‘Lawyers and Ilk’ offers lively insight about York County’s legal community

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York, Pa., attorney Jeffrey C. Bortner, since deceased, “Commentaries For Lawyers and Ilk.” The book is available at York County libraries. Background post: Essayist profiles champion for the blind and At the blind center: ‘The bees have been enjoying this garden, too.’ and York County census hike spawns more lawyers.
As the title “Commentaries For Lawyers and Ilk” suggests, the late York County attorney Jeffrey C. Bortner’s book is filled with lively views and news about the local legal community.
For example, in commenting on how the quadrupling of the number of judges has outstripped population growth since 1950, Bortner opines:
“This grossly disparate growth reflects the unfortunate need for more arbiters to resolve the disputes, enforce the Statutes and clarify the regulations which increasingly characterize, if not paralyze, today’s America.”
In reviewing books, I like to look for information that an author brings forth that may not be widely known.
Such was the case in Bortner’s presentation about Judge Ray P. Sherwood, who served on the local bench from 1928 to 1958… .


Some people know that Judge Sherwood presided at the nationally prominent Hex murder trials after serving on the bench for about a year.
But it may not be widely known that he was blind in his later years on the bench.
The author’s career overlapped with Sherwood’s, spawning these observations:
- The judge could disguise his blindness, and many coming before his bench may not have been aware that he could not see them.
“One effective technique, when setting a hearing date, was to turn his head as though looking at a calendar on the wall (which he had memorized as well as his own schedule), and would ask, “Would Tuesday, the 20th, be suitable?”
- Sherwood was known for his short, incisive opinions. When attorney Henry Kessler asked the judge why he did not write opinions revealing his deep research, Sherwood responded: “Well, Henry, they can’t reverse you for what you don’t say.”
When there’s a history project touching on the local legal community, Jeffrey Bortner usually has had a productive, behind-the-scenes hand it it. Georg Sheets’ “Lawyers and Leaders” is one example of that.
Now, with the release of his “Commentaries,” Jeffrey Bortner has made a nice contribution to legal history that bears his name.

*Edited, 1/3/12

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
This entry was posted in Archives, all posts, Books & reading, Explanations/controversy, Genealogy/research, Hex murder, Nostalgia & memories, People. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to ‘Lawyers and Ilk’ offers lively insight about York County’s legal community

  1. Pingback: Book Buzz | Martin Library to hold release party for ‘When the Rebels Occupied York’

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