Judge Orlen Cross headstone (Oakwood Cemetery)Judge Orien S Cross was born 20 July 1873 in Bangor Michigan and died 12 August 1952.[1]   After completing his studies at University of Michigan Law School (1896), he served as the Allegan County Prosecuting Attorney from 1903 to 1906.[2]

As a prosecuting attorney, Judge Cross earned the respect of his peers and fellow citizens:

“He discharges the duties of the office without fear or favor, and has been unusually successful in securing convictions in his cases. His official reports to the attorney-general show that one thousand two hundred and eighty-four persons have been convicted while only nineteen cases were lost by a verdict of not guilty. The crimes of which persons were convicted include burglary, bribery, horse-stealing, forgery, murder and other serious crimes. He prepares his cases with great thoroughness and skill, is logical in his argument, strong in his deductions, and his devotion to his client’s interests is proverbial.”[3]

He served the 20th Circuit Court from 1912 to 1929.[4] Among Judge Cross’s favorite reference works was Chamberlayne’s A Treatise on the Modern Law of Evidence (1911).  He relied heavily on this work during his 18 years on the Circuit Court bench, and wrote for the publisher thereof the following note of praise:

“In deciding a recent case I relied upon the rule of evidence as stated by Mr. Chamberlayne, and our Supreme Court has just handed down an opinion affirming that decision.”

This accolade was in reference to the case of People v. Swanson.

People v Swanson (Judge Orlen S Cross)In People v. Swanson (1921), Judge Cross found Roy Swanson guilty of bastardy in a case in which the defendant had thought he was dating a 15-year-old.  Though she was determined to be of legal age (16), the defendant was tried by jury and convicted of fathering an illegitimate child born on 18 July 1920 with then-16-year-old Maude Hayward.  The charge was consistent with a 1915 law then on the books, but Swanson appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, which upheld Cross’s verdict, issuing the statement:

“There was no error, or at least no harm, in submitting the issue, in bastardy proceedings, of intercourse at the designated place ‘on or about’ a certain day, as alleged in the complaint….”[5]

Despite the 20th Circuit covering only 2 counties during Judge Cross’s tenure (Allegan and Ottawa Counties), he seems to have traveled beyond those boundaries in a judicial capacity with a fair amount of frequency.  In 1927, Judge Cross was presiding over court in the Schoolcraft County Circuit Court, apparently filling in for another judge (L H Fead).[6]

In August 1929, sitting in the Wayne County Circuit Court, Judge Cross, in support of the Volstead Act, upheld an unpopular tax on malt, stating, “The act is in conformity with the legislature’s general authority for levying specific taxes and it provides proper methods for its collection.”  The tax levy was 25 cents on a gallon of wort and 5 cents on a pound of malt extract or syrup, with exemptions for use in commercial baking or production of medicines.[7]

Upon his passing, Judge Cross was eulogized  thus:

Judge Orien S Cross obit (Chicago Daily Tribune)

Chicago Daily Tribune
13 August 1952

“ORIEN S. CROSS, an able member of the Allegan county bar, who since 1902 has served as county prosecuting attorney, was born in Bangor, Michigan, in 1873….  Mr. Cross is a valued member of the Masonic fraternity and the Knights of Pythias and other local orders. Interested in community affairs he is a member of the Allegan fire department and one of the directors and the attorney for the Allegan Board of Trade, he stands for progress in all that pertains to the welfare of the county and city.”[8]


  1. s.v. “Orien S Cross,” Findagrave.com.
  2. Ibid.; Michigan Official Directory and Legislative Manual (1903-04), 657.
  3. Henry Franklin Thomas, A twentieth century history of Allegan County, MichganA twentieth century history of Allegan County, Michigan (1907), 105-106.
  4. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/cross.html.
  5. “People v. Swanson,” Northwestern Register 185 (West Publishing Company, 1922), 844-847.
  6. “Court Session is Cut Short; 4 Get Papers,” Escanaba Daily Press (22 Jun 1927), 6.
  7. Judge Overrules Attempt to Stop Malt Tax Collection,” Ludington Daily News (21 Aug 1929), pp. 1, 7.
  8. Thomas, op. cit.

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