Robert L. "Bob" Vogel, 86, died Jan. 28, 2005, at a hospital in Rochester, Minn. Vogel was born Dec. 6, 1918, in Coleharbor, where he spent his boyhood.
One of five sons born to Frank and Louella Vogel, he attended a two-room school house, won the McLean County Spelling Bees four years in a row and later graduated from Bismarck High School. His father was a leader of the Nonpartisan League and a close confidant of Gov. William Langer. Frank Vogel was North Dakota Tax Commissioner, Highway Commissioner and manager of the Bank of North Dakota for many years.
Vogel graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1939. While working in the trust department of a bank in Minneapolis, he attended the William Mitchell College of Law at night, receiving a juris doctor degree in 1942.
He married Elsa Mork in 1942 in Minneapolis. He passed the North Dakota bar and opened a solo practice in Garrison in 1943. In 1949, he was elected as state's attorney in McLean County. During these years, he was very active in the Nonpartisan League.
President Eisenhower appointed then 36-year-old Vogel United States Attorney in 1954, at the request of Sen. William Langer. Vogel moved to Fargo and represented the United States in all civil and criminal matters for North Dakota for the following six years.
After President Kennedy took office in 1961, Attorney General Robert Kennedy asked Vogel to continue as a Special United States Attorney to conclude the Lenders Service trial, which prosecuted over a dozen defendants for defrauding farmers through the mails. The trial lasted over five months, still the longest trial in North Dakota history.
In 1961, Vogel formed the law firm of Vogel, Bair and Ulmer in Mandan. He practiced as a trial and appellate lawyer in North Dakota and regionally. He ran for Congress in the Western District as the Democratic Non-Partisan League candidate in 1962. He served on the N.D. Parole Board from 1967 to 1973.
In 1973, Gov. Art Link appointed Vogel to the North Dakota Supreme Court. As a Supreme Court Justice he wrote a number of significant decisions, one of which guaranteed the right to a free public education to all children in North Dakota, including disabled children. He also wrote many dissents, of which he was equally proud.
He was elected to a 10-year term to the Supreme Court in 1974, but left the Court in 1978 to become a professor of law at the University of North Dakota Law School in Grand Forks. While he was teaching law, he also founded the Robert Vogel Law Office, P.C. in Grand Forks and resumed a very active trial practice focussing on medical and legal malpractice issues.
Vogel gradually reduced his teaching load to part time and moved to full time law practice. He retired in 1997, after 50-plus years as a lawyer/judge/professor, but remained abreast of current legal and political matters. In 2004, he received a rare 60-year award from the State Bar Association in Medora.
Vogel lectured at the National Association of Attorneys General. He contributed articles to the "Practical Lawyer" and "North Dakota Law Review". He was admitted to the Eighth Circuit and United States Supreme Court bars and handled over 100 appeals. He served as an expert witness in cases of legal malpractice in Canada and the United States and was named as one of the nation's outstanding malpractice lawyers. He had been elected to the American Law Institute and the American Bar Foundation, and was a member of the American and North Dakota Trial Lawyers Associations.
Apart from law, Judge Vogel had many interests, such as mountain and desert trekking, photography, music, literature, Shakespeare, progressive politics and North Dakota history. He was active in many organizations, including the Sierra Club, the North Dakota American Civil Liberties Union, the Democratic-Nonpartisan League and the Progressive Coalition. He was an active board member of the North Dakota Rural Rehabilitation Association for decades.
His lifelong interest in the Non-Partison League, his father's close connection to Senator Langer, and his legal expertise in trial analysis led to his authoring the seminal work on Bill Langer's conspiracy trials, entitled "Unequal Contest: Bill Langer And His Political Enemies." He recently appeared on Prairie Public Radio, at the North Dakota History Conference and the Unitarian Church in Bismarck to discuss this book.
He is survived by Elsa (Mork) Vogel, his wife of 62 years. They had four children, Mary Vogel (Ron) Carrick, a retired teacher and co-owner of Classic Yard Lawn and Garden Center in Mandan; Sarah Vogel, also an attorney who practices at the Sarah Vogel Law Office, P.C. in Bismarck and was formerly North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture; Frank (Melanie) Vogel, Professor of Islamic Law, Harvard Law School; and Robert "Bobby" Vogel of Grand Forks, a lecturer and civil rights advocate for the disabled community. He has two surviving brothers, William (Donna) Vogel, Salt Lake City, also an attorney, and Paul Vogel, Los Angeles.
He was preceded in death by his parents; and two brothers, Frank, who died in World War II, and Dave Vogel, Bismarck.
He had five grandchildren, William Carrick, Seattle, Ann Carrick (Jason) Kirchmeier, Mandan, Will (Gabrielle) Vogel, Garrison, N.Y., Andrew Vogel Gold, Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia, and Lara Vogel, Concord, Mass. He has two great-granchildren, Cambelle Kirchmeier and John Vogel.
Memorials may be made by donations to the Robert Vogel Law Scholarship Fund, care of North Dakota Trial Lawyers Foundation, P.O. Box 365, Mandan, N.D. 58554.
Jan. 31, 2005