Lawyers With Kittson County Roots
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
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
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.