Please Join USDCHS and the FBA for a Practical Skills CLE on June 8

FBA CLE Flyer 3

In addition to the practical skills component, this CLE will explore the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in DeJonge v. Oregon, which addressed the state’s criminal syndicalism law.  On July 27, 1934, the Portland Police “Red Squad” raided a peaceful meeting sponsored by the local Communist Party held at First and Morrison in Portland.  The police arrested Dirk De Jonge, a World War I veteran, longshoreman, former Portland mayoral candidate, and Portland communist. The State charged De Jonge with violating Oregon’s criminal syndicalism statute by speaking in support of the Communist Party at the meeting, which was called in response to a police crackdown on striking longshoremen.  The strike had shut down every West Coast port from southern California to northern Washington.  A Multnomah County jury found him guilty after a month-long trial, and the court sentenced him to seven years in prison. The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the conviction 5-2.  With the assistance of his counsel, including then-private attorney Gus Solomon, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed.  Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, speaking for a unanimous Court, held that Oregon’s criminal syndicalism statute unconstitutionally infringed upon De Jonge’s right to assembly as protected by the First Amendment.

Jewel and Ron Lansing: 2016 Lifetime Service Award

By Adair Law

Jewel and Ron Lansing are the second couple to receive the LSA after the late Tom and Caroline Stoel in 2006. This article is based on archives, writings, and conversations with Jewel and Ron Lansing as well as research and contributions by their children Mark, Alyse, and Annette.

Through the conduct of their professional and personal lives, Jewel and Ron Lansing have been the source of education and inspiration for thousands with their contributions in teaching, political office, and their respective written works.

Lars and Julia Beck family in 1935. Jewel is front row, right. All photos courtesy or Ron and Jewel Lansing

Lars and Julia Beck family in 1935. Jewel is front row, right. All photos courtesy of Ron and Jewel Lansing unless otherwise noted.

Jewel Anne Beck was born in May 1930 to Lars and Julia Beck on the Flathead Reservation in western Montana. She joined two brothers and two sisters, with another sister arriving in 1939. Lars Beck and Julia Syla both came from homesteading families. The Beck family emigrated from Norway, homesteading in Washington in 1884. The Syla family were Czech emigrants, homesteading in Nebraska; Alberta, Canada; and finally in western Montana.

Five year-old Ron Lansing.

Five year-old Ron Lansing.

 

 

Ron Lansing was born to Bert and Mabel (Richardson) Lansing in 1932 on Chicago’s South Side. Bert was a member of the painter’s and decorators union and served as treasurer for his local. At age one Ron was stricken with diphtheria or measles that went into his trachea. He almost died but survived with a wheezy voice for the rest of his life. He was joined by sisters in 1937 and 1942.

Lars and Julia Beck ran a family farm and a general country store with a post office that sold fishing and big game licenses. In her 2007 memoir My Montana, Jewel recalls that as a second grader she would watch the store when her parents needed a short nap. If customers came in, Jewel pressed a buzzer and one of her siblings or parents came to wait on them.

Ron’s family moved around between northern Indiana and Illinois as his father searched for work in the Great Depression. At the age of seven, he lived with his Richardson grandparents in Michigan for several months while his parents sought more stability. As a second grader he lived in three different houses and attended three different schools. The family finally settled in Lansing, Illinois (no relation to Ron).  His school grades were average and his deportment grades read “day dreamer” and “mischief maker.”  Games were a great motivator for Ron. The public library across the street had an adjoining sandlot field for baseball. The librarian said that anyone wanting to play baseball needed to read for an hour first, which helped a reluctant Ron develop a stronger interest in reading.  A Chicago Cubs fans in a White Sox-loving family, Ron first heard the comment, “You should be a lawyer,” during family arguments over baseball et al.

Jewel was a sixth grader when the country entered World War II. She and her friends collected discarded tires and rolled bandages for the Red Cross. Her siblings served in the war effort, her brothers as a naval ensign and an army air corps corporal in the Pacific, her sisters as a dietician and a cadet nurse. As keepers of a general store, the Becks were very involved in collecting and tracking ration coupons. In the summer of 1945 she helped her father finish haying before she left home with two girlfriends to pick cherries along Flathead Lake.  She was there when the atomic bomb was dropped.

For the Lansing family, the U.S. entry into the war helped to lift the family out of poverty. Bert Lansing found steadier work as older World War I factories were cleaned, renovated and pressed into service.

High School and College

Jewel went to high school in Ronan, nine miles from her home. She became an avid reader and described her high school library (which held a mere six students) as her Shangri La. She signed up for debate, and learned to argue both sides of an issue.  She was the only girl in her advanced algebra class. After taking a standardized IQ test her junior year, she was told that she had the highest IQ in the school. She didn’t share this with her classmates, but carrying that knowledge helped bolster her confidence when it flagged. Jewel started her studies at the University of Montana in Missoula in 1948 and described the change from farm life to college life as “the biggest cultural shock of my life.”

Jewel Beck in winter uniform, November 1954

Jewel Beck in winter uniform, November 1954

In 1949, doctors at the Mayo Clinic told Jewel’s father that he had inoperable stomach and liver cancer.  Jewel worked as a reporter and ad collector for the Ronan Pioneer newspaper the next two summers to help care for her father. He died in 1950, two weeks before she started her junior year in college. She graduated with honors in 1952 with a major in journalism, a minor in business, and a high-paying job in Washington, D.C with the Central Intelligence Agency.

1954-burt-and-ron-lansingRon graduated from Thornton Fractional Township High School in Calumet City, Illinois. He participated in various sports and was the sports editor on his school’s paper.  He was attracted to learning but preferred to follow his own path to the things that interested him rather than go down the road suggested by his teachers. Ron was the first member of his extended family to go to college.  He went to Valparaiso University in Indiana and was “suddenly thrown into a whole potpourri of different people at different levels.” At college he worked at a die machinery company, made picnic furniture, flocked Christmas trees, and helped the military label Danish maps in English. During the summer he did hard labor, working in the steel mills, oil refineries, and war plants. He was president of his fraternity and drama club. He graduated with a degree in philosophy and English in 1954. After graduation he fulfilled his peacetime draft obligation. He enlisted in the army and was sent to West Germany.

Two Points Converge

After receiving a top secret security clearance, Jewel did secretarial work for the CIA.  But typing correspondence with six carbon copies and fetching coffee for Army officers was not her style.  She resigned after nine months, and took a job with Stanford University’s women’s residence hall staff while she pursued a masters’ degree in education, counseling, and guidance in 1954.  While at Stanford, she was recruited by the U.S. Army Special Services as a civilian recreation director to direct off-duty activities for GIs stationed overseas. She took the job and her posting was in Ulm, West Germany.

Jewel Beck and her Volkswagen Bug.

Jewel Beck and her Volkswagen Bug.

Jewel conducted a range of activities including teaching classes, leading tours, conducting bingo games, and supervising the German civilian staff. Her talent brought her five promotions in two years, which required many moves all over Bavaria. The dollar was strong compared to the German mark. Jewel saved her money and bought a VW Bug for $900, which gave her freedom to travel. Jewel Beck met Ron Lansing in 1955 while teaching a class in contract bridge at the Terrace Service Club in Ulm, the largest such club in Europe.  Jewel liked that Ron enjoyed card games, telling jokes, and the way he argued either side of an issue to get a dialogue going. He also seemed attracted to rather than intimidated by her intelligence. For Ron, meeting the greatest companion of his life was the luckiest benefit of his army experience.  He proposed marriage in the fall of 1955 on a hillside as they looked at the sparkling lights of Munich’s Oktoberfest. They married twice in June 1956, once in a German language civil ceremony (for the West German Republic) and another at a U.S. military post (for the bride and groom).

Jewel Beck and Ron Lansing on a date in 1956.

Jewel Beck and Ron Lansing on a date.

Army Special Services did not allow married women in its ranks. Jewel resigned her service club director position two months before her contract was up. The couple took a two-week honeymoon to Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome using the VW. They rented a fifth floor walk-up apartment with no hot water in Ulm for four months, while Ron served as a court martial-reporter. Ron’s army unit was rotated back to Fort Carson in Colorado, where he finished his term of service as the regimental colonel’s secretary.

Setting Roots

After their return to the United States, the Lansings made their way cross country to Colorado Springs in the VW Bug. Jewel found part-time work teaching differently abled children. Their first child Mark was born in July 1957, with the U.S. Army picking up the tab for Jewel’s pregnancy and Mark’s birth.  Ron mustered out of the army early so he could start at Willamette Law School in September 1957, his tuition and books paid for by the GI Bill. The family made a home in Salem.  Jewel taught at the Chemawa Indian School and sixth grade at Keizer School on an emergency teaching credential, because of teacher shortage. Ron served as a founding editor of the Willamette Law Review. After his graduation with honors in May 1960, he was admitted to the bar

Ron Lansing at center and his fellow Oregon Supreme Court Clerks.

Ron Lansing at center and his fellow Oregon Supreme Court Clerks.

and clerked for Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice William McCallister. The Lansings’ daughter Alyse was born in August of that year.  When it became clear that Jewel would not be able to find part-time work in journalism, she studied financial theory and accounting by correspondence while pregnant with Annette (who joined the family in September 1961).  Ron found work as a young associate in the law offices of Shuler Sayre Winfree Rankin and the family moved to Portland.  Jewel’s part-time work at two Portland CPA firms allowed her to complete the experience portion of her CPA requirement.

Ron switched to the law firm of Bailey Swink Lezak Haas in 1963, filling the vacancy left by Sid Lezak when he became Oregon’s U.S. Attorney.  Ron soon became a partner and business manager at the firm. His practice was thriving and he had a range of civic obligations.  Jewel juggled raising three young children with her work commitments. Both Lansings were active Unitarians and served as presidents (Jewel the first female president) of West Hills Fellowship.

Fresh Fields of Endeavor

In January 1963, Ron contacted Judge James Crawford and John Gantenbein—dean and registrar of the 80 year-old downtown Portland night school Northwestern College of Law—to express his interest in becoming a part-time instructor. Three years later, he was hired to teach Code Pleading part time.

Professor Lansing teaching a class in 1967.

Professor Lansing teaching a class in 1967.

In September 1965, Lewis and Clark College and Northwestern College of Law merged to become officially titled: Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College (now known as Lewis and Clark Law School). In March 1967, Ron received and accepted an offer to become one of the first five full-time members of the faculty. He started as a full-time assistant professor in September 1967 at an annual salary of $12,500. The law school’s eight-decade-old nomadic jobsite in various downtown rented buildings was moved to wooded campus quarters on the outskirts of Portland. The Lansings too, bought a home closer to the college campus.

Along with his teaching load Ron was called into the process of gaining the school’s accreditation from the American Association of Law Schools and the American Bar Association.  He kept a record and wrote the book on those tumultuous times Crystalling the Legacy: Stories and Reflections on the Accreditation Era of a Law School. In spite of the tedium and time involved, Ron never lost humor.  He sketched caricatures of his colleagues, which he continued for an ensuing four decades of meetings. A gallery of 75 of his caricatures line the halls of the school.

This 1974 sketch of the law faculty by Ron Lansing was used by the college for a holiday card.

This 1974 sketch of the law faculty by Ron Lansing was used by the college for a holiday card.

Jewel Lansing and her CPA office in Portland's Burlingame neighborhood.

Jewel Lansing and her CPA office in Portland’s Burlingame neighborhood.

Jewel received her CPA License in 1969.  Her personal and professional development coincided with the beginnings of the woman’s movement and she was active in several women’s organizations as an eager participant. She co-founded a League of Women Voters unit in Southwest Portland and served on the state board of the American Association of University Women.  She joined the National Organization of Women, the National Abortion Rights Action League and most importantly, the Oregon Women’s Political Caucus.  She started her own accounting firm in 1972 with two employees.  In 1973 she volunteered as treasurer for future Oregon Supreme Court Justice Betty Roberts during her campaign for governor. That August Jewel was the first woman appointed to the Multnomah County Civil Service Commission.

Ron, Jewel, Alyse, Mark, and Annette Lansing on July 4, 1976 in Manzanita. They are using the family VW as a campaign float.

Ron, Jewel, Alyse, Mark, and Annette Lansing on July 4, 1976 in Manzanita. They are using the family VW as a campaign float.

The commission was Jewel’s springboard into public office. She was encouraged to run when incumbent did not file for reelection Two days before the March 1974 filing deadline, she decided to run for Multnomah County Auditor. After a whirlwind campaign, she won the Democratic primary against five white men with 23 percent of the vote. That summer, she climbed Mount Hood with family members and won the election in November. 1974 was a big year.

Jewel served eight years in the county auditor position and went on to four years as Portland City Auditor.  She won the Democratic primary for state treasurer in a 1976 race that received national attention. In 1977 she served as an elected Oregon delegate for the National Women’s Conference in Houston. She ran as the Democratic candidate for state treasurer in 1980, again losing by a hair to the incumbent Clay Myers. When she left the City Auditor’s office in 1986, the Oregonian lauded her for introducing performance auditing to local and state governments and for making audit findings available to the public.

City Auditor Jewel Lansing swears in Portland Mayor Bud Clark.

City Auditor Jewel Lansing swears in Portland Mayor Bud Clark.

The Written Record

Along with teaching Torts and Evidence to thousands of Oregon’sjuggernaut current 12,000 lawyers by the time of his retirement in 2008, Ron has always made time for writing.  His 1983 book Skylarks & Lecterns: A Law School Charter, was excerpted in the nimrodRutgers Law Review as well as the 2003 collection of legal humor, Amicus Humoriae. He co-edited Evidence for the Oregon State Bar in 1986. His books include Juggernaut: The Whitman Massacre Trial 1850, 1993; Nimrod: Courts, Claims, and Killing on the Oregon Frontier, 2005; and the earlier mentioned Crystalling the Legacy, 2011. crystalling-the-legacy-2011 In 2002, he contributed articles on the Whitman Massacre Trial and the Charity Lamb Murder Trial to Great American Trials. He has also written numerous articles for the Oregon State Bar Bulletin.

campaigning-for-office-1991After leaving elected office, Jewel returned to the love of her school days: writing. She attended numerous writing courses and started producing her own work.  Her books include: The Beck Family Book: 1700-1989- Norway-U.S.A. with co-author Ole J. Lokberg, 1989; Campaigning for Office: A Woman Runs and 101 Campaign Tips for Women Candidates and Their Staffs, both in 1991; A Czech Family Heritage: Bohemia-U.S.A. 1765-1996;  the mystery Deadly Games in City Hall, 1997;portland-people-politics-power-2003 Portland: People, Politics, and Power – 1851-2001, 2003, which has gained recognition as one of the most important sources of local Portland history;my-montana-2010 My Montana: A History and Memoir, 1930-1950, 2007; and with co-author Fred Leeson, Multnomah: The Tumultuous Story of Oregon’s Most Populous County, 2012.

Ron and Jewel celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2016.  We are thankful for the many contributions our state has received from their choice to conduct their professional and wedded lifetime service in Oregon.

They have asked to express here their gratitude to the society for this Lifetime Service Award. They are particularly thrilled by it because in 2003, the original recipient of the award was the late Randall Kester, the first president of our society.  He was their friend. They joined Randall and his wife Rachel on numerous outdoor adventures backpacking the Cascades, canoeing northwest rivers and lakes and climbing Mount Hood’s peak.  And they were there at the annual dinner when Randall received the inaugural award. Not only are they humbled by sharing this honor with so many other notables over the years, they have received the chance, as they put it, “to summit with our departed friend.”

Jewel Lansing looks on as Ron lifts the 2016 Lifetime Service Award commemorative vase.

Jewel Lansing looks on as Ron lifts the 2016 Lifetime Service Award commemorative vase. Photo by Owen Schmidt

Bankruptcy Judge Randall L. Dunn to Retire

By Hon. Peter McKittrick

The Hon. Randall L. Dunn will be retiring in January 2017 after 18 years of service as a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge. Judge Dunn is known for his service to his colleagues nationally, his tenure on the 9th Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP), and his quick wit on the bench.

Judge Dunn earned his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, and received his Juris Doctor from Stanford in 1975. Prior to joining the bench, Judge Dunn was a partner in the Portland-based firm Landye Bennett Blumstein. His practice focused on commercial bankruptcy, business transactions, and securities. Judge Dunn brought a wealth of practical experience in both bankruptcy and business law to the bench.

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Judge Randall Dunn. Photo by Edmund Keene Studios

Judge Dunn is well known for his service to the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges (NCBJ) and his time as a member of the 9th Circuit BAP. He has been involved as a member and officer of NCBJ throughout his career, having served as treasurer, secretary, and president, as well as a member of the board of governors. As president, he was responsible for organizing the largest national insolvency professional conference in the country, with attendance approaching 2,000 attendees. Judge Dunn served an extended 10-year term on the 9th Circuit BAP, hearing appeals from bankruptcy courts throughout the 9th circuit. He served as chief judge of the BAP and he also served on the 9th Circuit Judicial Conference planning committee. In 2016, Judge Dunn was honored with William N. Stiles Award of Merit by the Debtor/Creditor Section of the Oregon State Bar for his outstanding contributions to the section and years of public service to the bar and bench.

The local bankruptcy bench will miss Judge Dunn’s quips from the bench, known as “Judge Dunnism’s.” For example, when a corporate debtor would plead for more time to put together a sale or a viable reorganization plan, Judge Dunn would retort “This is like the play Waiting for Godot—and we all know what happens—Godot never appears.” He was also known to use the term “tough crunchies,” (that’s too bad counsel), as well as the phrase “when Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall, you can’t put him back together.” Chief Bankruptcy Judge Trish M. Brown lamented that she has treasured their 17 years together on the bench: “We will miss Randy. He has been an enthusiastic and supportive colleague.”

Judge Dunn looks forward in retirement to spending more time with his family, and returning to his favorite hobby of playing music. Judge Dunn performed for 25 years with the Portland Opera Orchestra, where he played clarinet. He plans to celebrate his retirement with friends, family, and colleagues at a reception at the Multnomah Athletic Club on Friday, January 13, 2017.

The (Slowly) Changing Face of Oregon’s Judiciary

By Mary Anne Anderson, USDCHS board member

In Spring 2013, Oregon Benchmarks noted that 114 women had served or were serving as state and federal judges in Oregon.  Three years later that number has increased to 137 women who have served (or will begin serving in 2017) in 176 different judicial offices in Oregon.

Would it surprise you to learn that only six of the 103 judges that have served on the Oregon Supreme Court in its 150+ year history—and only 12 of the 50 judges to serve on the Oregon Court of Appeals—have been women?  Over the past 15 years, the face of the Oregon judiciary has slowly shifted.  That change is evident in the roster of Oregon’s appellate courts, detailed on the Oregon Women Judges “Quick Facts” sheet.  It reveals that, by the early 2000s, only five women had served on the Oregon appellate courts since the first woman (Betty Roberts) was appointed 25 years previously.  The Oregon Women Lawyers Foundation “Five in Twenty-Five” event of November 20, 2002, celebrated the five women who at that time had served on the Oregon appellate courts, namely

Photo by Trudy Allen

Photo by Trudy Allen

(photographed) Susan Leeson, Betty Roberts, Susan Graber, Virginia Linder, and Mary Deits.  In the 15 ensuing years, the number of women who have served on the Oregon appellate courts has grown to 18 with the addition of Martha Walters (Oregon Supreme Court 2006), Lynn Nakamoto (Court of Appeals 2011-2016; appointed to Oregon Supreme Court 2016), Darleen Ortega (Court of Appeals 2003), Ellen Rosenblum (Court of Appeals 2005-2012), Rebecca Duncan (Court of Appeals 2010), Erika Hadlock (Court of Appeals 2011), Erin Lagesen (Court of Appeals 2013), and Meagan Flynn (2014).

This historical society (usdchs.org) and Oregon Women Lawyers (oregonwomenlawyers.org) have formed Oregon Women Judges (OWJ) for the purpose of collecting, preserving, and celebrating the histories and contributions of Oregon’s women judges.  Currently, the information gathered by OWJ is housed on the OWLS website.

Volunteers for OWJ are writing “profiles” of the women who have served or are serving in the Oregon state and federal judiciary, with a  goal of launching a website that creates a repository for those judicial profiles and shares statistics regarding the women judges of Oregon.  The OWJ website has hopes of inspiring women to continue to seek judicial office, especially in judicial districts where no woman has yet served, or in courts where women continue to be few in number.   Information on volunteering your time, talents, or resources to the OWJ project, as well as downloadable “quick facts” and other information on women in judicial office in Oregon may be located on the web page. Those interested in volunteering with OWJ are encouraged to do so, whether your skills are in research, interviewing, writing, data entry or website design and maintenance.

Author Mary Anne Anderson, current Secretary of the USDCHS, works in the chambers of the Honorable Youlee Yim You, the fifth woman to serve in Oregon as a U.S. Magistrate Judge. 

Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Graft: Oregon’s Supporting Role in the Star Route Scandals

By Stephen Raher, USDCHS board member

It was a slowly evolving series of political scandals that captivated the nation. Driven by politics of the post-Reconstruction era and the economics of westward expansion, the star route scandals provided fodder for editorial pages and political wags throughout the early 1880s. Oregon played a small but important role in the narrative of the legal drama that unfolded in Washington, DC.

As the United States pursued its policy of “manifest destiny” after the Civil War, one perennial problem in newly occupied territories was reliable mail service. In large swathes of Oregon and other frontier areas, the Post Office Department relied on contractors to transport mail between sparsely populated communities (for arcane bureaucratic reasons, these routes were often referred to as “star routes”).

The Swindle

A politically-connected contractor would submit an unrealistically low bid to carry mail on a route. The Post Office, required by law to accept the low bid, awarded the contract. Soon thereafter, the contractor submitted petitions—purportedly from local residents, but sometimes forged—asking the Post Office to increase the frequency of mail service. Through an emergency provision in the procurement statute, Second Assistant Postmaster General Thomas J. Brady approved a substantial payment increase, enriching contractors while avoiding solicitation of new bids. The contractors benefiting from these supplemental appropriations then made payments to Brady and his co-conspirator, Sen. Stephen W. Dorsey, a Republican from Arkansas.

Illustration shows a well-dressed Robert G. Ingersoll carrying two large bags of money labeled "Counsel Fees" as he departs the "Washington Court House"; exiting on the right side, wearing tattered clothing, are defendants Thomas J. Brady and Stephen W. Dorsey. Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-28398

Illustration shows a well-dressed Robert G. Ingersoll carrying two large bags of money labeled “Counsel Fees” as he departs the “Washington Court House”; exiting on the right side, wearing tattered clothing, are defendants Thomas J. Brady and Stephen W. Dorsey. Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-28398

The corruption of star route contracting had a distinctly political aspect. The nation was reeling from economic depression and Reconstruction was a hotly contested issue. Both parties used star route contracts as a convenient form of political payoff. As the party in power, Republicans seemed to be more commonly implicated. Most notably, some evidence suggests that Republican James Garfield asked Asst. Postmaster Brady to enlist the help of star route contractors in support of his 1880 presidential campaign, although this was never proven. Interest in President Garfield’s role diminished after his assassination in 1881.

As Democrats challenged the Republicans’ national majority, so too did the parties compete in Oregon. Oregonian voters chose Republican presidential candidates in 1876 and 1880 (by narrow margins), but three Democrats served as governor between 1870 and 1882. While Democrats controlled the state legislature for most of the 1870s, Republicans captured both chambers in 1880. Given the political landscape and the number of isolated frontier communities in Oregon, it was practically inevitable that the star route scandals would touch the state.

After congressional investigations in the 1870s produced no reform in postal contracting, the U.S. Department of Justice secured criminal indictments in 1882. The indictments concerned 19 routes that were the subject of a bid-rigging conspiracy. Three of the routes were in Oregon: Eugene to Bridge Creek (in Wheeler County, near the present-day town of Mitchell), The Dalles to Baker City, and Canyon City to Fort McDermitt (just across the Oregon-Nevada border).

The Trial

The epic courtroom battle started on June 1, 1882, lasted three months, and featured 115 witnesses and 3,600 exhibits. The prosecution’s case focused on establishing details concerning the volume of mail and the changes in service on the 19 suspect routes. This required several Oregon witnesses—not an insignificant undertaking, given that round-trip train travel would have taken weeks.

John Carrey of Grant County was a witness who provided colorful behind-the-scenes details. Described by the Washington DC Evening Star as a “Frenchman [who] talked broken English,” Carrey worked for defendant John R. Miner on the Canyon City-McDermitt route. Carrey testified that the postmaster, a Mr. Abbott in Alvord on the east side of Steens Mountain (Carrey was unsure of his first name and documentation shows either S.H. or J.G. Abbott), had complained to the Post Office Department that no more than weekly service was needed with so little mail traveling between Canyon City and Fort McDermitt. This complaint threatened the increased service that Miner had obtained—service that increased payments by $50,166 per year, an astounding 1,700% increase over the original price. According to the trial testimony, Miner directed Carrey to pay Postmaster Abbott to keep his opinions to himself.

Other witnesses testified about petitions demanding increased mail service. James F. Browne, of Fort McDermitt (trial records alternate between the spellings McDermitt and McDermott), testified that he had circulated petitions at the direction of defendant Miner. These petitions included the signature of Canyon City Postmaster Edwin Hall; however, Hall himself testified that his and at least two other signatures on the petition were forgeries. Two subcontractors from Utah (Nephi and W.D. Johnson) testified that they had signed petitions for increased service between Canyon City and Fort McDermitt even though they lived nowhere near the route in question.

Other Oregon witnesses provided mundane yet important details for the prosecution’s case. Three subcontractors (John M. Fisk and Joseph E. Masterson, both of Canyon City, and Emil Schultz, of Camp Watson near present-day Antone in Wheeler County) testified over several days about the details of their respective portions of The Dalles-Baker City route. The prosecution elicited these details to lay a foundation for proving that contractors had submitted false affidavits regarding the number of men and horses needed to transport the mail. Testifying about the mail volume in the area, Elizabeth Wilson, postmistress of The Dalles, told the jury that there were there were more mountains than people in Wasco County.

While the prosecution focused on details, the defense—led by renowned orator Robert Ingersoll—sought to portray the defendants as innocent public servants merely implementing Congress’s postal policy. The first defense witness was Oregonian John H. Mitchell  A Republican politician, Mitchell represented Oregon in the U.S. Senate for three non-contiguous periods (totaling 22 years) between 1873 and his death in 1905. The trial took place between his first and second terms. Mitchell testified that he had contacted Asst. Postmaster Brady “a great many times” on behalf of constituents, supporting their calls for increased mail service. He also spoke about his advocacy on behalf of the Eugene-Bridge City route, describing the distances between Oregon’s population centers to the East Coast jury and the delays that came from mail being routed through Portland.

Thomas Nast drawing of John Mitchell. Library of Congress cai 2a13950 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cai.2a13950

Thomas Nast drawing of John Mitchell. Library of Congress cai 2a13950 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cai.2a13950

The Verdict

The trial results were not a high point for the nation’s justice system. The jury acquitted two defendants, found two comparatively minor actors guilty, and could not reach a verdict on the remaining defendants. The trial court judge, Andrew Wylie, set aside the entire verdict due to “general unreasonableness” and allegations of jury corruption. The jury foreman was subsequently indicted for bribery, and five government employees in Washington, DC were dismissed from office for meddling in the trial. The government swiftly commenced a second trial, which concluded in June 1883 with a verdict of not guilty as to all defendants. Public dissatisfaction with the outcome of the 1882 and 1883 trials paved the way both for the Pendleton Civil Service Act and the Independent Counsel Act. Meanwhile, rural residents in modern-day Oregon enjoy regular mail service, threatened less by corruption than by Congress’s inability to chart a future course for the U.S. Postal Service.