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Real Estate Law Practice “Keypoints”

Article from: Chicago Title
Article date: March, 2003

Real Estate Law Practice “Keypoints”

Forged Deeds From The Title Insurance Perspective

Dick Bales Writes From The Title Company’s Perspective:

How interesting that we have the Bontkowski case so soon after In re Estate of Cuneo, 334 Ill.App. 3d 594. Both cases are similar in that they both deal with the fraudulent execution of recorded documents. The Cuneo case, in fact, reads almost like a detective potboiler.

At one point the court in Cuneo makes a conclusion by pointing out that “evidence showed that sunset occurred at 7:38 p.m. in Addison.” I immediately thought of Abraham Lincoln and the 1858 “Almanac Trial” of William Armstrong!

Dick Bales

Chicago Title, Wheaton

The full text of the Article may be read here).

In the trial of the Estate of Cuneo, the court granted Attorney John Malm’s motion to admit into evidence sunset data from the U.S. Naval Observatory which showed that darkness must have existed after 7:38 pm in Addison, Illinois – a fact that tended to disprove the timeline of events offered by the petitioner as to the decedent’s last whereabouts on the date in question. This was a trial tactic that Abraham Lincoln used in the famous “almanac trial” of Duff Armstrong in 1858.

Under cross examination Lincoln pushed for further detail and Charles Allen testified that he was at a distance of 150 feet but could clearly see the act by the light of the full moon. Abraham Lincoln used judicial notice — a very uncommon tactic at the time — to show Allen lied on the stand when he claimed he had witnessed the crime in the moonlight. Lincoln produced an almanac to show that the moon on that date could not have produced enough light for the witness to see anything clearly. Based on this evidence, the jury acquitted Armstrong[.]”

An interesting discussion of the famous Abraham Lincoln “almanac trial” trial appears on the ISBA web-site at:


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