In Whitman's Hand

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Title: W. A. Field to Cornelius Cole, 28 June 1870

Date: June 28, 1870

Whitman Archive ID: nar.01396

Source: National Archives and Records Administration. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kevin McMullen, John Schwaninger, and Vanessa Steinroetter

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June 28, 1870.

Hon. Cornelius Cole,

U. S. Senator.


I have received your letter of to-day, with its enclosures calling special attention to the suggestions of L. D. Latimer, Esq. U. S. Attorney for California, in regard to the fees and emoluments of his office.

The letters of Mr. Latimer, Delos Lake, Judges Sawyer and Hoffman, and Frank M. Pixley, Esq. relating to this subject, have been sent to the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, that they may take such action as seems best to them in reference to the fees and emoluments of U. S. Attorneys. The Attorney General can do nothing except to appoint Assistant U. S. Attorneys, when the U. S. Attorneys, by devoting their whole time to the office, are unable to perform the duties of it. This the Attorney General can do under the Act of April 10, 1869. (16 Stat. p. 46.) But by a reference to Section 2, of the Act of August 2, 1861, (12 Stat. 285,) which the first-named Act revives, these assistants, it will be seen, must be attorneys and counsellors at law, and it is plain are intended to act as assistant counsel, and not as clerks. The Attorney General has no right under the statute to allow a clerk to a District Attorney. The 3d section of the Act of February 26, 1853 (10 Stat. 165,) allows a District Attorney, for his own personal compensation, to retain out of the fees and emoluments of his office, over and above his necessary office expenses, the necessary clerk-hire included, a sum not exceeding six thousand dollars a year, which plainly means that the District Attorney is to pay out of the fees and emoluments of his office all necessary expenses and clerk-hire of his office.

The truth is, that although the maximum of Six thousand dollars is large enough, particularly while, in addition to this, District Attorneys are allowed to retain the two per cent. allowed them by the 11th section of the Act of Marsh 3, 1863, (12 Stat. 741,) and the compensation paid by the Heads of Departments for defending officers of the United States, yet only a small number of District Attorneys ever reach the maximum, or receive any considerable amounts from these other services. The fees prescribed by the Fee bill of Feb. 26, 1853, (10 Stat. 161,) are in many cases entirely inadequate,—and, besides, I think that some changes in the plan of that bill are needed,—but these are matters entirely for Congress.

There is a common complaint on the part of the majority of District Attorneys that, under the law, they are inadequately paid; but the Attorney General has no power to remedy this.

The papers enclosed in your letters are respectfully returned to you, that you may make such use of them for purposes of legislation as seems to you best. I do not wish to express any opinion whether the Fee-bill for California should be double the usual rates, or whether there should not be one uniform fee-bill for the whole country. I certainly think that the general fee-bill should be changed, and that the fees and emoluments of District Attorneys, while retaining the present maximum, should be increased.

Very respectfully,

your obd't serv't,

W. A. Field,

Act'g Attorney Gen'l.

Question of fees, amendments &c. of U. S. Attorneys


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