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for you an illustrious career of service to your countrymen and to all humanity in your great office. I present the Chief Justice of the United States.
William Howard Taft, Chief Justice of the United States, then delivered an informal address.
(The Address follows these minutes, page 561.) The Judicial Section then adjourned sine die.
HONORABLE WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT,
CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Judicial Section. When the Chairman arose and asked for silence in the back rows in order that people might hear me, I thought it was hardly necessary. I felt as a gentleman did who came to me when I was running for the Presidency and asked the privilege of being the chaplain at one of the meetings of the Convention. He urged that he be given the honor because he felt sure that in his supplication he would make the Convention hear whether the Lord did or not.
The main purpose of government is the maintenance of law and order and the administration of justice. In modern days of course the functions of government have been largely amplified. Whether for the benefit or otherwise of the people I am not here to discuss. But certainly the importance of impartial, prompt and effective administration of justice has not lost its importance in any change of view as to other functions of the government. The administration of justice is carried on by the cooperation of the courts, which interpret and enforce the law and the rights of parties under the law, and whose judgments are carried out by the executive. The courts are constituted of judges, and it is customary to assume that the administration of the law is largely within their control, and that where the law fails, and peace and order are not maintained, and rights of parties are not promptly settled, the judges are responsible. The judges are assisted in their labors by the members of the profession of the law, and that profession must share with the judges such responsibility as may be properly charged to them in the fulfillment of their great governmental function. What I would like to emphasize in this presence, however, is that while the judges of our courts have their faults, they may rightly excuse themselves in
a large degree on the ground that the fault lies with the legislative power which does not provide them with adequate machinery for the prompt and satisfactory dispatch of business.
I doubt if there is a single element in the causes that render the administration of justice with us inadequate so important as its delays. It is important, of course, that controversies be settled right, but there are many civil questions which arise between individuals in which it is not so important which of the two views of the law should be adopted as that the law should be settled and the controversy ended. Of course a settlement of a controversy on a fundamentally wrong principle of law is greatly to be deplored, but there must of necessity be many rules governing the relations between members of the same society that are more important in that their establishment creates a known rule of action than that they proceed on one principle or another. Delay works always for the man with the longest purse. It works always in favor of the corporation as against the poor litigant. If considerations of small economy, without a full understanding of the importance of the need for an adequate judicial machine, shall prevent its creation by law, then certainly the judges, who find it impossible to do the work which crowds into the court, are not to be blamed for it.
It is pathetic to one who has an intimate knowledge of the difficulties of the administration of justice, and the real reasons for its failure in the lack of proper legislation, to note the lifeconsuming effort of judges to do more work than they possibly can do, in order that the arrears in their dockets may not grow. I could point to instance after instance in which judges have worn themselves down in an effort to minimize the effect of the negligence of legislatures in this regard. I know of one in Tennessee. Tennessee has three natural divisions, East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee. It is a very long state and a very big state, and a state with a great deal of law business in the three parts, especially in the mountain districts where the moonshine business is not a matter of recent growth but has always been there. For motives of false economy, while there are two districts, with separate clerk's offices and marshal's offices, there had never been more than one judge provided for the two districts. The amount of business there is overwhelming for one man. One able judge died before his time under the strain and although the incumbent judge is one of the ablest district judges in the United States, and willing and anxious to devote all his time to the avoidance of arrears, the cases are piling up on him from year to year until his future is utterly hopeless, so far as the disposition of the business before him is concerned. A judge. for the middle district has not been furnished. Why? Because for years there was a fear that if the bill went through, one faction or one party would be successful in securing the appointment of its candidate.
The congestion which exists in many of the districts of the United States—and it has been growing because of the gradual enlargement of the jurisdiction of the courts under the enactment by Congress of laws which are the exercise of its heretofore dormant powers, has been greatly added to by the adoption of the 18th Amendment and the passage of the Volstead law. Something must be done, therefore, to give the federal courts a judicial force that can grapple these arrears and end them.
The Attorney-General has been much impressed with the great increase in business in the courts, and has recommended to the President and to Congress the adoption of a law which it seems to me will much facilitate the dispatch of business in the courts of the United States.
The bill which the Attorney-General has presented to Congress, and which has now been introduced by the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the Senate, adds to the judicial force of the United States, two district judges at large in each circuit, or eighteen in all. They are to have and exercise all the powers of district judges except that they may not make appointments of clerks and other officers which should obviously be made by judges knowing the vicinage. They are—as all judges must be appointed or created, under the judicial power of the United States, granted by the third article of the Constitution, judges for life; but the provision of the new bill is that when any of these judges dies or resigns, his successor shall not be appointed unless Congress shall affirmatively so decide. This is as temporary a federal judge as the Constition will permit. These judges at large are to be assigned by the senior Circuit Judge to any
district in the circuit where needed and by the Chief Justice to any district in any other circuit.
In the bill is another important feature that in a sense contains the kernel of the whole progress intended by the bill. It provides for an annual meeting of the Chief Justice, the senior circuit judges from the nine circuits, and the Attorney-General, to consider required reports from district judges and clerks as to the business in their respective districts, with a view to making a yearly plan for increasing for the time the new and old judicial force of the United States where the arrears are threatening to interfere with the usefulness of the courts. It is the introduction into our judicial system of an executive principle to secure effective team work. Heretofore each judge has paddled his own canoe and has done the best he could with his district. He has been subject to little supervision, if any. Judges are men and some are not so keenly charged with the duty of constant labor that the stimulus of an annual inquiry into what they are doing may not be helpful. With such mild visitation he is likely to cooperate much more readily in an organized effort to get rid of business and do justice than under the “ go-as-you-please”
system of our present federal judges which has left unemployed in easy districts a good deal of the judicial energy that may be now usefully applied elsewhere. The choice of men eligible for the position will be enlarged when they are to be selected from a circuit as distinguished from a district. The services of eighteen judges in addition to the existing judiciary will be needed to accomplish the purpose of the bill.
The number of bills that are pending for additional district judges in various districts is great. In almost every district there is an effort to secure an additional judge. Some of these efforts should be successful without reference to the increases proposed in this bill. On the other hand, in many districts the demand is personal and political and does not grow out of the real needs of the particular district. The adoption of the present bill will do much to satisfy every reasonable demand for additional judges. This executive principle of using all the judicial force economically and at the points where most needed should be adopted in every state and when adopted will offer