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2019 Bar Memorial: Remarks from the HCBA President

Monday, May 6, 2019  
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Each year, the HCBA President is privileged to speak at the Bar Memorial, a special session of the Fourth Judicial District Court. The 2019 Bar Memorial was held on May 1 at the Thrivent Auditorium. Over 300 family members, friends, partners, and colleagues attended to honor and celebrate the lives of the 40 lawyers who were memorialized. 

“Let’s Celebrate”
Remarks from 100th HCBA President Adine S. Momoh
Delivered on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at the 2019 Bar Memorial Session


May it please the Court:

Honorable judges, members of the bar and special guests, especially those family members and friends of those whose lives we remember and celebrate today.  And what a celebration it is indeed. The Hennepin County Bar Association has partnered with the Fourth Judicial District in this annual bar memorial celebration since its very existence nearly 100 years ago. 

The HCBA’s mission is to advance professionalism, ethical conduct, diversity, competence, practice development, collegiality in the profession and improve the administration of justice.  We gather here today to celebrate 40 of our colleagues who passed in 2018, each with a connection to Hennepin County.  And each exhibiting at least one of the values of the HCBA’s mission in various ways, some large, some small, but each no less an important part of the fabric that makes up the patchwork that is our honorable legal profession.

We celebrate those who advanced Professionalism:

One attorney was from the “Greatest Generation” and lived until the ripe old age of 100.  As was only done in those days, he graduated from law school and practiced law before receiving his undergraduate degree. He had a passion for real property law and developing real estate, from homes, bowling alleys, and hotels, to office buildings and restaurants.  He has been publicly credited as naming the Minnesota Vikings football team.

Another was born in St. Paul, where he played both hockey and golf in high school.  He remained a constant student of each.  After a tour with the National Guard and a year with 3M, enjoyed a long practice at Faegre & Benson (now Faegre Baker Daniels). 

Another began his legal career as a clerk for Judge Edward Parker in Hennepin County District Court.  During the lunch hours of his clerkship, he took up swimming, which served him well for many years.  In fact, in 1987, he came in first place in his age group during a swim across Lake Minnetonka. 

This attorney always considered himself a “Lucky Man,” not because he won a lottery, but because he survived WWII while in the Air Force, married the love of his life, raised 10 children and practiced law for 64 years with his friend and mentor, Robert Speeter.  He also enjoyed acting and was lucky enough to appear on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. 

Another had a nearly 40-year practice that began when he joined a small firm, Arthur Chapman, which he helped build into one of the most well-known civil litigation firms in the state, having tried hundreds of cases.  In 2010, he was named to the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Another was a champion debater in high school and led his team to the national tournament where, legend has it, he lost only to God – and then, not by much.  After four years of military service with the Air Force, he represented clients at Neville Johnson & Thompson and mentored young attorneys along the way. 

After serving as a Lieutenant in the Navy, this attorney spent his entire legal career practicing at Lindquist & Vennum (now Ballard Spahr).  He became a partner and retired in 1992.  He was a founding member of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Transit Commission.

Another began his legal career in New York and returned to his home in Minnesota to practice law at Lindquist & Vennum until his retirement in 2009.  He served on two city councils and as the Mayor of the City of Medina, Minnesota until his death.  This same attorney lived life in the fast lane given his love of fast cars, horseback riding, and skiing on some of the most difficult mountain terrains. 

A past recipient of the HCBA’s Professionalism Award, this attorney and political activist was admired for many things, especially his commitment to service.  He served in the offices of both the United States Attorney General and the Minnesota Attorney General, established his own legal practice, and then joined Maslon as a partner, where he remained for the rest of his career.

Another attorney served in the Air Force and was a JAG officer.  After a career in public service, he joined the law firm now known as Dewitt Mackall Crounse & Moore, where he practiced for 32 years.  During his retirement, he pursued a hobby of low-stakes poker. 

After serving as an officer in the Navy, another practiced insurance defense law and later became the General Counsel for Flexsteel Industries.  He enjoyed taking his wife of 71 years dancing weekly through her 97th birthday.  His love for life, teaching and mentoring benefitted many. 

We celebrate those who advanced Ethical Conduct:

One attorney handled some of the state’s biggest deals over his 50-year career.  Known as a master negotiator who always ensured a deal was fair, he loved being the legal architect for major transactions ranging from stadiums (including Target Field and the recently opened Allianz Field), to airline mergers, to other high-profile endeavors. 

Another was best described as a quiet, thoughtful, reserved, wise, and dependable man of high character.  He spent most of his career at Honeywell, first after college and later as an attorney after embarking on a slight mid-career change to transfer to Honeywell’s patent law division.  He retired after nearly 30 years of service to Honeywell.

We celebrate those who advanced Practice Development and Competence:

This attorney, born in Houston, Texas, was a consummate corporate lawyer who enjoyed the art of the deal.  While his legal career started in Houston, he spent 32 years as a lawyer in Minnesota at General Mills, including 19 years as its General Counsel.  In 1994, he retired from General Mills, only to take on the same role for Darden Restaurants in Orlando, Florida.  He then went on to become the executive vice president and General Counsel for the Burger King Corporation.

This Judge, who loved all things Irish, served in the Navy until the end of WWII.  He then was in private practice and the public sector before being appointed as a bankruptcy referee in 1965.  He later became Minnesota’s first chief bankruptcy court judge and served until his first retirement from the bench in 1986.  I say first retirement because ultimately, he retired for the fourth and final time in 2005. 

This attorney served in the Army JAG and became one of the founding members of Henson Efron.  He had the unique ability to advise clients on a broad range of corporate issues and try cases.  He was also known to strap himself into the pilot seat and fly his legal team to trial or client meetings when it may have been just as fast to drive.

Another was a renaissance man, who coupled his love for the law with his love for the outdoors, world history, reading, and writing.  He had over 30 letters to the editor published in the StarTribune.  And up until his death, he was an active member of Toastmasters, a nonprofit that promotes communication and public speaking skills.

Another was an accountant who turned his sights to the law and became a well-known estates & trusts attorney.  He practiced at Hellmuth & Johnson and advocated on behalf of the estate and trusts bar.  He was later accepted into the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. 

One attorney, a native of Duluth, served in the Marine Corps. during WWII.  He joined the firm now known as Dorsey & Whitney in 1951 and practiced for nearly 40 years. He became partner and was at the helm of the firm’s labor and employment practice.  Apart from the law and his passion for history, he also loved to travel.  He and his wife visited all seven continents, yes, even Antarctica!

This attorney survived a kamikaze attack while in the Marine Corps. in WWII.  After returning home, he married the love of his life, and joined the small firm of Robins, Davis & Lyons, now known as Robins Kaplan.  He served as the firm’s managing partner and led the growth of its national insurance litigation practice.  He was also a supporter of cutting edge technology, which back then meant electric typewriters, copy machines, and dictating devices.

Another attorney, after serving in the Army, turned down persistent invitations from his family to join their clothing manufacturing business. Instead, he decided to pave his own way as a high-profile sports agent and as a trial lawyer fighting for underdogs.  He represented first-round draft picks in all major men’s professional sports and won one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in Minnesota’s history. 

Another, having served as a teacher with his wife in Texas, changed course, attended law school, and then clerked for Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Justice Tom Clark of the United States Supreme Court.  After his clerkship, he joined the firm now known as Faegre Baker Daniels and spent the remainder of his 41-year legal career there as a trial and appellate attorney.  His key lessons to practice were to keep the argument simple, avoid going down “rabbit holes,” and “keep the main thing, the main thing.”

Another was a high school teacher after college, where he also served as a debate coach and student drama director.  He began his legal career with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, first as a law clerk and then as an attorney.  After 35 years of service as a prosecutor, he retired in 2011 as head of appeals.  He continued to teach at a number of local colleges. 

Another attorney became a teacher after having practiced commercial real estate law.  He was from Indiana and later moved to Minneapolis to begin his law practice with the Popham Haik law firm, which later merged with Hinshaw & Culbertson. 

As for another attorney, how many of us can say their name was mentioned in a Coen Brothers movie?  Or that your law firm was featured in a Coen Brothers movie?  Well, this attorney could say both.  Having begun his career as a prosecutor for the Hennepin County Attorneys’ Office, he tried 45 felony cases in his first three years with a conviction rate of 92% and later became a prominent criminal defense attorney with six decades of experience. 

We celebrate those who advanced Collegiality in the Profession:

“Fierce advocate,” “brilliant” and “afraid of nothing” were words people often used to describe this attorney.  After working full time as a registered nurse and raising two children, she graduated from law school and joined Meagher & Geer where she spent her 26-year legal career as a well-respected medical-malpractice defense attorney.  She served as an instructor for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA) to train the next generation of attorneys. 

This third-generation attorney with a general law practice in Fairfax, MN, later focused his career on bringing parties together through alternative dispute resolution.  He was a voracious reader and loved finding the next “thing,” from purchasing the next big motorcycle to harmonicas, which he may or may not have learned how to play.

Another served eight years in the Navy.  After spending over 50 years practicing exclusively in the area of workers’ compensation defense, he spent the last 20 years of his practice focused exclusively on asbestos litigation and mentored new lawyers entering that field. 

Another was so fired up about the law that when he had to pass up Bruce Springsteen concert tickets to handle an injunction, he just grinned, fist-pumped and said, “This is what we live for!”  He practiced for over 20 years as a labor law attorney at the Oppenheimer Law Firm, and later became a founding member of the Minneapolis Office of Littler where he remained until he retired in 2009.  He loved music and hosted a music radio show for 26 years.

We celebrate those who advanced Diversity:

This attorney served in the Army, and then started a personal injury, labor law and workers’ compensation practice.  He was a strong advocate for union workers and served on the boards of various nonprofits.  He also participated in interfaith dialogue and Christian-Jewish relations at the University of St. Thomas, where he worked to fight anti-Semitism and advance social justice and respect for all faiths.

Another served in the Marines, was a regent of Augsburg University, and a partner with Faegre & Benson until his retirement in 1998 except for 2 years when he served as deputy attorney general for the State of Minnesota.  He was a longtime advocate for greater awareness around chemical dependency issues and an avid supporter of Augsburg’s StepUp Program, a program that helps people live in a community of accountability, recovery and support. 

Another was born in Minnetonka and practiced law in the Twin Cities until deciding to provide legal services in Greater MN, in particular, the cities of Aitkin and Grand Rapids.  A lover of sports, one of the greatest moments in his life was coaching the Hamel Hawks to victory in the 1987 state amateur baseball tournament. 

After serving in the Air Force, this attorney had a 40-year career in the bond department of Dorsey & Whitney.  He was a feminist before there may have been a word for it.  When his wife passed away after nearly 20 years of marriage, he tried to balance his obligations of work with his household of five children.  He mentored women and men in the public finance space.

This attorney loved exploring and discovering the outside world.  A passionate debater, Eagle Scout, Peace Corps. volunteer in India, and Editor-in-Chief of his law school’s law review, he was proud to have served clients across cultures, backgrounds and perspectives.

A Fulbright scholar, this Judge graduated from law school at the age of 40.  Despite being told by a law firm partner that she should not be a trial lawyer because juries do not like women, she blazed trails for men and women attorneys across the country.  She served as a state and federal judge for 42 years, first as a Hennepin County Municipal Court Judge, then as a Hennepin County District Court Judge, later becoming the first woman appointed as a federal judge for the district of Minnesota and then the first woman appointed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  She was the only woman on that court until 2013.

Finally, we celebrate those who advanced and improved the Administration of Justice:

This attorney passed away at the age of 79, on the eve of the two-day blizzard in Minneapolis last April and just one month before his youngest child graduated from his law school alma mater.  His first job was with the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in DC where he assisted with voter registration in the era of the Selma-to-Montgomery March.  He later practiced at Lindquist & Vennum for 38 years until his retirement in 2009.

This Judge had an over 60-year marriage that was the byproduct of a college blind date.  After a successful practice in family law, she served as a Hennepin County Referee until she was appointed as a Hennepin County District Court Judge.  An innovator, she spearheaded the court’s attempts to more effectively handle pro se litigants. 

This attorney was valedictorian of her high school. After working for a few years in private practice, she found her vocational calling working for low-income clients as an attorney for Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, where she worked for almost 40 years and gave a voice to those who need to be heard.

Another served in the Marines and was a director and officer of Union Bank & Trust.  He practiced law for nearly 50 years with the law firm of Peterson, Engberg & Peterson with a particular interest in labor law, workers and labor unions.  He was a firm believer that workers and unions are a critical part of our society, and their rights need to be protected.

After a brief time in the Army, this Judge began and ended his legal career in public service.  He served as a prosecutor and headed the Criminal Division of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for 11 years before being appointed to the Hennepin County District Court Bench.  He was the third African American to serve the state of Minnesota as a District Court Judge and adjudicated some of the most significant cases recorded in Hennepin County’s history.  Known as a judge who served with remarkable calm and patience, he was also known for his knack for listening, generosity, and sense of style.

*   *   *

Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”  Each of the attorneys that we celebrate today has more than thrown something back to the legal community.  I encourage you all to take a copy of the memorial that will be distributed later this morning, and to read more about these attorneys, the profession they chose, the people they served and the lives they impacted. 

Let the celebration continue!  


View list of those memorialized this year.