Marquette Law School at 100: Remembering Carl Zollman

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Legal History, Legal Scholarship, Marquette Law School, Marquette Law School History, Sports & Law

Although now largely forgotten at Marquette, Carl Zollman was a prominent American legal scholar of the first half on the twentieth century who spent his entire academic career at this Law School.  Zollman is recognized as the founder of aviation law as an academic discipline, and the case can also be made that he is the founder of sports law as well.  The latter claim is obviously quite appropriate given the Marquette Law School’s current prominence in the field of sports law.

Born in Wellsville, New York, in 1879, Zollman was educated to be a minister in the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church.  He was ordained in 1902 and became a pastor at a small church in Williamsburg, Iowa.  In 1906, he moved to Wisconsin, where his father, also a Lutheran minister, was involved with an enterprise known as the Evangelical Lutheran Colonization Company.  For reasons that are not known, the younger Zollman resigned from the ministry later that year and enrolled in the law program at the University of Wisconsin, just a month or two shy of his twenty-seventh birthday.  He received a law degree from Wisconsin in 1909, and he joined a Madison law firm.

Over the next thirteen years Zollman moved between a variety of law and editorial positions in Madison, Chicago, and Milwaukee, all the while publishing extensively. 

Although his first major article (which appeared in the 1910 Columbia Law Review) was on a topic in bankruptcy law, most of his early work was devoted to religion and law.  However, beginning in 1919, his work increasingly focused on aviation law.  In addition to a treatise, American Civil Church Law, published by Columbia University Press in 1917, Zollman placed articles in the leading law journals of that era, including the Columbia Law Review (three articles), the Illinois Law Review, the Michigan Law Review (eight articles), the Yale Law Journal (two articles), and the independent American Law Review (five articles).  As a student, Zollman had argued for the creation of a law review at the University of Wisconsin, and, when that publication finally appeared in 1921, its first volume included an article by Zollman on the law of charities in Wisconsin, another of his specialties.  During the First World War, he also served as a consultant to the United States government’s Bureau of War Trade Intelligence.

Zollman began the practice of law in Milwaukee in 1920, and his scholarly productivity caught the attention of Marquette Law School Dean Max Schoetz.  Schoetz, like Zollman, was a former student of Harry Sanger Richards, the Harvard-educated Dean of the University of Wisconsin Law Department who had brought the case method and the Harvard style of legal education to the Midwest.  Schoetz had begun law school at Madison the year before Zollman, so the two were fellow students for two years.

Schoetz had become dean of the Marquette Law School in 1916, and had been engaged in an effort to purge the school’s old reputation as a part-time urban night law school and turn it into what he styled “the most progressive law school in the Midwest.”  Schoetz was responsible for the creation of the Marquette Law Review and for the establishment of the case method as the primary form of instruction at the Law School.  To shore up the Law School’s standing with the Association of American Law Schools, with which Marquette had had a rocky relationship since it was accepted into the organization in 1912, Schoetz revoked the right of night students to earn law degrees in the late 1910’s and then terminated the night program altogether in 1924 to make sure that Marquette would be an ABA-accredited law school.  When the University authorized the appointment of full-time professorships in law in the late 1910’s and early 1920’s, two of Schoetz’s first appointments were Harvard Law School graduate John McDill Fox and Carl Zollman.

Zollman joined the faculty in January 1923 and initially taught Property, Contracts, Agency, and Bills and Notes.  His scholarly productivity only increased after he abandoned the practice of law, and over the next seventeen years, he prepared new editions of two treatises and published 32 law review articles (many, as was the custom of time, in the Marquette Law Review), 30 book reviews, two book chapters, and six books of his own (including two editions of his pathbreaking 1930 casebook on aviation law and his Aviation Law Hornbook, which for all practical purposes established the field to which they were devoted).  In 1930, the Marquette professor was chosen to preside at the First National Legislative Air Conference, which ultimately led to the adoption of the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938.

Zollman maintained an office on the third floor of the Law School, which then contained the law library and the Grimmelsman (now Eisenberg) Reading Room.  There were no other offices on the third floor, and Zollman developed a reputation as something of a recluse who preferred to work on his research and writing rather than socialize with students and colleagues. One of Zollman’s last students was our colleague Jim Ghiardi, who had Zollman for Bills and Notes during the 1939-40 academic year. 

Zollman departed from the law school somewhat abruptly near the end of that year.  Although his obituary in the Wisconsin Bar Bulletin says that he retired “to devote his time to writing law text books,” the real reasons for his decision to stop teaching are unknown.  (Jim Ghiardi recalls that the reasons were a mystery at the time, and that many students assumed that his departure was the result of a falling out with Dean Francis Swietlik, who had become dean of the Law School in 1932.) 

Zollman was only 60 when he resigned from the faculty, and he had married for the first time in 1937.  Whatever his reasons for stepping down, Zollman actually published very little after 1940.  He continued to prepare annual supplements for his treatise, The Law of Banks and Banking, but he published no new law review articles or book reviews or treatises.  In September 1944, he was diagnosed with cancer, and he died in Milwaukee the following May.

As for sports law, Zollman’s final two law review articles, both of which appeared in the Marquette Law Review in 1940, were entitled “Baseball Peonage” and “Injuries From Flying Baseballs to Spectators at Ball Games.”  The first was a study of baseball labor relations which focused on the restrictive nature of Organized Baseball’s reserve system, which Zollman actually thought was reasonable, and the second was an early examination of one of the classic problems in sports law.  The two articles, particularly the first, reflect a detailed knowledge of the structure and history of professional baseball and suggest that Zollman must have been a long-time fan.  While further research is necessary to verify this claim, it appears that Zollman’s two 1940 articles were the first sports law articles (as opposed to case comments) to appear in a university-based law review, hence the claim that Carl Zollman can be counted as the “Father of Sports Law.”

Those who imagine that Marquette was just a “nuts and bolts” law school in its early decades have clearly never heard of Carl Zollman.  A nearly comprehensive bibliography of Carl Zollman’s writings, along with a short biographical sketch can be found in a recent article by Robert Jarvis of the Nova Southeastern Law School.  Prof. Jarvis is, like Zollman, a scholar of both aviation law and sports law.  The article is entitled, “Carl Zollman: Aviation Law Casebook Pioneer,” and it appears in volume 73 of the Journal of Air Law and Commerce.  Prof. Jarvis and I disagree slightly in regard to several of the details of Zollman’s career, particularly in regard to his expertise on the subject of baseball.

One thought on “Marquette Law School at 100: Remembering Carl Zollman”

  1. More details on Carl Zollmann’s career.

    After graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1909, Zollmann spent a year in Madison working for the law firm of Olin & Butler. He then moved to Chicago where he worked as an editor for the legal publisher Callaghan & Co., After one year, he returned to Wisconsin, and began practicing in the town of Merrill as a partner in the law firm of Smith & Zollman.

    He “retired” from practice in 1915 and sought an appointment to the “army officer’s camp” that was set up at Ft. Sheridan to train men who might be needed in the military if the U.S. entered World War I.

    Whether Zollmann was accepted into the one month program in not clear, but he returned to Chicago later that year, where he worked on the early editions of several of his legal treatises. In 1919, he moved to Milwaukee where he once again practiced law, but at the same time continued to write articles and treatises on legal topics. He joined the Marquette Law School faculty at the beginning of the Spring 1923 academic year.

    Zollmann’s best known treatises reflected the breadth of his academic interests: The Law of Banks and Banking; Law of the Air; American Church Law; the American Law of Charity; and A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land.

    Zollmann apparently spelled his surname with two “n”‘s, although both during his lifetime and since, his name has often been spelled with only a single “n.”

    In the current Lexis/Nexis law review database, for example, there are 34 articles that render his name incorrectly as Carl Zollman, and only 29 that get it correct as Carl Zollmann. For one particularly embarrassing example involving repeated misspellings, see the above article.

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