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George L. Bunn, Associate Justice 1911-1913, 1913-1918

George L. Bunn

 

Portrait of George L BunnJudge Bunn presided over the trial of local newspapers, whose coverage of a botched execution eventually led to the abolition of capital punishment in 1911.

 

George Lincoln Bunn was born June 25, 1865, in Sparta, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1885, and from the law department of the same institution in 1888. He arrived in Minnesota on September 18, 1888, locating at St. Paul. He operated his own general law practice until he was appointed District Judge of the Second Judicial District January 2, 1897.  He was subsequently elected to the position in 1898, 1904, and 1910.

While serving on the Second Judicial District, Judge Bunn presided over a grand jury, arraignment, and trial of charges brought against local newspapers for violation of the "midnight assassination law".  These charges were brought against the newspapers for their detailed coverage of the botched execution of convicted murderer William Williams in 1906.  Minnesota's midnight assassination law restricted coverage of state executions to only the bare statement of the facts.  The extensive coverage of Williams' disastrous execution eventually led to the abolition of capital punishment by the Minnesota Legislature in 1911.  (See John Bessler, "The 'Midnight Assassination Law' and Minnesota's Anti-Death Penalty Movement", 22 William Mitchell Law Review 577 (1996)).  

Bunn was appointed Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in January of 1911 by Governor Eberhart to succeed Justice Edwin Jaggard following his unexpected death. This judicial term expired January 6, 1913, on which date Bunn was subsequently appointed to fill the vacancy created by Associate Justice Calvin Brown's appointment as Chief Justice.  Bunn was elected to the full 6-year term in 1914, and died in office on October 9, 1918.     

This brief biography comes from the book Testimony: Remembering Minnesota’s Supreme Court Justices.

 

Portrait of George L. Bunn from Men in Minnesota: A Collection of the Portraits of Men Prominent in Business and Professional Life in Minnesota, 2nd ed.(St. Paul: R. L. Polk & Co, 1915).

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