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

By Carl Brent Swisher; Homer S. Cummings | Go to book overview
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4. The Criminal Law

In contrast with Part Two of this volume, which deals with the broader aspects of federal crime control, the items of this section illustrate the day-to-day administration of criminal law, which involves countless situations in all parts of the United States and often in foreign countries.

Some of the most troublesome criminal law enforcement problems develop in connection with labor disputes, in which there is interference with interstate or foreign commerce or with the mails. In one such case, thirty-six persons in Illinois were convicted on charges of systematically destroying railroad property. In another case, striking sailors on the S. S. Algic were convicted of mutiny. Ohio strikers fell afoul of the law when picket lines resisted the passage of mail trucks. Attorney General Cummings is reported to have expressed tersely the attitude of his Department in these matters by saying, "The ships must sail; the mails must move; and the railroads must run."

Another type of enforcement problem having to do with labor is illustrated by prosecutions in Arkansas and Kentucky. In Arkansas, persons guilty of securing forced labor through framed convictions of worers were convicted under an old anti-slavery statute. In Harlan County, Kentucky, the jury disagreed in cases against mine operators for violating a post-Civil War statute which penalizes conspiracies to deprive persons of their rights under federal law, which in this instance was the National Labor Relations Act. The cases were then set for retrial. Ed.]


From an office memorandum to Assistant Attorney General Brien McMahon, July 17, 1937:

I HOPE that intensive consideration will be given to the Post Office interference cases in Ohio. * * * As you know, I am much interested in this matter and feel that, in view of the pressure that may be brought upon government witnesses either directly or indirectly, unusual care should be taken not only to protect them but to see that the case is fairly, vigorously, and earnestly presented.

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