Biography and History

Harold Medina was a noted jurist, Princeton alumnus, and creator of a Bar preparation course. He was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 16, 1888, the son of Joaquin A. and Elizabeth M. Medina. He attended Princeton University, where he graduated in 1909 with highest honors in French. Medina continued to be an engaged alumnus for the rest of his life; he was Princeton's oldest living alumnus for many years.

Medina earned his law degree (LL.B.) from Columbia in 1912. After graduating Columbia, Medina was admitted to the New York bar in 1912 and was an associate with the firm Davies, Auerbach and Cornell from 1912-1918. He was a senior member of the firm Medina and Sherpick from 1918-1947, and taught law at Columbia from 1915-1940. Medina was appointed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1947, and served until 1951, at which time he was appointed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Source: From the finding aid for AC392

Biography and History

Harold Raymond Medina was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 16, 1888, the son of Joaquin A. and Elizabeth M. Medina. He attended Princeton University, where he graduated in 1909 with highest honors in French. Medina continued to be an engaged alumnus for the rest of his life; he was Princeton's oldest living alumnus for many years.

Medina earned his law degree (LL.B.) from Columbia in 1912, and was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Columbia, St. Johns, Dartmouth, Williams, Bates, Princeton, Northeastern, and many others.

After graduating Columbia, Medina was admitted to the New York bar in 1912 and was an associate with the firm Davies, Auerbach and Cornell from 1912-1918. He was a senior member of the firm Medina and Sherpick from 1918-1947, and taught law at Columbia from 1915-1940. Medina was appointed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1947, and served until 1951, at which time he was appointed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Beginning in 1912, and throughout the course of his career as a lawyer, Medina led a New York Bar preparation course. At its peak, there were 1,600 students in the course.

Medina first gained widespread public attention (culminating with his face on the cover of Time Magazine in October 1949), when from January through October of that year, he presided over United States v. Foster (known, on appeal, as United States v. Dennis), the trial of eleven Communist Party, USA leaders under the Smith Act.

A second spike of public attention came in 1952, when he presided over United States v. Morgan et al., more commonly known as the Investment Bankers Case. In this case, the antitrust division of the Department of Justice charged 17 of the biggest U.S. investment banking firms -- and the Investment Bankers' Association of America -- with conspiracy to monopolize the securities business. The complaint said that the defendants had managed the sales of nearly 69% of some $20 billion worth of securities issued by the syndicate method (several houses working together) in the last ten years. They did so, the Government charged, by eliminating competition among themselves and preventing the use of competitive bidding for new issues. However, the Justice Department failed to make a compelling case. Medina sharply criticized Justice Department attorneys for failing to be clear in their explanation of how the defendants violated the Sherman antitrust act, and in the end, ruled in favor of the investment banking firms.

Medina was well-known for his passion for books, particularly classical languages and literatures. He was instrumental in the founding of a public library in Westhampton, New York, where he lived.

Medina died in 1990 at the age of 102.

Medina began teaching at Columbia Law School in 1914, and remained there until 1940. Concurrently, he started a bar examination course one year after having graduated from Columbia. He maintained the course for twenty-nine years, and was responsible for helping a generation of New York lawyers prepare for the bar. The work of this "cram course" resulted in significant personal financial resources.

In February 1948 the United States Attorney General moved against the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) with the Smith Act, leading to a nine-month trial at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The CPUSA took this opportunity to put the United States legal system on trial, spending the first five weeks challenging jury selection procedures, claiming systematic discrimination against marginalized groups, including working-class people. The defense argued that this being so, the CPUSA leaders could not therefore be judged by a jury of their peers. Judge Medina dismissed these concerns.

The trial was accompanied by a measure of theatrics not usually found in Medina's courtroom, ending in October 1949 with the conviction of all defendants. Judge Harold Medina sentenced them to prison and also jailed their lawyers (along with Dennis, who had acted as his own attorney) for contempt because of disruptive behavior.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld both the convictions and the contempt citations. The defendants were charged with violation of the Smith Act, a sedition statute that proscribed conspiring to teach and advocate the violent overthrow of the government and setting up an organization to do so. They had allegedly violated that law by reconstituting the CPUSA (which had dissolved briefly during World War II) in order to promote Marxism-Leninism. As was widely noted, CPUSA leaders and their defendants were not prosecuted for any active plan or violence against the United States; rather, according to the Smith Act and Judge Medina's opinion, their political beliefs were tantamount to violence.

Originally known as United States v. Foster, the case was restyled United States v. Dennis (for General Secretary Eugene Dennis) after Foster was severed prior to trial because of heart trouble.

This subseries documents the case United States v. Morgan (1952-1953), over which Judge Medina presided during his time at the Southern District of New York. During this case, the Justice Department of the United States brought anti-trust claims against seventeen Wall Street investment banking firms: Morgan Stanley and Company, Kidder Peabody, Goldman Sachs, White Weld and Company, Dillon Read and Company, Drexel and Company, First Boston Corporation, Smith Barney and Company, Kuhn, Loeb and Company, Lehman Brothers, Blyth and Company, Eastman Dillon and Company, Harriman Ripley, Stone and Webster Securities Corporation, Harris, Hall and Company 16. Glore, Forgan and Company, and Union Securities Corporation

Judge Medina eventually ruled in the defendants' favor with a 424-page opinion.

Source: From the finding aid for MC174

  • Harold R. Medina Papers regarding Service to Princeton University. 1942-1966 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC392

    Harold R. Medina was a well-known judge and active Princeton alumnus. These records document Judge Harold Medina's role as a trustee of Princeton University, a member of the Graduate Council, and a member of the advisory council for modern languages and literatures.

  • Harold R. Medina Papers regarding Service to Princeton University. 1942-1966 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC392

    Harold R. Medina was a well-known judge and active Princeton alumnus. These records document Judge Harold Medina's role as a trustee of Princeton University, a member of the Graduate Council, and a member of the advisory council for modern languages and literatures.

  • Harold R. Medina papers. 1905-1987 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC174

    Harold Raymond Medina (1888-1990) was a noted jurist, Princeton alumnus, and creator of a New York State Bar preparation course. This collection includes legal records, personal and professional correspondence, photographs, audio recordings, and teaching materials; in aggregate, they offer a substantial record of Medina's life and work.