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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/780

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

would not have atoned for his demoralizing career.[1] And still, what lawyer has been moved by such a defeat of justice as to make any attempt to protect the community against a repetition? Why should any court be empowered to turn loose a notorious robber simply because a single step in the proceedings against him was erroneous though not affecting the question of guilt? A departure from strict rules in election matters is not allowed to affect the result, provided the voter's intent is carried out; and most men of sense will say that technical errors at a trial ought not to vitiate the proceedings, provided no injustice is done. But as long as the lawyer thinks his duty is alone to the client who pays him, and nothing to the public, this debasement of honor and judicial functions will go on.

When a criminal has neither money nor political influence, justice is sometimes swift enough. A New York daily some time ago reported that a common thief, who had snatched a scarf-pin worth a dollar, was "railroaded" through court in a few days and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary, while a saloon-keeper went free who "had been arrested eighteen times in two years on charges of beating, assaulting, and robbing women." But the latter, it was expressly stated, had "political influence," and boasted that he had "a pull" on the courts which would always shield him. Perhaps this was exaggerated; but no observant man can doubt that justice must often fail when the bench is occupied by active associates of leading politicians. The method is not openly to defend and set at liberty, but to rail at and stigmatize witnesses as "informers," to discredit their testimony, make postponements, discharge for alleged informalities, or put over the trial from court to court until public interest is lost, and then to permanently "pigeon-hole" the charges or enter a "nol. pros." This is comparatively easy in communities where certain outlawed immoralities are supported by local public sentiment, such as gambling, lotteries, horse-racing, betting on elections, unlicensed liquor-selling, drunkenness, prostitution, prize-fighting, Sabbath desecration, etc. These can not be made legal, because the State is greater than the city, but local sentiment is usually powerful enough to control the courts, and through them to make the laws a nullity. But with a powerful bar bent on the administration of justice, and not conniving at nor leading in opposition to good laws, this could hardly happen. Hence it is not very wide of the mark to say that lawyers as a class do not take a deep interest in abstract justice, or that they are prominent in agitations for moral reforms. Their training and traditions are against it, perhaps because litigation offers its best rewards in communities where morality and justice are not much recognized—at least until vigilance

  1. When released from the penitentiary, Tweed was held in bail, to the amount of $3,000,000, in pending civil suits, and, unable to furnish this, was committed to Ludlow Street Jail. A few months later he escaped, but, after hiding about a year, was brought back to the jail, and died there in April, 1878.—Editor.