Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Profile: William J. Kneeshaw

...the longevity record [belongs to] Judge William Kneeshaw, who served in the Seventh Judicial District and the Second Judicial District from 1901-1943. A pioneer resident of Pembina, Kneeshaw was 46 when he went on the bench in 1900 and his judicial service continued until he died 42 years later at the age of 89...Kneeshaw's 42 years on the bench is by far the longest continuous term of service by a district judge in North Dakota. - From A History of North Dakota Judges
I was born too late to know Judge Kneeshaw, but I knew his descendents. Some were contemporaries who attended school over in Pembina. Others were of my Dad's generation, such as William G. "Buster" Kneeshaw, a farmer and a Plymouth Brethren. As far I know, Judge Kneeshaw - Buster's grandfather - was not a member of the Brethren himself (anyone out there who knows otherwise, please correct me!)
I defended a man before Judge Kneeshaw in Cavalier County, who was charged with running a common nuisance. The facts were that he had been running a place where men gather in the evenings and played cards for money, a small part of the winnings going to the defendant. I told the Judge there was no use in selecting a jury and adding a lot of expense, and entered a plea of guilty - which my client confirmed. The Judge seemed much pleased and said, "In view of the frankness of the defendant in pleading guilty, I will impose a fine of $100." That was much better than I expected, but the defendant spoiled the case for himself. He got smart with the wrong judge. When the fine was announced, the defendant rose and slapped a pocketbook down on the attorney's table and said, "Judge I've got'er right there." The Judge then coolly announced, "And 60 days in jail - see if you've got that with you." - From Historical Essay regarding Judge Kneeshaw