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ART. VIII.-JUDICIAL CHANGES AND JUDICIAL
ERY creditable to the sound judgment and its disinterested
exercise by the government are the new appointments to law offices.
First, we have the promotion of Lord Cranworth and Sir James Knight Bruce to the new office of Lords Justices. tion the highest of any lawyer of his times. In private life he is as much beloved for his virtues and urbanities as he is esteemed in public life for his rare abilities, his profound legal knowledge, and his perfection as a judge. With Mr. Justice Patteson on the bench, it would be wrong to say that none of his brethren had attained to similar judicial excellence in either branch of jurisprudence, but very surely have none ever equalled him in both. The government and the country are exceedingly fortunate in so auspicious a selection, and so valuable a model for their future judges.
Sir James Knight Bruce enjoys, even among his many friends, a more qualified esteem; and suffers among those who dislike him an hostility which has recently found an exaggerated utterance in the invective of the “ Times”
for which the somewhat cynical criticisms, in which the Vice-Chancellor often indulged, have afforded some degree of justification. Nevertheless, the “Times" has, we think, dealt over-severely with excesses of satire on the part of Sir James Knight Bruce, which were themselves very greatly palliated by the follies and blunders which provoked them, and which have moreover met with frequent and well-deserved castigation at its own hands.
However due it may be to the dignity of the legislature to treat its acts with respect, it is not the less due in the legislature to treat the country with practicable laws and intelligible statutes. In this duty its failures are frequent and flagrant; and it appears to us that the censure thus richly merited can scarcely be applied with equal propriety or effect than by the judges themselves, who are educated and appointed to examine and administer them. Sir J. Knight Bruce is far from being without the sanction of high models for a similar course, and condemnation of the loose and confused language, as well as the conflicting and absurd provisions and omissions of statutes, have proceeded from nearly every judge on the bench; the sole distinction being that the late Vice-Chancellor lent a degree of caustic contempt to his remarks, which sounded less judicially and perhaps less seemingly in the ears of the bystander. Beyond this, we believe, there was no substantial difference between the random shots of the ViceChancellor and the more technical artillery of the Queen's Bench.
It will be well if the comments already made should add weight to the conviction, which will naturally possess the new judge's mind, that the tone and manner of his sallies must undergo an entire change in the august sphere to which he is now promoted. Everything else combines to recommend this appointment. The politics of Sir J. Knight Bruce are a proof of the high estimate of bis judicial merits, which could alone have induced the government to promote an opponent of their policy and party. The almost unanimous opinion of the profession at the Chancery Bar, moreover, pronounces Sir James as the most effectual of law reformers on that side of Westminster Hall, without going one step in aid of the legal bouleversement, so fashionable in certain quarters. No judge who ever sat there has striven more effectually to realize to suitors that broad measure of practical equity, which has never on his hands suffered restriction from the fetters of technicalities, or the impediments of that refined order of special pleading which becomes casuistry and results in injustice. No judge living has done harder work, or striven to administer more substantial justice with a more determined purpose, or in a more sincere and right intentioned spirit. We cordially concur with the “Spectator" newspaper that “he is famous for having done all the work of his own court, and that of two other courts into the bargain, at a time when reforms in practice and an extension of jurisdiction had brought into all the Chancery courts a greater quantity of business than they had ever entertained; and he is notorious for the generous industry with which he frequently volunteered to do the drudgery work of the Master's offices, which are subsidiary to his own court, simply because he cannot bear 'to see these poor people put to unnecessary expense.
Mr. James Parker, who was called to the bar in 1829, and whose professional career well warrants his promotion, and Mr. Kyndersley, a Master in Chancery, not perhaps equally noted for his success in that office, are the new Vice-Chancellors, vice Lord Cranworth and Sir J. Knight Bruce. Mr. Parker is a conservative, and politics have thus been again laudably disregarded in his appointment. This, therefore, is a very fit and
Mr. Bethel has succeeded Mr. Page Wood as Vice-Chancellor
in Lancaster; and this very excellent choice speaks well for Lord Carlisle.
Two very painful episodes have, nevertheless, occurred in this series of gratifying events: one is the approaching retirement of one of the very ablest, most patient, learned, and amiable judges who ever adorned the bench. Whilst in the fullest enjoyment of his acute and masterly intellect, Mr. Justice Patteson is taken from the bench by the growing infirmity which has been stealing on him for years past. Deeply as we deplore the calamity of such a loss, it is impossible to deprecate the decision taken. The deafness of the truly excellent judge rendered it difficult to himself to do justice to the cases he tried. We have seldom had more reason to lament the shortcomings of medical and surgical art in the removal of infirmities which would seem to be little else than mechanical derangements susceptible of simple remedies. Mr. M. D. Hill and Mr. Watson are named as probable successors, and it is not by any means impossible that vacancies for both these appointments may shortly occur, another of the learned judges being in a state of health which gives cause to apprehend his speedy retirement from judicial labour.
The County Court judge's conduct at Liverpool forms the second subject of lamentation; but inasmuch as it is sub judice, we refrain from further comment on it. It were unjust however to Mr. Ramshay to condemn his defects of courtesy and dignity of demeanour and language, without lamenting a pernicious example set, though certainly no excuse afforded to him, in a still higher sphere. In our humble judgment, next to a sense of justice, there is no qualification more essential to a judge than that of being a gentleman. It is an attribute of far more constant use and power than even that of legal attainment, and commands far more general and unfailing deference. A clear head and a kind heart are alike indispensable; and the immense powers now wielded by the new order of judges, as well as by their superiors, render it more than ever essential that they should be thus recommended to public favour; especially in a country like this, where few things which are unpopular are ever beneficial, and where neither bluster, abuse, or pomposity are often mistaken for dignity, even by the lowest classes of the people.
Art. IX.-The PROSPECTS OF THE BAR.
THE business in the superior courts is gradually but steadily
1 sinking. The body of men whose education has had the pursuit of advocacy in these courts as its object, and the emoluments of practice in them as the incentive and reward of their efforts, suddenly find the foundations of their prospects undermined, and their just hopes and ambition in great measure, if not wholly, jeopardised.
The most far-sighted of the organs of public intelligence thus expresses the views which this state of things presents to the mind of the impartial observer :
“The change now going on in all the relations of the legal profession is becoming every day more manifest—is marked by circumstances of increasing significance, and must at length attract the attention of society at large, which for the most part does not consider itself personally interested in the great social revolution which is at the present moment almost accomplished. There are few of us, however, who are not in some way almost immediately concerned in the fortunes and condition of the acute, educated, and powerful class by which the law is administered, and by which it is in a great degree framed and enacted. That this class should be made subject to ennobling rather than degrading influences, that the morality it adopts for its guidance should be wise and honourable, and that the inmediate rules in obedience to which professional conduct is to be directed may be such as intelligent gentlemen can cheerfully follow, are matters in which every class of the community has a deep, continued, and ever pressing interest. If the persons by whom the law is administered are generally disesteemed, the law itself will soon come into disrepute. If the lower forms of the legal profession are not bound by strict principles of honour, the high places in the law will soon be found occupied by men not deserving, and certainly not receiving, the respect and regard of society. The unhesitating submission to judicial decisions which has for ages been among the most striking and beneficial distinctions of the English people will soon cease to be felt or evinced, influence and solicitation will be employed to sway the tribunals of the land, and the many miseries which attend upon a corrupt judicature will inevitably follow.
“In thus deducing vast consequences from apparently insignificant sources, let us not be accused of dealing with imaginary evils, and of exaggerating the effects that may attend upon the social changes which even the least attentive among us must perceive to be at this moment in progress. These changes we sincerely believe may be made the occasion of great benefit to the commonwealth. They may also, we fear, if not wisely managed, lead to unspeakable mischief. The good and the evil are in the hands of society itself. By it the character of the change must be in effect determined.”
These extremely well put remarks form a very apt text for the suggestions which we are about to make as to the provisions of the County Court Extension Bill, which was not passed last session, but which it is intended to reintroduce in the approaching one.
The Bar is being rapidly stranded; and, deprived of the business which used to flow into the accustomed channels, is now sedulously excluded from the new ones. The determination of the attorneys to exclude the Bar from the County Courts is at present likely to prove but too successful.
The older practitioners among the attorneys do not receive the new class of business which the County Courts have engendered. It falls, on the contrary, into the hands of a body of younger men, who study the art of advocacy, with all the improved means and opportunities of cultivating it with effect, which the increased appliances of education and civilisation open to them. Being of the status of an attorney they can take the low fees which the nature of the cases and the spirit of the County Courts suggest and require, and which the conventional etiquette at the Bar forbids the barrister to accept. These men are generally competent for the work they undertake, and in many cases are even more so than the barristers they exclude. They are rendered fit by the practice they obtain, and, in default of which, those whom they supplant never can become fitter.
Thus most true is it, as Lord Denman has said, in his letter to Lord Brougham of June 1st :-“ The present state of things threatens the annihilation of the Bar as a class in society; for I think we cannot doubt that the public mind is decidedly in favour of the change; and I hear from all quarters that the most eminent men of the profession for the most part sit idle in court, and that the juniors are losing all hopes of succeeding in the world as barristers. Nothing, surely, can be more preposterous than the state of Westminster Hall contrasted with the County Courts that some of the best judicial talent the country ever enjoyed should be unemployed, while business flows with a redundant stream to men comparatively unknown.”
Such are the County Courts compared with the courts at Westminster; and so they will continue to be so long as the attainment of justice, which is prompt and inexpensive in the former, is tedious and costly in the latter. Lord Denman's suggestion of the remedy is founded on the fate of Mahomet, who was forced to go to the mountain, inasmuch as the mountain would not come to him.
The courts of the superior judges must be assimilated to those