Born: Tuesday, January 30th, 1883
Died: Saturday, December 12th, 1970
Birthplace: Bismark, Missouri
Education: Georgetown University Law School, LL.B. (1910)
Career: Law Librarian (1917-1928)
Served: Saturday, December 1st, 1928 to Monday, January 10th, 1949
Also Served: Thursday, December 6th, 1956 to Monday, January 14th, 1957
Chief Justice: Monday, January 14th, 1935 to Monday, January 11th, 1937; Thursday, October 17th, 1946 to Monday, January 13th, 1947
Political Party: Republican
Appointing Governor: Hartley (Republican)William Millard’s father, Benjamin, emigrated from England and worked his entire adult life for railroads in America. His mother, Mary (Toler) Millard, was a native of Missouri. William attended public schools in Missouri and Texas, graduating from Houston High School. After high school he worked at various times as an engine wiper, timekeeper, postal clerk, machinist apprentice, and yardmaster’s clerk for the Southern Pacific Railroad, belonging to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. His interest in the law started when he worked as a stenographer-secretary in the railroad’s right-of-way legal department. In later life Millard pointed with pride to his working class and union background.
After passing a civil service exam, Millard went to Washington, D. c., to serve as a clerk in the U. S. War Department. He enrolled in Georgetown Law School’s evening program, graduating in 1910 with a bachelor of laws degree. During school he served as a reporter for the U. S. House of Representatives, worked for a company that prepared the Indiana Law Reports, and clerked for the Multigraph Company. After admission to the Washington, D. C. bar in 1910, he practiced law there until 1914 when he moved to Seattle to establish himself as an attorney. In 1917 Millard became the supreme court law librarian, moving from Seattle to Olympia. On November 23, 1928, Governor Roland Hartley announced Millard’s appointment to the soon-to-be-vacated position held by Judge William Askren.
As a justice of the state supreme court Millard established himself as a liberal activist, often opposing the court’s conservative majority. He expressed his view of the role of a supreme court judge in his election campaign of 1936:
I don’t consider cases as much as a judge as like a human being. The law should be used to further progress, not to block it. As long as I’m on the bench I’ll continue to give my decisions along the lines that I think will be for the betterment and the greater happiness of the people of Washington.
Judge Millard gained national prominence with his opinion in Westcoast Hotel v. Parrish, which the U. S. Supreme Court upheld in 1937. It became known as the case that brought the “switch in time that saved nine,” since the U. S. Supreme Court had been under serious attack for its anti-New Deal stance. In the Parrish case the nation’s high court upheld Millard and the Washington minimum wage law for women. The publicity surrounding the case led to speculation that Millard might be in line for appointment to the federal circuit court of appeals, but the appointment never materialized.
Although a Republican, Millard seriously considered filing as a Democrat in the race against U. S. Senator Homer T. Bone in 1938. But he apparently thought better of leaving the relative security of the state’s high bench for a tough and risky political campaign. He did accept a temporary presidential appointment to the National Railroad Adjustment Board in November, 1939.
During World War II, Millard made a contribution to the domestic war effort and, in the process, gained considerable publicity assisting him in his reelection victories. During the summer court recess of 1943 he worked as a carpenter’s helper for the Puget Sound Shipbuilding Company and remained on the swing shift a few months after the court’s new term began in September. Later, in 1945, the judge worked the night shift as a railroad freight yard clerk, and during harvest season labored in filbert orchards.
The relationship between Millard and his brethren became strained during the 1940s. In dissent the judge occasionally needled his colleagues for what he believed to be their misguided viewpoints. The conflict came to a head in the summer of 1947. Five members of the high bench publicly criticized Millard for delaying a decision asking approval of a multi-million dollar sale of the Puget Sound Power and Light Company to the Skagit County Public Utility District. The delay allowed further speculative buying of Puget Power stock on the New York market and brought the actions of the court into question. In a letter to the state Grange leadership, Chief Justice Joseph Mallery and four other justices warned Millard in the following blunt terms:
The standing of this court will be affected if it should be established that stock market manipulation can be directly attributable to the manner in which this court functions or fails to function …
You owe it to this court to do your duty and function on this case immediately.
Millard cast his vote against the sale, turning on his colleagues. He correctly reminded his brethren that to divulge the record of a conference vote and the breakdown of majority and minority opinions before official announcement of a decision breached judicial ethics. Millard accused Chief Justice Mallery of raising the issue in order to gain reelection in the 1948 balloting when both he and Mallery would face the electorate.
The serious rift on the high court, coupled with rumors of attempted bribes, prompted the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the incidents surrounding the PUD decision. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer conducted its own investigation, followed by state attorney general’s office and Washington State Bar Association inquiries. By February 1948 Attorney General Smith Troy reported his findings.
In summation it is our finding that Judge Millard did issue at least one check under conditions which, if the check were issued with fraudulent intent, would constitute a crime; that he borrowed money from pinball operators and a club official during the pendency of a decision in which they had a pecuniary interest; but without any evidence of offering or giving any judicial consideration as a condition of the loans; and without evidence that he permitted himself to be improperly influenced in arriving at a judicial opinion in the Skagit County P.D.D. litigation.
The elimination of criminal action and intent from consideration does not, however, relieve Judge Millard from all public accountability for his actions nor does it foreclose all the public processes which may be brought to bear on this situation.
[The] high honors and privileges [of judicial office] carry with them the compensating elements of high moral character, rigid self-discipline, and absolute integrity in private as well as public life. It is not sufficient within the code of judicial ethics for a judge to avoid evil; he must avoid even the appearance of evil.
The legislature failed to consider seriously any impeachment proceedings and the Washington State Bar Association, after studying Troy’s report, concluded that “the final disposition of such matters must rest, with the electorate, acting either at the polls or through the legislature.” It was at the polls that people made their judgment. With the Seattle Bar Association leading the attack, followed by most of the other county bars and the state Grange, Tom Grady defeated Millard by a substantial majority in the November balloting.
Millard continued to practice law in Olympia after his 1948 defeat, but people heard little from or about him for some time. In 1954 he gained admittance to the federal bar in Seattle. In July 1956, both Millard and his attorney son filed for positions on the supreme court, the son for a full six-year term and the father for a short thirty-eight day unexpired term. The obvious motivation for the elder Millard was to enhance his state pension from the then $291.55 rate to the new rate of $500 per month. The judge did not campaign for the position except to send a personal letter to old acquaintances. The letter read in part:
I filed for the Supreme Court short term … to secure my pension and to enable me to pay my debts …
I have not the funds with which to finance an extensive campaign, therefore I am writing to you and to other friends requesting that they pass the word in my behalf to their friends and acquaintances, especially to those who subscribe to the same principles which you and the undersigned are committed.
Millard succeeded, although his son did not. Because the court was in recess, he heard no cases, attended no conferences, and wrote no opinions, but he became only the fourth judge to return to the supreme court bench for a second interrupted term.
Encouraged by his temporary return to the political limelight and now in partial control of his financial situation, Judge Millard spoke out on public issues and twice attempted to return to politics. Upon completing his short term on the bench, he sent a fifty-three page report to governor-elect Albert Rosellini in which he argued against the establishment of an appellate court and the practice of paying legislators for living expenses. He also recommended that capital punishment be mandatory for certain crimes.
In February 1958, Millard announced his candidacy on the Democratic ticket for Congress. He explained the switch from his old Republican loyalties to the Democratic party in characteristic manner: “It is the only party that does anything for the poor man, and God knows I’m poor.” However, his campaign failed to gain backing and he withdrew from the race in July. Millard continued to actively participate in public affairs, however. In October 1958 he became vice-chairman of the Western and Eastern Washington Committee of Business and Industry Against Initiative 202, a right to work measure designed to eliminate closed shop arrangements. Two years later Millard won nomination as a candidate for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket. If elected, he said he would seek legislation to abolish the office as being unnecessary. He lost to incumbent John Cherberg. After this defeat, Judge Millard remained in retirement in Olympia, and died on December 12, 1970.
Millard married Gertrude E. Neuhauser in Annapolis in 1908 and they had four children: Gertrude, William, Jr., Alice, and Jean. They divorced and then remarried in 1924. In 1946 the couple again divorced. The alimony and child-support costs, along with the judge’s penchant for gambling, caused many of Millard’s financial problems. The judge had been active in fraternal affairs, being a member of the Masonic Order, Shrine, Odd Fellows, and Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity. He received honorary degrees from Georgetown University and the College of Puget Sound, where he served on the board of trustees. Millard was one of the leaders of the Washington State Bar Association, serving as secretary-treasurer for nearly ten years in the 1920s.
Wenatchee Daily World, 28 Aug. 1947; Washington State Bar News (Aug. 1947), pp. 20, 23, and (Oct. 1947), pp. 29, 31; Lloyd Spencer and Lancaster Pollard, A History of the State of Washington, vol. 3 (1937), p. 1; memorial services, Washington Reports, vol. 79, 2d (1971), pp. xxvii-xxxv; C. S. Reinhart, A History of the Supreme Court of the Territory and State of Washington (n.d.), p. 120; and Charles Sheldon A Century of Judging: A Political History of the Washington Supreme Court (1988), pp.117-123.
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.