April 2015 Bar Bulletin
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April 2015 Bar Bulletin

"Why, When I Was in Law School ..."

 

[This month, we continue with John Rupp's story of his days at the University of Washington School of Law and "old" Condon Hall in the 1930s. When last we left you in December, in his discourse on the faculty, Mr. Rupp had finished his profile of adjunct Prof. Harold Shefelman.]

Eighth of a Series

One man who was not an adjunct professor but who did teach us a course was The Honorable George T. Donworth, the father of Carl Donworth who was later a judge of the State Supreme Court. Judge George Donworth was the second judge ever to be appointed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. Theodore Roosevelt appointed him in 1909, but he served only three years and resigned in 1912. After that he practiced law in Seattle.

He was pretty much retired by the time we were in law school. Anyway, Dean Falknor persuaded him to come out and teach Federal Procedure in, I think, the winter quarter of our senior year. And Jud Falknor saw to it that a goodly number of students signed up for the course. To meet Judge Donworth's convenience the class met after dinner at about 8:00 p.m.

It was an interesting time to study Federal Procedure because it was a time of transition. In 1934 Congress had authorized the Supreme Court to adopt rules to modernize procedure in the Federal courts. The rules were to supersede all the old statutes. The committees appointed by the Court were hard at work while we were in school, and various drafts were being published "for comment". Finally, the revolutionary new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure became effective in the fall of 1938, over a year after our graduation.

All that made it a hard course to teach and a hard course to study. You had a feeling that whatever you learned might not survive the frost of the next winter. On the other hand, you were standing on a high watershed with a foot on either side and had a rare opportunity to see what had been and what was likely to be.

The rules of law and of procedure in the Federal courts were quite ancient and they were full of traps for the unwary and the ignorant. Just for one example, those courts carefully observed the distinction between Law and Equity. If you started your case in "the Equity side", and it turned out that you had an adequate remedy at Law, out you went - "Case dismissed". Wheeler Grey, who started practice in Atlantic City in 1933, told me that the New Jersey courts did that too. Of course, you could start over, on the Law side (unless the Statute of Limitations had run in the meantime) but the Law side had its pitfalls too.


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