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, although he was eligible for retirement in 1939.


Born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, he came to California with his parents when six months old. Judge A. F. St. Sure’s father, Franklin Adolph St. Sure, came to California with his wife Ellen Donohue St. Sure as a merchant late in 1869. Franklin was a Confederate veteran who settled his family in Oroville, California, where he ran a shop as a druggist catering to the area gold dredging miners. Judge St. Sure’s uncle, Charles Washington St. Sure settled in Oroville as well. Judge St. Sure was thrown into the role as head of the family when his father died in a mysterious drowning. Family circumstances forced young A.F. St. Sure to 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 1893-1899. 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.[1]


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. Then, 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.[2]

Upholding the dignity of the court became an obsession with St. Sure, but at the same time, his sense of humor frequently broke loose.

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”.[3] The barrier banning women jurors in Federal Courts was lifted in 1939.


In 1939, Lettuce workers in Salinas, California, were blacklisted by employers for their union activities. Attorneys provided by the ILWU brought action and St. Sure, in the first instance of its kind, issued an injunction holding blacklisting to be illegal.[4]

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.[5]

On September 8, 1942, the case of Fred Korematsu, a United States citizen of Japanese ancestry who had evaded authorities to avoid 'Japanese internment', was heard before Judge A. F. St. Sure in San Francisco.[6][7] 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.

Twenty years later, after letting it be known he had no intention of retiring on his full $10,000-a-year salary, Judge St. Sure had the distinction at the time of having served longer than any other Federal Judge in Northern California.


Judge St. Sure died February 5, 1949, and is buried at Mountain View Cemetery at Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, California.

He was survived by his wife, the former Ida Laura Pettes, whom he married in Alameda in 1897, and two sons, J. Paul St. Sure, an Oakland Attorney and President of the Pacific Maritime Association. His son, William P. St. Sure, a Public Relations Consultant, predeceased him. Judge and Mrs. St. Sure had resided at 492 Straten Avenue in Oakland.

Judge St. Sure was also survived by a brother, Dr. Franklin Augustus St. Sure[8] (born April 25, 1874, at Oroville, California, died June 22, 1948, at Hamakuapoko, Maui) a physician.

Family background[edit]

Judge St. Sure was the grandson of Adolph Fredrik St. Sure Von Lindsfelt, MD,[9][10] sometimes spelled "Adolf" "Frederik" "Saint Sure" and "Lindsfeldt" in various sources, who was born May 8, 1806, died May 19, 1887, and who himself led a storied life. He was a former Swedish Army Officer and Chamberlain to the Court of King Charles XIV John (Karl XIV Johan) who had fled Sweden to avoid the judgment of a bankruptcy Court. As a young man, he was apparently in the French Army during the Napoleonic Wars.

He adopted the name 'St. Cyr', later anglicized to 'St. Sure.' This is in possible reference to Laurent, Marquis de Gouvion Saint-Cyr (1764–1830), Marshal of France, whom he admired or perhaps claimed lineage from. His also gave his sons middle names of other famous generals (e.g. Washington, Bolivar), 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.[11] 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.[12] He was a purveyor of his own patent medicine. His first of three wives came to America with him; Elisabet Concordia C. von Krassow was the daughter of cavalry captain Carl Vilhelm von Krassow, and Baroness Gustava Eleonora Leijonsköld, and was a member of a noble family originally from Pomerania and Mecklenburg. They were married on May 25, 1835, at Nya Skottorp in Skummeslova, Sweden.

The Von Krassow family is listed at numbers 157 and 315 of the Baronial families (Friherrliga ätter) on a List of Swedish noble families. Another list has the name listed under untitled noble family (Adliga Ätten).[13] The Leijonsköld's are listed at number 53.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Thirty Years of Collective Bargaining Joseph Paul St. Sure: Management Labor Negotiator 1902 - 1966" Thesis. Jennifer Marie Winter "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-08. Retrieved 2006-05-27. 
  2. ^ Judges of the United States Courts[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Death Takes St. Sure" (February 5, 1949), San Francisco Chronicle pp. ___
  4. ^ The ILWU Story - The Warehouse Industry
  5. ^ "Treasure Isle Goes to Navy" (April 17, 1942) San Francisco News[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ P.O.V. - Rabbit in the Moon | PBS
  7. ^ Chronology[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Franklin August St. Sure[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ 15th Wisconsin, Profile of Adolph Fredrik Saint Sure Von Lindsfelt of Field & Staff Archived November 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ 15th Wisconsin, Soldier Profiles, Last Names Beginning with J, K, or L[permanent dead link]
  11. ^
  12. ^ 15th Wisconsin Infantry Home Page[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Swedish aristocracy. Archived 2009-10-24.
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