I hate to have to write back to back posts speaking about remarkable Milwaukeans who have passed away. On the heels of the deaths of my friends Gus Stankovic and Dave Cannon came the stunningly sad news that Terry Evans died after a short fierce battle with a lung disease. My heart is as heavy as a lead balloon right now.
Evans, known as TTE or "The Learned Jurist" in our fantasy football league, was a precious gem of a man. I probably met him when I was about 12 years old and have known him and his family ever since.
He was at my Bar Mitzvah, my Law School graduation and my wedding. He performed the ceremony at my Dad's wedding to my step mom Anne (more on that later). Basically, he has been in the first line of my extended family for decades. By the time I visited Milwaukee a few weeks ago, TTE had just been hospitalized. While I got many reports and updates, he was correctly, not having visitors. We all hoped, and even assumed, that he would rally back and be with us for many years to come. Sadly it was not to be.
TTE was known far and wide for his witty pop culture references in his judicial opinions. The "hoe" vs. "ho" reference, the team mascot reference "How can you fear a team called the Banana Slugs?" and even a Dinah Washington song quote about "what a difference a day makes" when a lawyer missed a deadline by a day and others are all well documented.
A few anecdotes always come to mind when I think of Terry.
Terry was always looking at ways to make contests or games out of things. Once summer in the 1970s when TTE and my dad were in their late 30s or early 40s, Terry devised a special competition. He and my Dad would take on my brother Josh and I on in men vs. boys Olympics. The sports included a round of par 3 golf at Lake Park, a game of pool, a 100-yard dash relay, basketball and for some odd reason Jarts.
Evans and my brother Josh are good golfers, my Dad and I are hackers. The Lake Park face off was intense and came down to the last hole. After being carried through the match by Josh, I think I sunk a lucky putt on the 18th to win it for the boys (at least in my mind that's what happened). Dad and Terry were crestfallen.
We moved on to the basketball round. Playing on the Evans' driveway gave the Judge tremendous home court advantage. He must have spent weeks shooting from one outside spot until he could sink 9 out of 10. I think he believed that had he been a little taller he would have been on one of those Marquette teams during the Al McGuire era. The old guys wiped us up with Evans making almost all of the points from outside the area where we would even cover him.
Next was pool. Again, Evans home table. Again, I think he stayed up every night for weeks practicing and studying Willie Mosconi videos. The boys got really lucky and won.
Next up was the Jarts event. Again Jarts was selected because Evans had a Jarts set and again, figured he had the edge on us non Jarts savvy kids. The duel was fierce (as a Jarts dual can be) and in the end the men prevailed by a slim margin on the last toss. Result; 2-2, a tie going into the foot race.
Both Dad and Terry were trackmen in their youth and in their minds they were still as fleet as Pegasus. The format was a 50 yard per leg relay on the street in front of Terry's Shorewood home. Josh and Dad ran down the road and Terry and I faced off running back up the road. Josh built up a nice 25-yard lead on his leg. I was confident and cocky and ran my leg backwards. Terry was not amused. I never saw the man get mad or raise his voice, but he was a competitor and not at all pleased with our showboating. 3-2 for the boys nonetheless. We won!
We rubbed it in and made sure there was never a rematch.
The other story is indelibly etched upon my mind, I've told it a million times, and it shaped (or shall I say misshaped) my legal career. It shows Evans at his most serious, but also his most mischievous.
In 1984 I was playing in a golf outing in Waukesha about 3 weeks after graduating from Law School at Marquette. Terry was a Federal District Court judge in Milwaukee at the time. I was in a foursome with Terry and we were sharing a cart. About halfway through the round Terry said, "Tod, stop by my chambers on Monday, I have an interesting case for you. There is criminal case involving a tax protester, set to start trial in a week, and he refuses to hire a lawyer. I want you to act as court appointed standby counsel."
Sounded cool, a chance to be part of a Federal Jury trial so soon after graduating. My first step on the road to following my Dad's footsteps!
I visited the Judge at the appointed time, he told me a bit of the back story. Basically, this guy believed he didn't have to pay U.S. taxes as he believed himself to be a religion and thus exempt. The government was charging him with several misdemeanors. Hmmmm, try convincing a jury of 12 taxpayers to buy that story.
Anyway, standby council just meant I was to be there, help him if he asked and give advice when I could. I visited my new client a day later and left convinced that a) there was no way he was going to win his case and b) he had little or no interest in having me as his lawyer. I studied up anyway.
Trial started about a week later. Walking into the Federal Court is a bit daunting for a new lawyer. There was the Assistant U.S. Attorney, who I knew from a clerkship there a few summers earlier, fully loaded for bear to make an example out of this alleged shirker. I admit I was a little nervous. Anyway, The prosecutor made his opening statement and basically laid out his open and shut case.
Judge Evans said, "Mr. X, your turn to make your opening statement." My client froze like a deer in the headlights. "Want me to take this?," I said. He said yes and then had me handle the entire case from there.
I gave it my best shot and TTE was very gentle towards me as a novice. Fair, but gentle. By the time I gave the closing I was feeling like I actually had a chance to win the case. The jury was given the case at about noon. My client asked me what would happen next. He wasn't a bad guy, had no criminal record and the case was a misdemeanor, not a felony.
Of course, there was the chance of jail time of about a year or so, but judges had lots of discretion back then. I told the guy that the jury would go out, deliberate and decide. I prepared him for the fact that they would most likely find him guilty.
"Then what?," the guy asked. "Well if we lose, we will ask the judge to hold the case over for sentencing, get a pre-sentence report done and come back in a month or so. You might get fined, probation or even jail time." I then uttered a sentence which would haunt me for the rest of my life. "The only thing I can tell you FOR SURE, is that you won't have to go to jail TODAY."
The jury came back with a verdict at about 1:30. Just long enough for them to grab a free lunch on the government and deliberate for about 10 minutes. I pretty much knew this was not a good thing. As expected they came back with a resounding GUILTY verdict. I took it in stride, and having consulted with my colleagues Jeff Kaufman, Richard Reilly and Tom Brown, great trial lawyers all, I knew what to do next.
Evans, on the bench after the verdict, was about as stern faced as I had ever seen him. "Let's move on to sentencing," he said. I said, "Your honor, I would request you order a presentence investigation and report and we come back for sentencing after it is complete." The prosecutor did not disagree with me. "I think we can proceed now Mr. Gimbel."
"But your honor, I think it would benefit the court and justice to have a report." "No, I don't think so," he said. I was shaking but kept my professional face on.
"Mr. prosecutor, what is your recommendation." The prosecutor gave a short speech about how tax protestors are a scourge and a message must be sent. This guy should get a large fine and some jail time. I collected myself, spoke of my clients sincere belief that he was right, his otherwise clean and
stable life, his thriving business and his loving family.
Surely, given all that, my man should get fined and slapped, but jail was not needed. TTE took about 30 seconds to think about it and basically went into a speech about how one has a duty to pay taxes and if there were a loophole like what my client was trying to exploit, the whole nation would fall apart. He proceeded to impose the maximum sentence.
Pretty much in shock, I asked the court for 30 days stay of the sentence so my client could get his affairs in order. "I don't think so Mr. Gimbel. Marshall, take him away."
Next thing I knew I was talking to my handcuffed client, in a holding cell, explaining why what I had told him a few hours before was not true. He WAS going to JAIL that day and for 2 years. I think I was more crushed than my client. I went back to the office cussing out my friend Judge Evans to high heaven.
My law colleagues, all cut from the office culture of constant ribbing and no pity, kept to form and told me, sarcastically, what I great job I must have done for the client. "Yeah Tod, you did great, you really helped that guy. Could have been worse for him ... NOT."
At that moment I vowed never to talk to Terry again. The guy teed me up, just to humiliate me and deflate my confidence. I steamed and seethed. I actually went into our office law library (a place a rarely knew existed) and started to look things up to see what options I had.
Ultimately I calmed down and came to realize that Terry was right. It wasn't about me (which I sometimes need to be reminded of), it was about the law, justice and doing the right thing. Part of sentencing is for punishment, the other part is to deter others from committing similar crimes. The swift, harsh, unrelenting sentence was a classic example of the latter.
TTE knew that this would garner some publicity and it did (luckily my name wasn't in the story), unlike a long layover between the conviction and the sentencing or some light sentence that would deter any potential tax protested from trying to save that 30+ percent of their income that fuels our government (ok, in recent days maybe that's not a good thing).
I am happy to report that sometime later, my client, represented by another fine young lawyer from my class, Jeff Ek, petitioned for a review of the sentence and the judge did scale it back. No publicity, no headlines, but the right thing to do with respect to the punishment part of sentencing.
In the long run I learned huge lesson from this. I came to respect Terry even more, even though as recently as last year he continued to raise the case with me and others when he wanted to raise my hackles. He was a man of principle and conviction, but a real person who kept his gentle good nature at all times, good and bad.
Since that case, I never, ever, ever, ever, tell anybody definitively that something is or is not going to happen.
As I heard reports on Terry's health these past few weeks, I never, ever , ever thought that this battle would be his last. I was wrong again, but there is no chance to revise the decision. His wonderful family, devoted friends and colleagues and many people who were touched by him knowingly or unknowingly, will ensure that he lives on.
For some reason I feel compelled to end with some clever, witty sports analogy, but mine would never be good as the one my friend the Learned Jurist would have come up with, so I will refrain.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Tod Gimbel
Published Dec. 19, 2011
Growing up in Milwaukee I always loved Christmas time. In fact, it doesn't take much for me to daydream back to the 1960s. Christmas in Asia is also a big deal. Interesting and even enjoyable, but in a completely different way.
Published Oct. 1, 2011
For game one I will have to set my alarm to 3 a.m. to catch the first pitch on Sunday morning. I will turn on my laptop and click on mlb.com. The Brewers feed will be pretty clear and I will see things live, as they happen. I will most likely be the only person in Singapore tuned in, but that's cool.
Published Sept. 10, 2011
The first time I ordered a sandwich in Singapore was soon after I arrived in 2006. I almost broke out laughing when my ham and cheese came with one thin slice of ham and one slice of American cheese. I wrote it off to being in the wrong place for a real sandwich.
Published Aug. 29, 2011
The defending champion Packers are about to start their title defense season and the Brewers are (knock on wood) on a trajectory that will at least take them to the playoffs. I would bet everyone reading this can name at least five Packers and Brewers. Now quick - name one player on either Manchester United or the Indian National Cricket team. Can't, can you?
Published Aug. 10, 2011
Two Milwaukee friends of mine died in the past few months. They were as different from the other as night and day but they shared the common characteristic of being really good people who touched, and added something, to many lives. Dave Cannon passed away a quietly with his family on July 26 after a battle with lung cancer. Gus Stankovic died alone of a heart attack at a bus stop on July 3, and his body laid in the Milwaukee morgue for weeks before being identified.
Published July 23, 2011
I am leaving the far eastern tropics and headed home to the USA. A 17-hour flight separates me from Los Angeles and then, in a week, Milwaukee. I'm looking forward to a nice visit with friends and family and a dose of that hometown medicine.
Published July 5, 2011
It used to be Kevin Bacon, then Facebook hit the scene and now LinkedIn is a big player in the "Six Degrees of Separation" game. The world we live in is even smaller thanks to technology and globalization. It is surprising how many connections I make in the most far flung places with people who share something in common with me like a connection to my home turf.
Published June 20, 2011
In my last blog, I talked about great local food here in Singapore I eat all the time. In this follow-up, I'll let you know what a displaced Milwaukeean would be able to dig up to be reminded of home. Sadly, but sometimes happily, the world is getting smaller and when it comes to shopping and dining out, you can find the same places and things virtually any place in the world. Singapore is no exception.
Published June 9, 2011
Like Milwaukee, Singapore is a melting pot. Both cities have diverse populations that bring with them a wide array of delicious foods. I thought I'd clue you in on some of the great local food found here and also let you know what a displaced Milwaukeean would be able to dig up to be reminded of home.
Published May 26, 2011
I haven't lived in Milwaukee for over 20 years, but I am a Milwaukeean. Very few days pass when something Milwaukee doesn't enter into my life.