Born: Saturday, March 23rd, 1861
Died: Friday, June 19th, 1931
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Education: University of Pittsburgh, A.B. (1881)
Harvard Law School, LL.B. (1883)
Career: Seattle Charter Commission (1894-1896)
Served: Tuesday, October 26th, 1915 to Monday, November 20th, 1916
Political Party: Democrat
Appointing Governor: Lister (Democrat)Judge Bausman’s early life is relatively unknown. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1881, then went to Harvard Law School, graduating in 1883. Bausman did literary research in New York City and traveled extensively in Europe before moving to Olympia in 1886.
In Olympia he served as private secretary to Territorial Governor Eugene Sample (1887-1888), and as a member of the Territorial Code Commission in 1888. The commission had the charge of collecting and organizing the laws of the territory. In 1891 he entered Seattle’s legal, social, and political life. He was, successively, a partner in the law firms of Bausman and Kelleher, and Bausman, Oldham, and Eggerman. As a member of the Seattle Charter Commission, Bausman helped write the Seattle city charter in 1896.
Bausman gained considerable attention for his defense of Seattle Mayor Hiram C. Gill in his recall election in 1911. He successfully challenged the Democratic nomination of Judge W. W. Black for governor in 1912. As a sitting judge, Black was ineligible to run for other state offices. This permitted Ernest Lister’s name to be placed on the November ballot. Lister went on to win the governorship. In appreciation, Lister’s first supreme court appointment went to Bausman, a move nearly everyone praised. One observer commented: “Frederick Bausman possesses enough brain and legal ability to supply three or four ordinary lawyers.” Bausman’s skills as a defense attorney and his knowledge of criminal law proved valuable contributions to the work of the court. Yet, apparently both Lister and Bausman regarded the appointment as temporary. Bausman possessed a “nervous, energetic personality” and soon grew bored with Olympia. Even his former supporters began to criticize him:
His career on the bench has not been startling, or created any demand for a monument prior to his demise. He is, in temperament, unfitted for the judiciary, and his appointment proved to be as unfortunate as some others of the governor … Come home Freddy. Your usefulness on the bench never happened. Give the state a chance to retrieve its loss.
In August 1916, Bausman announced he would not seek election to the supreme court, allowing the position to be openly contested in the September primaries. J. Stanley Webster won the primary and Governor Lister appointed him to complete the last few weeks in Bausman’s term. Bausman returned to Seattle to practice with his old law firm, now named Bausman, Oldham, and Walkinshaw.
Bausman and his firm represented banks, irrigation companies, The Seattle Times, large estates, and “individual capitalists.” Following the First World War, Bausman became alarmed at what he regarded as a propaganda effort on the part of Great Britain to beguile America back under its subjection. He viewed himself as a Paul Revere sounding a message about the English menace throughout the United States. After his wife died in 1929, Bausman left Seattle, and eventually the United States, to travel extensively in Europe. His concern for the continent and his pro-German stance came out in his books, Let France Explain (1923) and Facing Europe (1926). Writing was not new for the judge. He had started a literary career with the 1908 publication of Adventures of a Nice Young Man, written under the pen name “Aix.”
Bausman married Adelaide Holmes of California in 1894. They had no children. He was a member of the University Club, Rainier Club, and Seattle Golf and Country Club. Although a staunch Democrat, Bausman was not especially active in partisan affairs following his supreme court resignation. He devoted himself to his law practice and to writing and lecturing about post-World War I Europe. He had been relatively active in bar association activities prior to his appointment to the bench, but only minimally concerned with organizational affairs after 1916.
In an address to the Washington State Bar Association after he left the bench, Bausman set forth his concept of judging:
Public opinion is a temporary public policy, and public policy is a permanent public opinion. It would be a dangerous judiciary that should yield at all to the one, but a stiff and needlessly narrow judiciary that should never accept the other. Public policy is the sum of the experience of a people, represents their morals and customs; indicates their national growth and silently distributes their offices and their power. Judges and legislators rather expound than create it, for while it is sometimes given a direction by statutes and decisions, it generally precedes them. Indeed, it is an interesting speculation whether all law did not originally come from public policy alone.
Our own jurisprudence, too stiff with precedent, is not so much to enrich itself from this source as, perhaps, could be wished…
I would say of public policy generally that, to my mind, it is the stream by which a fruitful jurisprudence is watered and renewed. By sudden inundation it is sometimes permitted to devastate, but in the bounty of its natural flow it continually revives and nourishes the fields of law.
Frederick Bausman was ahead of his times in his particular perception of the course of law.
Seattle Times, 20 Oct. 1927 and 19 Je. 1931; and C. S. Reinhart, The History of the Supreme Court of Washington Territory and State (n.d.), pp. 80-81.
The preceding biography is from Charles Sheldon's The Washington High Bench: A Biographical History of the State Supreme Court, 1889-1991, © 1992 by the Board of Regents of Washington State University. Reprinted here with permission and licensed to the public under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License by The Temple of Justice Project.