CALL held its September Business Meeting on September 20th at Wildfire. Eighty-six members attended the meeting. We welcomed several new members: Molly Caballero from Locke Lord, Michael Hensler from Kirkland & Ellis, Anne Hudson from DePaul University College of Law, and Mary Ellen Murphy from the American Dental Association.
The sponsor of the meeting was Deal Point Data. Tom Quinn spoke on behalf of the company. Mr. Quinn said that the company’s purpose is to help corporate research. He discussed a tool to search and monitor charters and bylaws. Quinn emphasized that Deal Point Data is a small company and it does all of its research, product development, and customer support in the United States.
200 Years of the Court That Shaped America
Our speaker for the September meeting was Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, District Court Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Judge Pallmeyer attended Valparaiso University and received her JD from the University of Chicago.
She started her career in private practice before being appointed as an Administrative Judge for the Illinois Human Rights Commission. She continued her career of public service by serving a Magistrate Judge in the Northern District of Illinois for 7 years until she was appointed to her current seat on the Northern District in 1998.
She is active in a number of professional associations. She is the current Chair of the Board of Directors of the Northern District of Illinois Court Historical Association.
Judge Pallmeyer’s talk was entitled, “Celebrating 200 Years of the Court That Shaped America.” Judge Pallmeyer noted the important contributions of Gretchen Van Dam, CALL member and librarian for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
History of the Federal Courts in IL
Judge Pallmeyer remarked that March 2019 will mark the 200th anniversary of federal courts in Illinois. The Northern District of Illinois Court Historical Association has created a special place in the Dirksen federal courthouse on the 21st floor to serve as the court’s history museum.
The museum highlights the important people, places, and cases in the history of the Northern District and especially of the Chicago courthouses. The museum is open from 8:30-5:00 on Monday through Friday.
Judge Pallmeyer gave a history of the Northern District of Illinois. The first federal court for all of Illinois followed soon after Illinois was admitted as a state in 1818. The law establishing the court provided for one judge, one clerk, one U.S. Marshall, and one U.S. attorney.
The first federal judge in Illinois was Nathaniel Pope. Pope is also important to Illinois history because he, as a member of the committee that drew state boundaries, insisted that Chicago should be included with Illinois and not Wisconsin. As Chicago grew, the federal District of Illinois was split into north and south.
The federal court moved with the state’s capital and briefly shared office space with Abraham Lincoln when the court sat in Springfield. As an aside, Judge Pallmeyer noted that there is a Judge Herndon sitting on the Southern District of Illinois who can trace his family back to Lincoln’s law partner.
Federal Courthouses in Chicago
Judge Pallmeyer showed the members pictures of historical federal courthouses in Illinois, most of which combined functions like post office, custom house, and courthouse. One Chicago courthouse stood for only 20 years because of structural deficiencies. The city’s next federal courthouse was a combined post office and courthouse designed by Henry Ives Cobb who also designed the Newberry Library.
The building had its own problems. The building was so large—Judge Pallmeyer noted that the dome was larger than the U.S. Capitol–that the building ran to the sidewalk and postal vehicles had to pick up the mail bins off the street. The Postmaster General quipped that “a thing of beauty is a job forever.”
Although the building had problems, Judge Pallmeyer pointed out that it was a beautiful building full of great history. The courthouse was the scene of many notable trials including Al Capone’s tax evasion trial. In 1918, the courthouse was bombed.
Interestingly, Judge Pallmeyer noted, a 16-year-old summer employee named Walt Disney was working the day of the bombing. Ninety members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or “Wobblies) were tried for the crime in the Cobb courthouse and sentenced by Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis who later became the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Judge Pallmeyer reflected on the demolition of the Cobb courthouse. She showed a photo of the courthouse demolition reflected in the new Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse and mused that you could “feel what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained.”
Almost nothing was salvaged from the old courthouse, except for a few items that were gathered by the then chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and installed in the federal courthouse in San Francisco, including bench lamps, counsel’s table from Al Capone’s trial, and a large clock clearly marked as “the Chicago clock.” Judge Pallmeyer noted that the courthouse is beautiful and recommended that members see it if they are in San Francisco.
Moving on to the current home of the Northern District of Illinois, Judge Pallmeyer talked about the current federal plaza, which was designed by Mies van der Rohe, who was himself naturalized in the Chicago federal court. She then talked about some of the historic trials that took place in the new Dirksen federal court house: cases involving the Bee Gees, Michael Jackson, and Michael Jordan, Operation Greylord, the Shakman case, and the Sam Giancana Family Secrets trial.
She showed pictures of a collection of Illinois governors who spent time in prison following trials in federal court. Judge Pallmeyer noted that the museum would mark the anniversary of the infamous Chicago 7 conspiracy trial next year. Judge Pallmeyer spoke about some of the great judges of the Northern District of Illinois including James Benton Parsons, the first black man appointed to the federal district bench.
Upcoming Bicentennial of Federal Courts in IL
Judge Pallmeyer ended her talk by speaking about the museum’s plans. She said they want to share the important role that federal courts play in our community, teach what it mean to be a juror, and explain the difference between federal and state courts, among other educational goals.
She said that the museum welcomes groups from grade school to law school. Finally, Judge Pallmeyer announced that the museum would celebrate the 200th anniversary of federal courts in Illinois on March 1, 2019. The Northern District of Illinois will celebrate this milestone with continuing education, a documentary, a party, symposia, and papers.
Mentorship & Leadership Development:
Mandy Lee and Sally Holterhoff encouraged members who are interested in being a mentor or having a mentor to fill out the mentor mentee match form online or email Mandy or Sally if you’re interested.
Jamie Sommer announced that the committee was collecting money for Sit Stay Read. The organization pairs kids with dogs to improve literacy skills as kids read aloud to a “nonjudgmental audience.” Jamie noted that members can donated books to the organization as well, through this link.
Jesse Bowman announced that the CALL Listserv would now permanently live at the University of Chicago. He gave the new address for the listserv: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brittany Adams and Matt Timko announced that the CALL Archive is moving from Northern Illinois University to Loyola University in the hopes of making them more accessible to members.
Matt Timko reminded the members that there is always room for professional writing in the CALL Bulletin
Grants & Chapter Awards:
Clare Willis announced that the committee has grant money available for all kinds of continuing education opportunities aside from the AALL annual meeting and informed the members that grant money is awarded up-front, so there is no need to worry about reimbursement.
Todd Hillmer announced that there would be a networking happy hour in October 16 at 5:30 at River Roast.