Warren's Modus Operandi


Now, along that same line of thinking, when we went around enforcing the law during the early days of Earl Warren as district attorney, we had a wide-open county. Bootleggers, and Chinese lotteries, and gamblers and prostitutes, and everything operating in the city of Emeryville, and in the county as those crimes were legal in the city of Oakland and some of the other cities.

He thought that we should never sneak up on the blind side of anybody. He'd never take unfair advantage of anybody. He said that those operators of the bootlegging, gamblers, and other law violators, should be put on notice to quit their operations and that the open county and cities policies were over. This is another proof of his fairness. That is why he could go to the top, because he was honest and fair and not

taking advantage of those who felt they were operating with the consent of the law enforcement authorities. He ordered us to go through the county and tell the punch board operators, the bingo operators and even the charitable groups not to violate the law. Many candy stores and cigar stores had them, and bars had them, and lunch counters had punch boards, and churches had them, and bingo. Charitable bazaars had them. None were exempt.

We went around and we notified every owner and every operator that this was a violation of the laws, and that they could be arrested, they could be prosecuted and go to jail and pay a heavy fine. Mr. Warren told us to tell them that the district attorney said, "Now take them out, turn them back to whoever you got them from; we won't arrest you, we won't take you into custody, we won't seize the property or do anything now. We went around two or three times and notified them, just to prove that we were not taking unfair advantage of these operators. Well it got so they felt, "Well, the district attorney is just kidding us. They wouldn't dare to enforce these laws."

So he finally said, "Well the day has come, now, when you must go out and arrest everybody violating the law. We've notified them. They have had plenty of opportunity, plenty of chances."

Well, the same fairness was given and warnings issued before we took over the gambling ships in Southern California. He gave them five days' notice to voluntarily abate those places and bring their ships in. If they couldn't bring them in because they didn't have the money to pay the towing fees, he told them the state would pay to tow them in, and they could try out the legal aspects in court, and if they lost, they lost the property. If they won the suit, the state would tow the boats out there again and they could go ahead and operate.

This is what he did. He notified them. Then he got injunctions out against them. Well, I've known of many cases where no notices were ever given before action was taken.

Well, another incident happened one time, and Warren Olney, I'm sure, can verify this. We were much interested in the operation of the bookmakers. They had leased wires all through the United States, and they'd have peek houses at the race track,

and a fellow could sit in the peek house and over a microphone in front of him and a large telescope view all the races at the track and give all the information through the wire service to all the pool rooms. This was done by passing the information to a distribution center who relayed it to the phone outlets. They would put the information over a telephone and it would go to certain places in a city, county or state headquarters in these places. They had lease-lines all over the United States.

This would be boomed into other `phones and microphones, and enlarged and it'd be transmitted to all the bookies or pool rooms. As the horse was running, this fellow would be telling the listeners what the actions of the horses and betting odds were like "at the quarter so-and-so is running at first, so-and-so is coming up on the inside." You could go to a pool room, or one of these places where the betting was, and you could visualize or see mentally everything going on. They didn't have television, but you could visualize what was happening. You put your money up with a bookmaker, see?

Well, when it come time to knock these over, they were told to stop their operations. If not we would shut all the wire services off in the state and we were going to sue the telephone company for furnishing service for an illegal operation.

During this period of time, Warren Olney in his search of the boundary lines between California and the states and Mexico-- Instead of running through the middle of Lake Tahoe, like a lot of people thought, some of these old surveys showed that a lot of these places over in Nevada were in California. As a matter of fact, in the Arizona case, where the state was suing the telephone company, the Colorado River shifts down there, and Yuma, Arizona--at one time part of it's in California, at another time it's in Arizona.

So when we found that the telephone company was operating in California, at this period of time, this was brought to the telephone company's attention by Warren Olney and those that were working on it from the legal point of view. Sam Wright, who was the legal representative for the telephone company, agreed to these findings: that telepone company was an associate company and had to discontinue their phone service, or they would have been indicted. Now that was because of this same thing, the old surveys.


When we went to Attorney General Warren and told him--I remember sitting there--Warren Olney and I were very excited. We were going to close all these joints over in Nevada, Arizona and other places. Not all of them, but the ones that we could prove were connected and in California. A place over there called Cal-Neva, there's a line right down through the center that says California-Nevada; the gambling was over on the Nevada side of the line, over there it's California.

So, what did he do? Attorney General Warren said, "Well, listen! Haven't you fellas got more to do than to think up such ideas. Where's your thinking? What's the matter with you? Is there something wrong with you? You people talk about coordinating this work of law enforcement--you can't even coordinate yourselves. What's wrong with you?"

We looked kinda flabbergasted. He says, "Everybody over there operating think they're operating legally. They believe they're operating legally. Now what about all of the suits that have been filed in Nevada, judgements given and cases settled, and you claim it's California. What about all of the litigation? And what about the Supreme Court? What are they gonna do? Where are we gonna be? How many cases are gonna have to be retried? All the wills that have been settled, all the probate matters, how are you gonna prove this? Why," he said, "this is the most ridiculous thing! Why don't you fellas go out and think up something better than that." Along that line. He didn't use those exact words, but it was so obvious, to him.

Now he didn't only do that in these cases. In many other cases where he went out, he gave people advance notice before action was taken. In all these cases he felt that the operators thought they were operating legally. He told them what would happen if they didn't quit their illegal operations. He didn't lie to them. He did what he told them he was going to do.


Did he discuss these things with the people in the office? Did you have some staff meetings about them?


Well, coming to this now. This office was divided into several sections. We had what was known as the criminal and the civil divisions, and then we had the inspectors and the investigators. In the criminal department he held office meetings on a certain day, afternoon or on a certain morning.


He kept right on top of what was going on. He was a terrific administrator. He kept on top and he knew every case that was going on. He did this in all departments. He did it with the legal staff who handled the board of education, because he was the legal adviser to the board of education and the board of supervisors.

All these things were discussed, and it was brought out what action should be taken. You better lay it on the line, and you caught hell if you were asleep on the job. Any cases that were hanging fire, that were put over for some reason, or if somebody wasn't on the job--boy! You got it. It never happened again.


Did he allow debate about these things? That is, could you disagree with him about the line to take?


Oh sure. You could disagree with him. I don't think he'd ever admit that he was wrong! I don't ever remember him doing that, but he would listen to you. He would recognize your thinking, and reasoning and credit what you said.

One time we had a new auto laundry start up out in north Oakland by the Technical High School, Pacific-Gillespie system, and we had our cars assigned to us. They told us that if we'd bring our cars in to get them washed, why it wouldn't cost us anything. When I went to Warren to tell him about this thing, he said, "Oscar, do you ever get anything for nothing?" I said, "Well, it doesn't cost us anything." He said, "Well, I didn't ask you-- Did you ever get anything for nothing?" And I said, "Well, no." Mr. Warren said, "You never know some day we may have to try one of these people and we may find ourselves making enemies and be charged with the complaint of injuring some of our friends. He added, "If you or the county garage can't wash the car, let it go dirty, but not let us be in the position of taking things."