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About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (March 1, 1915)
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The Public! Defender
The whole 'country has been inter
ested in the experiment made by the
city of Los" Angeles, California, in
creating the office of public defender,
whose function it is to employ the
uame activity in the defense of an ac
cused person as the- district attorney
employs in his prosecution. It had
always been the custom in Los An
geles, as in other communities, to
choose a talented lawyer and give
him unlimited resources and ample
equipment, and then demand that all
of his ppwers be exerted" for the pros
ecution of any .nd;' all citizens ac
cused of crime.- To individuals here
and there ft has occurred, from time
to time that similar equipment and
endowment ought to be placed at the
service of those accused, citizens who
are without means to defend them
selves in the courts. It appears that
in Los Angeles earlier than anywhere
else this idea was permitted to take
definite shape in a section of the city
charter, which reads as follows:
"Upon request by the defendant of
upon order of the court, the public
defender shall defen'V without ex
pense to them, all persons who are
not financially able to employ coun
coi nrt Whn are chareed in the su
perior court with the commission of
any contempt, misdemeanor, wivuy
or other offense.
made inquiries with a view to the
appointment of a similar officer for
"When wo bear in mind that in
nearly every criminal prosecution in
this state one citizen is arrested up
on the complaint of another, and that
the law nrovidea an attorney to talco
the, side of the complaining witness,
it is astonishing that no provision has
been heretofore made for a more ef
fective method of bringing out the
points in favor of the accused. It
,can not be doubted but that the pub
lic demands convictions of the dis
trict attorney, domandB that ho pros
ecute vigorously, demands that he
represent but one side. Indeed, the
law itself describes the duties
of the district attorney, pro
vides that he must prosecute and
must present the evidence against
accused persons. No provision is
made, however, for him to defend.
The law has always recognized the
right of the accused to be defended.
If he has money he can employ his
own counsel and conduct his own de
fense. If Jxe has no money the court
appoints ah attorney for him. In a
great majority of cases these ap
pointments fall to inexperienced
youths who seek the appointment for
the nurnose of craininc experience. In
n,1nt01T10r to nnv ...
w i. ii-i,,nA some cases more experienced attor
He shall also upon Qxre tnf,i hf iav tpmIvh
MniioRt. fHve counsel and advice to
such persons in and about any charge
against them upon which he is con
ducting the defense, and he shall
prosecute all appeals to a higher
court or courts, of any person who
has been convicted upon any such
charge, where, in his opinion, such
appeal will, or might reasonably be;
expected to, resile in- the reversal or
modification of the judgment of con
viction Yv ' V r s . r c ,.
The same section also provides for
prosecution of civil suits, minor ac
tions, liens for wages and the like,
in the case of persons unable to in
stitute an action and to pay counsel
fees on their own behalf, and it is
provided that all such costs of action
shall be defrayed out uj. W"1
treasury in the usual manner. tm
first official to acquire the title of
public defender for -Los Angeles
county was appointed in January last
as a result of a civil service examin
a?ion tie successful-candidate being
Mr Walton J. Wood. In less than
t?o months the public defend had
forty-five cases of persons accused ; M
ielony and the civil cases averaged
over one hundred a week. The pub
lTdefender's office has four lawyers
and two assistants.
Just what may be done by the pub
lic Se ender's office to secure justice
for obscure offenders ? f
trated by an actual ease in thex
perience of the Los Angeles office
which is related in a recent number
of Everybody's Magazine by Camp
beliMcCuloch. It was brought oul
that two men accused of burglary
were SarvSg when the offense was
committed, and the public defender s
office proved that they had made Bin
cere efforts to secure a ft
The court did not put any faith in
the story when it was first related,
out atte? the facts had J&
ed in full, one man was released and
the other let on wuu , ""-" "r"d
tence. Had this case been conducted
in the usual manner, the court w
pointing an attorney for the men it
is hichly probable that no rigid m-
because of lack of funds, and botn
men would have been given long
terms of imprisonment.
The real need of such an office as
Jomt STKSw -JErt.W
a citizen ot Milwaukee, wv
nevs are annointed but they receive
no remuneration for their work and
it is hardly to be expected that they
will give the work the same degree
of diligence and care that should be
given. In fact, experience has shown,
and there is no reason whatever to
doubt it, that a person accused of
crime, under the old system, could
not expect to get adequate represen
tation. The government employs a
skilled, experienced and ambitious at
torney to present the' case against
the accused. The defendant has a
right to enter the court, on an equal
footing with his adversary. Under
the old system it was impossible for
the defendant to cet the equal pro
tection of the law." The American
Review of Reviews.
HAS IT HELPED AMERICA?
"I am far from, saying that an un
wise and unpatriotic course in our
foreign relations may not justify crit
icism of an administration and may
not require its condemnation at an
appropriate election, but in such a
case the reasons must be found in in
jury to the interests of the United
States and not in the merits of the
issues being fought out by European
nations in a European arena."
In this wise and clear-cut statement
from an address delivered before the
Washington society of New Jersey,
ex-President Taft sets forth the only
patriotic American viewpoint.
The main question for Americans
must always be not how the admin
istration's conduct of international
affairs affects the interests of this or
that foreign nation, but how it af
fects the interests of America.
Has it helped America? If so, there
is practically an end to the argument.
Has it hurt America? Then criticism
should bo directed toward making it!
help America and not toward making
it help somo other country.
The frentlomcn who are talking
about a big organization to oppose
the ronomination of President Wil
son ought to apply this infallible
touchstone to his record before going
further with their program.
Lcavo Germany out of the ques
tion. Leave Great Britain and all the
other belligerent nations out of the
question. Can these gentlemen hon
estly say that President Wilson's
course has not, on the whole, tended
to help America?
Can they sincerely affirm that It
has not tended to preserve America
from European entanglements and to
keep our population busy, fairly pros
perous and fairly contented with the
present condition of this country?
Men may rave and issues may
come and go, but the administration
that makes its foreign policy subserve
the interests of America first, last
and all the time is the only adminis
tration this country will permanently
approve. Chicago Herald.
HIS WARNING TO AMERICA
"Against the insidious wiles of for
eign influence (I conjure you to be
lieve me, fellow citizens) the jealousy
of a free people ought to bo constant
ly awake, since history and experi
ence prove that foreign influence is
one of the most baneful foes of rc
nnblfcan covernmont. But that jeal
ousy, to be useful, must be impartial.
The great rule ot conduct
for tiB retard to foreiRii relations is,
in extending our commercial rela
tions, to have with them as little po
litical connections as possible. Eu
rope has a set of primary interests,
whleh to us have none, or a very re
mote, relation. Hence she must bo
engaged in frequent controversies,
the causes of which are essentially
foreign to our concerns. Hence,
therefore, it must be unwise in us to
implicate ourselves, by artificial ties,
in the ordinary vicissitudes of her
politics, or the ordinary combinations
and collisions of her friendships or
"Our detached ana distant situa
tion invites and enables us to pursue
a different course. . Why
forego the advantages of so peculiar
a situation? Why quit our own
ground to stand on foreign ground?
Why, by intertwining our destiny
with that of any part of Europe, en
tangle our peace and prosperity in
the toils of Eur jpean ambition, rival
ship, interest, humor, or caprice?"
President Wilson has lived up to
the Americanism of these words. He
is a pro-American. So was the author
of the paragraphs which we have
quoted at such length from his fare
well address the first presldont of
our United States, whoso birthday we
celebrate: George Washington. Col
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