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Kentucky Lawyer

Mac Swinford

Publication Year: 2010

Judge Mac Swinford was one of the longest-serving federal judges in United States history. During his lengthy tenure in the Kentucky courts, he came to know and appreciate the deep complexity of the law, understanding that it could be solid and fluid, broad and narrow, kind and harsh, changeless yet always evolving. In this service to the state and to the law, he felt that it was often his fellow lawyers who touched and educated him most. Kentucky Lawyer presents the most humorous, enlightening, and poignant moments of a remarkable fifty-year career. Judge Swinford offers a unique Kentucky history, recounting instances of the drama and romance of the Kentucky bar. In “A Kentucky Ghost Story,” he takes readers to the banks of Crooked Creek in Harrison County, where the spirit of a wrongfully accused man still affects judicial decisions. “Cost of Love” recalls a trial in Carlisle County in which a scorned lover files suit against her ex-fiancé for breach of promise, claiming ten thousand dollars for a broken heart. Remembering some of Kentucky’s most revered and respected jurists, Judge Swinford relates American culture in its most intimate and significant sense, through the acts and expressions of local leaders in the everyday affairs of life. His stories of humble commitment highlight the lives of men such as Henry Clay, Lieutenant Governor Rodes K. Myers, and Senator Joe C.S. Blackburn, who championed unpopular cases and stood on the forefront of government and community affairs. Kentucky Lawyer pays tribute to some of Kentucky’s “truly great men,” with the hope that legend will preserve them for us in memory. Now back in print, this classic book illuminates the varied work and world of the twentieth-century lawyer with elegance and humor.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

I first met Judge Mac Swinford when he and Judge Bernard T. Moynahan Jr. administered my oath of office as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District...

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pp. xiii

Most of these stories have been taken from instances which I have personally witnessed or which have been related to me by first- or second-hand observers. I have scrupulously attempted...

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pp. 1-2

Someone has well said that the memory of its great men is a nation’s most cherished inheritance. The term “great” is not always properly used. Greatness is a relative thing, and when speaking...

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No comment

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pp. 2-4

In referring to Kentuckians, Harlan, Vinson and Reed, who became members of the Supreme Court of the United States, I am reminded of a very fine statement I heard Judge Alex P. Humphrey of Louisville make many years ago. I had just been admitted to the bar...

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Voices in the night

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pp. 4-8

The Estill Springs meeting calls to mind another incident that occurred there, but which I did not hear about until some years later...

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Attributes of the Kentucky lawyer

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pp. 9-10

Kentucky may be said to be divided into five main regions: the Mountains, the Blue Grass, the Bear Grass, the “Pennyrile,” and...

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An “overspeaking” judge

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pp. 10-11

Sir Francis Bacon in his essay on the judiciary said: “An overspeaking judge is no well-tuned cymbal.” Those of our profession who occupy the bench should be constantly aware of this...

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According to law or instructions

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pp. 11-12

While, generally speaking, judges are shielded from the real sentiments of those before them in the courtroom, there are occasions when the truth comes from the naive. A friend of mine...

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pp. 12

While he was not a Kentuckian by birth but a native of our sister state of Tennessee, Judge George Taylor of Knoxville was a kindred spirit with Kentuckians in his fine sense of...

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Sturdy oak

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pp. 13

While it may be said that some judges affect a false air of importance and endeavor to establish themselves as legendary figures, there are others whose very presence and natural demeanor...

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“Less sympathy—more consideration”

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pp. 19-21

Another of the interesting stories concerning Judge Cochran occurred during World War I while he was holding court at Covington. The times required certain emergency legislation...

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Helping the judge

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pp. 21

Another interesting incident in the judicial career of Judge Cochran occurred at Catlettsburg Court. Two attorneys were arguing very strenuously over a demurrer to the...

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“Pass the sugar”

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pp. 22-26

One of the most colorful and brilliant characters ever at the Kentucky bar was the late Judge Edward C. O’Rear of Mt. Sterling and Frankfort. His career reads like a storybook, and he became, while...

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University of Camargo

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pp. 26-28

The judge was engaged in the trial of a very important lawsuit in Chicago. Numerous eminent lawyers from Chicago, New York, and Detroit were representing the respective sides....

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Importance of the law

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pp. 28-30

While the law cannot be said to be an exact science, it should be acknowledged as the most important of all the sciences. This does not detract in any sense from the sciences of medicine...

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Dedication of the Kentucky lawyer

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pp. 30-31

Those bearing the name of lawyer are by their profession, like plumed knights, committed to its preservation and defense in the finest sense. A small percentage...

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All the way

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pp. 31

In some instances, however, the case suggests to the court that an attorney of greater experience should be called upon. I recall on...

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Amicus curiae

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pp. 32

One of the best accounts of an attorney’s unselfish service to an indigent defendant comes from Honorable H. Church Ford, United States Judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky...

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pp. 35-39

Many of the humorous stories on lawyers come from the lawyer who may himself be the butt of the joke. One of these classics is from the late United States Senator Joe C. S. Blackburn of Versailles. As the story goes, when Senator Blackburn was...

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Juries usually arrive at correct decision

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pp. 39-42

Many times cases take a turn that could not possibly have been anticipated by any of the participants, and yet there is very infrequently a real...

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Wrong man on trial

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pp. 41

It is a recognized practice of skillful criminal lawyers to put the prosecuting witnesses on trial in order to get the jury’s mind off the action of the defendant. These artists of rhetoric and masters...

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No kiss for Uncle Harry

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pp. 41-46

One of these actors of an earlier day was the Honorable Andrew Harrison Ward of the Cynthiana bar in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Uncle Harry, as he was affectionately called...

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The case of the diamond ring

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pp. 47-49

A striking incident of this was demonstrated in the federal court at Pikeville on one occasion. Without reciting all the details of the case, the trial had reached a place where the former...

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Battle of San Juan Hill

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pp. 49-51

The following story, while not exactly identified with the profession, is about one of the most important functionaries and office...

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The League of Nations

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pp. 51

The jailer is many times the party wheelhorse and is powerful and useful in a very practical way in the interest of his party at election time when he is not a candidate. The late A. B. Rouse...

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The prohibition era

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pp. 87-55

In the days of national prohibition, in what is now referred to as the roaring twenties, the federal courts were crowded with cases growing out of violations of the generally unpopular law. Racketeers and gangsters, with money derived from the illicit liquor traffic, conducted...

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The Purchase

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pp. 55-56

One of the most delightful and interesting parts of the state of Kentucky is the far western portion known as the Jackson Purchase. The Purchase needs no word from me to recall its charm and rich

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Cost of love

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pp. 57-60

Judge Gardner told me of his first trial as a state circuit judge. The first term of court he held after taking office was at Bardwell in Carlisle County and the first civil case on the...

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A plea for mercy

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pp. 60-62

Judge Gardner said he had had the honor of holding many political offices, among them county attorney, circuit judge, attorney for the R. F. C. and United States Attorney, but...

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Trial of prohibition violators

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pp. 62-63

Prohibition had its staunch adherents and its open violators. It was a failure but not because of the attitudes of either of these extremes. The weakness of the law was inherent. Whatever...

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Santa Claus

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pp. 63-66

I heard the late Judge Dick Thomas of Bowling Green tell this story of a famous lawyer of Brownsville, Edmonson County, of a generation ago. His name was Milton Wright and he was...

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Some confusion

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pp. 66-68

One of Kentucky’s most illustrious sons was the Honorable John G. Carlisle of Covington. Mr. Carlisle had a distinguished career at the bar and in the public service. He practiced...

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Lawyers and politics

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pp. 68-69

Most lawyers because of their training are interested in politics. The very fact that their minds turn toward government and law as a chosen profession indicates that there is a bent to hold...

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“Yellow dog Democrat?”

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pp. 69-70

One of the chief leaders of the revolt against the nominee and therefore a “bolter” of the Democratic party was Theodore Hallam, referred to above. Mr. Hallam took the stump and campaigned...

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Two of a kind

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pp. 70-72

My father was actively interested in politics throughout his long life. I have heard him say that Judge John Rhea of Russellville was the greatest political orator...

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A Kentucky ghost story

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pp. 72-78

No accumulation of the legends and actions of Kentuckians would be complete without a ghost story. This romantic land, with its rivers, hills, valleys and wooded bluegrass pastures...

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pp. 78-83

But this was not the end of David Sheely for the people of Cynthiana and Harrison County. Later events were to establish beyond doubt that he had been convicted and executed for...

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Lawyers as jurors

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pp. 84-85

Loquacity of Kentucky lawyers is traditional and can be carried to extremes. The late Ruby Laffoon, Governor of the state from 1932 to 1936 told me of an experience he had as a former circuit...

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Great teacher

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pp. 85-86

Many members of the bar of Kentucky attended the Law School of the University of Virginia. It is said that any lasting, worthwhile institution is but the lengthening shadow of some one man...

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Giant and dwarf

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pp. 86-88

Humorous instances in hearings before appellate courts, while not so numerous as in trial courts, do occur, and without materially impairing the dignity of the court. The following...

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Naturalization hearings

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pp. 88-89

One of the more pleasant and inspiring duties of my judicial service has been in the conduct of naturalization hearings. It has been my purpose to hold these sessions within reasonable...

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Whose America is this?

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pp. 89-92

This fact was brought home to me during the war when I was conducting a naturalization class at a term of court at Pikeville. There were about forty petitioners...

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No striped pants

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pp. 92-94

Colonel William Colston of the Cincinnati law firm of Harmon, Colston, Goldsmith and Hoadly, was a well known attorney in Kentucky. He was a Confederate veteran and, I am told, lost an arm in the service of the...

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Rules of court

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p. 94-94

Speaking of rules of court, it has always been my belief that the fewer rules a court has the less difficulty it has in dispatching business. This applies particularly to local rules. It is the purpose...

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Obligations of the judiciary

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pp. 94-97

Sir Francis Bacon said of judges, “They should imitate God in whose seat they sit.” I was discussing this statement with a judge friend of mine one time. He remarked that that was impossible, which...

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pp. 97

One of the most interesting and entertaining lawyers I have known is Mr. Abraham Berkowitz of the Birmingham, Alabama bar. He was before me in the trial of a case in Louisville, and in his closing argument told one of the most...

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Solid foundation

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pp. 99-103

Orie S. Ware of Covington is a lawyer of ability and an excellent storyteller. He gives the following story which, to my mind, is one of the real gems of Kentucky courthouse lore. It seems...

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Old-fashioned orator

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pp. 103-105

All Kentuckians who knew him personally and who had intimate association with him had a genuine affection for the late Governor Edwin P. Morrow of Somerset. He was a man of warm...

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“Old Ring”

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pp. 105-109

Notwithstanding his many courthouse battles and his wide law practice for a generation throughout Kentucky, Governor Morrow is probably best remembered for his famous...

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Sho’ ’nuf bad weather

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pp. 109-110

One of the best storytellers I have ever known is U.S. District Judge Leslie Darr of the Eastern District of Tennessee, Chattanooga Division. Before going on the federal bench, Judge Darr was a state circuit judge and relates many instances...

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Henry Clay

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pp. 110-111

The stories of the exploits at the bar of Kentucky’s distinguished forensic giant, Henry Clay, are myriad, but I heard one many years ago which I cannot recall having ever seen in print. At...

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Look to the hills

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pp. 112-118

The instances of the drama and romance of the bar of Kentucky are confined to no section or part. All have their local and colloquial tales and accounts of the prowess, humor and skill of their orators and lawyers. One section...

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The ever-growing law

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pp. 119-120

This effort to briefly record something of the color and romance of the bar of Kentucky as observed these many years must of course be incomplete. The law itself, with its complex, many sidedness...

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pp. 121

I have given only a glimpse of the Kentucky Lawyer. His is a way of life, an ideal of service, a contribution in the best sense...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813129266
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813124803

Page Count: 136
Publication Year: 2010