Martin T. Manton – 1939

By | November 12, 2016

“Defraud the United States of its right to have its legal functions exercised free from unlawful impairment”


Manton, right, with his attorney, James M. Noonan


In 1939 Martin Thomas Manton was the senior judge of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a position second only to that held by the members of the US Supreme Court. He had been appointed to the bench 21 years earlier, and had earned more than a million dollars from his law practice and real estate investments prior to his nomination by President Woodrow Wilson on 15 August 1916. Large, baldish and worldly, Manton was born on 2 August 1880 in New York. He lost much of his fortune in the Wall Street crash of 1929 and many believe that it was this that caused the Catholic judge to become crooked.

On 28 January 1939 the Department of Justice announced that it was investigating Manton for financial misdemeanours. District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey claimed that the judge had received more than $400,000 from litigants and provided details of six specific cases to US House Judiciary Committee. Manton told the press that he would issue a statement explaining his financial situation. The statement, released the next day, was a resignation letter. In April 1939, Manton was indicted for conspiring to influence, obstruct and impede justice and to “defraud the United States of its right to have its legal functions exercised free from unlawful impairment”. Tried in May and June 1939 Manton was found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct the administration of justice and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. He appealed but the sentence was upheld on 4 December 1939 before a specially constituted federal court.


New York City, USA




Manton served one year and seven months of his sentence before his release. He died at Fayetteville, Onondaga County, New York, on 18 November 1946. He was buried in the Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Fayetteville.

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