Law School Mourns Passing of Former Chief Justice Robert Sheran (’39)
JANUARY 27, 2012—Robert J. Sheran (’39), the only judge appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court twice by two different governors, passed away at his home in Bloomington, Minn., on Jan. 25, 2012, at age 96. Sheran was appointed an associate justice by Gov. Elmer L. Anderson in 1963 and resigned in 1970 to return to Lindquist & Vennum, where he was a partner and focused on mediation and arbitration. In 1973, he was appointed chief justice by Gov. Wendell Anderson and served in that role for eight years.
In a Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society collection of law clerks and their reflections, Loren Gross (’64), who now has a private law practice in Bloomington, says his experience clerking for Sheran in 1964-65 "was probably the greatest influence on my career in the law." The best part of the job, he says, was working closely with Sheran, "a real legal scholar, a mentor, a philosopher, psychologist, and just a joy to be around."
About 25 years earlier (1938-39), Sheran himself was a Minnesota Supreme Court law clerk for Chief Justice Henry Gallagher. During World War II (1942-45), Sheran worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a special agent, and when the war ended, he joined the Farrish Johnson Law Office in Mankato. There he would be reunited with his mentor and fellow Waseca, Minn., native, Henry Gallagher, who soon joined the firm as well. Sheran was a trial attorney with Farrish Johnson until 1963, and he found time to concurrently represent Blue Earth County in the Minnesota House of Representatives during the 1947 and 1949 sessions.
When he stepped down as chief justice in 1981, Sheran returned to Lindquist & Vennum until he retired from daily practice in 1991. From 1993-94 he served as dean of Hamline University School of Law.
In 2007 Minnesota Law & Politics published an article entitled "The 100 Most Influential Minnesota Lawyers of All Time." Sheran is on the list. The article notes that during his tenure, the Supreme Court adopted the Minnesota Rules of Evidence and established a continuing legal education requirement. J. Michael Dady (’75), now a partner at Dady & Gardner, adds that Sheran was "a spellbinding orator; a man of extreme graciousness and empathy."
Sheran was preceded in death by his wife, Jean Brown Sheran, and a son, Michael. He is survived by sons Thomas, John, and Daniel and daughter Kathleen Sheran, a Minnesota state senator representing District 23.
Visitation will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Washburn-McReavy, 5000 W. 50th St., Edina. Services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina, with visitation at the church one hour before services.