“This is the beginning of my vindication!” Chicago utility czar Samuel Insull said on this day in 1934 after a jury acquitted him of mail fraud charges related to the collapse of his empire in the aftermath of the Great Depression. It was the “beginning” because, as Insull acknowledged, he faced two other trials. For all three matters, Insull was represented by the Floyd Thompson, the former Illinois Supreme Court judge who joined the firm in 1928. In his closing argument in this, the first case, Thompson argued that Insull was a victim of the public’s wild speculation in 1929, “and when that wild market crashed, it carried away real values as well as false values – the real values these men were trying to protect.” In all three matters, Thompson successfully defended the London-born Insull, who gained fame and power for, among other enterprises, establishing Chicago’s early electric system. The following summer, at age 75, Insull was officially a free man.
Election Day 1928 was a loss for Floyd E. Thompson, who had resigned from the Illinois Supreme Court to run for governor of Illinois on the Democratic ticket. By the end of the day, “The Judge” carried 42.6 percent of the popular vote compared to Republican Louis Lincoln Emmerson’s 56.7 percent. He rebounded from that defeat by joining the Chicago law firm of Newman, Poppenhusen, Stern & Johnston. In 1929, the firm took Thompson’s name, becoming Poppenhusen, Johnston, Thompson & Cole. “The Judge” would take on many high-profile cases for the firm, such as successfully defending Chicago utility magnate Samuel Insull on mail fraud and antitrust charges and Floyd Cerf, the broker who handled stocks for revolutionary car manufacturer Preston Tucker. The firm would become Jenner & Block in 1969.