Boston's Lower Criminal Courts, 1814-1850

Boston's Lower Criminal Courts, 1814-1850

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qBoston's antebellum period was a historical watershed in every way. The city's economy was growing dramatically, compulsory education was well underway, the Irish were coming, crime was soaring, and the lower criminal courts were expanding sharply.q qA resurgent bar association struggled to professionalize by shifting from the time-honored method of training lawyers via apprenticeships to requiring formal education in law schools. The Municipal Court redefined its mission by adding regulatory disputes to the docket and diverting minor cases into extra-legal channels. As it adopted a proactive stance, the court became a dispute resolution center, the prosecutor learned to manage caseflow closely and to set punishments via plea bargaining, and the court's docket grew tenfold by 1850. Minor regulatory disputes and minor vice were quietly transferred to the Police Court, and its cases more than doubled by 1850. All this took place between 1830 and 1850.q qCrime also took several interesting turns. Youthful criminals and wayward children roamed the streets with impunity during the 1830s, and by 1850 they accounted for the major portion of Boston's property losses. Prohibition was a divisive issue, and liquor laws and their violations proliferated. Expanding commerce brought many opportunities for fraud, and it too became a common charge. Public drunkenness and prostitution mounted, and though the much-maligned Irish aggravated many of these problems, they by no means caused Boston's first crime wave.q qAntebellum Boston witnessed the birth of the modern criminal court--a high-volume, multipurposed, criminal court using plea bargaining to dispose of the bulk of its cases. As Boston's courts moved to plea bargaining, the court's officers also became more professional, and its formal procedures grew more intricate. These contrary tendencies were unrelated in Boston.q qSome might draw from the rapid expansion of Boston's criminal justice system that the community was mounting a puritanical repression of vice and the dangerous classes, but it was not simply a matter of putting immorality down. It was a calling to account of all classes by means of a just legal system that assigned punishment according to guilt. Though the Irish were assailed on all sides, they were treated fairly in the city's legal institutions. Boston's lower criminal courts were a worthy example for the nation as a whole during the antebellum years.q--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights ReservedTo substantiate this inference, we must show that switched pleas were also rewarded with substantial benefits to the defendant. If pleading guilty or switching from a not guilty to a guilty plea did in fact represent a negotiated plea, these pleas should ... Charge bargaining was also common in the Municipal Court after 1840.

Title:Boston's Lower Criminal Courts, 1814-1850
Author:Theodore N. Ferdinand
Publisher:University of Delaware Press - 1992


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