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The Volume XXV



September, 1913

James M.

Number 9

Kerr, the California Law Writer

By W. J. Stansfeld-Lamborn, A.A. (Oxon.)


as is truly said by Professor Pierce Butler of Newcomb College, Tulane University, in writing an account of the life of Judah Philip Benjamin, the biography of the mere lawyer, with its bare record of cases won and cases lost, of nice legal points argued and subtile distinctions established, is apt to prove but dry reading, even if pathos, the humorous or the tragic, be injected from the more dramatic episodes in the criminal courts, — if this is eminently true as regards a lawyer in an active practice, what must we expect in the case of a legal author whose whole life is spent in overhauling dust-covered volumes and poring over "precedents," searching, analyzing, harmonizing or distinguishing, and classifying the decis ions of courts; whose entire time and attention is confined to the dry and technical subjects in hand, which are to be measured by fundamental prin ciples to fit all cases and not moulded to suit the purposes or necessities of a single occasion; and whose activities are confined within the sacred precincts of the walls of his own library? Such is the case, and such the paucity of facts and details and incidents in the life and labors of a law-book writer who, for the past thirty years or more, has filled an important niche in the legal

world and furnished much valuable literature to the legal profession. So modestly and quietly does he live, so completely is he engrossed in his labors and his studies, that he seldom leaves his own premises, is known by reputation to but few of his fellow-townsmen, and by sight to fewer still. To such an extent is this true that the "Rose Tourna ment Annual" of the Pasadena Daily News, in the issue of January 1, 1913, says: "Pasadena today harbors and is honored by the permanent citizenship of one of the most noted writers of legal texts the country has produced — and so modestly does he live and enjoy the benefits and beauties of this city that few people within her borders know him, or of him, while his works are found on the shelves of every law library of con sequence in the counry. This veritable legal bookworm is James M. Kerr, who resides in a very pretty bungalow, 'Kerowe,' at 1840 Lundy Avenue." James M. Kerr was born at a log-house in the "maple swamp," in the western part of Miami county, Ohio, December 30, 1851, the son of Jonathan Thompson and Matilda (Westlake) Kerr. He is of Scotch descent, his progenitors being of one of the prominent families of Kers and Kerrs (individuals of the same