Former Associate John Paul Stevens Sworn in as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
In 1948, a young associate named John Paul Stevens joined the firm of Poppenhusen, Johnston, Thompson & Raymond. When he and two others left to start their own firm in 1952, name Partner Floyd Thompson reportedly remarked that the “Stevens guy will never amount to anything.” History would prove Thompson wrong. In 1970, President Nixon appointed Stevens as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Five years later, President Ford nominated him to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Confirmed 98-0, Stevens was sworn in as an associate justice on this day in 1975.
“I’m deeply moved,” Stevens said after being confirmed. “Like others who have traveled this road before me, I know that the inn that shelters for the night is not the journey’s end. A judge, like a traveler, must be ready for the morrow. I shall constantly strive to be ready for the morrow.”
When he retired in 2010, at age 90, Justice Stevens was the oldest justice then in service and the second-oldest serving justice in the Court’s history. He also retired as the third longest-serving justice in history, spending 34 years and six months on the Court.
Floyd Thompson Successfully Defends Chicago Utility Czar Samuel Insull
“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.
Floyd Thompson Joins Firm after Loss at the Polls
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.
Firm Defends Associate of 1950s-era Automaker Preston Tucker
Name Partner Floyd Thompson defended one of Preston Tucker’s associates in the headline-grabbing case that inspired Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: A Man and His Dream. Floyd D. Cerf, the underwriter who handled the Tucker Corporation stock offering, stood accused along with Mr. Tucker and six other colleagues on charges of mail fraud, conspiracy and violating federal securities laws. The government said the corporation engaged in a large-scale con scheme, bilking the public and prospective dealers out of $28 million without mass producing the car. The defendants argued their honest attempts at producing the “Tucker 48” were hampered by government interference possibly driven by rival automakers. “This [case] is fantastic,” Floyd Thompson said in his closing arguments. “The prospectus plainly said Tucker stock was speculative…A couple more months, a couple more million dollars, and they would have had the production line rolling.” When the jury pronounced all the defendants “not guilty” on this day in 1950, it “loosed a tumult of cheering from more than 200 onlookers,” according to the Chicago Tribune.