George Bernard Harris.

Memories of San Francisco legal practice and State and Federal courts, 1920s - 1960s : oral history transcript / and related material, 1980-1981 online

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Online LibraryGeorge Bernard HarrisMemories of San Francisco legal practice and State and Federal courts, 1920s - 1960s : oral history transcript / and related material, 1980-1981 → online text (page 12 of 18)
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Harris: Two or three years.

Morris: How old a man was he when he came on the bench?

Harris: He was in his sixties.

Morris: When you say he hastened his demise by taking on too many things,
in the district court he d take on more cases than ?

Harris: He took on a terrible load. But we were so busy, we welcomed his
efforts. He was a great judge.

Morris: Are Californians more contentious than other parts of the world?
Why was the caseload so high in the Northern District?

Harris: No, I don t think so. I don t think we re more contentious here.
I don t think it s a condition, per se, you can say one thing or

Morris: Alternatively, some of the statistics I ve read suggest that the
Northern District had more cases and fewer judges than other
districts, like Los Angeles.

Harris: That was a result of years of inactivity in the area of getting

judges. Some judges are very highly specialized in watching those
areas, so that they can translate the hope and prayer that they
would get some help and tended their own back yard.

Morris: Who on our court here?
Harris: Louis Goodman was very good.
Morris: Administratively?

Harris: He very often put it on his own shoulders. Louis Goodman gave
unstintedly of himself. He was a man of great capacity, great
warmth and devotion.

Morris: Was he chief judge in 1950, when we have Oliver Carter and Judge
Murphy coming on?

Harris: Yes.

Morris: Was that a long procedure, to get two more seats approved?

Harris: It takes some time. Approval, swearing. Several years involved.

Morris: Let s see if I have it right. In order to get an additional
judgeship, you have to develop statistical


Harris: Factual and statistical evidence. Comparative analysis, all the
other factors. It s not an easy task.

Morris: And that goes to the federal office of the courts and the ?
Harris: Right, the administrative office. That s right.

Morris: But then the actual permission to add a new judge is matter of

legislation, if I m right; and that involves the legislators from
California, Senators and congressmen?

Harris : Yes .

Morris: Why were they more supportive of additional judgeships for Los
Angeles than for the Northern District court?

Harris: Well, there s larger areas.

Morris: When the two additional seats were authorized, about 1949 or 50,
did you and the other judges already on the Northern District
court bench have some thoughts as to who would be likely candidates?

Harris: That s not done on a wholesale basis. It s done on an individual
application, rather than a general one. Generally the judges have
a voice, however limited, in selection. They make their wishes

Morris: In terms of who would be suitable, or who might be less suitable.
Harris : Yes .

Morris: Bill Knowland was still Senator at that point, I think, in 1950.
Would he have come by and talked to the judges?

Harris : Yes .

Morris: Richard Nixon would have been the other Senator from California

about 1950. Was he also interested in the views of judges, as to
who their fellows would be?

Harris: I couldn t say that categorically. I can t recall Richard Nixon
ever appearing before the judges, as a body or individually.

Morris: I think that s very helpful. As we go along, I ll ask you about
some of the other distinguished gentlemen who joined you on the



Morris: I ve been working with a list of cases that you drew up about your
district court work, such as the Harry Bridges case, American Can,
and Seigel v. Chicken Delight.* I thought I would sort of
organize those chronologically.

Harris: Why not resort to the record for those cases, rather than to require
me to review them?

Morris: Well, I think that

Harris: What is there in particular that ?

Morris: There are some questions about the record, which is what I d like to
talk to you about. Do you want copies of the whole federal
supplement statements or a summary of it?

Harris: Summary.

Morris: I have made that kind of summary myself just to understand the

course of events. I can send you copies of that and of the major
points .

Harris: That would be very helpful.

*Judge Harris kept an alphabetized looseleaf binder of summaries
of decisions in cases he had heard, prepared by his secretary,
Pat Driscoll. In the front is located a list of cases the judge
drew up from the binder for an article he contemplated writing,
presumably on cases he found memorable. See illustration next page.


Morris: I d like your guidance on whether the Harry Bridges case, which you
talk about the naturalization case it seems to me that that
becomes even more interesting when it s talked about chronologically
in relation to some of the other cases that the ILWU was involved in.

Harris: We might close today on a note of levity. One of my granddaughters
was living with me at the time, and they were expecting me home
for dinner, and I was late. She reprimanded me; she said: "What are
you doing, trying that old case?"

I said, "Which old case?" She said, "That old Chicken Delight
case." I didn t know she was actually even aware of the Chicken
Delight case! That s somewhat of a reminiscent note of my complete
attitude about serving in the case, because I did occupy a great
deal of time in Chicken Delight.

Morris: I can believe it.

Harris: A tremendous amount of time. It was one of the most occupying cases
I ever tried in my life. Even the children noticed it.

Morris: That you weren t around very much. How did you feel about eating
chicken while that case was going on?

Harris: I couldn t eat chicken. [Morris laughs]

Thiel v. Southern Pacific////
[Interview 7: June 20, 1980]


Harris :



One of the earliest cases you heard was Thiel v. Southern Pacific^*
An article in the Brief Case indicates that it was an important case
concerning jury selection.**

I have received the paper you generously sent to me.
me all right?

Yes, fine.

Can you hear

Gilbert Thiel v. Southern Pacific and the principle that was
announced safeguarding the statements made by employees as privileged,
That s a generalization that was applied under Thiel v. Southern

*67 F. Supp. 934 (1946)
**See Appendix


Harris: Pacific. I would see no useful purpose in pursuing it. There may
be four or five hundred cases that involve the principle; I don t
think it s any more important than just the statement in the record
that we kept cognizance of it.

Morris: "Safeguarding the statements of employees."

Harris : Yes .

Morris: The employees of the Southern Pacific Company in this case?

Harris: Yes, as delineated in the general statement, the general statement
in a memorandum. In other words, I didn t regard it of sufficient
importance [at the time for us] to delay going into other matters
apparently of more moment, unless you saw some reason.

Morris: In that particular case?
Harris : Yes .

Morris: Could you explain the principle of safeguarding statements of
employees a little bit, just for my understanding?

Harris: Simply stated in the memorandum [pause] statements taken by rail
roads from the employees concerning accident for purposes of
defending prospective or pending litigation were privileged within
the meaning of federal rules dealing with discovery and production
of documents and things for inspection. It s a generalization that
the rules of safeguarding and secrecy and so forth would be embraced
by the railroad companies the federal rules for the discovery and
production of documents and things for inspection. A motion of
plaintiff in action against railroad company for inspection of
such statements was therefore denied. In other words, Thiel s
attorney was denied the right of inspection of the documents ; and
they were classified under the generalization that they were to be
withheld from the view of the plaintiff in advance. I think that s
clear, don t you?

Morris: It s an interesting point, however, from

Harris: I brought the volume; I didn t see much in the volume relating to

Morris: Right. It s cited in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [34.28].

Harris: There was one volume on it. I devoted probably two or three days,
maybe longer, to a classification of the point of law. I think I
was affirmed on appeal. Unless you feel that I should pursue it
more diligently, I d like to go to maybe Bridges.


Morris: There are a couple of other questions about the Thiel case that

were of interest. One is there was a question that isn t mentioned
in either of these summaries, but there was a matter regarding
jury selection, which apparently did have some consequences.

Harris : Involving what?

Morris: There was a question about the jury in the Thiel case. Mr. Thiel s
attorneys questioned the representativeness of the jury. They
were concerned that there were not enough working men on the jury,
since Mr. Thiel apparently was of the

Harris: I don t know what

Morris: Mr. Thiel was apparently a relatively low salary worker, and his
attorneys felt that the jury should have more working men on it.

Harris: I remember the attorney s name was I remember when he started

trying railroad cases, he was a very young man, very diligent. Got
in everybody s hair, but he got results.

Morris: He got results.

Harris: Yes, he got results. On jury selection, he s entitled to a cross-
section of the community. I think he had that.

Morris: The jury had a cross-section, but then there was a lengthy

discussion of the process by which juries were at that time being
selected for the Northern District court. Judge Goodman and Judge
Roche had had a special hearing on

Harris: I had a copy of that.

Morris: I wondered if you might have been aware of there being some question
about jury selection.

Harris: Collaterally. It wasn t a prime question.
Morris: In the Thiel case?

Harris: No. The jury selection, as I recall it now I may be wrong but the
jury selection was devoted mainly to that area of activity. They
called for a cross-section of the community. I believe that they
did have a cross-section of the community. That s the way I left it.

Morris: There was also apparently extensive questioning of the jury
commissioner and the clerk of the court during the trial. I
gathered that rules had grown up by which some fairly arbitrary
decisions were made to not put names on the list of people who


Harris : Had some identification?

Morris: were day laborers and things of that sort. The concern that was
expressed was

Harris: I ve got that man s name now. Philander Beadle.
Morris: Isn t that a lovely name?

Harris: Philander Beadle. How in the world can you remember a name like

Morris: Well, it s an unusual one. He was the attorney for Mr. Thiel?

Harris: He carried it to the Supreme Court.

Morris : And he made a specialty of trying ?

Harris: Oh, yes, that was his life.

Morris: cases against the Southern Pacific?

Harris: That was his whole life.

Morris: That would explain a question I had: there seemed to be a larger

than normal expectation of cases against Southern Pacific, not only
in your court, but in others.

Harris: It was his life s work. I think he passed away. I had a very decent
friendship with him. He used to come and see me in chambers. He
was serious to a fault, if that can be possible. I grew to like
him, although he was quite extensive at times. And I liked to
pronounce his name. Philander Beadle. He reminded me of a Dickens

Morris: Yes, very much.

Harris: So that s not a very joyous result after reading the volumes, that
I thought he represented a Dickens character. But, you know, those
are the lovely things about practicing law: the memories and so
forth. He was not working for money, in to to. He was a dedicated
man as far as the railroads were concerned. His dedication was
unparalleled. His examination of the jury commission was a long-
winded, detailed account. He would pursue any angle in order to
get the matters before the court.

Morris: Your reference to Dickens characters makes me remember that many

of Dickens characters were dedicated to improving social conditions.
I wonder if Mr. Beadle was concerned in general about the rights of
working men?


Harris: Oh, yes, he carried a torch. And he was quite effective with a jury,
very effective. I haven t heard from him in years. I rather imagine
he s passed away. [tape interruption for coffee]

Morris: Did you feel that there was an inordinate number of cases against
the Southern Pacific?

Harris : Inordinate?

Morris: Did the Southern Pacific appear in court more often, say, than
other corporations because of claims brought against them?

Harris: That s my recollection. How accurate that is, I must tell you

again that many cases have gone under the bridge. It s surprising
that we can remember as much as we do.

Morris: There was a Mr. A.B. Dunne, who was the attorney for Southern

Harris: Arthur B. Dunne. His father, Peter Dunne [spells name], was a highly
respected trial lawyer of industrial cases as well as personal. He
was sought after by the big interests in obtaining his representation,
as he had envious result.

Morris: He brought his son Arthur into his practice, then?

Harris: Whenever a case ended, he generally had a very strong conviction
about it. He gave his best talents; I respected him immensely.
Peter Dunne will go down in the annals, as well as his son, Artfrur
Dunne. Arthur Dunne, likewise, was defender of the large interests,
and the railroad companies, and carried the torch for them, in fact,
for a long time, as well as other causes of some renown.

Morris: Other than industrial causes?
Harris : Yes .
Morris : In what ?

Thoughts on Courtroom Proceedings

Harris: He figured largely in the Dollar case.* Do you recall that?

*U.S. v. Dollar [97 F. Supp. 50, 1951].


Morris: Yes. He represented the American President Line interests; and in
one of the actions, at the same time that Arthur Dunne was
representing what appeared to be the officers of American President
Line, Mr. Dunne was also a respondent in the same case. That
puzzled me a little bit.

Harris: The last time I saw him was at a meeting of the Historical Society,
and he didn t look too well. He looked like he d been quite ill to
me. I really had an opportunity to pay my respects and say hello
to Arthur.

Morris: Does it create problems in handling a trial when an attorney is
both representing some parties to the case and also a respondent

Harris: I don t follow that.


Morris: It s a point I was unclear about. In reading about the Dollar case,
Arthur Dunne was representing the officials of the American President
Lines. He was also listed as a respondent himself.

Harris: I see no conflict. You thought there might be a conflict?

Morris: I was wondering if there would be; how the same person could be
mentioned in a case and also be defending a case, as it were.

Harris: Was the point raised in the Dollar case?

Morris: No, it wasn t raised. But it s the kind of question that is unclear
to someone who s not in the legal profession.

Harris: There may have been areas of conflict; I don t know at the present

But in any case, if there were any areas of conflict, either
Dunne would find them or Philander would find them. Both were
ardent, devoted, students.

Morris: Students of the law?
Harris : Yes .

Morris: It sounds as if Arthur and Philander would quite often be in your
court opposing each other?

Harris: Opposing one another. They were never arm in arm.

Morris: Right. But they frequently did battle together against each other.

Harris: That s right.


Morris: So that the relationship kind of continues over from one case to

Harris: From one case to another, and one case to a hundred.

Morris: Did you reach a point where you could have a pretty good idea of
what Mr. Dunne was going to say and what Mr. Beadle ?

Harris: Yes, pretty much. You could almost summarize it.

Dunne presented a case as gracefully and as honorable as any
man I ever saw in a courthouse. He s a highly intelligent individual,
and he had the respect of all courts.

Morris: How did his presentation compare with Mr. Beadle s?

Harris: Two different worlds. It would be hard to make a comparison.

Morris: Mr. Beadle, then, would never be found representing a corporate

Harris: No, no, I wouldn t say that. If he had an opportunity to represent

Morris: But if he developed a reputation as being good in pleading the case
of one citizen claiming damages against a corporation for one thing
or another

Harris: A corporation wouldn t employ him. They would have no reason to

employ him. They had good representation in their own areas; they
didn t need Philander, nor did Philander need them. Talking about
two different worlds.

Morris: Which meet in your courtroom.
Harris: Yes.

Morris: Two different worlds, but they have rather important kinds of
interactions I would think.

Harris: That s right.

Morris: Over the years, did you see any kind of change, say, in the Southern
Pacific, in the way they would respond to cases?

Harris: [pause] I think there was a development on both sides of presenting
cases which ordinarily occupied our attention. I think the
development was for good, and that, under the circumstances, the
judges had no problems.


Morris: Any sense that the kind of case, perhaps, would change, or that

Southern Pacific would be more inclined to listen to conversation
in chambers so that a case didn t actually go to trial? Or a
change in the kinds of things that people were ?

Harris: You re asking me a question that s very difficult for me to answer.
I don t know what the motivations were, what the trial strategy
might be, what the tactics that might be employed. Each case
requires a different treatment and approach from the astute trial
lawyer s viewpoint. That s about the best I can say on that.

Morris: From your point of view on the bench, would your concern be to try
to resolve the matters at issue in conferences before any legal
action took place?

Harris: To anticipate the legal issues?

Morris: I m curious about the area of pretrial conferences and discussions,

Harris: That s probably and I think I mentioned it before the most useful
trial procedure that we have in defining the ultimate issues of a
trial. Is this being recorded?

Morris: Yes, it s coming through nicely.

Harris: At times my voice drops off, so will you remind me?

Morris: I will. In cases against the industrial corporations, when one
citizen is suing for damages or injury of various kinds, are the
corporations interested in arriving at a settlement, so that they
don t have to go to the time and expense of the trial?

Harris: That s always an area of activity that s very well pursued by both
sides, even in a case where there s obvious liability, because they
feel that settlement sometimes is far better than extensive
litigation. And with the advanced costs as we have them today, it
seems to me that it s most desirable.

Juries and Jurisdiction

Morris: In the Thiel case, too, there was a question as to whether the case
would go to superior court or the district court.

Harris: I can t recall the issue on that.

Morris: Southern Pacific apparently preferred the district court, and Mr.

Beadle had originally indicated he wanted it tried in superior court.


Harris: Well, he felt he d get better consideration in the superior court.

Morris: How is the decision made as to whether a particular case will go to
one court or another?

Harris: A motion is made based upon the records. In the light of the motion
and the nature of the cause, the court makes a decision.

Morris: So it s within your purview as a district court judge to refer a case
to superior court or to hear it yourself?

Harris: Each case would have to be given separate consideration. There s no
generalization that I could possibly give you.

Morris: But you can make a decision when a specific case comes before you
Harris: Certainly.

Morris: that you would want to keep it in your court, or you feel it would
be better handled in superior court, for instance?

Harris: There are questions integrated of jurisdiction, there are questions
integrated of a speedy trial. The calendars might be blocked off in
certain areas of activity. The questions are so involved internally
sometimes, and externally, as to foreclose any given result.

Morris: If you issue an opinion that the case should be heard in superior

court, does the superior court have can they either accept or refuse
that case?

Harris: Again, without factual background, I m guessing, and I don t think
it would help the record.

Morris: In the Thiel case: if it was originally a case of a citizen in
California against what sounds like an accident on a train in

Harris: That apparently was the issue.

Morris: What would be the basis for having it heard in the federal courts?

Harris: The question of a jury. The jury question, according to Beadle, was
an important one. In relieving the caseload, we were inclined to
try the case to the court rather than to a jury, in order to
decrease the caseload, which was, as you point out, very large. So
the considerations that seemed to be intertwined in the questions
are not all easy to answer. I guess that s why you asked them.
[Morris laughs]


Morris: Yes. That s a good basis to go forward on. Was the matter of jury
selection and compositon of a jury one that came up frequently in
cases before your court?

Harris: Yes. Some trial lawyers would rather try it to the court, if it
involved legal questions of any moment.

Morris: They d prefer to have it heard just by the judge and not by a jury.
Harris: Yes, if there were legal questions involved.

Morris: How about the matter of when the jury was the proper means to use.
Did many people object to serving on a jury?

Harris: No. People generally enjoy serving on a jury, if the lawyers are



Morris: What about the question of economic hardship, which seems to come

up again and again: "If I m going to be on a jury for a week or two
weeks, I m going to lose "

Harris: Those questions generally remain with the trial judge. He decides
them as he sees them. No given rule can be announced.

Morris: Are there changes, periodically, in the court s procedures for

selections of jurors, and for preparing the master panel for jurors?
Has this changed over the years?

Harris: Yes, that s been changed several times. The fundamental rights,

however, are preserved. But the technique of trying a case with a
jury and the selection thereof still remains a pretty involved
situation. In advance of trial, the able lawyer, or the vigorous
lawyer generally has a classified list of the jurors; they have
background, their identity, sufficient unto the day.

Morris: Of the whole panel that s currently in use.

Harris: That s right.

Morris: Is this classified list available to attorneys for both sides?

Harris: Certainly.

Morris: So they match that against the person s manner and appearance when
they re being questioned.

Harris: Surely. A judge worthy of the name I never found one yet who

foreclosed the fair, honest consideration of a jury s qualification.
We allow a very wide examination.


Morris: This is probably also a very technical point, but one that was

interesting: in the Thiel case, there was reference to the grand
jury persons and trial jury people being selected from the same
master panel for the period of time. I wondered if the two kinds
of juries were sufficiently similar so that you could use the same
panel of people to pick the juries from?

Harris: That question, when it would arise there s no reason you can t
pick the two from the same panel.

Morris: The grand jury if I m not mistaken
Harris: The grand jury would not be involved.

How are we progressing? What is your estimate of our future?

Morris: I think we re making great progress. Part of it depends upon your
wishes. We ve got several major cases to talk about. Do you want
to stop here for today?

Harris: Yes, I d like to stop.

Grand Jury Investigation, 1951-1954


Harris :

I understand that the district court historical society has a
scrapbook about a grand jury investigation in 1951 and 1952 in
which your name is mentioned.* I wanted to read some of the
information on it before I talk to you about it.

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Online LibraryGeorge Bernard HarrisMemories of San Francisco legal practice and State and Federal courts, 1920s - 1960s : oral history transcript / and related material, 1980-1981 → online text (page 12 of 18)