Selected Papers of Homer Cummings, Attorney General of the United States, 1933-1939

By Carl Brent Swisher; Homer S. Cummings | Go to book overview

1. The Administrative Burden

[Hundreds of thousands of legal proceedings and office law matters receive attention in the Department of Justice annually. Each item must be dealt with promptly, yet with such care as to insure that it is properly handled. Politics, in the unfavorable sense of the word, must be avoided. The Attorney General functions as the general counsel of the United States. He must supervise directly or indirectly the work of both the resident and field staffs of the Department of Justice, in every type of litigation and in every field of law. The items which follow are exceedingly diverse. They are chosen not merely because of the significance of each individual document, but also because their very diversity illustrates the endless variety of matters which fill the day of the Attorney General. More or less complete data on the detailed functions and fields of activity of the Department are to be found in the annual reports to the Congress, and in the statements and testimony of all of the principal officers of the Department which are published in the reports of congressional committee hearings on Department of Justice appropriation bills. Ed.]


An office memorandum to Assistant Attorney General Keenan, in charge of the Criminal Division, May 9, 1935:

I suppose you have seen the practice manual for assistant United States attorneys prepared by Martin Conboy. I would be glad to have your views as to what use could be made of it in connection with our work. You also might consider the question of whether or not the Department of Justice would be justified in getting out something a little more elaborate and explicit along these general lines, which would be more formal and perhaps be in more definite and preservable shape than the circulars which we from time to time have issued. I would be glad if you would generally review this whole subject and see what there is that we can do to stimulate the work.

[Note: The "Practice Manual for Assistant United States Attorneys" referred to above was issued by United States Attorney Conboy for the Southern District of New York on April 15, 1935, as was an "Office Manual for the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York" on October 6, 1936. At the Department of Justice at

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