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From 1878 until 1892 the number published each year averaged a little less than 300; during the last named year 271 opinions were filed.
The number has increased from that date until in 1902 548 cases were announced; in 1903, 452 and in 1904 535, and 1905 527. It is sometimes stated that too many appeals go from the Appellate Court. The records of the two Appel. late Courts in Cook county show that from January 1st, 1905, to January 1st, 1906, about 600 cases were decided, of which 150 were taken by appeal or writs of error to the Supreme Court,that is about one-fourth of the number. Many lawyers and judges believe that the limitation upon appeal from the Appellate Court ought to be increased.
What is true of the number of decisions in this State seems to be practically true of many of our large States. The New York Court of Appeals in 1903 decided 804 cases, writing opinions in 510, and deciding 294 more in which opinions were not written; the Michigan Supreme Court during the same year wrote 464 opinions; Iowa, 381 decisions (in 1904 the Iowa Court handed down 598 decisions); Ohio, 1903, announced 473 opinions, of which 108 were written and 365 had no written opinions; Pennsylvania, 485; Wisconsin, 364; Indiana, 205.
We are brought face to face with the question, how are we going to dispose of this great mass of work, and ought the Supreme Court to write opinions in every case which they decide? Ought the opinions to be shorter? Shall we limit to a greater extent the right of appeal? Shall we divide the Supreme Court into branches?
Criticism has been made that under present methods of work we get very largely one man opinions in the Supreme Court of Illinois. Does this necessarily follow because certain lawyers charge it! The lawyers are prone to find fault, to disagree; that is their business. We have striking examples of this fact on all sides. A few years since in Chicago a new method of assigning cases in the Circuit and Superior Courts was adopted. There was a strong difference of opinion as to
the advisability of doing it at first. A year ago the Superior Court went back to the old single calendar system; there has been a strong agitation ever since to have the Circuit Court do the same thing. There is a marked divergence of views on the question. Indeed it is very difficult to take up any question in reference to methods of practice where you will not find strong partisans among lawyers for or against any given question.
I am going to call your attention very briefly and hurriedly to a few facts. The Judges of our Supreme Court, I am safe in saying, believe they have adopted as good a method as can be found to accomplish the best results in their work; they have been studying over it for years. The plan now is, not the one that has always been followed; they have changed gradually as they found from experience that a change has been made necessary. Is it possible for every member of the Supreme Court to exainine with care the facts and the law in more than 500 cases in one year, even though he does not have to write any opinions ? But when every member of the Court must write from 75 to 100 opinions, how can any judge examine understandingly the facts as well as the law in all the cases ? The members of the Supreme Court bench who have served there for years believe that the plan now followed brings the best results possible, and that it does not result in one man opinions any more than do the methods adopted by the Supreme Courts of other States. It is insisted in favor of the present plan that much more expedition and better results can be brought about by the judges doing their conference work at set times,—not writing any opinions at such times, and then doing their work of writing opinions when they are alone, uninterrupted by conference, that a man cannot do good work in writing opinions if he is interrupted continually, no matter what the cause. Isn't there some basis for this contention ? I know there are some of you who think you do not get the best results. You remember the story of a young man, who was being examined for admission to the bar, and when he was asked what is the law, he replied,
“The law is the Supreme Court.' When asked, what is the Supreme Court? answered, “The Court of Errors,” and again, how is the lower Court reversed ? replied, “On error by the Supreme Court.” (Laughter.) While this may be your idea of the Supreme Court you are always willing to go there if you can.. Lawyers are prone to appeal every case possible. I remember reading a few years ago a speech by General Porter at a banquet (the ladies here present will pardon the application of this story) in which he said, “Woman, the conundrum of the 19th century; if we cannot guess them we will never give them up." (Laughter.) Isn't that the way you lawyers feel about the Supreme Court?
What should be the chief aim of the Courts ? They are not created simply for the purpose of dispatching business. They must also enforce justice. Isn't it possible that there may be such a delay in the trial of a law-suit that in the end it will amount to an absolute denial of justice. Roger Sherman, who bears the unique distinction of being the only man who signed all four of the great state papers of our early Colonial history,the Association of '74, the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, was asked when he was a young lawyer in Connecticut by a neighbor, “ 'Squire Sherman, are most law-suits settled right or wrong?" His reply was, “That's not the point, they are settled.” One of our Courts of last resort has stated : “Every law-suit looks to two results; to end the controversy and to end it justly, and in the administration of human government, the first is almost as important as the last." Justice Sharswood (you are familiar with his Blackstone's Commentaries), after serving years upon the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, said at a banquet given him when retiring, that he considered the expedition of business in the Courts so that there would be no absolute denial of justice by delay, oftentimes the higher aim to be sought rather than mere abstract justice in each
It is of vital importance that the great body of decisions of this Court shall be so manifestly just that they will command respect; otherwise the Courts are necessarily brought into disrepute. With the multiplicity of cases that are continually presented to the Courts it is unavoidable that on some technical points the decisions of any Court will not be in entire accord. One of my associates on the Supreme bench recently said to me that the great body of law in this State is correct. It is uudoubtedly true that there may be some technical differences. It has always been found unsafe to hold that a rule of law laid down in one case must necessarily be applied to the facts in another case. It is an old maxim that this Bar Association has heard Judge Tuley state that “out of the facts arises the law." In order to be decisive on any question or binding as an authority the statement of law must have been needful to the decision of the very question under discussion. A very prominent attorney recently stated in answering the criticism that the opinions of the Courts did not agree, that the men who most sharply criticised the Courts for mistakes of this kind are hypocritical. Lincoln once said that he knew a judge who was so careful of his appearance in public that he would not blow his nose on the street, but would quash an indictment if an “i” was not dotted or a “t” crossed. There are those who believe that Shakespeare's reasoning in the Merchant of Venice might have been announced by Lincoln's Judge. You will all recall the scene when Bassanio said to Portia, “Wrest once the law to your authority; to do a great right do a little wrong, and curb this cruel devil of his will.'' And then the answer, “It must not be, there is no power in Venice that can alter a decree established. "Twill be recorded for a precedent and many an error by the same example will rush into the state. It cannot be." Our Courts are not prone to foilow the mistakes in former decisions. You will not find many decisions that are decided purely on technicalities and against justice. Chief Justice Bleckley, of Georgia, said in a decision not many years ago, “The only treat
ment of a great and glaring error affecting the current and administration of justice is to correct it. When an error of this magnitude and which moves in so wide an orbit competes with truth in the struggle for existence the maxim for the Supreme Court, supreme in the majesty of duty as well as in the majesty of power, is not stare decisis but fiat justitia ruat coelum."
No other Court in the world has so great and overshadowing jurisdiction as the Supreme Court of the United States; in quite large measure the Supreme Court of every State in this country has to meet and decide similar questions to those that are passed upon by the United States Supreme Court. other country outside of the United States can a court declare the law unconstitutional. A written constitution would be of little effect unless there was some authority other than the lawmaking body itself to decide as to conflicts between the constitution and the statute. The Courts of this country, in the judgment of most students of the question, are best qualified to settle such disputed points; necessarily they have vast power, involving the dearest rights and interests of the people. The public generally, and the lawyers especially, have a right to expect that the Supreme Court will strive to reach substantial justice in the conduct of its business. You lawyers may think this is not being done. If it is not you can change the condition if you will. In Lincoln's debate with Douglas in 1858, in discussing the effect of the Dred Scott decision and its binding force, Lincoln said at Ottawa: “In this and like communities public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes and pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible and impossible to be executed.”' What was said of the Dred Scott decision has proven true more than once in the history of the United States. During President Jackson's administration the Supreme Court of the United