May 2012 Bar Bulletin
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May 2012 Bar Bulletin

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

 

In December, we concluded John Rupp's history of the Seattle-King County Bar Associa­tion. In February, 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.

(Second in a series)

[Editor's Note: When we left you in February, John Rupp had finished introducing us to the personnel in the Supreme Court clerk's office.]

Then there was the Law Library, with the urbane Mark H. Wight as librarian and my classmate, Vernon W. Towne, as his assistant. Vern left that position after a year or so and practiced law with his father over in Rosalia for a while. Later he came back to the Court as assistant to the Reporter, then he practiced law in Seattle, and now is the senior judge of the Seattle Municipal Court. I think that Jim Wickwire of Ephrata succeeded Vern Towne as Assistant Law Librarian.

One odd circumstance about the library while I was there had to do with the floor, which was surfaced with thick squares of cork. Over time the cork had become scarred and battered, so the State got a W.P.A. project to refinish the floor. The first thing that the workmen did was to sand the cork smooth, using big rotary sanding machines. A fairly thick layer of cork had to be removed, and much of it descended on the books and bookshelves as a lovely brown dust. What a mess! After the job was all done there had to be another W.P.A. project, this time to remove the dust.

The Court's Reporter was Solon D. Williams, always called Dick. He had succeeded Arthur Remington in 1936, but Mr. Remington still kept his hand in and wrote all the headnotes for the printed opinions. Mr. Remington lived in Tacoma, and I never met him. Dick Williams was Reporter for more than twenty years and did a fine job. The title of "Reporter" irked him a little because he thought that it made people think that he was a stenographic reporter (probably with a green eyeshade). I don't know why he thought that to be infra dig, but he did. About ten years after Dick retired, the Court changed the title to "Reporter of Decisions."

The basement of the building was occupied by the State Library, or by part of it. I didn't go down there much - the Law Library kept me busy enough.

The second floor of the building housed Attorney General G.W. Hamilton and his staff. I knew Mr. Hamilton only by sight, but I got to know most of the assistants pretty well. By present-day standards, there were very few assistant attorney generals, but State government was relatively small then and, moreover, most of the governmental departments had their own lawyers, independent of the Attorney General. That strange situation created such a mishmash of conflicts, differing opinions and general confusion that when Smith Troy became Attorney General in 1940 he convinced the Legislature to enact a statute putting all the State's lawyers under the Attorney General's control.


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