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Amos T. Akerman to William W. Belknap, 9 November 1870

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November 9, 1870. Hon. W. W. Belknap, Secretary of War. Sir: I have considered the subject presented in your letter of the 1st instant, with the enclosure from Mr. Hillard, U. S. District Attorney for Massachusetts, and do not feel at liberty, as at present advised, to employ assistant counsel in the defence of the suit of Ely, vs. Dyer and Benton, in that District. There is no fund at the command of this Department to bear the expense of such employment. The District Attorney for Massachusetts and his regular assistant are well qualified for any professional work which the Government needs to be done there. There is nothing in Patent cases requiring peculiar qualifications. Any lawyer well trained in his profession, and as able as the gentlemen who officially represent the United States in that District, can do full justice to such a case. From the Act establishing the Department of Justice, it is plainly to be gathered that Congress intended to check the employment of special counsel on the part of the United States, and I feel bound to carry out the policy thus indicated, except in extraordinary cases, and then only when some peculiar circumstances exist to make the District Attorney an unsuitable representative of the Government. In this case, I am not advised that any such circumstances exist. Very respectfully, your obd't serv't, A. T. Akerman, Attorney General.
declining to authorize special counsel
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