Federal Justice: Chapters in the History of Justice and the Federal Executive

Federal Justice: Chapters in the History of Justice and the Federal Executive

Federal Justice: Chapters in the History of Justice and the Federal Executive

Federal Justice: Chapters in the History of Justice and the Federal Executive

Excerpt

This volume is not a lawbook. Nor, on the other hand, is it a popularized description of the Department of Justice or of racketeers, lawsuits, prisons, and politics. It is instead the story of men, emotions, methods, and motives in that crucial zone of law and government bordering both upon the courts and the executive.

Absorbed, as other Attorneys General have been, in the insistent public questions of the day and faced, at the same time, with countless details of organization and administration, I often wondered, and sought finally to determine, how other men in other times had met like problems.

No Department of Justice existed prior to 1870, though there had been an Attorney Generalship since 1789. For the three significant decades immediately following the establishment of the federal government few official records of the Attorneys General were to be found anywhere, though stored in the Library of Congress there were discovered incomplete letter books, opinion books and bundles of manuscripts and correspondence covering the period from 1817 to 1870. In the Department of Justice there was a huge mass of undigested papers for the years since 1870.

The first letter book disclosed that President Monroe's Attorney General, William Wirt, on assuming office, found to his amazement no scratch of the pen indicating the duties of his position or preserving the work of his predecessors. He it was who began the record system which, with various elaborations and changes, was followed until 1904. Through the years files were kept in a more or less complete fashion. Although departmental procedures grew and became established through custom, substantive rules of action for the nation's executive law officers were but rarely recorded and were based upon general knowledge or upon precedent and practice of vague or unknown origin. Matters to a great extent were left to be governed by the exigencies of the moment. Indeed, even the formal . . .

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