Lawyers With Kittson County Roots

Memories By

Michael Rustad

One of my earliest memories was going to a Hallock Lion's Club breakfast

and meeting Lyman Brink, our county attorney and founder of the law firm of

Brink, Sobokik. I remember also meeting Paul Sundberg and Mr. Borneman who

were other prominent attorneys in Hallock. I remember Lyman Brink for his

regal appearance and his commanding presence. Lyman Brink was listed among

the Best Lawyers in Minnesota many times. He was well respected by the

courts. Lyman had a way with juries and it was not advisable to be the

opposing counsel. If you drew a case against Lyman Brink, you had a strong

reason to settle. Brink had a great reputation for legal analysis as well as

ethics.

 

I caused my parents great embarrassment in front of Lyman Brink. As

was his custom, he would attend public events and work a crowd. His

considerable people skills and his friendly disposition were useful to his

practice. When Lyman visited our table, I committed a great error. I picked

up a syrup soaked pancake with my hands and stuffing it in my pie hole. After

I finished the pancake, I grabbed a link of sausages and dispatched them

promptly. My Mother was quite mortified by my attrocious manners. I still

have the memory of being dressed down for embarrassing her by my poor

manners. She told me that she was ashamed of my conduct and that I was a

poor reflection on her parenting. This wounding criticism resulted in me

adopting more human-like manners in future events. I learned how to use the

proper forks etc. under her tutelage.

 

Over the years, Kittson County has not only produced some excellent

farmers, but a number of attorneys. Marvin Bengston of Hallock who served

the district as a representative in the Minnesota House of Representatives

graduated from Columbia Law School. Mark Baldwin Jr. is a graduate of

Hamline University Law School. Gregory Haubrich practices with one of the

best personal injury firms in Oklahoma City. I ran across Greg later

professionally when my mentor Tom Lambert Jr. wrote about one of Greg's

cases in his ATLA Journal column, "Tom on Torts." Greg Haubrich won a huge

verdict in a case involving a dangerously defective table saw.

I interviewed him as well and he is acknowledged in my book, Demystifying

Punitive Damages in Productds Liability Cases.

I was impressed by attorneys from Kittson County and even by law students

of that day. Garyle Stewart (Melvie and Glenn Stewart's oldest son) attended

law school at UND. I followed his career very closely because there was

hardly a day that passed where I did not enjoy a conversation with Garyle's

proud mother. I found it interesting to hear about the criminal and civil

matters he handled in the Fargo area.

[A sidetrack: Melvie was one of the warmest persons to children growing up

in Humboldt. She was Mayme Jury's key employee and she manned the front

counter at Mayme's store. Mayme was frequently in the backroom balancing the

ledgers and restocking the shelves while Melvie handled the telephone orders

and walk-in traffic].

Melvie often spoke of her children and especially Garyle because she knew

that I was interested in law and lawyers.

 

I first thought that I would become a lawyer before I could even read or

write. One of my other early memories is that my Uncle Jim Carrigan started

a college fund for me. There was not a day that went by where I was reminded

that I could be a lawyer like my Uncle Jim. Jim Carrigan was a remarkably

goal directed young man. He was a 1947 graduate of Hallock HIgh School

where he was an excellent student-athlete. Jim was unsuited to the climate

of Hallock especially during harvest because of his asthma. He learned of my

birth in July of 1949 when he was in Arizona working for the Forest Service.

Jim is only 20 years my senior and it was quite remarkable that he used some

of his earnings to fund my college savings plan.

Jim left the Red River Valley for Arizona as a way to escape the dusty summer

conditions in the Upper Red River Valley. Jim graduated first in his law

school class at UND and was admitted to New York University's graduate tax

program. He practiced for a time in the Williston area but his early years

were spent in legal education. Jim taught law students who became U.S.

Senators, Cabinet members, and public figures as a law professor at NYU,

U/Washington, U/Denver and the University of Colorado.

 

Jim left teaching to become a partner in a Boulder law firm where he

honed his skills as a trial lawyer. Jim was one of the early leaders in

ATLA, which is the chief trial lawyer's organization. I often run across his

name when going through old ATLA or NCCA reporters. He represented

Colorado before ATLA very ably and developed an excellent practice. Jim kept his
hand in teaching frequently teaching trial advocacy courses at Denver and

U/Colorado Boulder. Jim took an interest in his nephews and nieces. When

our family visited Jim and his family in Boulder in 1965, Jim took me with

him when he went to the law school to do some work or prepare for class. He

dropped me off in the beautiful law library. I think that spending that time

with him and spending time at the law school reinforced my career interests.

 

Jim has had a remarkable legal career as a teacher, trial lawyer, and

as a nationally renowned judge. I recently came across an article in the

Tennessee Law Review in a special edition devoted to the work of Jerry

Phillips. The writer noted that Jim was such a mesmerizing speaker that

fellow lawyers on professional panels never wished to follow him on a

program. My Uncle Jim served with distinction as a member of the Board of

Trustees of the University of Colorado which is an elected position. He also

served as a Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. He received perhaps his

greatest honor in being approved by the U.S. Senate to sit as a federal judge

in the U.S. District Court in Colorado. Currently, Jim has retired from the

bench but not from a busy practice. Jim joins other retired judges in

mediating disputes. He is a highly sought arbiter of disputes and hired by

companies and other entities throughout the U.S. Jim has received many

honors. My law school honored him with a honorary doctor of law degree. We

were pleased to have him address our graduating class at graduation. Jim has

received similar honors from other law schools and has been a recipient of

the Sioux Award, which is the University of North Dakota's highest honor

awarded to a few of their most distinguished awards.

Kittson County has produced some rather remarkable lawyers and jurists

with humble roots. I make no warranties that my list of lawyers with roots

in Kittson County is complete. But I do believe that the values of hard

work, strong family values, and community played a significant role. I think

that the record will also show that our Kittson County rooted lawyers are

remarkable for their integrity and well-honed ethics. When you're tempted to

repeat another lawyer joke, I hope you will also remember those lawyers who

reflect good family values. I am very proud of our Kittson County attorneys

who brought honor to our profession. Few were born with a silver spoon in

their mouth. None were descendents from Boston Brahmin families or who came

over on the Mayflower. Sociologists have long known the importance of role

models. I think that having good role models in the law made a difference in

my own legal career.