• U.S.

National Affairs: The Legal Left

3 minute read

Apart from the propensity for unending verbosity which is the heritage of the legal profession, the National Lawyers Guild whose political aims are very liberal has little in common with any other group of organized attorneys. Its second Annual Convention in Washington’s old Willard Hotel last week was less pretentious than the convention of a moderately prosperous labor union. With dinner jackets scarcer than paying clients, the 605 delegates, men and women, Negro and white, sat down to a two-dollar-a-plate banquet in the Willard’s Main ballroom and enjoyed roast turkey as much as the American Bar Association would have enjoyed breast of guinea hen.

For four days the young and earnest delegates listened to speeches, which had much more to do with economic justice than with legal justice. Guest speakers included: Solicitor-General designateRobert H. Jackson, Wisconsin’s Senator Robert M. La Follette and University of Wisconsin Law School Dean Lloyd K. Garrison, Representative Maury Maverick.

When all the resolutions were in, the program of the National Lawyers Guild looked sufficiently Rooseveltian to justify the “cordial greetings” sent by the President.

In its deep concern over general economic problems, the Guild did not ignore its own profession. Some 350 New York members of the Guild are either on relief or working for WPA. The Guild is still fighting for a WPA lawyers project as well as a new plan which amounts to group legal insurance: to set up “legal clinics” throughout the country. Hoped for net result: regular jobs for needy lawyers and justice for poor people with good cases.

With 5,000 members already on its books, the Guild put itself in the way of further increase in members by electing unanimously as its president a Justice of the New York Supreme Court, Ferdinand Pecora. Famed as the inquisitor of J. Pierpont Morgan during the Senateinvestigation of the Stock Exchange four years ago, Judge Pecora received the news in his pajamas in New York at midnight. At 3:30 a. m. he boarded a train for Washington and a few hours later assured the delegates that it was all a surprise. To guide the Guild’s policies the convention chose a National Executive Board of 64 which included Governors Elmer A. Benson of Minnesota and Philip F. La Follette of Wisconsin, C. I. O. General Counsel Lee Pressman, pudgy Joseph Padway, A. F. of L. General Counsel, and many of the well-known labor lawyers in the country. Secluded among the 64 was Guild Godfather Morris L. Ernst.

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