CHAPTER XX
CRIMINAL COURT PROCEDURE

Of all the questions which are before the American people I regard none of more importance than the improvement of the administration of justice. We must make it so that the poor man will have as nearly as possible an equal opportunity in litigation as the rich man, and under present conditions, ashamed as we may be of it, this is not the fact. -- TAFT

Fundamentally we are interested in the detection and punishment of the guilty because of the added protection we believe is thus assured to the public. If detection and punishment can be brought to pass with deadly certainty we shall sooner or later find an attitude developed in the people that, expressed in words, would say: "You can't make crime pay." Though this is control upon a low plane, it is control nevertheless that is much worth seeking.

Procedure in criminal cases, too, is capable of playing a large rôle in the development of attitudes that shall be favorable or unfavorable, as the case may be, to the protection of the community against repeated crimes by those who are today passing through the mill, and against a sullen, stubborn grouch on the part of those who are being charged and tried for crimes and misdemeanors. Any penal treatment whatever has a good effect upon a culprit in proportion to his feeling that it is just. And the court can do something toward promoting this feeling -- or toward blocking it. This observation directs us at once to the Municipal Court (the Police Court in smaller cities). It is the "people's court." It is the only institution of its sort with which the great mass of arrested folk have anything to do. Consequently if they do not get an impression here that the courts are fair and honest -- that they hold the scales even -- they are likely not to get it elsewhere.

We have already alluded to the fact that the court, by abuse of the power to suspend sentences, may contribute to the development of unfavorable attitudes toward the courts, the laws, and procedure generally.1 The judge who is elected, and for a short term of, say,

____________________
1
See Chap. XIII, supra.

-395-

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