Rotunda in Washington Post: Baseball and the Bench

Congressional interest in baseball commissioners extends farther back than today's Bud Selig, according to a Washington Post article incorporating comments of Professor Ronald Rotunda.

A hue and cry arose in 1920, when, in the aftermath of the "Black Sox" scandal, a federal judge, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, became baseball commissioner while retaining his judgeship. An impeachment effort followed, and the American Bar Association censured Landis for what it considered "conduct unworthy of a judge." Landis stepped down from the federal bench to become the longest serving commissioner in baseball history.

It was the Landis case, said Professor Rotunda, that caused the ABA to adopt its first judicial code of ethics in 1924, holding that judges should not do anything that would interfere with their judicial duties.

Congress Was Hard on First Commissioner, The Washington Post, January 10, 2008. By Frederic J. Frommer.

"Landis took the impeachment effort in stride. On the day Welty filed his charges, Landis said, 'I'm not worrying about this thing. I'm no more interested in this than I am in the appointment of a new bellhop in that hotel across the street.'

"Welty alleged that Landis was neglecting his official duties for another job. The attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer, had ruled that Landis violated no law by holding both positions.

"The owners paid Landis $50,000 a year, but reduced it by $7,500, his salary as a judge. They were looking for an iron-fisted ruler to clean up the sport following the scandal in which eight Chicago White Sox players were indicted for throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. The players, including the famed 'Shoeless Joe Jackson,' were acquitted in court. Landis still banned them for life."

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