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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/776

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The one vicious principle at the base of litigation, at least in criminal cases, and which overshadows all others, is that the professional advocate is generally oblivious to all the claims of abstract justice, or that there is any obligation resting on him to protect the community. It is his client who is to be sustained, right or wrong, and the claims of justice or of the public receive no consideration. He is educated to this idea in the law-school, and, becoming a rule of action, it makes the lawyer, comparatively, a narrow man, and one of the most unfit of all men—of equal education—to trust on questions involving the great interests of society, hence especially unfit to be a law-maker. This allegation will surprise some, but it need not when we remember that it is quite as much the lawyer's business to impair or destroy the force of a good law as to sustain it. He labors to find defects in the law, or to boldly mislead courts and juries so as to secure wrong interpretations of law, and thus by assurance and false logic screening his client against its just intent. To make legislators out of such men is poor policy, because ill-digested, obscure, contradictory statutes grind out grists for the lawyers' mills, and the man educated to look out for nobody but himself is reasonably sure not to neglect such an opportunity to promote litigation.

This disposition to thwart justice on occasion suggests another reform. If judges are really "learned in the law," as they should be, why are lawyers needed at all as advocates pro or con in the trial of ordinary jury cases? Why not make it the business of the judge to examine the witnesses and bring out all the facts? It is the facts as they bear on the case which are wanted, and not that version of them which the paid advocates wish presented. They have no wish and no intention to bring out the truth except as it assists their own side; they desire, indeed, to suppress it when possible, which is their aim in the bullying and browbeating of timid witnesses: hence the judge, who is sworn to impartiality, and has no interest in concealing anything, is a far better man to examine the witnesses. If this would overwork him, let him have assistants, or let the court be composed of several judges. The taking of testimony would then be more rapid, because there would be no lawyers' wordy wrangles to cause delay and weary the jury; and, when concluded, the presiding judge would not, in making his charge, be obliged to warn the jury against a mass of irrelevant testimony. In order to guard against possible errors by the court and secure a review by a higher court on really important points, counsel for each side might be present to watch, take exceptions, and secure a review under certain limitations; but a careful judge would rarely make mistakes that needed review. Besides, appeals or reviews should be greatly limited. Judge Learned, in his article, shows their abuse and evils very clearly, and also points out that they do little toward securing exact justice. "When the end is reached," he says, "it is an end only because it can go no further, and