Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jerome Frank Hires Some Lawyers, Part II

This is the second of three installments on an exchange of correspondence between Jerome Frank and a USDA official that illustrates some of the challenges faced by those in America's New Deal who wanted to make lawyering in the federal government as prestigious as any branch of the legal profession. If you would like to read the installments in order, the first is here. Today's installment is a memo from the USDA official, Julien Friant (pictured at left). Tomorrow: Frank's reply. Photo credit.

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October 30, 1934


Strictly Personal and not for the general files

Dear Jerome:

This is in response to your memorandum of October 27 which as explained over the phone did not reach me until late yesterday evening, and as I advised you personally, I am approving without endorsement the appointment of Mr. David Hexter and will also approve the appointment of Mr. Samuel H. Levy, when his papers come through. Both of these gentlemen are graduates of Harvard, and from what you advise I am sure are well qualified, and I am complying with your request because I appreciate the importance of your work and know you are putting the best that is in you and exerting every ounce of your energy in behalf of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration.

I do feel however, that those in your division who select your personnel do not give enough consideration to the wishes, the interests, and the needs of the Administration and the chosen representatives of the people who made our efforts in behalf of Agriculture possible by creating our program, and voting the funds and the authority necessary to carry it out and whom we are soon going to ask for additional legislation.

For that reason, I have two requests to make of you. First, when the need arises for additional attorneys for the minor legal positions, that you permit us to make some recommendations to you. I realize that where experts are needed, it is at times difficult to take into consideration the wishes of the Administration Leaders, and I believe you know that since I have been in the AAA I have never refused to approve anybody whose services are necessary and essential to the proper conduct of the work of this Department. However, I am not responsible for the fact that lawyers are in many cases the most prominent people in their respective communities, or because they as a rule take the lead in political activities, and for those reasons nearly every Senator and Congressman has a lawyer at the head of the list of those for whom he is trying to secure positions, and when the Legal Division of the AAA is practically closed to them, and when many lawyers with practically no experience are selected from the Metropolitan centers for positions in the Agricultural Department, which the rural representatives feel is more or less their Department, it does not look right and it does not create the best feeling, for you cannot change human nature any more than you can change a person's religion, his appetite, or his emotions.

The second request is that you make a better distribution of the appointments that originate at your office so far as colleges are concerned. I do not say that in criticism of Harvard. It is a great college, and I am not saying it does not have the finest law school in the United States. Massachusetts, however, is not an agricultural State, and Harvard does not specialize in agricultural subjects, and great as it is, the graduates of that college are not entitled to the large percentage of appointments they are securing in the Legal Division of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. I know it is pleasant for so many classmates and alumni of a college to be together in one Department; however this is a public institution and as there are such a large number of fine colleges and universities in the United States, the appointment of so many people from one school in one division of one department, is bringing criticism on you, on our office, and on the AAA.

I hope and believe you realize that I have nothing but the best interests of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration in mind. I want to see our program succeed, 100%, and I am willing to make any sacrifice necessary to bring it about. I know that is your attitude also, and I feel sure when you think this matter over, you will agree with me and cooperate with this office along the lines requested.

Julien N. Frant
Special Assistant to the Secretary

I am attaching a copy of our latest quota sheet from which you can see how hard we are tying to apportion the appointments among the various states according to their population.

Frank's reply, here.