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66TH CONGRESS, 3D SESSION, S. 1012.
APRIL 18, 1921. Mr. Nelson introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary:
TO AMEND THE JUDICIAL CODE. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Judicial Code, approved March 3, 1911, is hereby amended by adding after section 274C thereof a new section, to be numbered 274D, as follows:
Sec. 274D. No action or proceeding shall be open to objection on the ground that a merely declaratory judgment or order is sought thereby, and the court, when there is an actual controversy between the parties, may make binding declarations of right whether any consequential relief is or could be claimed or not.
The Supreme Court may adopt rules for the better enforcement and regulation of this provision.
A BILL TO AMEND THE JUDICIAL CODE BY ADDING A NEW SECTION TO
BE NUMBERED 274D. Section 1. In cases of actual controversy the courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction to declare rights and other legal relations on request of interested parties for such declarations whether or not further relief is or could be prayed, and such declarations shall have the force of final decree and be reviewable as such.
SEC. 2. Further relief based on declaratory decree may be granted whenever necessary or proper. The application shall be by petition to a court having jurisdiction to grant the relief. If the application be deemed sufficient the court shall, on reasonable notice, require any adverse party whose rights have been adjudicated by the declaration, to show cause why further relief should not be granted forthwith.
Sec. 3. When a declaration of right or the granting of further relief based thereon shall involve the determination of issues of fact triable by a jury, such issues may be submitted to a jury in the form of interrogatories, with proper instructions by the court, whether a general verdict by required or not.
SEC. 4. The Supreme Court may adopt rules for the better enforcement and regulation of this provision.
A BILL TO AMEND THE JUDICIAL CODE BY ADDING A NEW SECTION TO
BE NUMBERED 274E. Sec. 274E.—Correction of Error in the Selection of Process to Secure Review.-Whenever it is within the power of an Appellate Court to review a judgment or decree, if brought before it by appropriate process or procedure, the right of review or power of the court, in its discretion, to grant a review, as the case may be, shall not be prejudiced by the fact that the review is sought by process or procedure inappropriate to the particular cause, if within proper time. In such case the actual process or procedure shall be treated by the court as though the appropriate process or procedure had been selected for the assertion of such right or the invocation of such discretion; and proper ovision shall be made by rule of court to cure any error in the selection of the process or procedure in such cases. a
A BILL IN REFERENCE TO WRITS OF ERROR. SECTION 1. The writ of error in cases civil and criminal is abolished. All relief which heretofore could be obtained by writ of error shall hereafter be obtainable by appeal.
Sec. 2. In all cases where an appeal may be taken as of right it shall be taken by serving upon the adverse party or his attorney of record, and by filing in the office of the clerk with whom the order appealed
from is entered, a written notice to the effect that the appellant appeals from the judgment or order or from a specified part thereof. No petition of appeal or allowance of an appeal shall be required; provided however that the review of judgments of state courts of last resort shall be petitioned for and allowed in the same form as now provided by law for writs of error to such courts.
COMMITTEE ON ADMIRALTY AND MARITIME LAW.
To the American Bar Association:
The Committee on Courts of Admiralty beg leave to make the following report:
It is gratified at being able to announce that the new draft of the Rules in Admiralty which was prepared by a committee appointed by the judges of the Circuit Court of Appeals of the different circuits with the co-operation of this committee was adopted by the Supreme Court on December 6, 1920, to go into effect March 7, 1921.
The new rules are in many respects more flexible than the old, and will greatly tend to simplify and modify the practice in admiralty. The scheme is the same as that of the old rules, which could hardly be improved upon, for they were drawn by a master hand.
The committee has been co-operating with committees from various business organizations in urging the enactment of a statute allowing suits in admiralty against public vessels of the United States. The statute of March 9, 1920, only allowed such suits against what we might roughly term merchant vessels of the United States, or in which the United States were interested, and which were engaged in business enterprises. An additional statute is needed to give such right of action against other vessels of the Government. A bill to that effect was offered at the last Congress, and after hearings before the judiciary committee of the House was favorably reported. It has been re-introduced at the extra session, and we have strong hopes of its passage.
ROBERT M. HUGHES,
Scott M. LOFTIN,
COMMITTEE ON NOTEWORTHY CHANGES IN STATUTE LAW. To the American Bar Association:
Only a small portion of the statutory product of the 1921 sessions of Congress and 45 state legislatures was available at the time of the preparation of this report. The committee has, therefore, included references to the most important legislation enacted last year after the submission of its report to the Association.
One of the most striking features of our recent statutes is the absence of any large amount of “reconstruction” legislation. The emphasis placed upon “reconstruction ” immediately following the armistice gave rise to the expectation that the experience gained during the war would result in much novel legislation. This has not been the fact. In the legislation of the past two years there is less, rather than more, of regulatory legislation. There is little of new or novel legislative interference with the relation of employer and employee or of extraordinary adventure by government seeking to accomplish the public welfare by statute to be found in our statute books since the armistice. Indeed, the tendency seems to be to the contrary. Instead of being types of permanent governmental regulation our war legislation is now recognized as extraordinary provision for the organization of the resources of the country for war purposes and by no means typical of or justification for similar governmental supervision in peace times.
In the field of landlord and tenant law, however, we find recent examples of unusual legislation. Shortage of housing accommodations has given rise to an abnormal demand with resultant high rentals. These in turn have been made the justification for legislative regulation of rentals and terms and conditions of tenancy. Rent legislation has taken the form either (1) of statutes like those in New York repealing or varying statutory remedies of the landlord in such way as to compel or induce him to accept reasonable rentals, or (2) comprehensive regulation like that contained in the Act of Congress applicable to the District of Columbia which treats rental property as affected with a public interest and subjects the relationship of landlord and ten
ant to commission regulation. The New York type of statute simply takes away the remedy of eviction where the contract which the landlord claims is breached is considered by the courts to be unreasonable, as, for example, where the rent demanded by the landlord is, in the opinion of the court, excessive. The New York legislature has declared as “excessive ” any rent which is more than 25 per cent in excess of the rent of the previous year. The landlord cannot evict a tenant who pays the reasonable rental. The Act of Congress authorizes the Rent Commission of the District of Columbia to adopt standard forms of leases to fix reasonable rentals and terms of tenancy and to determine semijudicially controversies between landlord and tenant. The authority of the Rent Commission and its procedure are analagous to that of the Interstate Commerce Commission in the field of interstate commerce. Both types of statutes have now been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States as justifiable regulation of private property in the interest of the public welfare during the abnormal housing conditions following the war.
Two bills affecting the admiralty jurisdiction, both of which had the support of the Association, have been enacted by Congress. One (66th, No. 165) gives the personal representative a right of action in the Federal Admiralty Courts for death caused by negligence on the high seas. Heretofore, our admiralty courts have been able to give redress, where the death happened on an American ship, only in such cases where it could apply the law of a state providing for such action. The other (66th, No. 156) provides for suits in personam in admiralty against the United States in respect of merchant vessels belonging to the Government or the Shipping Board. The proposal to make these provisions applicable to the public vessels of the United States was rejected by Congress.
Congress, in the Ship Mortgage Act ($30 of the Merchant Marine Act, 1920, 66th, No. 261) aims to give greater security and permanency to investments in our merchant marine by increasing the protection given by the law to vessel mortgages. Previous to the act, a mortgage upon a vessel could not be foreclosed in a federal court sitting in admiralty and a mortgage was not protected by a maritime lien. When a mortgage was foreclosed and the vessel sold under state law, title passed subject to all existing maritime liens upon it, with a consequent reduction in the amount the purchaser would give. In case the ship was libelled in admiralty, the mortgage was junior to all maritime liens asserted in the proceeding though it might be earlier in point of time.
The act established a preferred mortgage which is given a preferred status under the circumstances just outlined. Maritime liens arising prior to the mortgage or from tort and liens for