Reform of Lower Federal Courts

July 18, 1939

Report Outline
Current Effort to Reform Federal Courts
Evolution of Federal Court System
Coordination of Judicial Administration
Methods of Curbing Judicial Misconduct

Current Effort to Reform Federal Courts

Murphy's Investigation of Judicial Corruption

A Campaign to stamp out corruption in the federal judiciary and to increase the efficiency of judicial machinery has been undertaken within recent months by Attorney General Murphy. Addressing the annual conference of United States attorneys at Washington last April 19, Murphy described the campaign as a “broad endeavor to raise the entire judicial system to a new plane of competence, efficiency, and integrity—to purify it of every unwholesome tendency and practice.”

The Attorney General's effort grew out of the inquiry conducted by the Department of Justice into the financial affairs of Martin T. Manton, senior judge of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Manton resigned from the federal bench early in February, during the course of the Department's investigation. A federal jury at New York City subsequently convicted him of participating in a conspiracy to obstruct justice, and on June 20 he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment and fined $10,000 by United States District Judge Chesnut.

Murphy announced on February 1 that President Roosevelt had directed him to broaden the investigation in order to bring to light “all efforts to influence the courts.” Evidence uncovered shortly afterward led to the questioning of Edwin S. Thomas, United States District Judge for Connecticut. Thomas submitted his resignation early in April, and on April 12 Murphy announced that: “Due to a recent attack of illness, Judge Thomas is at present under the care of a physician. The resignation has made it unnecessary to give further consideration to the question of impeachment.” One of the charges brought against Manton at his trial in June was that he had collected a $10,000 bribe for Thomas.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Challenges of the Courts
Nov. 04, 2022  Conservatorships
Jan. 14, 2011  Cameras in the Courtroom
Oct. 22, 1993  Science in the Courtroom
May 27, 1988  Protecting Rights in State Courts
Oct. 07, 1983  Court Backlog
Jan. 16, 1981  Television in the Courtroom
Jun. 03, 1970  Reform of the Courts
Nov. 16, 1960  Congestion in the Courts
Mar. 07, 1956  Cameras in Court
Jul. 18, 1939  Reform of Lower Federal Courts
Feb. 04, 1936  Restriction of Powers of Federal Courts
Apr. 14, 1931  Reform of Magistrates' Courts
Judicial Appointments