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Miles Lord

The Maverick Judge Who Brought Corporate America to Justice

Author:

Roberta Walburn

Miles Lord

MILES LORD SHORT (VIDEO)

Preview to a documentary co-produced with Twin Cities PBS.

 

BOOK DISCUSSION GUIDE

 

KEY LEGAL DECISIONS IN THE CAREER OF JUDGE MILES LORD

 

DALKON SHIELD DEPOSITIONS: VIDEO  |  POWERPOINT



The life of a crusading federal judge who stood up and fought for “the little guy”

This is the story of Miles Lord (1919–2016), who rose from humble beginnings on Minnesota’s Iron Range to become one of the most colorful and powerful judges in the country, described as “an unabashed Prairie populist” and “a live-wire slayer of corporate behemoths.” It is a compelling portrait of a remarkable man and his place in Minnesota and U.S. history. 

"An intimate, compelling portrait of a courageous and exceptional man who believed in justice and never backed down."—Jonathan Harr, author of A Civil Action

This is the story of Miles Lord (1919–2016), who rose from humble beginnings on Minnesota’s Iron Range to become one of the most colorful and powerful judges in the country, described as “an unabashed Prairie populist” and “a live-wire slayer of corporate behemoths.” He cut a wide swath through history on his path to the bench: coming of age alongside a cadre of young Midwestern social-gospel progressives, including Hubert H. Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, and Walter Mondale, in the days before they reached national fame; teaming with Bobby Kennedy as a hotshot prosecutor in pursuit of Jimmy Hoffa; and serving as the secret envoy between his friends Hubert and Eugene in their battle for the soul of the Democratic party in the historic 1968 presidential campaign. Later, after donning his black robe, he reshaped jurisprudence with precedent-breaking rulings—on issues ranging from women’s rights to consumer protection to education reform—and breaking trail when he ordered the shutdown of the Reserve Mining Company in northern Minnesota, which was spewing its waste into Lake Superior, in the most sensational trial of the early environmental era.

One of Judge Lord’s landmark cases—and interlaced as a centerpiece narrative of this book—involved the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device, which caused horrific infections in thousands of women, resulting in infertility and sometimes death. Author Roberta Walburn served as the judge’s law clerk during that litigation in 1983–84, and she provides a page-turning account (both an insider’s view and an in-depth chronicle) of what was called “one of the most disastrous episodes of American corporate misconduct.” In the end, more than 200,000 women received nearly $3 billion in compensation, and the Fortune 500 defendant was left in ruins. But Judge Lord was hauled up on judicial misconduct charges for his no-holds-barred actions that were certainly provocative but also stand as a timely reminder, even (or especially) today, of the challenges in balancing the scales of justice for a legal system that too often skews to the rich and powerful.

The author deftly weaves the Dalkon Shield drama into the larger story of the life of a one-of-a-kind man, crafting a sweeping and spirited true-life tale with not only her first-hand experiences as the judge’s law clerk but also with unrestricted access to the judge’s personal files. This is a rare and compelling portrait of a remarkable man and his place in both Minnesota and U.S. history.

Miles Lord

Roberta Walburn is an attorney based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she has been named one of the most influential members of the legal profession in state history and recognized by the University of Minnesota for “shaping the legal landscape for the benefit of society.” Previously, she worked as a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Buffalo (N.Y.) Evening News and as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, as well as serving as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Miles Lord.

Miles Lord

An intimate, compelling portrait of a courageous and exceptional man who believed in justice and never backed down.

Jonathan Harr, author of A Civil Action

Miles Lord set a new standard for judicial courage by speaking truth to power and fighting for the rights of the downtrodden. He shook up the system—and we’re all in his debt for that.

Walter Mondale*

This long-overdue biography of Miles Lord, the Iron Ranger Hubert Humphrey lauded as 'a people's judge,' puts his legacy in context as it recalls his work fighting corruption and pollution, standing up for women and gender equity in sports, and looking out for 'the little guy.' This is storytelling—and high drama—at its best.

John Bessler, University of Baltimore School of Law and author of The Birth of American Law

Every student of history and lover of justice should read this book. Judge Lord’s biography could have no better author than his clerk, Roberta Walburn, who is also a champion of justice and has fought corporate malfeasance her entire career.

Linda Lipsen, chief executive officer, American Association for Justice

Roberta Walburn has written a brilliant biography for our time. The personal behind-the-bench insights superbly illuminate Miles Lord’s legendary moral backbone, and constantly remind us of the urgent need for courageous judges prepared to confront corporate greed and coverup, as government oversight is curtailed.

Peter Pringle, author of Big Tobacco at the Bar of Justice

A book that’s hard to put down, providing insight not only into Lord’s colorful life, but into the heyday of Minnesota liberal politics, the legal machinations of corporations and the inside workings of the judicial system.

Star Tribune

A rollicking and spirited biography.

U.S. District Judge John Tunheim, Law360

Walburn weaves the Dalkon Shield drama into the larger story of the life of Lord.

Twin Cities Pioneer Press

Absorbing and page-turning.

MinnPost

This biography memorializes a legacy of defending rights regardless of the rule book. Miles Lord’s ideology rings true, now especially, as a reminder to Americans to look out for the voices of all people.

Minnesota Monthly

Miles Lord

Contents
Prologue
1. Boyhood on the Range, 1919–1937
2. The Dalkon Shield Quagmire
3. Young Man in the Cities, 1939–1948
4. Courtroom No. 1
5. Hotshot Prosecutor, 1951–1952
6. Meeting the Enemy
7. Political Wunderkind, 1954–1960
8. Lawyers Objecting, Witnesses Stonewalling
9. Persecutor of Organized Crime, 1961–1965
10. Judge Lord Goes to Richmond
11. The People’s Judge, 1966
12. On the Trail of Secret Documents
13. Presidential Politics, 1968
14. Sweeping Corporate Headquarters
15. Election, 1968
16. The Brink of Settlement
17. Bold on the Bench, 1969–1972
18. The Speech
19. Judge Lord versus Reserve Mining, 1973–1974
20. A. H. Robins Fires Back
21. Reserve Mining versus Judge Lord, 1974–1976
22. The Judge Stands Accused
23. Fire and Brimstone, 1976–1981
24. Endgame
Afterword
Acknowledgments
Notes and Sources
Selected Bibliography
Index

Miles Lord

TPT documentary preview | Miles Lord: Minnesota's Maverick Judge

Key Legal Decisions in the Career of Judge Miles Lord

MILES LORD DISCUSSION GUIDE

 

UMP blog post

Judge Lord: Our Brothers' and Sisters' Keeper
There was once a generation of young Minnesotans who, imbued with a social-gospel populism, set out to make their state, their nation, and their world a better place for all. Especially in today’s times, the legacy of these men so dedicated to the common good—and who loomed so large on the national scene—is well worth remembrance.

They were a remarkable crew with strikingly similar backgrounds: growing up poor in small towns, forged by the Great Depression and hard work, and embracing a commitment to the least fortunate. “The moral test of a government,” as Hubert Humphrey would say, “is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.”

Keep reading.