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125 Years Ago April 1879: Jennie Smith and an accomplice, Covert Bennett, were standing trial in Hudson County for the murder of Smith’s husband when one of the jurors fell ill. The defense proposed empanelling a substitute but instead the judge held a venire de novo. The defense raised double jeopardy, insisting the accused were being tried twice for the same crime. The objection failed and they were convicted, though it was reversed on appeal due to an erroneous jury charge. 100 Years Ago March 1904: It took brakeman Ellis Williams 21 years to recover for injuries sustained when he was struck by a bridge while standing upon a Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad box car. He sued in 1882 and won a verdict of $4,900 but was nonsuited when an appellate court ruled that he had ridden the train enough to know that the bridge was not high enough to permit him to pass under while standing erect. Years of appeals, reversals and retrials followed. The sixth and final trial produced a $4,500 verdict. 75 Years Ago April 1929: A bill in the Legislature proposed that county clerks, registers and surrogates start photocopying deeds, mortgages and other papers and forsake the laborious process of copying by hand or by typewriter. The Director of Public Records objected, “for the reason that no photostat prints have proven to be durable.” 50 Years Ago April 1, 1954: Little Silver lawyer Harry Green told of his personal experience with McCarthyism. His client, a radar operator at Fort Monmouth, was suspended on unsubstantiated charges of being a communist sympathizer. He was reinstated, but Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Permanent Committee on Investigations nevertheless subpoenaed the man and documents relating to the incident, on pain of indictment for contempt. The panel ignored Green’s protest that disclosure would breach security rules the man was sworn to obey. 25 Years Ago March 29, 1979: A national conference of legal ethics experts urged that enforcement of attorney ethical codes be turned over to a “non-bar-affiliated agency” that would include lay members. Existing mechanisms, they said, tended to create the impression that “lawyers care more about protecting their own interests than those of their clients.” A year earlier, New Jersey had established the Disciplinary Review Board, with three lay members.

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