Speeches delivered by Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas, discussing certain phases of contemplated legislation Page: 37 of 61
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officer in Texas on whom it can be proven that he wilfully and
corruptly fails and refuses to enforce the laws of the State.
The Attorney General of the State should be authorized to go into
the open court room, before judge and jury, and if he could prove to
twelve men in the jury box that an officer had wilfully and corruptly
failed and refused to enforce the law, then in that event said defaulting
officer should be ousted by order of the court. In order that the
State and the defendant may each get a fair trial, the Attorney General,
if he so desired, should have the authority to institute ouster proceedings
in a county other than the residence of the officer to be tried.
Similar venue proceedings can now be instituted in criminal assault
cases, in conspiracy, in pandering, in misapplication of public funds,
in violation of anti-trust laws, in abduction, in kidnaping, in violation
of the highway law and in several other offenses against the laws
of Texas. There is no use to try him in his own county. The very
fact that a county has an officer of that kind is strongly suggestive that
the State would not get a fair trial in an effort to enforce the law.
Try him where both the State and the defendant can have a fair and
impartial trial. If you try him in his own county, where all his
friends, relations, supporters, and henchmen live, he can easily get
one juror out of the twelve who will hang the jury and thereby defeat
the ends of justice. A bill thus providing for the removal of officers
is not needed in so many counties, but in some counties it is badly
needed. It will not hurt the good officers. The bad, dishonest officers
are not entitled to be protected in their official misconduct.
That there is necessity for such a law cannot be questioned by anyone
who has taken time to investigate. This is no indictment against
all the officers of Texas, but it can be truthfully stated that there
are officers in certain localities who openly and arrogantly, wilfully
and corruptly, fail and refuse to uphold and enforce the law. They
protect the criminal and neglect the public. Instead of enforcing the
law, they stand in the way of the law. This statement is made after
investigation and with a full understanding of its meaning.
STATE SOVEREIGNTY IN THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE LAW.
Argument has been made by some people that the officers and the
people of the respective counties are the judges as to how the laws
should be enforced in their respective counties; that the enforcement
of the laws in these counties is not a matter in which the State should
interfere; and that for the State to do so is a violation of the fundamental
principles of local self-government. There is no such thing
as local self-government in regard to violations of the law. Our government
was not instituted to favor criminals, but to protect the lawabiding.
Every crime that is committed is a crime against the State.
The State enacts laws, not the counties. The State is the sovereign
government. Counties are but political subdivisions of the State, made
by the State for the convenience of the State in the administration
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Neff, Pat M. Speeches delivered by Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas, discussing certain phases of contemplated legislation, book, 1923; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth5835/m1/37/: accessed March 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .