Page images


ever, whose general education was of the crudest kind, but who had spent two years of study in any sort of law office, in this State, was eligible for examination, while another citizen by an attendance of thirty-six weeks in each of two years in a regularly organized law school under the laws of the State, whose course was two years, must be admitted, upon his diploma, by making the usual proof of good character.

The bench, and bar, and the law student, are all to be congratulated that this law, mischievous in principle, has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

By a joint resolution, adopted at the last session of the General Assembly, there has been provided a Practice Commission, consisting of five lawyers, who are to be appointed by the governor. Two must be residents of Cook county. One of them is appointed on the nomination of the Appellate Court judges of the first district; one, on the nomination of the Chicago Bar Association: One, a resident of the State outside of Cook county, is nominated by the judges of the Supreme Court, and another by this Association. The other member of the commission is appointed on the governor's own motion.

It will be your duty at this meeting to nominate some member of the bar, who resides outside of Cook county, and who is not a holder of any public office or appointment of any nature in the State, to fill this position. The nomination when made, will be certified to the governor by the president and secretary of this Association.

The duty imposed upon this commission is to diligently compare and examine all laws of the State relating to practice and procedure in our courts, and report to the governor such amendments, revisions, additions, and such compilations thereof as it shall deem necessary. One sitting must be had in each Appellate Court district open to the members of the bar. Provision is made for the personal expenses of the members, and also for necessary clerical work and printing.


During this meeting you will be favored with an address on the work of the commission by a distinguished gentleman, well known to the profession. It will therefore be unnecessary and perhaps improper for me to discuss the subject. And yet, it might not be amiss to remind the Association that while there are great possibilities of good in the proposed work of this commission, there may be some probabilities of mischief.

Outside a few of the more populous counties of the State, there is no serious or general complaint of the present system of "the practice and procedure in our courts.” The difficul ties and objections arise from the great increase of business, and are largely confined to the city of Chicago, in which the growth of population and legal business, in the past quarter of a century has been wonderful. The members of this Association are not unaware that many complaints are made by laymen and lawyers, and by the press, as to the administration of justice in this city. In the justices' courts there seenis to be little confidence. The courts of record are presided over by able and conscientious judges, against whose ability, impartiality and sense of justice there is no well grounded cause of complaint. But with so large an amount of business, with so great a number of courts continually in session, with different causes, in which the same lawyer is engaged, subject to call or trial at the same hour before other judges, it is not surprising that there should be some friction. It must be reasonably expected that cases when reached for trial will often lose place on the docket, because lawyers on the one side or other are professionally engaged in other courts. Days of weary waiting by clients must be repeated. The expense of attending witnesses and attorneys must be again assumed or advanced, and perhaps by those little able to do so. This delay and ex

. pense, in some cases, might amount, in effect, to a denial of justice.

The crowded condition of dockets obviously causes delay to suitors, but this is only the natural result of increase in


business, or the disposition of people to litigate. Under any system of practice and procedure we shall meet such difficul. ties.

Courts of record in this State have power to make all such rules for the orderly and speedy dispatch of business as they may deem expedient, not inconsistent with the Constitution or the statutes. The legislature has no power to pass either a special or local law, regulating the practice in courts of justice, or the jurisdiction and duties of justices of the peace. Any legislation making amendments, revisions, additions or corrections in the law of practice and the procedure in our courts, must apply as well to the counties of Edwards and Calhoun as to Cook and Adams. It is a matter of very grave doubt whether any act of our Legislature, under the present Constitution, can meet the causes of complaint made in the larger and more populous counties. Increased jurisdiction of justices of the peace will not do it, unless confidence in the methods, character and qualification of those officers should be materially increased. The experiment of increasing largely the number of judges, and the creation of courts for cities and incorporated towns, has been tried with doubtful success. In States having large cities where the "Code" has been adopted, the same, or more serious, complaints are made.

We might, by legislative act, discourage litigation-make large attorney fees a part of the taxable costs of suit; require costs to be advanced by both parties, and largely take away the right of appeal. We might make litigation so expensive a luxury, as to deny justice to parties of moderate means. We might adopt a new code of procedure, and impose upon the courts the additional burden of construing it, and settling the practice under its provisions—but would not all these, or other suggested remedies, prove to be worse than the disease?

The agricultural counties of the State met these difficul. ties soon after the close of the civil war. Prior to that event, business in the courts was comparatively light, and their ses


sions of short duration. Witnesses were subpoenaed for the first or second days of the term, and cases were subject to trial as soon as they could be reached. With the rapid increase of business, terms of court became greatly lengthened, and suitors frequently had great inconvenience and loss of time, and expense, in waiting for trial. The county judges took the matter in hand, and by a few brief and well considered rules removed very much of the cause of complaint. Is it not possible for the able judges of Cook county to remove very many of the obstacles in the way of the speedy administration of justice in the courts of this city, in the same way? Perhaps some concert between the judges of the different courts might be necessary in adopting rules, and in the preparation of the court calendars, to the end that causes in which the same attorneys are engaged should not be set for trial before different judges, or in different courts, on the same day. It might be necessary that some conference should be had between clerks and attorneys in the setting of causes--certainly not a difficult task in this day of ready communication by telephone. Perhaps the making up of separate dockets of cases of appeal, or attachment or tort, might remove some of the evils complained of. But whatever is to be done, is it not probable that the judges of the courts are more capable of applying the remedy than members of the Legislature? The complaint is not against the laws, so much as their administration. well despair of the correction of such evils, if we concede the inability of the judges themselves, to work out needed reforms in all matters purely administrative.

During the last session of the General Assembly, the uni. form negotiable instrument bill, originating with the American Bar Association, passed the Senate, but was defeated in the

This measure has been endorsed by the Bankers' Association of Illinois and of the United States, and adopted by some half dozen of the code States. It consists of one hundred and ninety-eight sections. Very many

We may

House of Representatives.


of them contain well recognized and settled principles of law, as held by the courts of this State, and as stated in the textbooks. In minutiae of detail, it goes quite as far as could be wished, by the most ardent advocate of the idea that all evils afflicting the body politic can be reinoved by legislation. The proposed statute is largely declaratory in its nature. The reasons urged for its adoption are, not that the common law has fallen into disuse, or become disreputable, or that the statutes are contradictory, or that the law on the subject is unsettled in Illinois, but that in certain foreign jurisdictions, the laws are different from our own. It seems to assume that the people, the bar, and the judiciary are ignorant of the elementary principles of law of negotiable instruments, and that outside this particular act, there is no knowledge.

If it were adopted by all the States and Territories, it would certainly improve the present conditions in the matter, at least, of uniformity. Therefore, as the demand for legislation on the subject is quite general, it might as well have the endorsement of this association.

And yet, after its adoption, litigation will still go on between the holders, and the makers, drawers, indorsers and guarantors of negotiable paper. Dishonest business men will still take advantage of distance, time, fraudulent transfer of property, local exemption laws and bankrupt and insolvent acts, to prevent the payment of just liabilities. Opportunities will even then be open for the courts to make contradictory decisions, in construing its provisions. Neither lawyers, manufacturers, merchants nor bankers, nor those who do business with banks, will be "supremely blest," at all times, if this law of uniformity should be generally adopted. The courts and

. the bar will perhaps then occasionally recall the fact that the "law merchant” is a part of the common law of the State; that it “does not rest on positive enactment or local custom of any particular country, but consists of certain principles of equity and usages of trade, which convenience and a common

« PreviousContinue »