Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/82

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A Layman's Views an Law Reform through superfluous appeals and re trials. What the public sees is the long delays before the final decision is reached, and the frequency of the reversals of decisions. The public does not in the least understand why so many decisions are based on points of practice rather than on the substantial merits of a con troversy, but it objects with great energy to the long delays and to what it con siders the frequent defeats of public justice. The public is not competent to pre scribe remedies for these evils, but nevertheless confidently believes that there are too many appeals and too many retrials. It sees clearly that multi plied appeals and new -trials diminish the good effects of well administered law in deterring men from crimes of violence and from frauds. The public firmly believes that there should be no retrial without substantial cause. It cannot understand why there should be any appeal on small civil cases or cases of minor crime. The state of the public mind on these matters should be promptly recognized and dealt with by legislation suggested by members of the bar or bar associations. It is clearly the work of the bar asso ciations in this country to guide and en courage legislatures to effective reforms in American legal procedure. With the exception of the Connecticut Practice Act of 1878, there has been no significant re form of American procedure for more than 60 years, a period during which pro found changes have taken place in Amer ican manufactures, trade, industrial or ganization and social theories. The United States Supreme Court has very recently announced some new rules of procedure in equity cases which are doubtless a contribution to the desirable reforms. As effective agencies for bring ing about legislative reform in American


procedure, the bar associations have, however, one serious defect. Most of them hold annual, or at least infrequent meetings. For effective action on this urgent matter the bar associations might wisely appoint committees with power to act, instead of committees to report. Such committees, composed of the strongest men at the bar, should address themselves to the public as well as to legislatures; for the interest of the public in the administration of justice needs to be renewed since the traditional respect for the bench and the bar has of late been greatly impaired . This change of public sentiment has real grounds in our antiquated judicial organization and procedure; and it is for the bar associations to see to to it that these grounds are removed and that the public is fully apprised of the removal, and of the active agencies which secured the removal. The bar need not fear that judicious efforts in this direction will not prove successful. The public mind and will are sure to be found in sympathy with the needed reforms in the organiza tion of American courts and in legal procedure. As a matter of fact, the various suggestions made by members of the legal profession for the remedy of existing evils in regard to appeals and retrials, — such as no appeal on facts, only one appeal on law, and no appeal when a trial judge sets aside a verdict as against evidence, — have not en countered serious objections from the lay public. Indeed, the public sees in such suggestions possible means of escape from present conditions, which it imperfectly apprehends, and yet cordially dislikes. By the same multiplicity of appeals and retrials public confidence in the cer tainty of legal punishment for crime has been much impaired, and confidence in the promptness of punishment almost