The Man Who Rode the Tiger: The Life and Times of Judge Samuel Seabury

By Herbert Mitgang | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
The District Attorney Investigation

ON March 10, 1931, in the middle of the investigation of the magistrates' courts, Governor Roosevelt appointed Judge Seabury commissioner to inquire into the conduct and competency in office of Thomas C. T. Crain, district attorney of New York County. Because of the delicate relationship existing between the Democratic governor in Albany and the Democratic mayor in New York City, Roosevelt had to move cautiously, often behind the scenes, to prepare what amounted to an investigation of Tammany Hall.

Few persons, then or later, were aware that Roosevelt had suggested Seabury for the magistrates' courts investigation. But early in the summer of 1930, Victor J. Dowling, the presiding justice of the appellate division, had an unpublicized meeting with Governor Roosevelt to discuss the choice of a referee. They agreed on three or four candidates who could do the job, but came to no decision. Dowling was in Europe when the scandal broke about Magistrate Ewald's purchase of office, and in his absence, Acting Presiding Justice Finch named Seabury referee at the suggestion of Governor Roosevelt.

As more and more examples of malfeasance were revealed during the hearings, it was only natural for the public to wonder how deep the corruption went. If the Seabury investigation implicated so many officials, how many more rackets were undiscovered, and who was covering up? Why, for that matter, did a special referee have to be

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