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Darrow - The Labour Lawyer

Clarence Darrow - Picture courtesy Wikipedia
Clarence Darrow's love affair as labour lawyer began with Deb's  case. This post of legalTrek series is about this case. 


Clarence Darrow was born in a small village in Ohio. He started practise in Ohio but shifted to Chicago, with his wife and son. This was on the advise of his brother, who promised to help him till he earned sufficiently to support himself. 

In Chicago, Darrow did not have work. He joined Henry George Club to get contacts. This also gave him opportunity to speak for the Democratic party. He was great speaker and soon made a name for himself. He worked in the city law department for two years then took a position as a lawyer of North-Western Railway Company and became financially sound but later resigned to defend Eugene Debs and others of the American Railway Union, who had defied a court order and gone on strike. They were being tried for contempt. 

Darrow took a decision to defend them. He was advised not to behave like Don Quixote; he was told that like the windmills,  the high powered locomotive would be unaffected; and in case he continued with the Railways, he could be put on the top, made governor or senator, or be in the cabinet; he could get fame for asking. 

But Darrow was neither interested nor was asking for these things. He always maintained that People had a right to better themselves. He thought,  he was at the wrong place and took step to pitch in his help for them. This is how, his career as a labour lawyer began. He saved Debs in one but could not save him in the other. 

The Supreme Court also upheld the contempt conviction. This was the time that US Supreme Court was property oriented. However, through out his life, Darrow fought for the rights of the labour and tried to get them fair living standards and Justice.  

Among the other famous cases, Darrow defended the McNamara brothers, who were charged with dynamiting the Los Angeles Times building on October 1, 1910. The bomb had detonated prematurely, when the Times building was still occupied by employees. The explosion did not seriously damaged the building but 20 people were killed. Darrow saved McNamara brothers from being executed.

Darrow successfully defended American African Dr. Ossian Sweet, we will talk about this case in the next post.  

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