Theres the Trial of the Century that brought Clarence Darrow to town in 1907 to defend alleged assassin Harry Orchard.
Theres Oscar Worthwine, who practiced law in Boise from 1915 into the 1950s. Worthwine was known not only for his legal prowess, but as the coach of Boise Highs famous 1912 football team, which the Idaho Statesman at the time called the best that was ever developed in the state.
It beat every competitor in Idaho, then defeated the Chicago city champs 6-0 for good measure.
In another melding of life, law and sport, Worthwines tutor for the Idaho Bar exam was Boise lawyer Branch Rickey. He left Idaho and became general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The Idaho Legal History Society is trying to preserve more stories like that, said Ernie Hoidal, its vice president.
Chief U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill and U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush founded the society in 2005. It has been cataloging existing oral histories and recording new stories ever since.
The collection now contains more than 50 oral histories. They include the tales of judges and lawyers, but also a law professor, reporters and a courtroom artist.
A project to record the oral histories of judges in the 9th Judicial Circuit Historical Society which includes most of the western states inspired the local project, said Hoidal.
A first-person account is really the document that tells the story the way it is, he said.
Like other oral history collections such as Story-Corps, the radio project that travels the country with a portable sound booth, or the collection of war stories at Nampas Warhawk Air Museum the law histories are available to the public.
Theyre kept at the Idaho History Center on Old Penitentiary Road in Boise. Potential listeners can find a list of available interviews on the societys website. In a few cases, said Hoidal, interviewees have specified that histories can be published only upon their deaths.
Samuel Hays history is one of Hoidals favorites. Hays was the son of the territorial attorney general, not to mention a member of that hallowed 1912 team. His history includes boyhood memories of the Hays family cabin one of the first near Lardo (now McCall).
SEIZING AN OPPORTUNITY
The society conducts interviews all year but makes a special effort to record as many as possible during the annual meetings of the Idaho State Bar, said Susie Boring-Headlee, secretary/ treasurer of the society.
The group met this month in Boise. Lawyers volunteered to conduct interviews for the oral history project, and members of the Idaho Court Reporters gave their time to record 31 interviews in two days.
The histories of Boise lawyer Mack Redford and Nampa lawyer William Bud Yost were among them. Their stories will be edited and made part of the public collection.
Redford, whose family has deep homesteading ties to Idaho, spoke about his days as one of the first public defenders on contract with Ada County in the early 1970s and his law practice overseas. He practiced in Spain, where his cases included dealing with unexploded ordnance from World War II. He was general counsel for Jack Lemley, who built the Chunnel between England and France.
Redford spoke of changing trends in the legal profession. He began practicing when lawyers were loathe to advertise their services.
It was even bad practice to have your name in bold in the white pages, Redford quipped.
Yost has spent most of his career practicing law in Nampa. His firm has represented the Nampa School District since 1970.
They just hired me again, and Im 73, he said.
He counts improving lodgings for female juvenile offenders in Canyon County some decades ago among his accomplishments. He partnered with a local pediatrician to raise money to buy and remodel a house as a private detention center for girls.
Much of the content of the societys oral history collection is scholarly. One example has Boise lawyer Benjamin Oppenheim (1883-1979) speaking on workers compensation law in Idaho.
But much of it simply makes for good listening.
Redford spoke about his cases as a public defender, including representing a woman who shot her husband to death.
She got involuntary manslaughter. She shot him in the arm. The bullet glanced off and hit his heart, said Redford. The jury decided she was such a bad shot she couldnt have been intending to kill him.
Yosts oral history will include the story of a murder conviction he managed to get overturned through a Supreme Court appeal. In order to find out what really happened in that case, Yost bought a case of beer and used that as his calling card to interview witnesses on the north side of Nampa.
It was a different time, he said.
Anna Webb: 377-6431