Edward C. Eicher
Edward Clayton Eicher (December 16, 1878 - November 29, 1944) was a three-term congressman, federal securities regulator, and federal district court judge during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was the presiding judge of the Great Sedition Trial of 1944. He died suddenly on November 29, 1944. Charges were eventually dropped against the defendants.
Eicher was born near the unincorporated town of Noble, Iowa in Washington County, Iowa. His father Benjamin Eicher, was a Mennonite bishop. His older brother, H.M. Eicher, was an assistant district attorney in the administration of President Grover Cleveland.
Edward Eicher attended public schools, Washington Academy (in Washington, Iowa), and Morgan Park Academy (in Morgan Park, Chicago). In 1904 he graduated from the University of Chicago. He then studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1906 and briefly commenced practice in Washington, Iowa. He soon returned to the University of Chicago to serve as its assistant registrar until 1909, when he returned to Iowa (to Burlington). There, Eicher served as an assistant attorney for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad until 1918. Returning again to Washington, Iowa, in 1918, he resumed private practice as a partner in Livingston and Eicher.
He had withdrawn from the 1938 race for the Democratic nomination for his own seat. When his congressional career ended, Time Magazine described him as "a wheelhorse in a pasture of mavericks," explaining that "he worked on the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, defended the Court Plan, was the most ardent New Dealer among the Monopoly Investigation Committee's Congressmen."
The Securities and Exchange Commission
As his final Congressional term ended, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He was a member of the SEC from 1938-1942, serving as its chairman between 1941 and 1942.
The Federal bench
New Dealers inside the Roosevelt Administration supported Eicher's wish to be chosen to fill one of two new seats the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, but Iowa Senator Guy M. Gillette, who resented Eicher and Roosevelt for their unsuccessful efforts to purge him from Congress in 1938, stood in the way. Instead, no Iowan received either judgeship. Eicher was eventually nominated on December 30, 1941, and confirmed on January 20, 1942, as a federal trial court judge in Washington D.C. Eicher filled a vacancy vacated by Alfred A. Wheat. The official title of his position was "Chief Justice of the District of the District of Columbia."
He died in Alexandria, Virginia at age 65. At the time of his death, Eicher had presided for over seven months over a the "Great Sedition Trial," a mass trial of dozens of suspected Axis conspirators and sympathizers. Time Magazine characterized the trial as "biggest and noisiest sedition trial in U.S. history," and reported that "no one in Washington doubted that a ludicrously undignified trial had hastened the death of a scrupulously dignified judge." Justice Eicher's death caused a mistrial. On November 22, 1946, Justice Bolitha Laws dismissed the charges against the defendants and called the case "a travesty on justice."
- "H.M. Eicher, 61, dies suddenly," Waterloo Daily Courier, 1919-07-29, at 3.
- Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: Edward C. Eicher, accessed 2008-06-06.
- "Gaffney Nominated to Run for Congress," Muscatine Journal, 1938-07-21, at 1.
- "Liberal Wheelhorse,' Time Magazine, 1938-12-12.
- "Eicher for Wearin," Waterloo Daily Courier, 1938-05-28, at 1.
- "SEC seat warming," Time Magazine, 1941-04-21.
- “History of the Eighth Circuit: a Bicentennial Project," 58-61 (Judicial Conference of the United States Bicentennial Committee 1976).
- "Storm at SEC, Time Magazine, 1942-01-26.
- Federal Judicial History -Federal Courts of the District of Columbia.
- "Trial's End," Time Magazine, 1944-12-11.
- The Sedition Case, page 122