I've just returned from teaching at Gerry Spence's trial college in Wyoming only to have two people I've known throughout my adult life die within a week of each other. Stan Bruhn was my law partner for many years and David Welts and I began the practice of law in Mount Vernon at the same time.
Stan was my law partner with Harwood "Bill" Bannister. Our firm, Bannister, Bruhn and Luvera was established in 1962. That was the year Stan and Bill approached me with the idea of forming a law partnership. Bill’s practice was estate planning, probate and general business. Stan was involved in the same kind of practice and I had a general trial practice plus general law as well. On August 1, 1962 an announcement was made that our new firm would open the doors.
Our new firm was located in the former Elks building where Bill had his office and which we expanded to accommodate all of us. Nancy Bannister was the office manager and the firm was a general practice law firm. The big advantage was you could walk out our back door and there was the County Court house. Later our firm moved to the building across from the Kamb building and where Brian Clark is located now on 1st Street in Mount Vernon. In later years, the firm included John R. Cuningham, Brian E. Clark, Paul W. Taylor and Jack R. Wallace.
Bill died earlier this year on February 9th. See https://paulluverajournalonline.com/weblog/2010/02/harwood-alexander-bill-bannister-1914—2010–harwood-alexander-bannister-95-passed-away-peacefully-on-february-9-2010.html and also see https://paulluverajournalonline.com/weblog/2010/02/harwood-bill-bannister-february-9-2010-1.html
Stanley died on July 22, 2010 at his home in Mount Vernon. He is survived by his wife Marlene and two children. Stan graduated from the University of Washington in 1954. Stan was raised in Lake McMurray, graduated from Sedro Woolley high school and began his practice as a deputy prosecutor in Skagit County. After that he shared office space with attorney Warren Russell until we three formed the law firm. Stan had a general practice whose clients included the Port of Skagit County when it was first organized. In 1988 Stan became a superior Court judge and served until 1996. He had a lot of gifts and one of them was finding new clients. Stan was an excellent golfer and many of our clients were people he met on the golf course. He also worried about everything dealing with his cases, so there was no one better prepared at a trial then Stan. Most of all, he set very high standards for honesty and ethics.
My son Dan, who is a deputy sheriff in Skagit County said he remembered Stan taking my son Nick and Dan duck hunting after school. He also remembers testifying in cases where Stan was the judge and how well he was treated. Dan said he remembered Stan this way:
"He was always an inspirational person who had a story to tell. I remember he would talk about his golf game and fishing adventures and tells stories about his game and fishing trips with others that he played with and have jokes that made you laugh."
What I remember is that our firm had a great run at the practice of law and working with Bill and stan was a pleasure as well as a legal education. Both Stanley and Bill were lawyers who represented professionalism, honesty and ethics. Both taught me much about being a good lawyer and representing people. As the only remaining member of that firm I feel the burden of time and pain of loss for both of them. If I find a photo of Stan I'll publish it.
David A. Welts and I started the practice of law at precisely the same time. We were sworn in on the same day at the Skagit County courthouse with Arthur Ward and Charles Stafford presiding. Robin Welts, David's dad, introduced me and Alfred McBee introduced David to the court. The court reporter was Jack Mitchell. I still have the transcript of the proceedings that day because Jack sent it to me. Jack was the nicest man you could imagine. He recorded the testimony and proceedings with a fountain pen using short hand on a secretary's pad. Always smiling he and his wife Thelma were great friends to me. Later in my career I had the honor of representing Thelma when she was injured in an accident. From the time we were admitted to practice, David's and my law career were intertwined throughout the time I practiced in Mount Vernon.
David and my legal education was enhanced by the two judges in the county. Judge Art Ward was a former plaintiff's lawyer who was very bright and didn't tolerate incompetence very patiently. His other good quality was that he resented out of town lawyers who ended up with Skagit county clients. Charles Stafford was born and raised in my home town of Anacortes. He was very intelligent and most out of town lawyers liked him for his fairness. Both of them expected you to be prepared on all issues that might come up. I once had to brief the issue of whether an X ray was admissible or not. Alfred McBee had objected that it was like a negative and shouldn't be admitted unless printed. Never a dull day in our courts. Both of them would take David or me aside and instruct us on how to be a better lawyer when we appeared before them. David and I defended a murder case together early in our career, but we were more often opposing each other in trials.
David was born the same year I was born in 1935. He went to Mount Vernon high school and I played basketball against him when Anacortes played Mount Vernon. He graduated from Mount Vernon High School in 1953, the same year I graduated. David attended and graduated from the University of Washington and its School of Law in 1959, the same year I graduated from Gonzaga Law School. He was First Lieutenant in the U. S. Army's JAG Corps before he was sworn in and then joined the law firm of his father and uncle, Robin and Richard. David was the Mount Vernon City attorney. Like Robin, David had a general practice plus doing both plaintiff and defense work. Like his father, David became the president of the Washington State Bar Association from 1981 to 1982. What is significant is that Alfred McBee had served as the president of the Washington State Bar as well from 1962 to 1963. Three lawyers from Mount Vernon had that honor.
He was a member of a family of great lawyers. His father Robert "Robin" Welts was one of the best trial lawyers I have seen trying cases. Robin had a general trial practice plus a general law practice. I have known and been in trial with many great trial lawyers, but none had the all around trial skills and lawyer skills of Robin and that includes some of the great trial lawyers of today.
Robin was born in LaConner in 1891 and graduated from the University of Washington in 1914. Robin was an all purpose lawyer. He did everything from wills to real estate to litigation and anything else that came in the door. Not only that he did both plaintiff and defense work with equal skill. He was always professional in his conduct and his confrontation of a witness was never harsh. He charmed the juries and the judges. No one was more of a threat in the court room then Robin. He tried very few jury cases in Mount Vernon when I wasn't in the front row watching him and taking notes. He was the president of the Washington state Bar from 1950 to 1951 and active in the American Bar Association as well.
Robin's brother Richard practiced with him. Richard was born in Mount Vernon in 1901. In 1923 he joined Robin in the practice of law. Richard was the intellectual who prepared the motions and briefs. Robin depended upon him for that support in their practice. Both Robin and Richard were talented baseball players at the University of Washington and Richard played semi pro ball as well. That was the firm David joined in 1959.
David and my life overlapped in other ways. Seattle defense lawyer Fred Betts liked David and me. Fred was active in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and was responsible for the two of us becoming members. However, neither David or I took the time to go to a meeting to be inducted and Fred was understandably unhappy with us. So after several years he pressured us to get inducted. David and I flew to Salt Lake where we were sworn in together (again) and then searched for a place to get a drink, which at that time was difficult to impossible. I began attending meetings, but I don't think David attended any other meeting
My mentor Alfred McBee, a great defense trial lawyer, was responsible for my membership in the American College of Trial Lawyers and David's dad Robin was responsible for David becoming a member. This was considered a prestigious trial organization which was difficult to be invited to join. Robin was my backer and Alfred was David's. Once again, the two of us became members at the same time.
Like his father David was dangerous as a trial opponent because he was charming to everyone. My friend, Skagit county lawyer Warren "Bud" Gilbert and I used to say about David that he would do something that would really hurt, but he was impossible to hold a grudge against. He was always talking me out of being upset and could charm a bird out of tree if he put his mind to it. David had outstanding trial skills, was a bright and creative lawyer. He also made friends wherever he went and was an excellent golfer. After I moved from Mount Vernon and concentrated my law practice in seattle, we weren't in contact very often, but from time to time I'd get a note from David. It was a privilege to have known him.
So, here's to two people I've known for fifty years. May they rest in peace.