James Manahan (1866-1932) was a prominent lawyer in Minnesota during the Progressive Era and beyond--from 1906 through the early 1920s. He died in 1932 at the age of sixty-six, and his autobiography, "Trials of a Lawyer," was published by his daughter Kathryn the following year.
Manahan graduated from the Law Department of the University of Minnesota in 1889. He claimed he was its "first graduate" and in an alphabetical sense he was correct. Today, his photograph hangs on the first floor of the library of the Law School. A photo of his daughter, a member of the class of 1925, hangs a few yards away on the same wall.
Manahan wrote at an uncommonly high level. Through his eyes, we see the 1906 rate hearings that spawned "Ex Parte Young" (1908) and the "Minnesota Rate Case" (1913), but also led to his "disbarment," the "Express Rate Case" (1912-13), one of the Interstate Commerce Commission's most influential rulings, the hysteria during World War I, culminating for him in his flight from a mob in Lakeville in February 1918, and his experiences in organizing Mid West farmers to gain economic power. We read his lengthy speech on judicial recall at the 1911 Minnesota State Bar Association meeting, relive his successful campaign for Congress in 1912, and feel his discomfort at being prosecuted in early 1918 for inciting a riot during a street car strike in St. Paul.
For those interested in the legal history of Minnesota, "Trials of a Lawyer" is an indispensable primary source.
This is the first of a series of articles on James Manahan that will be posted on the Minnesota Legal History Project.
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