An Interview with Professor Jack Kircher

[Editor’s Note: This blog is the third in a series of interviews with faculty and staff at the Law School.]

A member of the Law School faculty since 1970, Professor Kircher teaches torts, insurance, products liability, and seminars in advanced issues on torts. He received the Marquette University Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence in 1986 and the Marquette Law Review Editors’ Award in 1988. In 1993 he received the American Bar Association Tort and Insurance Practice Section’s Robert B. McKay Award for distinction in the teaching of torts and insurance law. Before coming to the Law School, he practiced law and subsequently was Research Director of the Defense Research Institute. He has chaired the Wisconsin Judicial Council and the Wisconsin Supreme Court Board of Bar Examiners. He is coauthor of Punitive Damages: Law and Practice. Professor Kircher is a member of the Editorial Board of the Defense Law Journal, and was Editor of the Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel Quarterly.

Question:  How did you first become interested in insurance and tort law, and what do you find most intriguing about those areas of law?

My interest in the two subjects started in law school, most probably because they were taught by my favorite professor, Jim Ghiardi. It developed in my first three years after law school due to my work in a defense firm that handled cases in those two areas. It developed further and faster thereafter when Jim asked me to join him as his second-in-command at a legal think tank, the Defense Research Institute, that concentrated its work in those two areas. Also the two subjects are interesting to me because the law constantly changes. In fact, by the time I left the Law School the Wisconsin Supreme Court had changed about 25 percent of what I learned in first-year Torts. I would expect that most of the law I learned in my other courses has remained nearly the same.

Continue ReadingAn Interview with Professor Jack Kircher

Welcome to the Class of 1912

Like their counterparts of a century later, the Marquette Law School class that entered in the fall of 1912 was the third class to begin law school in a new building. Whereas the Class of 2012 was the third class to start in Eckstein Hall, those who entered in 1912 had a similar claim in regard to the Mackie Mansion, a former residence purchased by Marquette University in 1910. From 1908 until the acquisition of the new home for the school, law classes were held in the still-standing in 2012 Johnston Hall. However, within two years, overcrowded conditions necessitated a separate law school building.

The Mackie Mansion was located on the corner of 11th Street and Grand Avenue (now Wisconsin Avenue). It was set back from Grand Avenue and was situated in the spot occupied by the southern half of Sensenbrenner Hall in its current form, as viewed from 11th Street.

The 1912 class consisted of 36 full-time day students and 28 evening students. All 64 class members were males, and all but four were from Wisconsin. The four out-of-state students included day students from Menominee, Michigan and Waseca, Minnesota, and night students from the distant locales of Franklin, Indiana, and Shellyville (not Shelbyville), Kentucky.

Milwaukeeans accounted for more than 60% of the class. Seventeen day students were from Milwaukee with an 18th from West Allis. Perhaps not surprisingly, 23 of the 28 night students were from the Cream City.

The faculty in 1912 looked quite impressive on paper, consisting of Dean James G. Jenkins, a retired United States Circuit Court Judge, Secretary (Assistant Dean) Arthur Richter, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, the Rev. Charles B. Moulinier, S. J., the Regent of the College of Law and a teacher of a required upper level course in Legal Ethics, and 23 Milwaukee lawyers and judges, most of whom taught only a single course.

Many of these lawyer-professors were quite prominent, including U.S. District Court Judge Ferdinand Geiger, Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Franz Eschweiler, future American Bar Association President, Carl B. Rix, and Dr. W. J. Cronyn, who was also a professor at the Marquette Medical School and who may be the person who first advocated the creation of a law school at Marquette. [link to earlier post of Cronyn]

The law school year started a month later in 1912 than it does in 2012. There was no student orientation in 1912, and registration for all students was on Monday, September 23. Day classes began the following day, and evening classes commenced on Wednesday, September 25.

The fall semester did not end until Thursday, January 30, 1913, and the first semester exam period ran until February 7. The Spring Semester began on Monday, February 10, and ran until June 13. The law school, unlike the college, did not observe the Roman Catholic holy days, and the only holidays recognized in 1912-1913 were Thanksgiving (one day), Christmas (a 16 day recess), Washington’s Birthday, and Easter (6 days, Thursday through Tuesday).

Students in both divisions of the law school were required to have the equivalent of a high school education, and day students had to be at least 18 years of age. Students who entered the day division without one or more years of college study were encouraged to enroll in a four year law course that included the entire law curriculum and a year of liberal arts courses.

Those contemplating the study of law were “urgently advised to pursue courses in Political Economy, Political Science and Government, English and American Constitutional and Political History, Logic and Sociology.”

The first year curriculum of a century ago bore a passing resemblance to the required courses of today. Students enrolled in the regular first year law course in 1912-13 took the following courses in their first semester:

Introduction to the Study of Law (1 hr.)

Criminal Law and Procedure (2 hrs.)

Domestic Relations (2 hrs.)

Contracts I (3 hrs.)

Torts I (2 hrs.)

Personal Property, including Bailments (2 hrs.)

And in the second semester:

Contracts II (3 hrs.)

Torts II (2 hrs.)

Agency (2 hrs.)

Equity (2 hrs.)

Common Law Pleading (2 hrs.)

Real Property I (1 hr.)

Although the curriculum added up to only 24 semester hours for the year, students took twelve courses, compared to the eight taken by today’s students. In addition to Criminal Law, Contracts, Torts, Property, and Pleading (Civil Procedure), students in 1912 also took Domestic Relations (family law), Agency, and Equity. They did not take Legal Writing, and Constitutional Law I and II were required upper level courses.

Students enrolled in the evening course entered a four year program. Although the evening course did not normally qualify students for the Bachelor of Laws degree—even after four years they were short on credit hours—evening students were eligible to take the Wisconsin Bar Examination. (In fact, under the existing Wisconsin bar admissions rules, they were eligible to take the examination after their third year in the Marquette evening program.)

First year evening students in 1912 took many of the same courses, though they were structured somewhat differently. In the fall, evening students took Contracts I, Torts I, Common Law Pleading I and Property I, all of which met for one hour and a half each week. In addition, they took one credit hour courses in Persons and in a composite course called Introductory Elements of Law and Criminal Law, for a total of 8 credit hours.

In the spring, they continued with Contracts, Torts, Common Law Pleading and Property, again in 1.5 hour formats, along with another one hour Persons course and a one hour course in Criminal Procedure, for another 8 credit hours.

To receive credit for courses, students had to attend at least 85% of scheduled classes. The passing mark on all exams was 70%, but students who scored above 60%, but below 70%, received a “conditional” which allowed them to retake the examination at a later date without having to retake the course. Students who received scores below 60% were required to retake the course in its entirety. Students who failed more than half their courses were dismissed at the end of the semester.

By any standard, legal education at Marquette was a real bargain in 1912. Yearly tuition was $100 in the day division and $60 in the evening program. Tuition had to be paid in full within the first 10 days of each semester, and those who could not do so were required to withdraw. In addition, there was a $5 matriculation fee, and students who took examinations other than at the regularly scheduled time were required to pay a $5 special examination fee. The cost of law books for the entire first year was estimated to be $30.

The only activities for law students listed in the law school bulletin in 1912 were the Dean Jenkins Law Club (a debating society) and the Moot Court. However, a note in the catalog also noted that “all literary, social and similar organizations in the University are open to Students of Law.”

In 1912, there was no Marquette Law Review, and the law school had just secured admission into the Association of American Law Schools.

Continue ReadingWelcome to the Class of 1912

Remembering the 1912 Law School Commencement

As the members of the Class of 2012 make their way into the legal profession, and memories of this past May’s Commencement ceremony begin to fade, it is an interesting historical exercise to look back at the Law School’s 4th Commencement in June of 1912.

In 1912, there were two commencement ceremonies at Marquette University: one for the Colleges of Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Law, Music, and Economics and the other for Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Nursing. (In 1913, the two ceremonies would be combined into a single event held at the Milwaukee Auditorium.)

The 1912 Commencement for the College of Law was held on Friday evening, June 21, at the Pabst Theatre [sic].

Music was supplied by the Marquette University Orchestra, which performed Franz Von Suppe’s overture “Poet and Peasant,” as well as selections from Aida and the Mikado, and then closed the ceremony with John Philip Sousa’s “Manhattan Beach March” (which was also played at the 2012 Commencement).

A total of 48 degrees and diplomas were awarded that evening. The College of Arts and Sciences awarded 18 degrees, including 5 Master of Arts degrees; the Law School awarded 15 Bachelor of Laws degrees; the College of Engineering presented nine Bachelor of Science degrees in civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering; the Business School awarded one Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and two Diplomas in Business Administration, while the Music School awarded a single Bachelor’s Degree. In addition, two students received Diplomas in Journalism.

All the degree recipients were male, although there were likely a number of female graduates at the “medical” commencement. (In 1913, for example, women received degrees from all four of the “medical” colleges.)

Candidates for the Bachelor of Laws degree were presented by the dean of the law school, retired United States Circuit Court Judge James G. Jenkins. All were listed as Wisconsin residents except for David Haley, who was from Hibbing, Minnesota. The degrees were formally awarded by Rev. Joseph Grimmelsman, S.J., the university president. The sole Commencement speaker was the Hon. Paul D. Carpenter, who was the Assistant United States Attorney in Milwaukee as well as a former Milwaukee County Judge and a former Lecturer at the College of Law. (He was also the son of the noted Wisconsin United States Senator, Matthew Hale Carpenter.)

Fourteen of the 15 recipients of the Bachelor of Laws degrees received regular degrees, but one received what was designated an “Honorary Degree, Bachelor of Laws.” This was a carryover from a decision made in 1908 in conjunction with the takeover of the independent Milwaukee Law School. The Milwaukee Law School never bothered to apply for degree granting authority (presumably because all that Wisconsin required as a prerequisite for taking the bar examination was three years of law study). In taking control of the law school, Marquette agreed to award Marquette University Bachelor of Laws degrees to any former student of the Milwaukee Law School who had passed the Wisconsin bar examination.

While this created an instant pool of law alumni, the decision turned out to be ill-advised, and by 1912 the university was being criticized, probably unfairly, for selling law degrees. (There was a $10 graduation fee that had to be paid by anyone seeking a degree.) By 1910, the title of the degree had been changed to “Honorary Degree,” and by 1911, the number of such degrees awarded was only nine. The university clearly discouraged any suggestion that current night students could be awarded degrees under the original agreement, and in 1912, 1913, and 1914, only one honorary degree was awarded at each commencement. In 1915, there were none.

The 14 recipients of the regular Bachelor of Laws degree were the winners in a war of attrition. Thirty-three students had begun as full-time students in the College of Law’s day division in the fall of 1909. Their number declined to 26 the following fall, and to 24 in the fall of 1911. Although the class picture, which hangs outside the #253 Faculty Office Complex in Eckstein Hall, shows 24 class members, only 14 met the requirements for graduation in the spring of 1912. To graduate, students were required to pass 72 semester credit hours with a grade of at least 70 (on a 100 point scale) in each course.

However, the rules of the College of Law allowed students to continue in the law course, even if they had no realistic chance of graduating, so long as they met certain minimal standards. All a student had to do to remain eligible to continue was to pass half of his (or her) courses each semester. In theory, at least, one could make it to the end of the three-year law course with barely half the credits necessary to graduate.

While this seems oddly lax by modern standards, it made sense because graduation from law school was not a prerequisite for admission to the bar in Wisconsin (or any other state) in 1912. Whether or not a student passed, or even took, law school examinations was irrelevant for bar examination eligibility, so long as he or she had devoted the requisite amount of time to law study (which in 1912 Wisconsin was three years.) Moreover, since the Wisconsin diploma privilege was not extended to Marquette Law School graduates until 1934, those who received the law degree had to take the same examination as those who did not.

Actual receipt of the law degree may have conveyed a measure of prestige upon the recipient but it did not confer any formal benefit in regard to bar admission. Nor is there any evidence in 1912 that the lack of a degree was a substantial impediment to a successful career as a lawyer, so long as the student could pass the bar examination.

Few of those who did complete the degree actually excelled on their examinations. Of the 14 law graduates in 1912, only two, Leo W. Bruemmer of Kewaunee, Wisconsin, and Oliver L. O’Boyle of Milwaukee, achieved a cumulative average of over 90, which was required to graduate cum laude. O’Boyle, who would later serve as Corporation Counsel for Milwaukee County from 1931 to 1956, was clearly the star of the 1912 Commencement. Not only was he one of two students to receive his law degree with honors, he also simultaneously received a degree of Master of Arts, an accomplishment achieved by only four other students.

Also receiving the degree of Master of Arts that day was Milwaukee native and first-year law student, Francis X. Swietlik. Swietlik had begun work on the Master of Arts degree after receiving his B.A. degree from Marquette in 1910, and he apparently finished the requirements during his first year of law school.

Swietlik, of course, later became an important leader of the American Polish community, and was closely connected to the Law School for more than 50 years. He became a part-time faculty member in 1916, joined the permanent faculty in the 1920’s, served as dean from 1934 to 1952, and then continued to teach at the law school while serving as a Milwaukee Circuit Court judge until his retirement in the 1960’s.

More on Swietlik’s Marquette career can be found here.

Continue ReadingRemembering the 1912 Law School Commencement