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Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011 11:44 am

‘Lawbbyists’

100 years of lawyerly lobbying in Sprngfield

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Herman Bodewes holds a photograph of founder G. Logan Giffin at the law firm of Giffin, Winning Cohen
PHOTO BY HOLLY DILLEMUTH
From shady money transfers by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to the return of a missing baseball signed by Babe Ruth, attorney Herman Bodewes has seen it all throughout more than 40 years with a Springfield law firm.

Giffin, Winning, Cohen & Bodewes, located on Fifth Street in the Myer’s building, celebrated their centennial year serving clients on Jan. 24. The firm has played a big role, both locally and state-wide in its 100-year history.

Bodewes says his law partner, R. Mark Mifflin was the lead in a case involving Rod Blagojevich, in which the firm sued the now-impeached governor to stop him from raiding the state’s regulatory fund and sweeping that money into the general fund.

“This decision was historic and had a substantial impact in preventing transfers from other funds that the state had,” he says.

The firm’s roots began with the late D. Logan Giffin, a member of the Illinois General Assembly, who started a legacy of representing the financial industry of Illinois in the early 1900s. Giffin’s partner, James Winning, followed suit as a registered lobbyist with the Illinois General Assembly during the late 1950s and mid 1960s. Bodewes, as well as partners Mifflin, Michael Mannion and David Herman, are carrying on the “lawyer lobbyist ” legacy started by Giffin and Winning.

Mifflin, Herman and Mannion are registered as lobbyists for insurance, banking and healthcare issues but focus on government affairs, where Bodewes says the firm represents clients from local governments to the state of Illinois. They also represent business clients and business associations before state agencies and the Illinois General Assembly. Lawyers follow legislation, meet with sponsors and staff in what Bodewes calls a “fast track.”

Bodewes came to the firm in 1965, when Winning still worked at the firm, and Bodewes says he started representing the banking industry after he became partner in 1971, including foreclosures from around the state.

Today, the firm also handles family law, commercial law, law suits and more.

Bodewes also recalls during the first part of former Gov. Jim Thompson’s administration an election for the president of the senate that was tied 29-29. Thompson broke the tie with his vote, but Bodewes argued that the governor “did not have a vote under the constitution,” leading to the election of then Senate President Phil Rock.

As he explains in his sixth floor office in the Myer’s Building on Fifth Street, the ficus tree next to his desk was “this big” he motions with his thumb and forefinger, when he became partner. The tree, a gift from his wife 40 years ago, takes up nearly a quarter of the room now, and reaches to the top of the eight-foot ceiling. That’s to be expected when in public service for nearly half a century.

Bodewes, 73, has plenty to show for his service as both a lawyer and lobbyist for area businesses in the circuit courts and Illinois Supreme Court. But there was possibly no case quite like the law firm’s retrieval of a baseball signed by Babe Ruth that belonged to former major league baseball player Ted Williams.

The ball was a prized possession of Williams’ and was stolen from his  home in Florida several years ago. The ball surfaced in Burr Ridge, Ill. on an auction website in 2006. A New Hampshire law firm contacted Giffin and Winning, and David Herman recalls receiving a call at lunch that he needed to “get a ball back.”

Herman and Michael Mannion, also a partner at the firm, filed a petition in DuPage County to force the auction website to return the ball, and within days, Herman and Mannion traveled to Tampa Bay to return the baseball to William’s daughter and son-in-law.

Bodewes gives his other partners the credit for the returned baseball, but relishes the firm’s involvement.

He has seen Springfield through many changes, including the migration of businesses to the west side, a move he calls the “emptying of downtown”.

He volunteered to help beautify the city by supporting – along with others – the authorization of an appropriation to build the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum nearly 15 years ago.

“I believe that that was the most significant revitalization of downtown Springfield,” he says.   

Contact Holly Dillemuth at hdillemuth@illinoistimes.com.
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