Dunbar ruled against my position, I got the very generous help of George Creamer, Colorado’s most amazing trial lawyer, in suing to be placed on the Republican primary ballot. Despite Creamer’s persuasiveness, we lost both in the El Paso county district court and the Colorado Supreme Court. The result was that I ran as an independent, but with no chance to win.
My law practice was with the two-brother firm of Goodbar and Goodbar in the Exchange National Bank building (on the corner a few feet from the theater where in perhaps 1939 or 1940 Mom, Larry and I went to see “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”). Leon Snyder, an older attorney down the hall from us in the bank building, was incapacitated, and I was given his estate practice to handle.
Bill Goodbar, one of the two brothers, and I were having lunch one day when all of a sudden, looking across the table at him, I couldn’t see the left side of his face. I thought I was losing my vision again in maybe a renewal of the retinal problem that had precipitated my medical crisis in the spring of 1965, so I immediately got to an eye doctor. There was good news: I had experienced an episode of “ocular migraine,” a visual attack that occurs without a headache. During the years since then both Ginny and I have had ocular migraine episodes which have lasted a few minutes, never with a headache, and they have involved squiggly lines around the periphery of vision and/or a discombobulating of letters in a line of type in the newspaper or other paper.
A jury trial I handled was with the Coonrod case, a personal injury suit against the Intermountain Rural Electric Company (IREA). The story of this case has incredible twists and turns. Here it is:
Soon after the violent weather in mid-June 1965 hit the Front Range and Palmer Lake, washing out electric-line poles in the Pinecrest wooded area east of Glen Park, the IREA turned the electricity back on without having gotten one of the poles back up first. A 3200 volt line (if my recollection is correct) was rubbing up against a tree close to an empty cabin a few feet downhill from the Coonrods’ cabin. (Everybody except the Coonrods had left Pinecrest, heeding an evacuation notice.) When Irvin Coonrod, sitting on his porch, saw the line causing sparks and a fire in the tree, he ran down with a bucket of water, splashed it on the wire (not the thing to do!) and then tried to pass under the wire, which was about chest high, to get on the other side to pull on it with the bucket. The voltage arced to him, causing burns on his hand and toes. He passed out and fell away from the wire.
It’s interesting that in our suit against IREA I wanted an all-man jury (a six-person one), on the thought that men, especially the rough-and-tumble ones, would agree that the effort to stop the fire was a reasonable, not reckless, reaction to the emergency. The defense attorney must have reasoned in just the opposite way, because he, too, wanted all men (so we each removed women from among the prospective jurors, using our “peremptory challenges”). I seem to have been right, since the jury returned what I was told was the third-largest jury verdict in Colorado Springs history. In my closing argument, I told about Sir Edward Grey’s admiration for Theodore Roosevelt, who had gotten up and given an hour’s speech after an attempted assassin shot him in the chest, and about how Roosevelt said “there are two types of men: those who will take on danger, and those who will shrink from it” (or words to that effect). I argued that there was no reason for a jury to conclude that a TR-type of man ran contrary to the “reasonably prudent man” standard.
At the trial, I had an expert on autopsies of electrical accident victims testify, and he opined that the accident would have produced serious internal problems, not just the burnt hand and toes. A doctor who had examined my client testified for the defense that there were no internal injuries. That seemed hardly credible to me, and the jury must have thought so, too.
The Supreme Court ruling came after I was in Kansas. The oral argument before the Court was scheduled for March 18, 1970 (some 2 ½ years after the trial, which shows how slow the process is). We had what was reported at the time to have been an 18-inch snowfall in Wichita on March 17, but I was able to take the one plane that got out and was able to give my oral argument at 9 a.m. the next morning. (The Chief Justice had told me by phone that the Court wouldn’t just move the case back to the end of the docket if I wasn’t able to make it.)
When instructing the jury, the judge had chosen to give an instruction about situations calling for instantaneous action, which I objected to since it didn’t fit the case nearly so well as one of my proffered instructions did. Maddeningly, when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled on the IREA’s appeal, it found the judge’s instruction in error, and ordered a new trial despite my having objected to that instruction.
After the Court ordered a new trial, I went down to southern Oklahoma to visit Irvin and his wife, who lived in an old potato bin with an outhouse, consistently with their minimal lifestyle. He hadn’t been to a doctor in all the time since the trial, which confirmed the defense doctor’s opinion that Irvin had no internal injuries. Irvin had, however, gone to a Social Security psychiatrist, who had found him insane and attributed it to the electrical accident (and awarded him full Social Security disability payments for life). Since the Social Security psychiatrist was not permitted to testify in a private lawsuit, I told Irvin that he should make an appointment with a psychiatrist in Colorado Springs, and that if that psychiatrist came to the same conclusion the first one had, I would amend the petition in the lawsuit to demand a couple of million dollars in damages.
Well, as the case turned out, he never followed through, and we wound up settling the case for a third of what the jury verdict had been. After our share of the settlement was split with the Goodbars, I figure I had earned about a dollar an hour on the case.
Another case I handled in Colorado Springs came up when a man’s mother sought us to represent her son in an armed robbery criminal prosecution. The son had been in and out of mental institutions, in which he was diagnosed as psychotic, and while out had, dressed like an Army officer, committed a series of armed robberies in several states. He had been caught in Colorado Springs after a robbery there. The District Attorney and judge agreed with me that his psychotic history merited a “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea, so we had about a five-minute jury trial with brief psychiatric testimony after which the judge instructed the jury not to bother to leave the jury box but simply to report an insanity verdict. The judge sentenced the defendant to serve in the ward for the criminally insane at the Pueblo, Colorado, mental hospital.
After a few weeks, the mother and I shared a concern about whether the system might release her son from the ward he was in before he received treatment solving, if that were possible, his mental problem. We drove down to Pueblo together and conferred with the Chief Psychiatrist for the ward for the criminally insane. We returned to Colorado Springs wholly deflated when he told us the ward had 400 inmates with him as the only psychiatrist, and that inmates received no attention for their mental problems. He told us, however, that as new inmates were sent there and the ward became overcrowded, it was necessary from time to time to rotate some inmates to a lesser-security ward. Nothing further happened on the case, but 18 months after my wife and I and our baby daughter moved to Wichita I received a Christmas card from the mother. “My son is in Ohio and doing fine,” was her cryptic message. I wrote her asking what explained the new situation. Had they gotten a brilliant new attorney, or what? She wrote back explaining that her son had been rotated to a different ward, where he had fallen in love with a young woman, another mental patient. They had escaped together, and now “were in Ohio doing fine.” I heard nothing further, but have wondered over the years whether the son had picked up on his psychotic activities again, which would be the predictable outcome. This case illustrates how perfectly our system works!
After a black girl was stabbed through the throat in a café across the street from the high school in Colorado Springs, the girl stumbled out to the sidewalk, where she implored a fellow in a parked car to rush her to the hospital. He wouldn’t do it, and the girl died there in front of the café. After being told what had happened, the girl’s two brothers found the guy who had been in the car, grabbed him, took him out into the country, and beat him nearly to death. I represented the two brothers after they were charged criminally for their actions. The brothers wound up getting sixty days in jail. I’ve thought about it many times over the years, and think the court’s sentence was wise. The brothers could have been found guilty of aggravated kidnapping, and given many years in the penitentiary, but the circumstances called for considerable empathy even though the brothers’ severe vigilante action also couldn’t be legally condoned.
Lie detector results haven’t been considered reliable enough to be admissible in court, but I found them useful in getting clients in criminal cases to tell me the truth (even if a lawyer is a shyster, he almost never finds that defending a case using his client’s cock-and-bull story is successful) or in plea bargaining with the district attorney. In one case, a client was charged with raping his best friend’s wife. Both were in the Air Force. He swore to me that he hadn’t done it, so I worked out a deal with the district attorney to have him take a lie detector test. When he went to take it, he chickened out. Back at the office, he admitted “I did have sex with her, and when her husband came into the house she began to yell ‘rape.’” I said, “if that’s the truth, that’s great [since it would negate rape], and we should arrange for the lie detector test again so it can judge the truth of that.” The district attorney agreed to another session with the detector, and dropped the rape charge when it reported my client was telling the truth. There was still the worry that the husband would get his revenge on his erstwhile ‘best friend,’ so we worked it out with the Air Force to transfer both men, each to a base far removed from the other.
There was a case in which the Social Welfare department in Colorado Springs kept the husband/father from getting custody of a baby girl despite the mother’s having run off with another man and the two of them having committed a series of robberies on the east coast. The husband, up from Arkansas, had done nothing wrong and had no blemish as a father. I represented him in trying to get custody of the baby for him, but was fought tooth-and-nail by an obnoxious fellow who was attorney for the welfare department. Of all things, the social workers were full of teary-eyed sympathy for the mother. The obnoxious fellow prevailed, and the court ordered the baby kept in foster care and not given to the father. This case, too, illustrates how things work in reality. But it fits here as a recollection because of an odd twist. When I was preparing to leave for Wichita, I talked with a client in a bitter divorce case about who would be best to continue to represent her. I recommended the obnoxious fellow, and told her “he’s a real s.o.b., but I’m recommending him precisely for that reason; he’s very effective.” Imagine his expression if she told him why I recommended him. I hope she quoted my language verbatim.
The details of the case escape me, but there was a time I parked around the corner while a client, an army enlisted man, went to his child’s grandparents’ house, asked to see the child, and then ran off with him, coming to my car that was waiting around the corner so I could drive him from Colorado Springs to the airport in Denver to catch a plane to Idaho. (I had carefully researched the law on “kidnapping” to make sure it was lawful to do this.) The mother was mentally retarded, and the maternal grandparents were about to bring a court action to get custody rather than to let the soldier have the baby. We didn’t want the custody question submitted to a court, not having confidence the father would be given custody. The soldier promised not to return to Colorado with the child. It all went as planned until sometime later I was told my client had come back to Colorado with the baby and that the grandparents had gone ahead with a custody suit, which the soldier hadn’t contested. I was non-plussed, of course, since I had made quite an extraordinary (and unusual) effort to help him.
Getting away from the law-practice stories, it’s funny to mention the time I ran into my grandmother on the sidewalk near an auction house in Colorado Springs. She had come into the city from Palmer Lake to attend the auction. It just so happened that Ginny and I had placed a couple of high-quality book cabinets, which featured turn-down glass covers for each shelf, with the auctioneer for sale that day. Grandmother had given them to us when we bought the house in Colorado Springs. (The reason for selling them was that we were about to move to Wichita.) I was greatly chagrined and embarrassed, and hoped passionately that grandmother wouldn’t notice the shelves among all the many things there at the auction. If she did, she never said anything. And neither did we.
In early April 1967, a few weeks before our move to Wichita, a beautiful snow storm covered Colorado Springs and caused a blackout. We, the Cunninghams and the Laings all went over to some friends’ house across the street from us to enjoy a fire in their fireplace and perhaps (I don’t recall for sure) spend the night. We probably had some toasted marshmallows.
We sold the house on Westmoor Drive before moving to Wichita, and contracted to stay on for six weeks as renters after the closing on the sale. Soon before the closing, I was charcoaling a roast on our inexpensive outdoor grill in back of the house, but found it was taking too long because I hadn’t made a big enough fire. To speed things up, I added a few more briquettes to the pile. After a few minutes, Ginny and I conferred and decided to finish the roast in the oven inside. So I took the recently-placed briquettes off the pile and put them back into their bag. An hour or so later, I had reason to open the garage door, and was met by a gush of smoke. Unbeknownst to me, the briquettes had been too hot to put back in the bag, and started a fire inside the wall of the garage. We immediately called the fire department, but I had the fire out with the lawn hose before the trucks arrived. The coming of the fire trucks brought about 500 neighbors running to see what they no doubt thought would be something exciting.
We got a letter from an insurance company wanting us to pay the cost of repairing the wall, but I let it know the fire had occurred just before our sale of the house was closed, and so we were still covered as owners under our homeowners’ policy. It showed me the value of having renters’ insurance, which would have been desirable if the fire had happened during the period we were renting.
[End of Part III. There are five Parts.]