The 1935 Philaelphia Magistrates' Scandal

Ellen C. Leichtman, St. John's University

In 1935, all the magistrates of the city of Philadelphia were investigated for corrupt practices and law violations. City reformers had been trying to change the lower court system for years an finally succeeded in bringing all lower court judges up on charges.

This paper will analyze the situation as a struggle between conflicting world views, those of machine politicians and those of reformers. It will begin with a short overview of the history of the magsitrate, and the court structure of Phialdelphia at that time, focusing on the magistrates' courts. It will then discuss the positio of magistrate, and his responsibilities, both stated and unstated, from the points of view of the machine politician and the reformer. Finally, it will analyze the cases and the results historically, with theoretical perspectives from Samuel P. Hays, Robert H. Weibe,and David P. Thelen.

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Updated 05/20/2006