- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 13 Mar 1958, p. 241-262
- Medina, His Honour Judge Harold R., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The story of the Communist Trial and the aftermath. The speaker's involvement from the Fall of 1948 when he was a new Judge, and was assigned to try the case of the Communists. Personal reminiscences and experience. Delegations. His schedule. Protection provided. Two or three concrete instances of the endeavours to break up the trials. A detailed description of the trials, the Judge's rulings, and responses to them.
- Date of Original
- 13 Mar 1958
- Language of Item
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- The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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- Full Text
"A LOOK AT AMERICA"
An Address by HIS HONOUR JUDGE HAROLD R. MEDINA
Thursday, March 13th, 1958
CHAIRMAN: The President, Lt.-Col. W. H. Montague.
LT.-COL. W. H. MONTAGUE: It is over four years since we first invited His Honour Judge Herold R. Medina to address us, and it took his partial retirement from the United States Court of Appeals to make it possible for him to accept our invitation and to honour us with his presence here today. We extend a hearty welcome to him and to his charming lady, Mrs. Medina who, to our great good fortune has accompanied him on this visit to Canada.
Judge Medina was born in Brooklyn. He received his early education there at Public School No. 44 and at Holbrook Military Academy, Ossining. He went on to Princeton University and then to Columbia Law School, where he won the Ordronneaux Prize as top man in his graduating class.
Today he is a Charter Trustee of Princeton and a Life Trustee of Teachers' College, Columbia University. He has received honorary doctorates in Laws, Letters, Education, Humane Letters, Divinity and Civil Law from various universities. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
As there was no family law firm for him to enter, his first six years after graduation were filled with hard and intensive work. He clerked in a large New York law office; wrote for International Encyclopedia; prepared a new edition of a lawyers' manual; commenced his now famous course of lectures leading to the New York Bar examinations, and he taught part-time as an Associate Professor of Law at Columbia. In 1918 he opened his own law office and specialized in appellate court work until in 1932 he became engaged in his first big criminal trial--the prosecution of the officers of the Bank of United States, which led to more and more trial work.
On 1st July 1947 the, by this time, large and important law firm of Medina & Sherpick, lost his services when President Truman appointed him a United States District Judge. His elevation to the bench was acclaimed editorially by the New York Times and the New York Herald-Tribune as it had been advocated by the various Bar Associations without political support of any kind. In 1949 Judge Medina achieved international prominence when he presided over the trial of eleven Communist leaders. His handling of this trial resulted in his becoming known to many Americans as "the patient Judge" and in his receiving many medals and awards. That same year he was chosen "Man of the Year" by the Associated Press newsmen. Hawthorne Daniel wrote a biography entitled, "Judge Medina" which has gone through two editions.
Immediately thereafter he commenced the hearings of a civil anti-trust action against seventeen leading investment banking houses for alleged violation of the Sherman Act. Sometimes described as the longest anti-trust case in American jurisprudence, Judge Medina filed, in October 1953, a 400-odd page opinion, dismissing the charges, from which the Government took no appeal. Meanwhile, in June 1951, he had been promoted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, but had been unable to take his seat on that court until the Fall of 1953.
Judge Medina has authored numerous case books and text books, chiefly on matters of procedure. He has, however, produced one book of great general interest. It is called "Judge Medina Speaks" and contains a selection of his public addresses and writings which cover a wide range from "Why Study Latin?", "The Pursuit of Happiness", to "The Spiritual Quality of Justice". He has chosen as his subject for today, "A Look at America".
Ladies and Gentlemen: His Honour Judge Harold R. Medina of New York.
HIS HONOUR JUDGE HAROLD R. MEDINA: Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Members of The Empire Club and Ladies and Gentlemen: I am simply overwhelmed by this reception. Mrs. Medina and I have been so kindly treated here and so entertained and made to feel at home that I don't know how we are going to get ourselves to go back to New York tomorrow.
You know, we were introduced, away back in 1905, by a girl who was a Canadian. She came from Hamilton, Ontario, and her name was Phyllis Barnum. She was one of our bridesmaids and when we were married we spent our honeymoon in Canada, in Montreal.
You people, I do not think, realize how many friends, and such dear friends, you have in the United States. There is a community of interest, there is something that draws us so closely together that I want you to bear that in mind. Sometimes it seems as though there were all kinds of little issues of one kind and other, but we really love you and we want you to love us.
Now, what I am going to talk about today is the story of that Communist Trial and the aftermath. I call it "A Look at America" because you are going to see that it shows certain features that you wouldn't really expect, and of course you are going to hear all this story entirely from my own standpoint, and from the United States standpoint, and a good deal of it I think will surprise you. You will say, "Oh, that could never happen here!" Well, I don't think any of us thought it could happen there either, and I am pretty sure that as the result of what happened there, including sending all the lawyers to jail at the end of the case, it is going to make it pretty sure it won't happen again. So when you say to yourselves that could never happen here, don't be quite so sure about that.
Now I was called in to the office of the Chief Judge of the District Court, the Southern District of New York, one day in the fall of 1948, and he said, "Harold, I am assigning you to try the case of the Communists." I said, "All right," and I walked out. I didn't argue at all. I didn't know what a Communist was at all, to the truth. I thought they were just bad boys who wanted to divide up other people's property and rough-house around and make trouble. I didn't believe all I read in the newspapers and I was very skeptical about all the tie-up with Russia.
That was all right with me. Bear in mind I was a new Judge. At the time I started the Communist trial I had never as a Judge tried a single criminal case, and there were Judges in our Court House who had twenty-five or thirty years of experience trying criminal cases. Why they picked on me I will never know ... I guess nobody else will ever know.
I went along perfectly content, and one day I got a little clipping through the mail from Raymond Moley in Washington. Moley was one of Washington's brain trusters ... you probably remember hearing about him. He was an old friend of mine. He taught Political Science in Columbia when I taught Law there. Our classes were somewhat the same and I got to know him pretty well. I opened the envelope and there was the clipping ... no letter, no explanation. The clipping said, Harold Medina had been designated to try the case of the Communists ... he was rather a colourful figure in New York Bar, but pretty soon he was going to wish he had never been born. I didn't like that, particularly, and coming from anybody else I don't think I would have paid very much attention to it. Coming from Ray Moley I said to myself, that is the tip-off to watch out.
What could I do to watch out? How could you prepare for such a thing as this? There was only one thing I could think of. Mind you, what I expected was roughhousing and hell-raising, and that sort of business. I didn't expect anything other than that.
I don't know whether you remember what they call the Sedition case--a case tried in Washington some years before the early part of the war. There were thirty-three defendants, and it was the most crazy kind of case. They were being charged with some giant conspiracy to put Fascism over on the United States and on the world. They had thirty-three defendants and the Lord knows how many lawyers. Some of the defendants were their own lawyers, and the Judge who presided over the case was an ex-Congressman named Eicher, and from the very beginning of that trial there was confusion and hullabaloo, and the old Judge was pounding with his gavel and shouting at these fellows and punishing them for contempt, and at one time he had seven or eight under commitment for contempt of proceedings. Then they would go up on appeal and some would get reversed, and he got so tangled up that after about seven months he went in the Chambers one afternoon and he laid himself down and he died.
I didn't want to have that happen to Harold Medina, so I read everything I could read on that sedition case. I got a copy of the transcript and a couple of books that had been written on it. That was all I had to prepare myself, so we came to the beginning of the trial.
You never saw anything like it. They started out with a motion to take the revolvers away from the Police ... and there was the Blah, Blah, Blah, about the trigger-happy police. I said, "Motion denied." Then they made a motion to change the place of trial to Madison Square Gardens. They said the workers had a right to come in and hear everything. This sort of thing kept up all the first day. It was kind of funny.
Then I get up to my Chambers, and there is a Deputy Police Commissioner there. He said, "Judge, we came up to arrange to give you a little protection." I said, "Look here, Commissioner, I don't need any protection. I don't want to do that. It will just dramatize this thing and it will just look terrible. You go away and give somebody else this protection because I don't want to do that."
Well, the next day I had a luncheon engagement with a Princeton classmate of mine. He called up before I went on the Bench and he said, "Harold, I don't think I am going to take lunch with you today." I said, "Why not?" He said, "Well, somebody might take a shot at you and hit me." That was the kind of a friend to have ... just to relieve any nervousness I might feel.
That afternoon the Deputy Police Commissioner was back. He said, "Look here, you know your business, we know our business. You are going to get protection whether you like it or not." From that time on the F.B.I., the State troopers and the city detectives were with us all the time. We went to our place on Long Island on Friday afternoon. The State Troopers' car went ahead blowing a siren, and the F.B.I. car behind, and all the cars were swept off the road. They didn't know there was anybody behind the troopers and as soon as the troopers got by they came zinging back in. Anyway, when we got through the trial we had to get a new windshield for the car, as the result of all the pebbles coming up there.
Well, the point of all this, you may think it kind of fun to have the F.B.I. and the detectives and the troopers with you, but it gets pretty tiresome after a few months. This went on for nine solid months. As a matter of fact, after the trial was over the F.B.I. men were not with us, and all of a sudden, without any reason we knew about, they would be back with us for a couple of months. I never asked why they went or why they came.
A couple of weeks ago we went down to El Paso ... I was going to make an address down there. Who met us at the airport but the F.B.I. again. They took us in charge all the time. That is pretty close to Mexico and there are a lot of these fellows around down there. It is kind of serious business but you laugh about it.
Anyway, we went on with the trial. You just can't imagine the things the lawyers were up to all the time ... and the things they called me. They demanded I disqualify myself the first day ... I was unfit to sit ... I was prejudiced ... I hated the negroes ... I hated all the Jews ... I was the champion discriminator of the world. I said, "I don't know anything about the case. I haven't any prejudices. That motion is denied." But that didn't make any difference. They were right back again. They were after me half a dozen times a day, practically calling me a crook. You know, it gets a little tiresome after while.
Anyway, with that and the shouting and the hullabaloo going on, I guess about the third or fourth day I had my first intimation of what I was really up against. I got down to the court house about a quarter past eight in the morning. There was a delegation to see me ... a delegation of workers from some place in Ohio. I said, "These fellows have no business to come around talking to the Judge ... bring them in." There were twelve fellows ... they looked like ordinary Americans, ordinary workers ... they didn't look like what I thought Commies look like at all.
Then they started this business of, this is a political case, this an indictment, this is an outrage, you ought to throw it out. I said, "You men have no right coming talking to a judge and telling him what to do with a case. What would you think if a rich man or a politician came sneaking through the back door and telling the Judge what to do with a case? You fellows have no right to do this, and you fellows get right out of here."
Well, you know, telling them to get out and getting them out was somewhat different. Each one of the fellows wanted to say the same thing. You couldn't just push them out and I didn't want to get the Police to put them out. I thought I was able to do that myself.
Then right behind this delegation was another delegation, and behind that, another delegation, and behind them, another delegation ... there was a delegation of housewives, a delegation of veterans, a delegation of negroes, delegations of all sorts of people that fitted into the pattern of the Communist propaganda and they came from all over the United States. They came from away out in the State of Washington, from California, from Idaho, from Oklahoma, from New Mexico, from throughout the South, from Maine and New Hampshire, from Michigan, from Indiana, Illinois, from all over that great United States of America. They were brought in there to bring the same identical pressure on me, one after another. I lost having my lunch one day just sitting talking to these fellows. That went on for two or three days and all of a sudden I began to get tired. Mind you, no matter how long I stayed there were delegations still waiting. I might leave at a quarter to seven o'clock and two or three delegations would be waiting.
I was in court all day, going over law points and listening to all hullabaloo going on with the lawyers there, and suddenly I realized what a fool I was. I realized something else. I said, if this organization is powerful enough to get these people from all over the country to come here and bring this pressure to bear on me, this is a little bigger than I thought it was, and that is the time that I decided to go on that little regime that you may have heard about. We cut out all private life entirely, we never went to see anybody, we never went to dinner, we never went to the theatre, to the movies, or anything else. I had a strict regime. I got up at a certain time. had breakfast at a certain time, got down to the court house, went through the morning session, had my lunch, laid down for a little nap. It took about a week before I could go to sleep right away. After that, every day at a quarter past one, I got on the couch and I would go to sleep just like that and sleep for fifteen or twenty minutes, and then go back preparing material for the afternoon session. And the rest of the nine months was spent that way.
And let me tell you the schedule was just like you women use with babies ... they are fed at a certain time, put to sleep at a certain time. This regime every day at exactly the same time is the saving of physical and intellectual energy that you simply cannot imagine. It really worked. What I had for lunch every day ... after experimenting I found that one lamb chop, medium rare, and spinach ... and don't you fool yourselves about that spinach ... that has really got the strength in it. That will get you through the day whereas all kinds of other things I experimented with didn't do the business. That is the right lunch ... it gives you the strength and gets you through.
Now, it was soon evident their strategy was not to have these men acquitted. You never saw anything like it in a courtroom before. There was no manoeuvre such as is seen in a criminal case designed to have the jury feel the men were innocent and try to get them off. Nothing of that kind. Two things they were at all day, every day. One of them was to spread this Communist propaganda. Think what a wonderful opportunity they thought they had, because one-half of that big courtroom, and it was the biggest one we have in the City of New York, one whole half of the courtroom was given to the press from all over the place. There were fellows from foreign countries there. What they wanted to come for I don't know. They evidently sensed the importance of this thing a whole lot better than I did. Anyway, the place was jammed with reporters, magazine writers and fellows of that kind. So here was the opportunity of a lifetime the Communists thought to spread their propaganda and their propaganda fell into these identifiable lines, so readily.
There were things I never realized before ... take the Veterans ... remember I told you how they had delegations of veterans coming to see me ... delegations of housewives coming in. How do the veterans come in? How do the housewives come in?
You know after every war the veterans feel abused ... they are not getting enough. You can give them houses and bonuses, everything under the sun, they always want more. They say, we will just pour a little oil on that, light a couple of matches, get the veterans worked up so they feel they are not being treated as patriots should be treated.
The housewives ... a very important part of the propaganda is to get the women to feel they are tied to the sink ... they have to wash the children, get the meals for the family and do all the dirty work around the kitchen and the house. They get that going and there are a whole lot of women around the United States who just fell for that like a ton of bricks. It all sounded silly at first. It wasn't silly, any part of it.
And the Negroes? Oh, my, they were at the negroes and the lynching of the negroes and the negroes' rights and segregation and all that. We were supposed to be trying a case ... we couldn't get to talk of the issue of the case ... they were off on this and off on that every time a witness was testifying, bringing in all the negro business and all that. And also with the Jews. I never suspected that was part of their program, but it was. So they had the propaganda business going all the time ... the war in China, the war in Spain ... Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln--they kept talking about them. f couldn't figure it out at first ... it seemed as though they must have changed their ideas or something or other. That is the way they did it.
The other strategy was to break up the trial. If they could break up this trial, then they could break up the next trial, and then the American system of the traditional administration of justice would be proved to be inadequate to handle the Communist situation. So they would say, Why the capitalists are the ones using the force and violence ... we don't do that. It is always the capitalists that use the force and violence. That was the strategy behind it. They never dreamed they weren't going to break up that trial.
You say, what are you talking about, Judge? How do you mean break up the trial? Well, for one thing, you know if they could knock me out ... that is the Achilles' heel of our system and your system of administration of justice. You have only one Judge. You have twelve jurors and twelve alternate jurors. Knock out a juror and you have another juror to put in. You knock out the Judge and that is the end of the case. Nobody ever thought of that before. It took the Communists to figure that out. As you will see before I get through they pretty nearly did it with me.
I don't want to make this too long, but I want to give two or three concrete instances of this endeavour to break up these trials. Their lawyers on the job were insulting me, shouting and yelling around, doing all kinds of things, and trying to bait me into sending them to jail for contempt, because the minute I got one of those lawyers in jail for contempt, come to think of it that was the end of the trial. The defendant wouldn't have a lawyer any more. He is entitled under our Constitution to a lawyer to defend him. That doesn't mean a lawyer in jail. Nor can they give a new lawyer a case so complicated that it would take a month or two to know what it was about. So all the baiting was designed to get me to put one of the lawyers in jail, or two or three of them, and one thing would follow another and that would be the end of the trial as sure as anything.
Now, I am going to give one or two concrete instances. One day one of these defendants was on the witness stand under cross-examination, and the United States Attorney ... that was what they call our Prosecutor ... he asked a question pertinent to some of the things he testified about under direct examination. The lawyer jumped up and objected that the man had a privilege against self-incrimination. The witness started blowing off a little steam. I said, "Be quiet here. I will take care of this." I said to the lawyer, "This is a very important thing. My own feeling is when he took the stand he waived privilege against self-incrimination as to all matters questioned on self-examination. I am going to think on this over night."
I did this several times. In one or two instances I changed the ruling after thinking over night. I was really trying to call the strikes and balls as they came over the plate. I said, "I am going to think about this over night, and you talk to your lawyer about it." The next day when I got on the bench the atmosphere in the courtroom was electric. Every day all the Communist sympathizers would get on a queue in front of the door of the courtroom. Sometimes the queuing was all around the court house ... sometimes four or five hundred people trying to get in ... all the Communist sympathizers. Every day some of the lawyers would jump and say the spectators said that I ruled sixty-two times in favour of the Government and not once in favour of the Defence. Imagine doing that to the Judge! All the spectators were rustling around.
So the witness gets back on the stand and the United States Attorney withdrew the question that was asked the day before. Then he asked another one that was even clearer, and the lawyer for the defendant objected and said the man had a right not to answer because it would incriminate him. I turned around and said, "Mr. Witness, I direct you to answer that question." He said, "I refuse on my grounds of constitutional privilege against self-incrimination." I said, "I over-rule that objection. I direct you to answer that question." Then he refused again ... and I let him have it. I said, "I now sentence you to thirty days in jail for contempt of court, for refusing to answer a question in the court, and thirty days is what you get unless you purge yourself sooner by answering the question."
Well, what happened then you just couldn't believe could happen in a courtroom anywhere. The whole mass of people in front of me get up as one man ... all the people, all the lawyers, and the spectators ... and the yelling and the hullabalooing and cursing ... you just can't conceive it.
Well, there was Somebody helping me that day, as there was Somebody helping me a good many other days during that trial.
I said just as quiet, and I didn't raise my voice ... I never used a gavel during the whole trial ... they gave me three the day I was sworn in but I didn't use them ... I looked around and I said, "Isn't this Mr. Hall?" Then I said, "Mr. Hall, I remand you for the balance of the trial." What that means was that when the end of that session of court came, Mr. Hall, instead of being out on bail and going home, would go to jail and would be brought down the next day in manacles and be in manacles, and go back to jail the next night. He would do that for the rest of the trial ... that is what it meant. I said, "Mr. Hall just said this is a kangaroo court."
The reporter in all the excitement wasn't taking anything down. You can imagine, when of all times it was important that he be on the job!
These fellows were coming toward the Bench in a menacing way. They really were enough to frighten a person.
I got over here ... "Isn't that Mr. Winston--that big coloured fellow in there?" I got down what he said, and remanded him for the balance of the trial. Pretty soon I picked off about five of them. All I had said was to get on the record the remarks I had heard and remand for the balance of the trial. I never raised my voice ... there was no banging, no shouting ... all quiet but firm ... and the noise began to subside. They were all standing up. I asked them to sit down a couple of times.
There was Dennis, the leader. The book describes the case as the United States against Dennis et al. He was the leader, he was the big shot. He thought it was time for him to do his stuff. He sat back and let me have it. I said, "Mr. Dennis, don't you remember, you are your own lawyer ... you know, and I told you the other day that I was going to treat you like the lawyers and for the lawyers there may be a day of reckoning, but no matter what you say to me now you are not going to wind up in jail with your friends. You can say whatever you want if you want to abide the consequences. Besides," I said, "Mr. Dennis, you look silly."
That is where I had him. This great, big, lumbering fellow, going from one foot to the other, in a stammering way, and when I said he looked silly, that really got him right in the solar plexus. I said, "Why don't you all sit down and we will get on with the trial." With that Dennis said, "Sit down," and they all sat down.
You know, it sounds crazy. You just can't believe it. That is exactly what happened.
Now, I said, "I remand you for the balance of the trial." I didn't say why, did I? I didn't have a chance to think. I was pretty sure the place for them was the coop. That is what I decided but why? ... I didn't have a chance to think about that. Nobody raised any point at the time. I went on for the rest of the day's session. I never forgot that day--Friday, June 3rd, 1949.
We came back again and everything went fine in the morning session the next day, and then after lunch the lawyers came up and said they had a very important communication to make to me. We were in the little robing room. I noticed all the lawyers for the Communists were beaming for joy. They said, "This morning we argued the writs of habeas corpus to get out of jail the lawyers you sentenced. We have argued those writs before Judge Lebel this morning and he has formulated certain questions for you to answer." I said, "All right, what are the questions?" They said, "They are in this envelope." I said, "Let us open the envelope." They said, "No, Judge Lebel has stated you are to attend the Bench and open the envelope in public and give the answers in open court."
Well, what I thought about Judge Lebel at that particular moment was pretty bad. But you know, it was such a smart thing for him to do. These defendants had been accusing me from the beginning of the trial of conniving with the Attorney General, conniving with the United States Attorney who was the Prosecutor, conniving with the officers and so messing up the jury system as to exclude from the jury the people who would be favourable to them, and Judge Lebel had sense enough to fix it up in time so nobody could say he and I had been colluding together or talking about the grounds on which I sentenced these men to prison on the Friday before. It was a very wise thing for him to do.
Can you imagine how alone I felt there with eighteen other United States District Judges right in that court house? I couldn't ask any of them for advice. I couldn't go to them to discuss anything. I was absolutely and utterly alone. The case was just packed with dynamite and I was the one who had charge of the case and nobody else was going to touch it. I tell you there was a feeling of lonesomeness about it, and you find as you get a little further on you get to a point where you know you can't do things all by yourself. I felt I was a pretty small particle from the general scheme of things, and let me tell you, I did a lot of praying during that trial, and I called on our Almighty Father to help me again and again.
So I put on my robe and I got this envelope and I got on the bench. This was Question Number 1: Did you remand the defendants in your exercise of your power as a plenary judge, as a trial judge, to control bail?
I hadn't even thought of that. As a matter of fact, nobody knows today that that circuit, that great second circuit, includes New York and Vermont ... nobody knows today whether a trial judge can revoke bail of the defendant in a criminal case without any reason to suspect he won't be back in court the next day. Bail is something to get the man's presence in court. There wasn't any doubt these men would be back the next day. I couldn't have really justified revoking their bail unless the law was that a trial judge always has that power in a criminal case. If I were to have the opportunity to vote for such a rule today I would vote for it. I think it is a salutary rule.
The next question was whether I had remanded for contempt of court, committed in my presence. The next question was whether I had remanded in the exercise of some other rights I possessed. I looked down at the fellows. They were all smiling and smirking, thinking they had me in a hole.
I said, "I remand in the exercise of my power as a plenary judge to control bail, and for contempt of court committed in my presence, and in the exercise of each and every other power I possess under the Constitution of the United States." That did the business all right.
Of course they appealed those convictions for contempt, and they appealed everything else I did. They appealed a lot of things I did. They never got any reversed ... they picked up a few votes in one part on one, and a few on the other ... they never got enough to reverse any.
Well, we went on from there and pretty soon things were beginning to get kind of desperate. It was getting into July. One day had all the pickets in front of the court house. The police did a gorgeous job with these Communist fellows picketing with signs. They love to do that with big signs, walking around, and the Police had them all herded in the little park right in front of the court house. I guess you could get a thousand people in there, packing them in. They were packed in pretty well.
One day they started with the sign, "How Do You Spell MEDINA?--R-A-T." They knew they weren't going to get me mad. They had called me worse than that all through the trial, and if they thought it was going to have any effect on the country at large, nobody paid any attention to it. "How Do You Spell MEDINA?--R-A-T"--So what? So what? I just laughed it off.
Then they stopped the signs when they didn't have any effect, and after a few days more ... and I hope you ladies will pardon what I am going to tell you ... after a few days that mob of people started going around with their hands on the shoulders of the fellow in front and shouting, "Judge Medina's a son-of-a-bitch". They kept that up all day long.
I tell you they didn't do that to get me mad ... they knew they weren't going to get me mad. Besides, I had been called that before. They weren't going to come on anything they could do to me.
They got the reaction they wanted and if you could ever see the hundreds and hundreds of messages I got, not from Commies, but from my friends, from other judges, friendly to me, people who hated the Communists, and they would say, "Harold, what is the matter with you? Haven't you any guts that you let these fellows do this right in front of the court house in New York City? Why don't you do something? Why don't you punish them for contempt? Why not get the F.B.I. ... get down what they are saying, haul them into court and get them all in jail for doing this?"
You know, it wasn't very pleasant for me to get those communications at that late hour from my friends, calling me yellow, and saying I didn't have any guts, that I was afraid to stand up, when all the time I knew that was what these people wanted me to do. That was what they did it for--to have me start a few contempt proceedings--and it would be like Judge Eicher over again. It looked so clear and all the pressure was brought on me to do it.
You say, "Judge, why didn't some of the other Judges do something? Obviously, these people were guilty of contempt--why didn't the people do something?"
It is hard to get over to you. I was alone. Nobody dared touch this thing. It was full of dynamite. You couldn't tell what might happen. I tell you I think the other Judges were right. I was the only Judge at that stage that had my fingers on the wires, that knew what was going on.
Well, I got all this mass of mail ... I got every day three or four hundred letters and postcards, calling me one thing and another, calling me names and following the Communist line as it changed from time to time. 5o I didn't do anything. Then they found it didn't work.
Finally, it got around into August. I was tired. I tell you I was tired. I had to take dope every night ... I did it on the doctor's advice so I could get sleep.
All the points of law, all the intricate questions were coming up all the time. I believe they had forty or fifty lawyers working twenty-four hours a day thinking up points to drop at me. I called them torpedoes. They were dropping torpedoes all over the place. The points were repeated and repeated, and then suddenly in the middle of the repetition, another point, and I would say, "What is that? Let me hear that point again," in order to keep your mind on these things. All you had to do was make two or three slips and the conviction wasn't worth anything ... it just wouldn't stand up.
Well, we got around to August and I really was tired. One afternoon, about half past three, I thought I was going to faint. I was afraid I was going to make a scene and fall off the bench. I said, "Gentlemen, I feel ill. I am going to take a little recess and go out and lie down." There was no use making any bones about it. I tried to do everything on the level, on that trial. That is one of the things that saved me. I wasn't trying any manoeuvring or strategy ... I was saying the things that were so and the things I ought to do.
When I said I felt ill and was going out to lie down, if you could have seen the look on the faces of the defendants, and those lawyers there, as much as to say, "We've got him now" ... and you know, I thought they had. I just didn't see how I was going to go back to that bench again. I went out to that ante-room, where I got that letter from Judge Lebel, and I lay down on that couch, and, Oh, I did some tall praying that afternoon.
You know, you either have your faith of you haven't got it. I was one of the lucky ones. There is no use trying to pray if you don't believe. I did believe. I have always had my faith all my life and I tell you I really meant business that afternoon all right.
You know, during that trial I got so I would say these little prayers through the day. Sometimes I would be sitting on the bench there and I would just quietly check in with God and ask Him to help me. Probably this sounds kind of queer to some of you people, but you know, when you get in the habit of it, when you get used to asking for help that way, and you realize you can't do all these things yourself ... in fact, you can't do any of them by yourself, really ... by then you are really beginning to make some progress in your spiritual education.
After a little while I began to feel better and I went back to the bench that afternoon and I sat through the balance of the day's session, and I carried on to the end of the case, and so that was all over.
Now, I want to just give you the contrast. Now I come to the contrast that has to do with this look at America. There I had been for nine solid months, getting kicked around by everybody--my friends and others alike. In the early part of the trial there were some editors who wrote editorials in some of the southern parts of the United States, demanding that I be impeached for not kicking them around enough, not being rough enough with the Communists.
There I was, trying to do my job as a Judge, trying to do my job in this case as I thought it was my duty to do and being told by these fellows that I ought to be impeached because I wasn't dealing roughly enough with them.
I never did like gavel banging judges and judges who yell at people and kick them around. The American people didn't like Judges that do that either. But during the whole trial all I got was cursing out from everybody--the Communists cursing out and telling me what to do, and telling me I was doing it all wrong. Well then, we were all through and I came down to my Chambers to say "Good-bye" to my staff and go off for a little rest.
Well, do you know, the first day the letters came in ... I suppose about a thousand that first day ... and I said, "O, my, what am I going to do with all this mail?" I got one of the girls from my old law firm up and I had my secretary in my Chambers there, and I got one of the girls that had retired from my office, and the three girls were there and I kept reading through the letters, and throwing them away, and answering, maybe, two or three out of a hundred. If I got a letter from some old person or some blind person ... and some of these letters were from boys and girls I had gone to grammar school with whom I wouldn't have thought would know I was in existence, and some from teachers who I would have sworn didn't even know I was in the school. These were the ones I was answering.
I must have gone on two or three days that way. I don't know how many thousand I threw away, and all of a sudden the thing hit me. I said, "Harold, pull yourself together. What is going on here? What are these people trying to say to you? Here you are in the middle of the turbulence of a great spiritual force and you haven't even caught onto it."
What were they saying? I will tell you what they were saying ... it is one of the most encouraging things. Every one of these people, mostly little people ... people in filling stations, people in beauty parlours and in shops all over the United States ... they were saying to me, just as though the word "America" was written across the face of every one of those letters, "I love America, too. I love America, too, just like you do."
Oh, you want to have something pulling at your heart strings ... I finally caught on to what they were trying to say. Over two thousand of those letters came from husband and wife together. You know, I never heard of people sending letters and having the husband and wife sign together. This was different. Here was something they were glad about. It wasn't that they were glad because the Communists had been convicted ... this wasn't fan mail ... this wasn't telling me, "Judge, you are a great fellow ... you are a fine Judge". No, no, no. They were glad because our system of justice had prevailed. It had remained intact. It had been equal to the task of trying people impartially and fairly, according to the law. That is what these people rejoiced about, and I just happened to be the lucky man that for the moment to all these people was the symbol of justice, the symbol of patriotism.
Can you imagine just wandering into something like that? I didn't do any different than any other Judge. They would all have done the same thing. There, just for a little while, I could bask in the sunshine of the love of all these people that thought of me as representing justice and their country that they loved.
And, oh, they did so many things for me. You know some of them are awfully curious. There is a little town in North Dakota that used to be called Medina. One day the Judge called me and said they were going to change the name of the town to Medina in our honour. I said, "Well now you are fooling." He said, "No, this is serious business."
It was serious business in the town, and the Council met and all the people met. It is a little place of about 700 inhabitants. They got me to the telephone. I did my stuff on one end of the telephone ... it was all recorded and they came out with a loudspeaker. I said, "This can only happen in America." How true that is! It is true with you people here. You are the same kind of people we are. That is about the size of it, if it came right to it ... they just wanted to show what the other people had been showing in the letters.
A few years after that Mrs. Medina and I were up in North Dakota. I was addressing the Bar Association. I said I can't go back to New York without going to Medina, and I added that I bet they were calling it Medina the way they used to do. Anyway, we all went over there ... Mrs. Medina and I did and the fellow who drove us over. They told us to get there at a certain time. The whole town was out, the whole seven hundred of them. I got out of the car and this fellow rushed up. Look here, my friend, I have two pistols in my pocket ... the first man who says "Medina" gets both barrels. This is all on the level. Anyway, we had a wonderful time.
I will tell one or two other little things that happened, to give the flavour of this, and I am almost through. I was in San Francisco one day, walking around the street and along came one of the funny little cable cars, with a young worker, covered with dust and with his lunch bag. He jumped out and came over to me, squeezed my arm and looked me in the eye. I never heard such an eloquent speech in my life. I knew what that boy was trying to tell me ... he just squeezed my arm and looked at me ... then he ran off and got back on the car.
I remember one time going to Missouri in the train and a man went by with his little girl, coming back from the diner. He walked past and after a minute or two he came back. He brought the little girl in and he said, "I want you to shake hands with my little girl, Susie. Susie, this is Judge Medina. I don't want you ever to forget him."
Do you get it? Are you beginning to understand what happened to me there? There was all that kind of business.
Let me tell you, in the critical hour we people around this part of the country just come together. We fight over political issues and this and that, but the common man in the aggregate has a sense of what should be done in the critical time and of course out of all this came to me the realization that the spiritual things are the things that are really important. That is the way we are going to beat the Communists, not by the bombs and the mass production and all that sort of thing. It is our spiritual things, our Bill of Rights that we have, and the rights that you have here, and I always think that they all go back to good will.
You know ... maybe some of you don't remember ... there in the Book of St. Matthew they talk about a time when a bunch of these fellows who were talking to Christ were trying to get Him in a hole, and the Sadducees had been after Him and He gave a lot of answers that just knocked them right out of their shoes and the multitude were astonished. And you remember there were the Pharisees, and the Pharisees used to get after Him, and the Pharisee went up in the street with all the crowd around and he said, "I have got a question: What is the great commandant of the law?" He thought there wasn't any answer to that question, and that he had just fixed Christ up in good shape with that one because no one could answer.
That is when Christ answered: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy mind. That is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two hang all the law and the prophets.
Do you remember that? It doesn't make any difference what your religion is ... it always talks about love thy neighbour as thyself. That is good will. The other part is humility. Love thy God. He is the high and mighty Ruler of the Universe--not you and I. We are just little fellows who don't amount to much, and this good will is the most dynamic force in the world, and out of good will comes freedom and justice and that is the combination, my friends, that is unbeatable. That is what makes the world go round. That is what will beat the Communists. That is what will give us happy, wholesome lives and make things go the way they should.
Well, it is wonderful to have been with you here, and thank you for listening to me.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Alexander Stark, Q.C., Vice-President of the Empire Club, and Mrs. Medina was presented with a bouquet of red roses by the 1st Vice-President of the Club, Mr. Bruce Legge.