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The Third Branch

Legal Resource Center displays 'Lawyer Roll'

By Lisa Winkler, Wisconsin State Law Library

On Sept. 26, a remarkable Dane County artifact found a home at the Dane County Legal Resource Center. The leatherbound "Lawyer Roll" ledger contains the signatures of hundreds of attorneys admitted to practice in the Dane County Circuit Court from 1850 to 1957. The late Dane County Circuit Court Judge Wilmarth L. Jackman's note, sent with the ledger when he gave it to the late Judge Paul C. Gartzke, District IV Court of Appeals, explains how it came to be in his possession when the clerk of court intended to discard it in the 1960s.

Fully restored by the Gartzke family and donated to the Dane County Bar Association's History and Memorials Committee, the book features such prominent Madisonians as Robert LaFollette, A. P. Atwood, Henry and Levi Vilas, and Silas Pinney. These names now grace parks, streets, schools, and libraries as a memorial to their commendable civic service. Next to the ledger is a special recognition of the very first entry: Thomas W. Sutherland, who served as attorney general of the Wisconsin Territory before moving west during the fervor of the California Gold Rush.

Lawyer roll
A Lawyer Roll, including the names of lawyers admitted to practice in Dane County from 1850 to 1957 is on display at the Dane County Legal Resource Center. The glass-front case is mounted on the end of a library bookcase in one of the most heavily used, and therefore most visible, areas of the Resource Center. Anyone with an interest in history, the practice of law, or in the history of the practice of law is encouraged to stop by the library and see the new installation. A high resolution color copy of the entire ledger and index with cross-references to Lawyers Who Shaped Dane County (2012) waits for visitors to leaf through its pages and admire the elegant script of days gone by.

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