Adolphus Frederic St. Sure

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Adolphus Frederic St. Sure (March 9, 1869 – February 5, 1949) was an American judge. He served as a United States District Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California for 22 years, until June 30, 1947.

Early life[edit]

St. Sure was the grandson of Adolph Fredrik St. Sure Von Lindsfelt, a physician,[1][2] sometimes spelled "Adolf Frederik Saint Sure" or "Lindsfeldt", who was a former Swedish Army officer and Chamberlain to the Court of King Charles XIV John (Karl XIV Johan) and fled Sweden to avoid the judgment of a bankruptcy Court. He adopted the name "St. Cyr", later anglicized to "St. Sure". Lindsfelt came to America as an early settler of the Pine Lake Settlement known as "Nya Upsala" (New Upsala), in Wisconsin, founded by Gustaf Unonius.[3] Lindsfelt later studied at Rush Medical College in Chicago and became a medical doctor and a Civil War surgeon in the Union’s 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment.[4]

Born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, St. Sure moved to California with his parents, Franklin Adolph St. Sure and Ellen Donohue St. Sure, when six months old. St. Sure’s father was a merchant and Confederate veteran who settled his family in Oroville, California, where he ran a shop as a druggist catering to the area gold dredging miners. St. Sure’s uncle, Charles Washington St. Sure, settled in Oroville as well. St. Sure was thrown into the role as head of the family when his father died in a mysterious drowning. He quit school at 13 to help his mother support the family. His first job was as a printer's devil at the Oroville Mercury. St. Sure moved to Alameda, California, in 1891. He later worked as a reporter at the San Francisco Examiner, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

St. Sure entered politics by chance. He lived in Alameda and was nominated for Justice of the Peace by some friends almost as a prank. He ran as a conservative Democrat in a Republican community and lost. Later when the recorder of Alameda County died, St. Sure was appointed to the post. He served in that position from 1893 to 1899. St. Sure did not have a high school education. Realizing a need to educate himself, he began to read the law, in essence earning a self-taught legal education. In 1895 he was admitted to the California bar.

Later he was counsel for the Southern Pacific Railroad in the East Bay. St. Sure joined the firm of Tirey L. Ford in San Francisco. Following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake he moved his practice to Oakland. Under the tutelage of prominent Bay Area Republican politician Joseph R. Knowland, he eventually joined the Republican party.[5]


In 1915, St. Sure was named Alameda City Attorney and developed the community's first city manager charter. He held this post until 1918 when he was elected to a six-year term as a judge of the Superior Court of Alameda County. He resigned the superior court post on his appointment by Governor William D. Stephens as an Associate Justice of the California Courts of Appeal for the First District on January 4, 1923. Two years later he was appointed to the federal bench by President Calvin Coolidge. He was confirmed by the Senate, and received his commission on February 23, 1925. St. Sure assumed senior status on June 30, 1947.[6]

Judge St. Sure insisted during his early days on the bench that women be permitted to sit on federal juries, explaining he “had two years’ experience with women jurors when I was on the superior court bench in Alameda County and found them conscientious, independent, highly intelligent, and willing to serve”.[7]


In 1939, lettuce workers in Salinas, California, were blacklisted by employers for their union activities. Attorneys provided by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) brought action and St. Sure, in the first instance of its kind, issued an injunction holding blacklisting to be illegal.[8]

St. Sure was the federal judge who signed the order giving the United States Navy title to Treasure Island, California, after it formally served notice of its unilateral declaration taking ownership on April 17, 1942.[9]

On September 8, 1942, the case of Fred Korematsu, a United States citizen of Japanese ancestry who had evaded authorities to avoid internment, was heard before St. Sure in San Francisco.[10][11] Korematsu's conviction was eventually appealed to the United States Supreme Court and on December 18, 1944, the Court issued its landmark Korematsu v. United States decision.

Personal life and death[edit]

St. Sure married Ida Laura Pettes in Alameda in 1897. He died February 5, 1949, and is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.[12] He was survived by his wife and one of his two sons, J. Paul St. Sure, an Oakland attorney and president of the Pacific Maritime Association.[citation needed] His other son, William P. St. Sure, vice-president of the Key System, died in 1947.[citation needed]


External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Maurice Timothy Dooling
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Succeeded by
Herbert Wilson Erskine