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The present report is designed to accomplish this reform, so far as the subjects embraced in it are concerned, and so far, also, as a careful examination of the important subject committed to their hands, and a due regard to the responsibility under which they act, have as yet enabled them to submit in detail any portion of their labors for the action of the Legislature.
To say that the reforms thus enjoined upon them were such as their own judgment approved, is but to repeat what is already known to the Legislature. In accordance with their own convictions, and in the spirit of the law, they have prepared the portion of the system which is now submitted. Though compressed within a narrow compass, it reaches far, and sweeps away the needless distinctions, the scholastic subtleties, and the dead forms which have disfigured and encumbered our jurisprudence. If the performance be equal to the intention, they will have relieved justice from many of her shackles, and opened the way for a thorough reform of remedial law in all its departments.
As will be perceived, the present is but a report in part. It relates only to the proceedings and pleadings in civil actions, and to such changes in the jurisdiction and functions of the courts, as seemed necessary to develop and bring into successful operation, the important reforms which have constituted the chief object of the present labors of the Cominissioners.
The magnitude of the task which yet remains for them to perform, can scarcely be understood, but by those who have made the law their study. It is sufficient to say, that under the constitution and the statute, the commissioners see no other limit to their duty, than to make full provision for every proceeding in the judicial tribunals from the beginning to the end of every controversy. The courts of justice, and all their officers, the time within which actions must be commenced, the mode of bringing the parties before the court, their respective allegations, the trial of disputed questions of fact and of law, the summoning of witnesses, and the manner of their exa
mination, including the question of their competency and the rules of evidence, the judgment to be rendered, the execution of the judgment, and appeals, together with the immense mass of special proceedings known to our law, prerogative and remedial writs, arbitrations, the processes against absent and insolvent debtors, and a revision of the practice, pleadings and proceedings in criminal cases, all appear to be embraced in the comprehensive language of the Constitution. Acting upon this view, it is the design of the Commissioners to prepare a code of procedure which shall comprehend the whole law of the State, concerning remedies in the courts of justice.
The result of their labors thus far, is before the Legislature. They will proceed to execute the remainder of their work, with as much rapidity, as the nature of the service, the care with which it should be performed, and their own strength will allow; asking in advance, and confident of receiving the indulgence and co-operation of the Legislaturc.
It will be perceived that the present report relates chiefly to actions hereafter commenced; it being thought indispensable to keep the old and the new systems of practice distinct. It is the purpose of the Commissioners to submit, as soon as possible, a temporary act, designed to facilitate the despatch of the business now pending in the courts.
With a view to anticipate, as far as possible, objections which may be made to any portion of the work, the Commissioners have inserted many notes, more, perhaps, and longer, than may by some be thought necessa:y, but which it was supposed might serve to furnish explanations, and answer arguments against the adoption of the reforms proposed.
All which is respectfully submitted.
DAVID DUDLEY FIELD. Albany, Feb. 29, 1848.