Page images
[blocks in formation]

tially be left to a majority of the judges of the court, subect to review and revision by the Supreme Court. In short, the power delegated to the General Assembly it, in turn, has assumed to delegate to this court. It will be interesting to see whether this delegation of delegated power is sustained. It is to be hoped that we can have as many different kinds of practice in this county as possible, and as widely divergent! The excuse for this and other practice innovations is openly stated to be that Illinois will be given an object lesson in judicial procedure so that it will very shortly do away with its antiquated practice. And so enticing is the new procedure to become that suitors will desert our local courts, allow them to catch up in their work and give relief to the litigants of the county who have real and not petty controversies! This was avowed as the incidental feature of the law, but it has long since lost that character and is now advocated as the main purpose. It amounts to this: that an experiment on a large scale is to be tried for the benefit of the major litigants at the expense in money and liberty of the minor.

A great many of our foreign-born citizens are now accustomed to be represented in the justice courts by non-professional friends who are more familiar with our language and institutions than they are, and at all events very much more familiar with the proceedings in the justice court. They act in most cases without any reward. These courts have also been a school for the law students. The privileges of these two classes in the matter of practice before these courts ought to be preserved, but in the new law they are practically abolished. In the first place the tribunal is a court of record and this makes it possible for any judge of the court to refuse to recognize anyone practicing therein except the litigant or a lawyer admitted to practice before the Supreme Court. Again, one provision of the law is that the court may permit interrogatories to be filed which must be answered by the defendant under oath ; another permits the examination of the defendant under


vath before trial; another provides that a bill of particulars must be filed; and still another sweeps away all the accumulated statutes with reference to practice before Justices of the Peace which are in general fairly well understood now by the mass of the people and provides that the practice of the Circuit Court shall prevail in this new tribunal, except as otherwise provided in the Act, but the Act does do away with written pleadings in a large number of cases. Of course the people generally know nothing of the practice in the Circuit Court and a litigant will not feel that he can afford to take any chances. No matter how small the case, litigants are likely to believe that they must employ a lawyer. In many cases a poor litigant, knowing that his case is to be tried to make a record for a reviewing court, will be obliged to employ a lawyer to be sure of sustaining his judgment. And a lawyer will be expected to charge undoubtedly in accordance with the dignity of the court. These provisions are rather discouraging to litigants. It would seem that the court is a contrivance for the benefit of the legal profession, but it is nothing to be rejoiced at. Our profession cannot be exalted even through the medium of a dignified court by hardships imposed upon the man with the dinner pail and the woman with the needle.

A further serious objection to this court is that it creates another political machine. The fundamental idea put forth by the originators of the Constitutional Amendment was to do away with so many governing bodies, and their very first, and indeed their only act under the amendment, has been to create another. There is no Civil Service Reform in the new court. It is another body to be guarded and watched by the independent voter and the unselfish citizen; a body with its power concentrated in one individual, namely, the Chief Justice or Emperor of the Court. He has the general superintendence of the business of the court. He assigns the judges to their duties, condemns his enemies to sit in the police courts

[blocks in formation]

or in one of the four outlying districts, and the judges must obey; he is enjoined not to assign the judges to hear the major causes unless the minor business is promptly disposed of, but he is the judge of this matter; he controls the calendars and the disposition thereof. He is even given the power of rejecting jurors from the panel called to the courts of the other judges. He may reasonably be expected with these powers to control a majority of the judges, and then he, through this majority, has power to determine the number of deputy clerks and bailiffs and to make rules of the court which shall override the statutes of Illinois unless the Supreme Court shall, on an ex parte statement, veto them. In short, he is the boss of the new, powerful and uncontrolled machine and, most unfortunately, a judicial machine. In point of power we have in our judicial system nothing to compare with this monarch. Of course, if he happens to be a man of deep sympathy for the poorer classes, unselfish, incorruptible, and, in short, more than human, he will be the source of much blessing to our com-munity, at all events until the constant exercise of great power has the same effect upon him which it has upon most men.

I have not the time to discuss all the features of this new measure, but sufficient has been said to indicate in general the revolutionary character and the dangerous possibilities of this MINOR court. Perhaps it was this realization, among other things, which caused Judge Tuley, in the last conversation I had with him, to say that he regretted that he had ever given his time to the cause represented by the Constitutional Amendment.

In conclusion it would seem that the law providing for a municipal court in Chicago has many glaring and a few fundamental defects. Some of these may be modified by interpretation and eventually by amendment. A practical suggestion for the present moment is that every citizen who understands the situation should use every reasonable endeavor to secure humane, liberty-loving, intelligent and unselfish


judges for our new court and a chief justice committed to the proposition that our Police Courts should be properly administered on broad lines and given the first consideration, so that in any event this tribunal for the poor man may not become an engine for his oppression.

[blocks in formation]

Judge James B. Bradwell, Necrologist, has been unable, on account of illness, to compile his report in time for publication in the present volume. It is hoped that it can be included in the proceedings of next year.

« PreviousContinue »