Viewing Charles T. Hvass, Jr.: Book Review of Paul Sevareid, "The Peoples Lawyer, The Life of Eugene A. Rerat" (1963).
"The Peoples Lawyer" is the biography of Eugene "Gene" Rerat, one of the pre-eminent Minnesota trial lawyers of the mid-twentieth century. It summarizes his life in the courtroom through a series of criminal and civil cases. It also covers the attempts by corporate America to silence him through fraudulent ethics charges.
Written by Paul Sevareid, the older brother of journalist Eric Sevareid, the book portrays the politics of the times, using that history as a backdrop to the criminal and civil work of Rerat.
Rerat's development of his skills before becoming an attorney, and the development of his skills after becoming an attorney, are set out in a way to aid any aspiring trial lawyer. Although professing to not be a book about trial advocacy, the detailed accounts of the investigation and preparation of each of the cases are a roadmap to why Rerat won, and how any lawyer should prepare.
The final section about the ethics charges filed against Rerat expose the dark side of corporations, particularly Rerat's railroad opponents, and the lengths they went to in trying, and failing, to disbar him. It is a history repeated against other prominent plaintiffs' counsel, and a lesson for all on how justice ultimately triumphs.
The lengthy decision of the Minnesota Supreme Court in "In Re Application for Discipline of Eugene A. Rerat," 232 Minn. 1 (1950), where it dismissed charges against him, is posted in the Appendix.
The biography is reviewed by Charles T. Hvass, Jr., a prominent trial lawyer in Minnesota for over forty years, now retired.