Joe Daly: Defender of Pachyderms and Much More 1/30/15 01/29/15 11:40:57 PM
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Joe Daly found a good fit on the first try when he clerked at Emil Sodoro’s office back in 1968.
– Photo by Michael TranJoe Daly:
Defender of Pachyderms and Much More
By Andy Roberts
The Daily Record
Baseball’s loss, it seems, has been the Omaha Bar’s gain, and that is good.
For, without Joe Daly, who would there be to defend elephants?
More on that later.
Joseph S. Daly played baseball at Creighton University and started every game during his four years as an undergraduate. He got a look from the St. Louis Cardinals after his sophomore year, but, “My father thought it was a good idea to stay in school.”
So Daly remained on the path to law school despite a lack of knowledge about the profession.
“I didn’t know what lawyers did,” he now admits. At that time, he knew only two attorneys.
One, a cousin, was John Daly who worked for Yellow Cab Co. He recently passed at the age of 98. The other was Jack Diesing Sr., the father of Joe Daly’s good friend, Jack Deising Jr., who worked for Brandeis.
The summer after his first year of law school, while Daly worked nights making sweet rolls at Wonder Bread and planned for his wedding, Daly learned of an opportunity as a law clerk.
“That happened to be [at] Emil’s [Sodoro] office,” Daly recalled. “I’ve been there ever since.”
Daly remained in the clerk’s role until June of 1970 when he graduated from Creighton University School of Law. His mentor Sodoro passed away at the age of 86 this past July. Sodoro’s son, John, continues as a partner in the firm with Daly.
Now a partner at Sodoro Daly Shomaker & Selde PC LLO, Daly is a civil trial lawyer with an emphasis on the defense of professional negligence claims – primarily medical malpractice. Daly acknowledges that during his 40-plus years of legal practice he has done “just about everything except for administrative law.”
Daly belongs to the Omaha, Nebraska State and American Bar Associations; and the American Board of Trial Advocates, where he served as a national board member and past president of the Nebraska Chapter.
He belongs to the Nebraska Association of Defense Attorneys, Defense Research Institute, International Society of Barristers – where he is a former member of its board of governors – and a current member of the board of governors of the International Society of Barristers Foundation. Daly also served as president of the Robert M. Spire American Inn of Court (the Nebraska Chapter) and Master of the Bench. He is a fellow of the Nebraska State Bar Foundation.
Daly’s involvement with the International Society of Barristers is a particular source of pride, as admission is quite restricted.
“They ask you,” he stated. “Because of that, I’m exposed to some really good, top-notch lawyers.”
He’s married to wife Candace, who chairs the board of CASA for Douglas County. She also has raised money for years for the Omaha Law League through their annual fashion show. They have five adult children.
In Daly’s spare time he is a lector at St. Margaret Mary Church, and has been appointed to the Disciplinary Review Board of the Nebraska Bar Association, and is on the Omaha Bar Association’s Law Day Committee. Oh and, “I like to golf,” he added.
During the course of his career, Daly has tried cases in Nebraska and Iowa, as well as Kansas and Alaska.
He recalls the Alaska case as one of his career highlights. Two weeks in Anchorage resulted in Daly winning a defense verdict in a multi-million dollar case involving a property damage dispute between two insurance companies over a school fire.
He was even able to defend his alma mater, winning a defense verdict in a dental malpractice case against Creighton University School of Dentistry.
Then there is the case of Paj who, at the time, was the largest elephant in captivity in America and a resident of the Henry Doorly Zoo.
Paj, it seems, found enjoyment in picking up dung or rocks and throwing them at people, including zoo visitors. The zoo staff was careful to keep such items away from the ponderous pachyderm, but: “Paj, being the inquisitive elephant that he was, found one.”
That undesirable item then became a projectile that nailed a visiting Union Pacific executive “right between the eyes.”
“So, I had to defend Paj,” recalls Daly. “I may be the only lawyer in Nebraska who’s represented an elephant.”
The case, as novel as it was, made national news, with Daly’s work even reported in a Chinese newspaper.
Was Paj cleared?
“Well, sort of,” Daly said with a grin.
One thing that doesn’t make him smile, are all the changes he has seen over the years.
“The civility aspect of the practice of law is not what it used to be,” he said. “It’s become more of a business than a profession,” he added with more than a trace of regret.
That concern, he pointed out, is something he works to address through his memberships in the International Society of Barristers and the American Inns of Court, which has the stated goal of improving the skills, professionalism and ethics of both the bench and bar.
Those qualms, while not insignificant, are not enough to make him long for the diamond.
“I do enjoy practicing law; I enjoy the people,” Daly stated. “I enjoy being a lawyer. I just like trying cases.”
After more than four decades as an attorney, Daly seems ready for more challenges.
“I’ve met a lot of wonderful people,” he acknowledges. “You learn something every day.”
The choice of law over baseball, it appears, was a home run for Joe Daly.