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News & Press: SBAND

From Carbon Paper To The Cloud—50 Years Of Change

Monday, November 5, 2018  
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By David L. Peterson

As a 1968 graduate of the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Law who has received my 2018 law license, I cannot help but marvel at the many changes that have occurred, not only in the technical aspects of the practice, but also in the many changes I have observed and experienced over the past 50 years in the various legal positions in which I have been privileged to serve.


THEN—Our class entered UND Law with a few less than 100 candidates and we ended up graduating around 40. There were no women graduates in our class even though we had three who were with our class part of the time. One dropped out, one transferred for her senior year and one graduated at midyear the following year.

NOW—It appears the UND Law classes have nearly equal numbers of men and women.
THEN—I and two others were the last students who were allowed to enter law school in what was called the Three-Three program. In that program we had to complete three years of undergraduate classes and then we were allowed to enter law school, which was considered our undergraduate senior year, and after which we received our bachelor’s degree. Then after completing our second and third year of law school we received our juris doctor degree.
NOW—The Three-Three program was discontinued in 1967 and now every first-year student is required to have a bachelor’s degree before admission. However, at the 2018 SBAND meeting, Dean Kathryn Rand stated there is now consideration regarding implementing a Three-Three program once again.
THEN—The Law School occupied ONLY the top two floors of what was then the Business School building for classrooms, faculty offices, and library. We had no computers or internet service.
NOW—The Law School took over the entire building several years after our class graduated. Thereafter, an addition was added primarily housing library materials. Then recently a $14.4 million major addition to, and renovation of, the existing building was completed. It is now a state-of-the-art building facility with computers and internet available throughout.
Some memorable events during law school: I had dinner in San Francisco with William Prosser, author of “Prosser on Torts” at a Law Review convention; got a ride with attorney F. Lee Bailey (then a well-known criminal defense attorney who was disbarred years later) in his Lear Jet after he gave a lecture at the Law School; and watched San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli, then known as the “King of Torts,” try a products liability case in Grand Forks Federal Court.


THEN—I was editor-in-chief for Volume 44. We had a very small office which was located on the top floor and occupied a space equal to the size of the jury box that is located in the top floor court room. I had five assistant editors, a business manager and 12 staff members. Obviously, we had no computers or internet to use for our publication.
NOW—The editor-in-chief in 2018 for Volume 93 is Santana Royer. The office now is a much larger and a more functional space. There now appears to be six assistant editors, 11 associate editors and 12 staff members. Computers and internet are obviously available for use in preparing the publication.

THE BAR EXAM-July 1968

THEN—When we took the bar exam in 1968, it was administered by three bar examiners (who were all North Dakota lawyers in private practice) who composed the examination questions (all essay). They then reviewed and graded the examinations and determined who was eligible for admission and who was not. Obviously, there were no computers available for use. The exam was administered on a Monday and Tuesday in July, and on Friday of the same week we, the applicants, called the clerk of the Supreme Court who would advise who had passed and who had failed the exam. Those who passed were then admitted to the bar on Saturday of the same week in July.
Following our admission, some of our class felt North Dakota should adopt the Diploma Privilege mode of bar admission, meaning IF one graduated from the UND Law School, one should be admitted to the North Dakota Bar upon motion. In 1968, several states, including Montana, did use the Diploma Privilege for Montana Law School graduates. The theory was that if one was admitted to law school and spent the time and money to successfully complete three years of law school and if one assumed the law school professors were competent, then students who earned a law degree should be automatically admitted to the bar. It did not make sense that, after successfully earning their law degree, they should have to sit for a two-day exam written and corrected by three lawyers, who could then decide the student was NOT qualified to practice law in North Dakota. Surely the law school professors should be far better able to assess the qualifications of the graduates to practice law, having spent three years with them, then three random lawyers who had never met the applicants and simply graded a random test taken over two days. Thus, a Diploma Privilege bill was introduced in the North Dakota Senate. It passed in the Senate but was killed in the House after strong opposition from law professors and the bar board.
NOW—The bar exam is still required and is administered in July and February, but the results of the exam are not released until months after the exams are completed. Those who pass are not admitted until months after the exams are completed. Further, the exam format is very different, as there are now multistate exam questions that are used by the bar examiners. Computers may be used while taking the exam.
THEN—In 1968, there were approximately 703 lawyers licensed in North Dakota and not very many lived outside of North Dakota. The population of North Dakota was approximately 600,000.
NOW—In 2018, there were approximately 2,924 lawyers licensed in North Dakota. Of that number, 1,686 live in North Dakota and 1,238 live outside North Dakota. The 2018 population of North Dakota now is approximately 760,000.


THEN—Upon graduation, I was fortunate to be selected to be a Supreme Court law clerk for a one-year period. In 1968, the Court only hired two law clerks. At that time, one of the justices would not use a law clerk stating, since he was elected to be the justice, he felt he would do all the research and writing. As a result, each of us law clerks worked for three months for each of the other four justices. We would read the briefs, do research, meet with the justices, and sometimes be asked to draft legal memorandums for the justices. Sometimes, portions of those memos would end up in some of the opinions. One of the justices would ask us to draft some “potential questions” to be asked during oral argument. It was interesting to see the look on the face of the lawyer arguing the case when the random question was asked, which was not on the point being argued at the time. The lawyer clearly wondered how to respond to the seemingly random, irrelevant question. During this clerkship, I discovered the practical problems with carbon paper usage. We clerks would dictate our memos and they would be transcribed by the secretaries and if, when reviewed, the typed product needed any changes, the secretary had to type the entire page or memorandum over again and that did not make them happy. Obviously, neither we or they had any computers or internet to use.
NOW—Each justice has a law clerk and additional legal staff available. Further, there is likely no or little dictation and transcription done, so if any change to a document is required, with computers the change can be easily and quickly made.


THEN—Upon completion of my clerkship I was hired as a special assistant attorney general and my responsibility was to run the Unsatisfied Judgment Fund. In 1969, there was no such thing as uninsured or underinsured automobile insurance coverage, so the Legislature created the fund. The purpose was to have at least a limited source of recovery for someone injured or killed in an automobile crash caused by an irresponsible driver who had no insurance. The money for the Fund was derived from a one dollar assessment applied to every motor vehicle that was licensed each time the motor vehicle license was renewed. My job was to defend the irresponsible driver, and the Fund, in any court case that arose. As a result, I had the opportunity to appear before every trial judge in the state at that time, as I traveled the entire state defending the Fund. It was a great job, as it also provided me the opportunity to try many jury cases against many excellent trial lawyers before many different judges, and I learned a great deal from this experience and I learned to love trial work.
NOW—When insurance companies commenced offering uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in their automobile liability policies, the use of the Fund was nearly eliminated. In 1983, the Legislature repealed NDCC 39-17 and replaced it with NDCC 26.1-23, which provides that if the balance in the Fund drops below $150,000, then the one dollar assessment for each license plate renewal is included in the fee for renewal until the Fund is replenished. The Fund is rarely used today.
THEN—All court pleadings were either filed by mail or personally delivered to the proper clerk of court office. The district judges would then periodically schedule “Call of the Calendar” and require every lawyer who had a pending case to physically appear at the “Call” in order to get the case set for trial. At the “Call,” the judge and the lawyers would go through every case on the “Calendar” over a several day period and set them for trial. This process was time consuming, but it gave all the lawyers an opportunity to socialize over the several days in each district and we got to know one another and became friends. These friendships resulted in a very congenial relationship among these trial lawyers and, as a result, many cases got settled early and out of court.
NOW—All pleadings are required to be filed and served electronically. The above described “Call of the Calendar” process is no longer used and cases are now set for trial in a far different fashion (sometimes over a conference telephone call with court and counsel or arbitrarily by the court). Quite often, the trial lawyers have never met and do not personally know the trial lawyer on the other side of the case and, as a result, some of the congeniality among the trial bar seems to have been lost.
THEN—Some court reporters in 1969-70 would record the trials using Gregg shorthand, which is based on the use of elliptical figures and lines that bisect them, and would use ink fountain pens to record depositions or trial testimony. Other reporters had machines that performed a similar function. No one other than the reporter could read the shorthand, so the reporter would have to read back the record and/or type a transcript for the judges and lawyers.
NOW—Some court reporters using their shorthand machine and with computer technology can provide a “real-time” record for the judges and lawyers so a transcript is immediately available right during the trial or deposition. Other reporters use a tape or digital recorder but, in those cases, there is still a need for a transcript to be prepared.


THEN—In 1969, the Legislature placed a constitutional amendment before the voters calling for a Constitutional Convention. It was passed by the voters in the 1970 primary election. Thereafter, in the 1970 general election, 98 delegates were elected from the same legislative districts used for the House of Representatives. I was privileged to serve as assistant director of the Convention and as legal counsel for several of the committees. The product of the Convention was placed before the electorate at a special election held on April 28, 1972, and was soundly rejected by the voters.
NOW—There have been many piecemeal constitutional amendments enacted since 1972, and many of the provisions that were contained in the 1972 document have become a part of the current Constitution.


THEN—I was selected by United States Attorney Hal Bullis to be an assistant U.S. attorney and was directed to open a sub office in Bismarck. I opened the office and hired a secretary, and she and I were the only persons employed in the Bismarck office. In 1972, there were only three other assistant U.S. attorneys all located in the Fargo office. Many cases handled in the office then involved major crimes committed on the Indian Reservations. The U.S. Attorneys Office (USAO) also handled bank fraud, bank robbery, counterfeiting, and some drug cases, as well as many civil cases involving the U.S. government. During this timeframe we had no computers or internet.
NOW—Currently, there are 12 assistant U.S. attorneys in Fargo, seven assistant U.S. attorneys in Bismarck, one special assistant U.S. attorney in Bismarck and also one in Minot. The USAO still handles cases such as those referenced above, but now there are many drug cases, sexual exploitation, and trafficking cases. The current USAO has full computer and internet service available.
THEN—In 1972-76, there were only two active U.S. district judges to serve all of North Dakota. There were two senior (retired) federal judges who would occasionally agree to handle a case or trial. Cases were tried in Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot, and Bismarck.
NOW—Currently, there are still only two active U.S. district judge slots for North Dakota. One is currently empty, and, at this time, there are no North Dakota senior (retired) federal judges handling cases in North Dakota. Occasionally a federal judge from another state will come and preside over cases in North Dakota. For many years, North Dakota had only one U.S district judge. In the early 1950s, another judge was authorized, but no additional federal judges have been authorized since. Obviously, the case numbers have increased substantially. Most cases are now tried in Fargo and Bismarck.
The most memorable cases prosecuted between 1972-76, by the undersigned, included an Oklahoma man who wired five pounds of plastic explosive to a pickup ignition and blew a young female schoolteacher over several housetops; a bank robber from Chicago who, during his get-away, shot a highway patrol officer and then kidnapped a farm couple and forced them to drive him to the Canadian border; a juvenile who committed murder; a major bank fraud case committed by several out of state men; and a Tribal travel fraud case, which the trial lasted for six weeks and had hundreds of exhibits and, of course, no computers to use for trial.


I left my position as assistant U.S. attorney in 1976, and joined Bert Wheeler, Albert Wolf, and Robert Wefald in private practice. This firm, through mergers and hiring, grew to 17 members. My practice was a very active civil litigation practice, and I have tried numerous jury cases in every state and federal court in North Dakota. We had a small law library, so it was necessary to often travel to the Supreme Court library to research the relevant case law involved in the many cases that were handled. During the early years of private practice, we did not have the availability of the internet, computers, fax machines, and cell phones. The introduction and usage of these devices has greatly changed the practice of law.
Upon returning to the USAO, I was the civil chief and tried civil cases, but also tried numerous criminal cases. Upon retiring from the USAO, I became “Of Counsel” with the Bismarck law firm Larson Latham Huettl, which handles civil litigation and criminal defense, while personally, I only handle civil litigation. July 2018 marked 50 years since I became a member of the North Dakota Bar. In the 50 years since my admission to the bar, there have been many changes. The practice of law has experienced a shift from what was a rather homogeneous profession into a global enterprise with concentration on growth and profit.


Today’s law students and beginning lawyers could hardly imagine the mode and methods that were part of the day-to-day practice of law 50 years ago. The most obvious change has been the result of all the technology that has been developed, which is now taken for granted in their everyday use. There was no internet, computers, email, fax, software (for forms), laptops, iPads, or cell phones. Nor was there Twitter, Snap Chat or PowerPoint and a whole host of other electronic gadgetry.
Without that technology, lawyers had to communicate with clients, other lawyers, and the courts by snail mail, land line telephones, or face-to-face. There was not electronic service or filing of documents and no ability to retrieve statutes or court decisions or a plethora of forms electronically with a key stroke while sitting in front of a keyboard in one’s office or on a laptop at home in bed. The good news is, the electronics allow one to work from anywhere there is an internet connection and be in constant contact with one’s office. The downside is, one is never really free of the workplace or contact from clients or other lawyers.
One had to hand draft pleadings or dictate the draft for a secretary to type using a regular typewriter with carbon paper. Then review the typed draft and, if there was need for correction, the secretary would have to retype each page of the entire document. Once finished, then the pleadings would have to be mailed to the clerk and served on opposing counsel. Now, most lawyers do their own key boarding of documents and then, proof, finalize, serve, and file the documents electronically.


In 1968, there were approximately 300,000 lawyers in the U.S. and, in 2018, there are approximately 1.34 million lawyers. Firms have grown much larger. In 1968, there were only 20 firms that had more than 100 lawyers, and now there are more than 20 firms that have over 1,000 lawyer members.
In 1968, there were approximately 703 licensed lawyers in North Dakota and, in 2018, there are 2,924 licensed lawyers and about 1,686 of those reside in North Dakota. Since the Bakken oil boom, a large number of lawyers living outside the state have secured North Dakota licenses.
In 1968, there were few women in law school and consequently there were few female lawyers or judges in North Dakota or the U.S. In North Dakota, the first female Supreme Court Justice was Beryl Levine who served from 1985 to 1996, and was then followed by Mary Maring, Carol Kapsner, and Lisa Fair McEvers. The first female State District Court Judge was Cynthia Rothe Seeger in 1975. In the early 1970s, less than five percent of lawyers and judges were female and that has changed so that it is now estimated one-third or more of the lawyers and judges in the U.S. are female. The North Dakota Supreme Court started hiring law clerks in 1965, and Christine Hogan was the first female law clerk hired in 1975.
The State Bar Association of North Dakota (SBAND), of which I was president in 1985-86, and from which I received the association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2008, was formed in 1899. It was not until 1996 that Rebecca Thiem was elected the first female president. However, in the 22 years since her presidency, SBAND has had 10 female presidents.
In the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, there were usually contests for the office of SBAND president at the annual meeting; however, for about the last decade, more often than not, there is no contest for the position. Also, the SBAND convention usually ran from Thursday through Saturday evening, ending with a formal dinner on Saturday night when the gavel would be passed to the incoming officers. During my 50 years as a member of SBAND, the only time the convention was not held in North Dakota was in 1986, and it was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Nearly 1,000 SBAND members and their families were in attendance in Winnipeg, which is the largest attendance for an SBAND convention in my memory.
The American Bar Association (ABA), of which I was a member and served in the ABA House of Delegates for four years, was founded in 1876. It was not until 1995 that Roberta Cooper Ramo became its first female president and there have been a few more female presidents since her term.
The American Trial Lawyers Association (since 2006 known as the American Association of Justice) was formed in 1972, from several smaller associations and in 1992, Roxanne Barton Conlin was elected its first female president. Since 1992, there have been six additional female presidents of that association.
North Dakota also formed a North Dakota Trial Lawyers Association (NKA North Dakota Association for Justice), of which I served as president in the 1980s, and the first female president was Mary Maring, who also held that office in the 1980s.


Advertising lawyer services was not allowed until 1977, when the U.S. Supreme Court in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, invalidated the ban on advertising on First Amendment grounds. Now TV, internet, radio, billboard, phone book, YouTube, and direct mail ads about lawyer services are found everywhere. Some of these modes of advertisement are very professional and some are very tacky, and some are very expensive and some are very inexpensive. Further, most law firms now have a website, which provides the relevant information about their firm and the service they perform.


In the late 60s and early 70s, not many lawyers had paralegals working with them. Some lawyers soon realized having trained non-lawyers could provide excellent and cost-effective legal services by drafting pleadings, doing legal research, and managing case files. Today, there are state and national paralegal associations, and it is estimated that, currently, there are more than 200,000 paralegals working with lawyers in the United States.
Personally, I started working with paralegals when I first started in private practice in 1972, and I have always worked with one or more in both my private and government practice. I believe a lawyer who works well with a competent paralegal can double their work output.


Discovery in the pre-computer age required drafting, dictation, and typing of interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admission of certain facts. These documents then tended to be very case specific. But today, in the computer age, the competing litigators often take full advantage of the large volume of forms they can access on the internet and flood their opponent with useless and repetitive questions, requests, and objections. This abuse has thankfully resulted in the courts enacting some rules restricting the number of questions and requests that can be made, but there still tends to be abuses which wastes time and are costly to a client.
With the internet, there is almost certain to be a request for the metadata related to any relevant documents involved in the case. Further, in many personal injury cases, there will certainly be an investigation of any litigant and any potential witness, which will include a thorough review of any and all social networks where the party or witness may have done or said something which may be inconsistent or contrary to their claim in the case. Depositions are now routinely videotaped and are often used at trial rather than calling the witness in person.


In the early years of my practice, we would receive relatively little information about the prospective jurors—name, address, and occupation. Since there was no internet available, any investigation had to be done by the lawyer, paralegal, or an investigator. If that was not done then, during voir dire, one needed to extract as much information as one could about the juror in order to decide if the person could be fair and impartial. The courts usually had strict time limits on questioning and often it was a matter of gut instinct as to whether a juror should be kept or stricken from the panel.
Now, with the help of the internet, a very thorough background investigation, including review of social media posts can easily be done from one’s desk or even in a coffee shop with a laptop.
Early in my practice, I started using what I called “phantom jurors.” I would recruit a friend or acquaintance who knew nothing about the case I was going to try, or my client, and I would pay that person to attend the trial. That person would be instructed to only be in the courtroom when the actual trial jurors were present. Then, at the end of each trial day, I would meet with my “phantom” and pose questions to them in order to see whether or not my presentation was making sense or if they were having trouble understanding what I was attempting to prove. If my “phantom” was having trouble following the evidence or understanding what the case was about, there was a good chance some or all of the actual jurors were having the same problem. In such a case, I could then tweak my presentation to hopefully make the case more easily understood.
Also, in the 70s and 80s, we started working with jury research firms when we had a major case coming to trial. The jury research firm would hire a group of people who knew nothing about the parties of the case and bring them to a location a long distance from where the trial was to be held. We would then essentially do a mini trial by presenting them with some actual witnesses, relevant jury instructions, and oral argument. Once that was completed, we would provide them with a verdict form and send them out to deliberate and return a verdict. We would video their deliberation and, frankly, sometimes watching the deliberation would be very scary in the event it appeared they were not getting the theory of the case or they were rejecting our presentation. But in any event, it did allow us to then adjust our presentation for the actual jury and, in some cases, it would convince us and our client that the case should be settled.
Now, with the help of computers, such a presentation can be made over the internet to a group of people who merely sit at their home computer and hear and see the evidence and argument we present. Then they can deliberate through use of the internet and, upon completing their deliberation, the lawyers can ask questions about the presentation and, based on the feedback, make adjustments to the actual presentations at trial.
In some major cases, rather than doing the process over the internet, the jurors are brought to a central location where they are presented the evidence, given appropriate instructions on the law, and then deliberate and render a verdict. Then the lawyer can question each one in person and from that, learn how the evidence and arguments could be better presented. This then allows the lawyer to refine the presentation and make it more effective when presented to the actual jury. This process is expensive, often costing thousands of dollars. One of the best such jury research firms is First Court, which happens to be located in Mandan, N.D., and First Court works with lawyers all over the United States.


The number of cases that are actually tried to a jury are growing smaller as there is greater interest in resolving cases through a process of mediation or arbitration. I frankly prefer presenting the cases to a jury and have, in the nearly 200 jury cases I have tried, found that nine or 12 persons randomly selected, in the vast majority of cases, come to a just conclusion. Mediators simply want to cut the baby in half, collect their fee for the mediation, and go home. Arbitration processes are, in my experience, not in the best interests of an individual who is in a dispute with a company over some issue, which explains why many contracts involving large companies have mandatory arbitration clauses in them.


When I first became an assistant U.S. attorney the sentencing of those who were convicted or pled guilty to a crime had their sentence determined by the judge, who would have considerable information about the crime and the defendant and would therefore be in position to render a fair sentence. However, in the late 70s and 80s, the state and federal legislators decided they were smarter than the judges hearing the cases and started enacting mandatory minimum sentences for a number of crimes, thus taking away the discretion of the sentencing judges. This shortsighted action resulted in filling both state and federal prisons to overflowing and has cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.
In 1980, I was appointed to a four-year term on the North Dakota Parole Board, and the population at the North Dakota penitentiary reached 400 during that period. Today, there are more than 1,800 inmates in the North Dakota penitentiary. There is currently a movement to do away with many of those minimum mandatory sentences because of the huge cost of incarceration. In 2018, the average annual cost to house a federal prisoner is approximately $35,000, whereas in 2000, the average annual cost was approximately $21,000. The current annual cost to house a prisoner in North Dakota is approximately $40,000. There has now developed a greater interest in providing some rehabilitation and mental health services for people who end up in the criminal justice system rather than just locking them up. If properly done, the result should be fewer state and federal prisoners.


In the 60s, 70s and 80s in North Dakota, federal and state indigent defendants were provided a lawyer appointed by the courts and they were paid a very small hourly fee. In one such case in Bismarck, a young Bismarck lawyer represented a defendant in a week-long drug case in federal court. He then submitted his bill which, since it was over $1,000, had to be approved by the Chief Judge of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Chief Judge was not satisfied with the explanation for the small amount of charges for phone and computer use and rejected the bill and requested further information. The lawyer, Robert Snyder, responded with a letter noting he could provide no additional information regarding those charges and said he was tired of the manner in which lawyers representing indigents were paid and asked his name be taken off the list of those who could be appointed to represent indigents. The Chief Judge took offense at the “tone” of the letter and issued an order directing Snyder to appear in St. Paul and show cause why he should not be suspended from federal practice. I accompanied Snyder to St. Paul and attended the hearing as a representative of SBAND. We were concerned that if Snyder could be suspended for the “tone” of the letter, none of us were safe from such an arbitrary ruling. Chief Judge Lay not only issued the order, but then he chaired the three judge panel at the hearing. Essentially, the end result was that unless Snyder agreed to again represent indigents, submit proper billings, and “apologize” to the court for the “tone” of the letter, he would be suspended from practice. In Re Snyder, 734 F2d 334 (1984). Snyder said he would agree to represent indigents and submit proper billing, but he would never apologize to the court because he owed the court no apology as he had every right to say what was in the letter.
Since he refused to apologize, an order of suspension was issued. We filed a request for a hearing En Banc, which was then denied by a 7-2 vote. In Re Snyder, 734 F2d 341 (1984). I and several other Bismarck lawyers then filed a Petition for Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition was granted, and I argued the case before the Court. The Supreme Court thereafter issued an opinion that reversed the 8th Circuit’s order suspending Snyder by an 8-0 vote and ordered the Circuit to reimburse Snyder for his costs on appeal. In Re Robert Snyder, 472 US 634 (1985). Shortly thereafter, Snyder received a government check for around $3,000.
Currently, North Dakota has a statewide system in place that has several full-time criminal defense lawyers in various areas of the state who represent indigents who are charged with a crime. Further, the federal government also has in place full-time federal defense lawyers located in Bismarck and Fargo who represent indigent defendants. If, for some reason, the full-time defense lawyers have conflicts or cannot represent a charged defendant, then the courts will appoint private counsel.


When I first started private practice, there were several insurance companies that would provide malpractice insurance for lawyers, but the cost of coverage continued to increase on a yearly basis. So, in 1985, when I was president of SBAND, the presidents of a number of small state bar associations got together and we decided to form a malpractice insurance company that would provide reasonable cost coverage for small state lawyers. The company was formed and named Attorney Liability Protection Society (ALPS), headquartered in Missoula, Mont., and started writing policies in 13 small states. I was privileged to serve on the board of directors and, for several years, was the chairman of the board before resigning when I left private practice and rejoined the USAO. Today, ALPS is the largest direct writer of lawyer malpractice insurance in the U.S.


At the end of 2008, I retired from the USAO having spent nearly 18 years as a federal prosecutor, four years as a state government attorney, and 18 years in private practice. During those 40 years, I had the opportunity to try approximately 200 civil and criminal jury cases, argue nearly 40 cases before the North Dakota Supreme Court, approximately 40 cases before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Snyder case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Shortly after retiring, I was asked to join the Larson Latham Huettl firm in Bismarck as “Of Counsel” and have been so engaged on a part-time basis up to the present time. As of July 2018, I have been privileged to have practiced law for 50 years. It has been a very satisfying career thanks to the unwavering support of my wife, Diane, and our daughters, and the many wonderful people I have had the privilege of working with for over the 50-year period.


During the period of private practice from 1976 to 1995, some of the more memorable civil cases I was involved in, in addition to the Snyder case mentioned above, were: 1. Products liability cases where I represented badly injured clients (a young woman rendered a quadriplegic as the result of a defective automobile, a young man burned over 90 percent of his body in an explosion and fire as the result of defective paint and a defective paint sprayer, and another young man injured in an explosion during construction work on a power plant); 2. Banking cases, such as businessmen in a dispute with their bank when the bank refused to honor a large construction loan commitment (the client ended up owning majority interest in the bank); 3. Insurance coverage disputes, including one where the carrier cut off benefits for a man who had developed ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and succeeded in getting him unlimited continuing coverage.
After returning to the USAO, some of the more memorable criminal cases I prosecuted involved: 1. Three first degree murder cases (one of which resulted in conviction of 10 defendants—one for 1st degree murder and nine others for aiding and abetting, and perjury. When this case was completed, the FBI and BIA investigators received special awards from the Department of Justice, and I received the Directors Award for Superior Service from the Department of Justice); 2. Major fraud against the government cases; 3. Major drug trafficking cases; and 4. Kidnapping and interstate domestic violence cases. In addition to these, since I was the Civil Chief, I tried a number of civil cases in which the government was a party.

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