Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark: A Life of Service

By Mimi Clark Gronlund | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 22
The Federal Judicial Center

Perhaps the most unretired, retired justice the Supreme Court ever
had.

Judge William V. Redmann, 1986

TOM CLARK NEVER LET AN ILLNESS totally shut him down, and, despite his bout with hepatitis, as well as Mother’s pleas to cut back his activities, he did not withdraw from any prior commitments and even accepted an additional one as director of the newly formed Federal Judicial Center. His directorship was the culmination of many years of remarkable dedication to improving the U.S. system for the administration of justice.

Tom Clark’s commitment to improving the management of the country’s courts began during his years at the Department of Justice and was well established by the time he retired from the Supreme Court. While an assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division, he became increasingly aware of serious problems with the country’s judicial system—overloaded courts, a breakdown in procedures for parole and probation, and legal technicalities that were obstacles to efficiency.1 As attorney general he could only play a limited role in addressing these problems, but he supported two important pieces of legislation related to them. The Administrative Procedure Act (1946), still in force, gave federal agencies the flexibility to develop their own rules for implementing new legislation. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (effective 1946) simplified standards in criminal law and increased consistency within the federal court system. The new Federal Rules also provided indigents with courtappointed lawyers at the government’s expense, but, unfortunately, Congress failed to budget any compensation for these lawyers. Attorney General Clark advocated a public-defender system that would address this

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