Author Archives: Hannah Miller

Now Open: Equal Justice Collection- General Charles L. Decker Papers

Justice for All Booklet cover

 “For nearly two centuries the lawyers of America have been donating free services to defendants in criminal cases who could not afford lawyers. I submit to you that we have been trying too long in vain to prove the falsity of the old adage ‘you get what you pay for.’ The only way to provide competent representation is to pay for it, and I suggest that the principal source of these funds should be the governmental source.”

(Retired General Charles L. Decker, quoted from handwritten notes for his remarks to the National Defenders Conference, on May 16, 1969.)

The above speech to the National Defenders Conference later prompted testimony to the House Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, which sought to amend the Criminal Justice Act of 1964. General Decker’s testimony highlighted the early disparities in treatment between Federal Public Defenders and Federal Prosecutors under the original Criminal Justice Act of 1964. The Criminal Justice Act of 1964 arose out of the need to provide public defenders which was epitomized in the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright 372 U.S. 335 (1963).The act originally presumed that defense of the indigent would occur out of the generosity of the members of the Federal Bar and all remuneration under the act was considered to be token at best, resulting in widely disproportionate salaries and fees. General Charles Lowman Decker (L’ 1942), as Director of the National Defender Project, testified before congressional committees to the radical concept that if the level of justice was to be equal and fair, that a public defender would need to be offered a salary comparable to that of a prosecutor.

General Charles L. Decker

This testimony is part of the General Charles L. Decker Collection, a collection containing papers related to the National Defender Project, which ran from 1963 through 1971. This project was a Ford Foundation grant to the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and was intended to improve the quality and quantity of public defender offices and to research best practices in this area. The collection includes original documentation regarding grant inquiries, proposals, reports, presentations, congressional testimony, personal correspondence, research materials, brochures and seminar materials, budgetary documentation, journal and newspaper articles, legislative and regulatory materials, and other documentation. Specific topics include public defenders, student defense clinics, the 1964 Criminal Justice Act, prisoner representation, and other indigent defense topics. This collection was donated by General Decker, a Georgetown law alumnus and adjunct faculty member. The collection is available for research and a display of materials will be coming soon. For more information, please contact Special Collections at

Prepared by Erin M. Page, Esq.

Should a legal right to “archival privilege” be established?

The recent blog post, “Should a legal right to ‘archival privilege’ be established?” posted on the blog Off the Record poses an interesting question which centers around the Boston College case involving the Belfast [Oral History] Project.  In brief, Boston College was subpoenaed on May 11, 2011 by Federal District Court for access to closed confidential oral histories that could contain information that might shed light on a murder inquiry in Northern Ireland. While Boston College appeals the request maintaining the “confidentiality” of the oral histories and the case is “pending” in the Supreme Court, the questions among archivists linger — will confidential remain confidential and should there be an established legal right to “archival privilege”? This provocative blog post illustrates this current dilemma.  “Do U.S. courts currently recognize an absolute or almost absolute legal right to confidentiality for scholars or archivists? And if they do not recognize such a right, should they?” Many archivists have varying perspectives on this issue. Archivists have a professional duty to curate many types of materials, some of which contain confidential information.  More thought provoking is the potential outcome of this case and how it will effect what people will be willing to archive in the future, inevitably impacting what will be remembered for generations to come.

New Exhibit in Library Atrium – Children and Advertising Collection

New in the Library Atrium Exhibit cases is the Children and Advertising Collection exhibit.  From 1976 to 1978 the Georgetown Law Center held the Children and Advertising Seminar to discuss the effects of advertising on children. The Children and Advertising Collection is unique in that it contains varied sources discussing television broadcasting and advertising, focusing on children’s television issues related to, the First Amendment, nutrition, violence, minorities, women, sex, and child abuse. There are also numerous Government related materials including Senate subcommittee hearing documents; legislative materials; FTC & FCC regulatory codes, and Congressional transcripts and reports. Along with Industry related materials including commercial storyboards and industry reports that focus on advertising and children’s nutrition.  The collection has multimedia as well, in the form of commercials clips, such as Uncle Ben’s Rice Treasure Hunt 1976 and Post Grape Nuts Rookies 1974.  Stop by the Atrium to take a look and learn more about this interesting collection.

For more information on this collection, please visit Special Collections in Williams 210 or contact Hannah Miller at

New Library Acquisition – The Quincy Wright Collection

The Law Library has recently acquired a collection of papers by esteemed international law scholar Quincy Wright (1890-1970).  Quincy Wright is considered the father of international relations.  He had a long career as a professor of social science and international law that spanned 40 years.  He began teaching at Harvard University and eventually ended up at Chicago where he taught from 1923-1956.  One of his main scholarly interests was war and preventions to war.  This scholarly interest contributed to his magnum opus The Study of War, written in 1942.  He was widely known and active in the international community, serving as adviser to Justice Robert H. Jackson at the Nuremburg Trials.  He also worked with and advised both the League of Nations and the United Nations on matters of international relations.  

The Quincy Wrigth Collection contains manuscripts, correspondence as well as many offprints from around the world spanning the years 1920-1965.  Quincy Wright was a great reader and his collection of offprints is filled with detailed notes and marginalia. The Quincy Wright Collection will be available for research soon in Special Collections.  For more information, please contact Hannah Miller at or 1-202-661-6602.

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Symposium on 1/30: Keynote Speaker Dr. Spiros Dimolitsas

Dr. Spiros DimolitsasSpeaking at the Law Library’s 125th anniversary symposium, Big Data and Big Challenges for Law and Legal Information, on Wednesday, January 30th is Dr. Spiros Dimolitsas, Georgetown University’s Senior Vice President for Research and Chief Technology Officer.

He will be delivering the lunchtime keynote address Leveraging Georgetown University’s Strengths to Create Opportunities in Big Data.

Dr. Dimolitsas’ expertise in large-scale science and technology, high-tech/high-risk project management and technology commercialization has formed the basis for advice that has been provided on innovation and on complex-systems risk management to the U.S. Government and others. He also represents Georgetown University in a variety of fora on climate issues, including the World Economic Forum’s Global University Leadership Forum on Sustainability.

Dr. Dimolitsas has authored 60 papers and holds multiple patents. He holds a B.S. in Theoretical Physics, an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

October 20, 1882 – For a Georgetown Law Graduate

Georgetown College         October 20th, 1882  

 My Dear Will,

….This does not come entirely from your delay in writing to me according to promise, but partly from the disappointment of my hopes of obtaining an early opportunity to experiment on your electric light.  I wrote Mr. Edison during the summer, informing him of annihilating his light on the market, and asking him (very modestly, you will say) for the means of experimenting with that intention…I was expecting to have abundance of time for experiment this year, but the classes had scarce got fairly underway, when Father Doonan asked me if I could manage to take the English Poets and Rhetoricians…

      -J.H. Richards, S.J.


The above letter was addressed to William Law McLaughlin, who graduated from Georgetown Law in 1884. We don’t know if anything came of his electric light experiment, but after obtaining his law degree William returned to Deadwood in the Dakota Territory to practice law with his father Judge Daniel McLaughlin.  In 1886, William is elected district attorney for the county of Lawrence.  He also appears as defense attorney on several murder trials, notably the trial of Charles Brown for the murder of Mrs. L.P. Stone in 1887 and for the defense of Two Sticks a Brule Sioux Indian Chief on trial for the murder of four cowboys in 1893.  He practiced law in Deadwood until his death in 1911.


This letter is part of the McLaughlin Brothers’ Papers, a collection of letters to William and his brother Daniel while they studied at Georgetown over the period 1879-1887.  The McLaughlin Brothers’ Papers are available for research.  For more information please contact, Hannah Miller, Manuscripts Librarian at 202/662-6602 or

Hidden Historical Letters

Yesterday, Georgetown Law professor Dan Ernst posted an article to the Legal History blog entitled “Frankfurter and DC Minimum Wage Case: The View from the Adkins Papers.”  The article draws on seven letters between Felix Frankfurter and Jesse Corcoran Adkins (L' 1899) that discuss the DC Minimum Wage case.  These seven letters are part of the Jesse Corcoran Adkins Papers, held by the Georgetown Law Library’s Special Collections.

Jesse Corcoran Adkins attend Georgetown’s night law program and received his bachelor of laws degree in 1899 and then in 1900 he received his masters of law.  He was a part of the Georgetown Law faculty from 1908-1944.  His areas of focus were equity, constitutional law and corporations.  From 1905-1908 he was an assistant United States attorney and in 1912 he was elevated to Assistant Attorney General.  He prosecuted anti-trust cases notably Corn Products Refining Co. and the New York, New Haven & Hartford Grand Trunk Railroads.  He became the president of the District Bar Association in 1928.  He was appointed by Herbert Hoover and served as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia from 1930-1946. As a part of the Minimum Wage Board he was active in several cases, notably the Children’s Hospital vs. Jesse C. Adkins with Felix Frankfurter as of counsel.

For further information on the Jesse Corcoran Adkins Papers, including the finding aid, Search Our Collections and type “Adkins”.

For more information on other manuscript collections contact Special Collections at 202/661-6602 or email

Ms. Jackson’s Legacy

As Special Collection’s celebration of Women’s History Month continues, we have another item of interest.  This highlight comes to us again from the Francis Cabell Brown Collection.  This manuscript collection contains an assortment of 18th and early 19th century Justice of the Peace writs from Queens County in New York and Windham, Litchfield and New London Counties in Connecticut. 

This feature is an estate writ, believed to be from the late 18th century.   The transcription is as follows:

Release of dower legacy by Elizabeth Jackson.  Ms. Jackson releases the legacy she received by right of dower from her deceased husband to her two sons, DJ & JJ, and their heirs. This also includes real estate she received.  Undated and Unsigned.

The verso, or back, of the writ contains only some mathematical notes and the inscription “Right of Dower Elizabeth Jackson”.  This writ is another unique example of women in the law in early Colonial America.

For some other interesting reads check out:

The Ties That Buy: Women and Commerce in Revolutionary America, by Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor

Constitutional Context: Women and Rights Discourse in Nineteenth-Century America, by Kathleen S. Sullivan

Witches, Wife Beaters and Whores:  Common Law and Common Folk in Early America, by Elaine Forman Crane

For more information on the manuscript collections, contact Special Collections at 202/661-6602 or email

Mary Goodell wins her case in 1811

In celebration of March being Women’s History Month, we have reached into the Special Collections' holdings to highlight a series of our rare items relating to Women, the Law and History.  This week’s highlight comes to us from the Francis Cabell Brown Collection.  This manuscript collection contains an assortment of 18th and early 19th century Justice of the Peace writs from Queens County in New York and Windham, Litchfield and New London Counties in Connecticut. 

This week’s feature is a Writ of Execution of Civil Judgment in the matter of Mary Goodell v. Charles Goodell, dated April 23rd, 1811. 


The transcription is as follows:

To Sheriff of the County of Windham to levy the goods, chattels, and lands of Charles Goodell for $13.23 or, if no goods available to satisfy the judgment, to seize Charles Goodell and place him in jail until he pay unto Mary Goodell the sum she received via judgment.  Dated the 23rd Day of April 1811. Signed John Holbrook, Justice of the Peace.

On the verso of the writ is inscribed how the amount of the judgment was satisfied, through the sale of many farm goods and products, including hay, oats, and cider.  The award to Mary Goodell is a significant amount which in today’s terms would be about $170.83. 

*A brief post-script on Mr. Goodell:  April 23rd, 1811 does not appear to be a good day for him.  His unknown shenanigans have gotten him into quite some trouble, as he is also the Debtor in several other Civil Judgments issued on that date.  On a positive note, Mr. Goodell had sufficient goods to cover his debts totaling $46.35, or $598.48 today, and did not have to serve any time in jail.

For further reading check out:

Women, money, and the law: nineteenth-century fiction, gender, and the courts, by Joyce Warren

For more information on the manuscript collections contact Special Collections at 202/661-6602 or email

Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal – Two Sides to the Trial: The Defense

“… I am fighting for a human life. The life of a hated enemy but nevertheless a life,” wrote John G. Brannon on November 25, 1947 in a letter to his brother Bernard.  John Brannon had arrived in Tokyo, May 17th, 1946, about five years after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He was an American attorney from Kansas City, Missouri, appointed by MacArthur to defend Class A Japanese war criminal Osami Nagano, Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff, in his trial before the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. 

The Law Library’s Special Collections has recently acquired over 150 letters written by John Brannon to his brother over a period of 3 years (1946-1949), along with numerous photographs, manuscripts and two 16mm films (John G. Brannon Papers).  It is a collection teeming with fervent American patriotism, Truman politics and personal reflections of a transitional time in world history.  In his letters, Brannon discusses and describes:  Japanese culture, his defense strategies, the Tribunal, the Defense team, mounting U.S. tension with Russia, and the stigma attached to American attorneys defending the enemy after the war in the Pacific.  His writing is a vibrant personal view of the inner workings of, and politics behind, an important historic and international trial.   

The George Yamaoka Collection is also part of the Law Library’s Special Collections holdings.  George Yamaoka, a graduate of Georgetown Law class of 1928, was also one of the select group of American attorneys appointed by General MacArthur in 1945 to help in the defense of those Japanese accused of war crimes.  His collection contains Tribunal proceeding transcripts and a multitude of defense documents and exhibits from both the Prosecution and the Defense, among other interesting items.  Despite the circumstances, the Defense’s zeal and passion toward “the preservation of international justice” is a testament to past, present and future lawyers. (Brannon Papers, November 14, 1947) The John G. Brannon Papers and the George Yamaoka Collection are well worth a look.  They are open for research and finding aids are available online.

Search Our Collections

For more information on the manuscript collections contact Special Collections at 202/661-6602, email or online at .