For The People: Sixty Years of Fighting for Law & Order

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9780963046604: For The People: Sixty Years of Fighting for Law & Order

Personal memoir and history of the District Attorney's Office of Alameda County, California. The most important cases in that office's history are recounted by the man who served in it for 60 years. Includes a unique review of the early law enforcement career Chief Justice Earl Warren, as well as many nationally famous cases, including the Black Panthers, Berkeley's Free Speech Movement and the People's Park riots.

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From the Back Cover:

District Attorney J. Frank Coakley was a legendary figure in American law enforcement for 60 years. Meticulous and dogged in building a case, forceful and clever in the courtroom, he seldom lost.

Now, in this memoir he captures the clear-eyed view of "simple justice" to which he dedicated his long professional life. Here, in over 60 cases, read how Frank Coakley and his staff won conviction after conviction in cases ranging from police thugs to cop-killers, from smut peddlers to student radicals, from bunco artists to bank robbers, from thieving preachers to corrupt government officials.

Also included are the murderous rampages of Black Panther leader Huey Newton, the Berkeley demonstrations and riots of the 1960's, and the Chowchilla school bus kidnapping that riveted the nation.

About the Author:

James Francis Coakley was born and raised in Oakland, California and educated at St. Mary's College, Stanford University, and Boalt Hall law school of the University of California at Berkeley. In later years he taught law at both Boalt Hall and St. Mary's.

Coakley joined the Alameda County prosecutor's staff on February 21, 1923, as a deputy district attorney, following his graduation from Boalt Hall. He served under three predecessors: Ezra Decoto, Earl Warren and Ralph Hoyt. Under Warren, Coakley served as assistant head of the Criminal Division. Later, under Hoyt, he served as chief assistant. Having served in the U.S. Navy during World War I, participating in the expedition to Vladivostok, Coakley was recalled to active duty during World War II as a Commander in the U.S. Navy's Judge Advocate General service, serving as chief prosecutor for court martial cases in the 12th Naval District. Following the war, Coakley briefly entered private practice with his brother, Thomas, who later became a Superior Court judge in Mariposa County. That interlude was short-lived, as Ralph Hoyt soon decided to move on to the bench himself. Coakley was called to take over for Hoyt immediately. Although Coakley had discovered private practice to be more lucrative, he knew his heart was with the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, and that was where he belonged.

During his tenure as district attorney, he maintained his record as a great trial lawyer, conducted the civil business of the county with efficiency and imagination, contributed significantly to the legal growth of the state of California as chairman of the Law and Legislative Committees of both the District Attorneys Association and the Peace Officers Association, and built his office into one recognized publicly by the American Bar Association as the nation's finest.

Active in civic as well as public life, Coakley served as chairman of the St. Mary's College Board of Regents and was an active member of the local council of the Boy Scouts of America. He was awarded the International Civic Award of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1958 and in 1965 was honored as "Outstanding Prosecutor in the United States" by the National District Attorneys Association, a group he was instrumental in founding in 1950, and which he served as its first president. Following his retirement, the NDAA presented him with its "Furtherance of Justice Award". In giving him that award, the NDAA said, "To this man the words, `Furtherance of Justice' became the foundation on which he built his life." In the years that followed, he served as then-Governor Ronald Reagan's appointee to the California Commission on Interstate Cooperation, and the Commission on Uniform State Laws, and as the director of curriculum and president of the Board of Regents of the National College of District Attorneys, which he also helped found.

In 1952, on his way to the Republican National Convention as a candidate for President of the United States, then-Governor Warren detoured to the annual convention of the California District Attorneys Association at Santa Cruz. In addressing this convention, Governor Warren said: "Frank (Coakley) came to the District Attorney's Office in Alameda County in 1923. I was a deputy myself at that time in the office and for fifteen years he and I had a deep association that was most pleasant to me throughout. I want to say to you that I believe in the last quarter of a century there is no man in this state who has contributed more to good law enforcement than has Frank Coakley."

Upon his retirement in 1969, the Oakland Tribune said: "Coakley, who has served longer in his post than any other man--an unprecedented six terms--is regarded nation-wide as the dean of American district attorneys." Alameda County Supervisor Emanuel Razeto summed up the sentiments of his fellow supervisors: "The highest compliment that can be paid to you, Frank, is that you kept this county clean."

According to Frank Coakley's successor, Lowell Jensen (who later became head of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney General's Office and then Deputy U.S. Attorney General under another Coakley-trained prosecutor, Edwin Meese III:

"The District Attorney's Office is really the pivotal office in the whole criminal justice process. . . . The district attorney is a discretionary executive officer who makes the decision as to what offenses are prosecuted and how they are disposed of. The standard of law enforcement in the county is to a great extent dependent upon what the district attorney does. Under Frank Coakley . . . there was a standard of law enforcement which was as tough as you could get. As far as Coakley was concerned, you don't have consumer fraud rings, you don't have organized crime and you don't have corruption in governmental functions. He viewed the role of district attorney as one that was absolutely incorruptible and fearless."

Frank Coakley embodied integrity, dedication, and determination in public service. He stood personally for the highest degree of respect for law and the pursuit of justice. Office policy was that no one should be charged unless the evidence supported a guilty verdict; if, during a trial, Coakley came to believe the defendant innocent, he would seek his vindication just as earnestly as he would have sought his conviction had he believed him guilty. The objective was not a conviction, but rather justice. Throughout his life, J. Frank Coakley stood as a tough and aggressive advocate for justice. . . For the People. He stood before the bar of final judgment on January 16, 1983.

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