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Business of the Court of Session.-By Act of Sederunt, of 11th July, the next winter session of the Court is extended, so that the Inner House commences to sit on November 1st. Thirty causes have been transferred from the roll of the First to that of the Second Division; and various transferences of small numbers of cases have been made during the session from one Lord Ordinary to another. The number of cases set down for trial by jury at the July sittings is unusually small, being only ten in the First and two in the Second Division, and of these a large proportion were settled or delayed before the 20th. The small number of jury trials is probably caused, in some degree, by the introduction of the method of taking proof under the Evidence Act of last year; but it may also be due to the general slackness and want of litigation, of which lawyers are complaining.
The following statistics of the working of the new system of taking proofs since its beginning in November last may be of some interest :-Before Lord Kinloch-14 proofs went on, of which only three lasted more than one day. Before Lord Jerviswoode, twentytwo proofs have been taken, of which one lasted three days, and six lasted two days each. Before Lord Ormidale, ten proofs have been taken, of which one lasted three days, and three two days. Before Lord Barcaple, thirteen proofs were taken, of which only one lasted two days. Lord Barcaple has fixed several proofs to be taken after the close of the session, in virtue of the power to do so given by the Act. Before Lord Mure, nine proofs went on, two of which lasted more than a day, and another occupied part of three days. Four of the cases above mentioned were remitted from the Inner House for the purpose of having evidence taken in this way. Proofs under the Conjugal Rights Act, which have not been numerous, are not included in these figures. Notwithstanding the considerable increase of work imposed on the Outer House judges by this system, there are no material arrears in any of their debate rolls, the longest of which could probably be got through in a fortnight. Indeed an observation which we made at the end of the last winter session may be repeated with perfect truth,-if there had been no proofs to be taken in the Outer House, several of the Bars would have been vacant for several weeks past, except during the calling of the motion roll.
The business of the Inner House, on the other hand, is very seriously in arrear. The last Short Roll cause heard by the First Division last week stood thirteenth at the beginning of the session in a roll of sixty-seven causes; while the Second Division has only reached the nineteenth case in a roll which contained in May fortyseven causes. At least forty reclaiming notes have been sent to the Short Rolls of the Inner House during the Summer Session, so that,
judging merely from the number of causes depending, the two divisions are farther in arrear than they were three months ago. At present, therefore, if a record is prepared with ordinary despatch, a litigant may obtain a judgment in the Outer House within a period from the calling of his case in Court, varying from two to four months. But in an ordinary case he must wait probably for a year longer, for a judgment of the Inner House. The ease with which the delays of the Outer House were recently shortened leads us to ask why the Court itself does not apply an effective remedy to this unfortunate state of things. It has power to extend its own sittings, so as to overtake the business of the country; and an opinion is rapidly gaining ground that this power ought to be exercised.
We have often been very much impressed by the fact that so many hours in the course of the session are spent in the discussion of matters of form, such as granting diligences for recovery of documents, hearing motions for postponement of trial, adjusting issues when no important point of law is concerned, &c., matters which might quite well be left to the determination of a single judge "at chambers," and which are in fact left very much to the head of the Court, the "puisne judges" sitting silent, reading the papers in the causes set down for hearing, correcting the MS. judgments which they are about to read, &c. Surely this might be managed better?
Business Hours in Edinburgh. -The Solicitors before the Supreme Courts have had a meeting to consider a petition by the law clerks of Edinburgh for an abridgment of office hours during the present vacation, and have unanimously resolved to recommend that offices should close at five p.m. during vacation. But the Society, with that public spirit for which it is distinguished, took up a subject of still more general importance to the profession, viz., the hours of attendance at the Register House; and it came to a resolution to communicate with the Society of Writers to the Signet as to making a joint representation with regard to the non-attendance of the Clerks of Court between two and half-past three p.m. during session, as required by A. of S. 7th July 1858. We hope that this movement may lead to a reform, which would be greatly for the convenience of agents and counsel, and we think also for the advantage of litigants. The main reason for keeping offices open in the evening during session is that the Register House closes at half-past three (or, as now appears, at the illegal hour of two p.m.), and is again open for two hours in the evening. If the Register House were open till five o'clock, and closed for the day at that hour, practitioners would not be compelled to detain their clerks in the evening during any period of the year, except for special reasons, and the result would be that counsel would always be instructed before six o'clock, instead of, as often happens, at nine or ten,-very much to their own comfort, and with the greatest advantage to their clients. It is difficult to see why a change so desirable for all concerned should not be at once effected.
The Circuits. In an article on the conduct of Criminal Cases at Circuit in our number for Nov. 1864, we wrote "that any plan having for its aim a compulsory and equal distribution of circuit practice among those junior members of the Bar who choose to undertake it, would meet with the general approval of the Faculty, and would receive the cordial sanction of the Justiciary Judges." We are glad to learn that a plan for effecting this desirable end, somewhat similar to that suggested by a correspondent in Feb. 1865, has been spontaneously adopted by the gentlemen of the junior bar attending Glasgow Circuit, and is likely, with the cordial concurrence of the agents for the poor for that circuit, to be successfully carried out. Nine out of every ten criminal cases tried at circuit are "poor" cases, and it has been a great grievance to the majority of juniors, travelling circuit at their own charges simply for the sake of getting experience in the conduct of cases in Court, that nearly all these cases are absorbed by men who have approached the agents for the poor, before the opening of the circuit, with unbecoming personal or written solicitation. It was a source of constant complaint that out of perhaps twenty counsel three or four monopolized the forty or fifty "poor" cases at Glasgow, while the others had nothing to do but look on at the performances of their more forward or more fortunate comrades. The Glasgow Circuit Bar has now united to put the matter on a better footing. It was agreed at a meeting held at the Spring Circuit that a list of the "poor" cases at each circuit shall be sent to the senior member of the Bar (the Dean of the Circuit) or to another chosen for the purpose, who shall assign them in rotation to the advocates who mean to attend, and who shall be willing to undertake them. Probably it will be found in practice that this distribution cannot be satisfactorily made until immediately before the circuit opens, and it may be found that it will operate injuriously and unfairly to prisoners in a few more serious and difficult cases. But some provision will no doubt be made for such exceptions. The new system will certainly contribute to the good feeling and to the general welfare of the junior bar. We believe that it is only an old rule restored after being long in abeyance.
We hope that the gentlemen who have had the courage to initiate this reform will go a little further in the path of improvement. Having learned to unite for a very small personal object, we trust that they will co-operate in pressing forward some of the many infinitely more important reforms required in our circuit system. For instance, criminal cases at circuit are very often most carelessly got up by the agents, and are therefore worked with corresponding want of spirit by counsel. A good hint was lately given by Lord Cowan at Dundee in such a case of neglect. The prisoner's counsel made a rhetorical point of the fact that the indictment had been put into his hands only when the trial was about to begin, and that he was unaided by an agent and entirely unprovided with information. The judge, however, in his charge, told the jury that the prisoner's
counsel had no reason to complain, because if he had really considered that the panel's interests were jeopardised by the "poor's" agent's neglect, he should have moved at first for a postponement of the trial. Verb. sap.
Again, the circuit bar would well employ its superfluous energy if it were to insist upon the adoption of the rule which exists in England-that the prisoner shall be entitled, on payment of a very small charge, to a copy of the precognitions for the prosecution.
But no improvement of much value is likely to be effected in this department of the administration of the law until the Circuit Court is held for the despatch of civil business as well as criminal. We cannot now discuss fully this important subject, but we recommend it to the earnest consideration of the gentlemen whose efforts at improvement suggested these paragraphs, and still more to that of country agents and litigants. Is there any reason why in Scotland all investigations into facts should not, as in England, take place on circuit, near the locality of the dispute, near the residences of the parties and the witnesses, and generally of the agents who have the real conduct of the case? Why, except for the comfort of Edinburgh lawyers, should not most jury trials and proofs be set down for trial on circuit? Even Edinburgh lawyers will, ere long, we believe, find it prudent, if not necessary, for their own sakes, to suggest or at least submit to a change of this kind. If we had a really earnest law reformer in Scotland, this change, with several others intimately connected with it, would have been effected some years ago. The Dean of Faculty has of late seemed reluctant to bring forward measures of reform which parliament was too languid to carry through, or which the obstructives, who are always powerful in questions of administrative reform, were sure to defeat. We hope that in a reformed parliament, and with the weighty assistance of Mr Young, the Dean will again become the leader and the hope of Scottish law reformers.
Salaries of Sheriff-substitutes.-A deputation from the Sheriff-substitutes of Scotland, introduced and supported by a number of members of Parliament, has had an interview with the Home Secretary, to urge upon the Government the necessity of providing a more suitable remuneration for the office. We have reason to believe that the reception of the deputation was satisfactory, and that the authorities. at the Home Office are now convinced that as a body the Sheriff-substitutes are not remunerated as the duties and social position of resident county judges require. We hope, therefore, that a revision of the scale of salaries will soon take place.
Mr Charles Scott on Law Reforms.-The high position which Mr Scott's talent and energy have secured for him at the bar entitle him to speak with authority on questions affecting the improvement of our system of jurisprudence and its administration. His recent ad
dress to the working classes in Queen Street Hall* on the important question, What should the working man do with his vote? exhibits him, however, in a character in which he was previously little or not at all known to his professional brethren, and one in which, in ordinary circumstances, we should not be called upon in these pages to criticise his utterances. We have nothing to do with Mr Scott as a democratic Tory, answering the question we have quoted, with charming frankness, "Why, of course, give it to the Conservatives." But it happens singularly enough that in Mr Scott's lecture, like a fly in amber, we find imbedded one or two passages of infinitely greater value than the rest, passages which deserve attention as well for their own suggestiveness as for the respect justly due to Mr Scott when he speaks of subjects connected with his profession.
He insists on the value of the ancient and now rather unpopular institution of jury trial, and hopes for its re-invigoration by the infusion of working men into juries. Perhaps they would do no harm there, possibly they would do the work required of jurymen with as much intelligence and fairness as the middle classes, whom Mr Scott accuses of unfaithfulness to their trust "in regard to this most ancient and conservative mode of trial." Observe that in this lecture conservative excellent, otherwise we should have difficulty in discovering the meaning of the word in this connection. Anxious, however, to remove any objection to the extension or revival of jury trial lurking in the minds of his disciples, Mr Scott hastens to assure them.
"Of course, a workman, called to the jury, must receive an equivalent for the wages lost to him by the performance of this great public duty; but in every other respect, the whole official costs attending a jury trial should be swept away, and with the whole householders of the country on the jury roll, an ample number of jurymen could be had without oppressing any individual whatsoever."
There is no reason why a juryman should not receive some compensation for his loss of time in performing a public duty, although hitherto this duty has to some extent stood on the same footing as witness-bearing, a duty which every man owes to his fellow-citizens, and out of which he may not make profit because he may to-morrow be himself a litigant and may call upon his neighbours to do the same office for him. But we can hardly imagine that Mr Scott, by this sentence, means to suggest that jurymen should be fully paid or overpaid, while counsel, agents, judges, and clerks, should do their work gratuitously. Perhaps, if he had not been speaking as a conservative orator to working men, he would have made his meaning clearer; for there is at the Scotch bar no greater master of the pellucid style than Mr Scott. We think, however, that one of the remedies to be applied to the "broken down" system of jury trial in England is to be found in the direction which he has indicated.
The evil which has most profoundly impressed Mr Scott in the course of his experience of criminal courts, and that upon which he
*"What should the Working Man do with his Vote?" Edinburgh: Henry Robinson.