Robert Jackson Speaks to US Atty Biskupic and DA Blanchard

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Madison, Wisconsin—The life of Robert Houghwout Jackson (1892-1954) is many things.

[img_assist|nid=1193|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=150|height=193]Scholar and jurist, public servant, humanity’s chief advocate at Nuremberg (1945-46), US Supreme Court Justice (1941–1954), and Brown v. Board of Education’s champion (his Brown opinion drafts were more confrontational and scholarly, reflecting the man’s moral outrage and intellect), Jackson’s like is difficult to locate among contemporary jurists.

As the Bush administration has turned the Department of Justice into a , and liberal district attorneys around the country (including Wisconsin, ) engage in frenzied quests to prove their tough-on-crime bone fides in furtherance of political careers, Jackson, as the US Attorney General (1940-41), speaks to us today with urgency.

The Federal Prosecutor

On April 1, 1940, Attorney General Jackson gave a speech to the serving US Attys, offering his views on ethical conduct by prosecutors. Entitled , the speech continues to inspire and instruct.

Some edifying passages:

- “While the prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society, when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst.”

- “Your positions are of such independence and importance that while you are being diligent, strict, and vigorous in law enforcement you can also afford to be just. … Any prosecutor who risks his day-to-day professional name for fair dealing to build up statistics of success has a perverted sense of practical values, as well as defects of character, … he can have no better asset than to have his profession recognize that his attitude toward those who feel his power has been dispassionate, reasonable and just.”

- “What every prosecutor is practically required to do it to select the cases for prosecution and to select those in which the offense is the most flagrant, the public harm the greatest, and the proof the most certain (emphasis mine).”

- “A sensitiveness to fair play and sportsmanship is perhaps the best protection against the abuse of power, and the citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.”

US Atty Steven Biskupic (the reluctant Bushie) should read Jackson’s views and live them, if he refuses to resign.

As for Dane County D.A. Brian Blanchard (he a ), he ought to consider pausing from his frenetic political career and read .

Couldn’t hurt.

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Published

April 24, 2007 - 10:37am

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