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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/773

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FORMS AND FAILURES OF THE LAW.

FORMS AND FAILURES OF THE LAW.
By PHILIP SNYDER.

THE law's delay has long been a theme for comment, gibe, criticism, and denunciation. Even lawyers and judges discuss it occasionally, in published papers and orations at bar association meetings, but with no radical results. The abuse goes on, and doubtless will until those who suffer from it, the people, take the matter in their own hands and move for redress. They are thoroughly satisfied as to its necessity, but what is most wanted is leadership. Able and unselfish lawyers, if such can be found for it, would here find a promising field for honorable fame. But if there are none to volunteer, the reform will go on without them, and will not stop with the law's delays alone, which are trifling in comparison with the work that needs to be done. Judge William L. Learned, of the New York State Supreme Court, in a paper on "The Law's Delays," makes an admission of striking significance. He says: "In most things we move more rapidly than former generations did. We travel faster; we send messages across the ocean in a few minutes; we transact business of large amounts in a short time; but when we come to our litigations we find the reproach of the law's delays still existing. We have done very little to remedy this great wrong; indeed, it is doubtful whether in this matter we have not gone backward. Lords Kenyon and Ellenborough tried cases at the rate of twenty-five a day. The very last day that Lord Ellenborough sat at Guildhall, when he was laboring under great infirmity and weakness, he tried seventeen defended cases." A trial now of seventeen cases a day, even by an able-bodied judge, would probably alarm the bar and result in an early retirement of the judge (if holding place by election), for the reason that his dispatch of business would lessen the emoluments of the lawyers. But the main concession is that while there is advancement in every other field of human effort, in law alone are we at a standstill, or are retrograding! A few creditable changes in procedures have been introduced after prolonged and tedious opposition, such as that an accused party may testify in his own behalf, or that a wife may testify for or against her husband; but in the main we have the same forms and ceremonies that came into use five centuries or more ago, the same mass of verbiage in legal forms that confuse and perplex, and convey no idea of anything in particular except vacuity. Let a man of ordinary intelligence read a formal indictment for murder, and then ask him to tell what are the ideas expressed, and he can hardly do it with more clearness than if written in Greek or Chaldaic. Take the concluding paragraph of a warranty deed in common use, and we have one hundred and sixty-two words of idiotic verbiage that not one man in a hundred can un-