April 2013 Bar Bulletin
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April 2013 Bar Bulletin

How It Used To Be The Supreme Court's Law Clerks


In December 2011, we concluded John Rupp's history of the Seattle-King County Bar Association. In February 2012, we launched a new series, also written by Mr. Rupp, in which he recalled his stint as one of the first law clerks to the Washington Supreme Court. Again, we present it unedited, as he wrote it. The editor wishes to thank his colleague Ken Rekow for discovering this old jewel and dusting it off for publication in these pages. Mr. Rupp (or perhaps his secretary) typed out this opus in March 1977; so, the story begins in 1937. Enjoy.

(Fifth in a series)

[Editor's Note: When we left you in November, John Rupp was riffing on the justices.]

Another interesting man was Judge Beals. He had been in the Seattle Corporation Counsel's office. Governor Hartley had appointed him to the King County Superior Court and a comparatively short time later to the Supreme Court. His wife Othilia, always called "Tealy", was also a lawyer, a rather unusual circumstance in those days. Judge and Mrs. Beals had no children and they lived in a comfortable house on the west side of town presided over by a Filipino factotum named, as I remember, Florenz.

Judge Beals was a friendly, scholarly man. Both his chambers and his house contained extensive libraries of books on a wide variety of subjects. He also had a collection of manuscripts and he used occasionally to make public speeches about them. These were called his "clothesline speeches" because he would string a cord across the room, array the manuscripts along the cord, and then move along, explaining each one as he went. Judge and Mrs. Beals were very kind to Libby and me, and we remember them with affection.

Mrs. Beals used to drive the judge to and from the Temple of Justice. When they met or parted he would always walk around to the driver's side of the car, solemnly remove his hat, lean in and salute her with a ceremonial kiss. I never saw Judge Beals drive a car.

Judge Steinert didn't drive either, I assume because of his eyesight. I never saw Judge Holcomb drive a car, nor Judge Geraghty. But perhaps they all knew how. At any rate, they all wrote learned opinions in automobile accident cases. I remember arguing with some of them that, in their search for certainty, they put too much store in measurements of time and distance. For example: The driver of the Buick had said that he was at point A when he first saw the approaching Ford; the Buick was going 30 m.p.h.; it was x feet from point A to the point of impact; at 30 m.p.h. a moving object goes x feet in y seconds; therefore the driver of the Buick had a full y seconds in which to stop or take evasive action; hence he was guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law, and the jury verdict in his favor should have been set aside. Q.E.D. All very neat and precise - and rather unrealistic.

I never worked with Judge Simpson but I got to know him quite well because he and Judge Robinson and I usually had lunch together at a restaurant across the corner from the Thurston County court house. The place was called "The Marigold." Judge Simpson had been a Superior Court judge in Clark County, and I think that he missed his old Vancouver lunches where he played panguingue with his friends. He called it "panginny."

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