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Supreme Court Justices Oral History Project: Interview with Chief Justice Douglas K. Amdahl
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Born in Mabel in 1919, former Chief Justice Douglas K. Amdahl grew up in that rural southeastern Minnesota community, graduating from the local school system. His pre-law courses at the University of Minnesota were interrupted by the advent of World War II. Amdahl was employed by Lockheed Aircraft prior to his enlistment in the Army. Following his discharge in 1945, he returned to the University, graduating in 1946. He then was enrolled in the Minneapolis-Minnesota College of Law (later the William Mitchell College of Law), where he earned his law degree. Amdahl was in private law practice from 1951 to 1955, and from 1955 to 1961 served as assistant county attorney for Hennepin County. He was appointed to the Minneapolis municipal court bench in 1961 and to a judgeship on the district court bench in 1962, serving three years as a family court judge. In 1964, he graduated from the first class of the National College of the State Judiciary, where he later taught and served on the advisory board. Amdahl moved to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1980, where he served as an associate justice for one year. In December, 1981, he was appointed chief justice by Governor Rudy Perpich, a position he held until his retirement in 1989. Amdahl then joined the law firm of Rider Bennett Egan & Arundel. The former chief justice was active in all areas of the legal profession, including the state and national bar associations. He served on the board of trustees of William Mitchell College of Law for over twenty-five years, as well as on numerous legal and community boards and committees. He was a nationally recognized expert on uniform sentencing guidelines, court management, and legal ethics and education. Amdahl's many awards and honors include the 1989 Herbert Harley Award from the American Judiciary Society; the 1989 Outstanding Services Award from the Minnesota Fellows of the American Bar Foundation; and the 1990 Distinguished Service Award from the National Center for State Courts Board of Directors. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Reminiscences of life in a rural community during the Depression; education; World War II service; post-war teaching of GIs; education at Minneapolis-Minnesota College of Law (later William Mitchell) and the college's subsequent growth; work as an attorney for Hennepin County; growth and development issues in Hennepin County during his tenure; associations with George Scott and Miles Lord; muncipal court and district court service, particularly his years as a family court judge; enrollment in the National College of the State Judiciary; building of the Hennepin County Government Center and the refurbishment of the Hennepin County Law Library; appointment as associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court and subsequent elevation to chief justice; the responsibilities of the office; the issue of court unification; the establishment of the Court of Appeals; the history behind the plan to build a judicial building on the Capitol Mall; the eventual construction of the judicial center; the relationship of the chief justice with the legislature; the development of a computerized court information system; the impact and value of sentencing guidelines; the study of medical ethics and life-support legislation; legal ethics; professionalism in today's legal community; alternative dispute resolution systems; interaction among justices; the Court's relationship with the media; the M'Naghten rule; the mandatory retirement and open-meeting laws; the role of the bar associations in the judicial system; assessment of his term in office.
3 hours sound cassette
56 pages transcript
Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
02:33:33 running time
Interviewee: Amdahl, Douglas K. (Douglas Kenneth)
Interviewer: Robertson, Margaret A.
Made in: Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, United States
Creation: 09/1989 - 12/1989 (Interviews conducted 9//1989 and 12//1989.)
|Holding Type||Oral History - Interview|
OH 70 (Library Call Number)
AV1989.265.1 (Accession Number)
MNHS Library Catalog
Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Supreme Court Justices Oral History Project'