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It would facilitate the administration of justice to provide by general law that the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the County Courts might be exercised in all terms. It would facilitate it much more if the Legislature should provide by general law that the County Courts should be courts of general jurisdiction, and have concurrent jurisdiction with the Circuit Courts in all matters criminal and civil. Continuances would then be only for such time as should be necessary, and changes of venue would send causes to a court that would be ready to try them within a month at the farthest. All litigated causes could be set for trial, and tried at the time set, without the enormous expense of holding witnesses over from day to day, as is now done, in the Circuit and County Courts. Jails would not fill up with persons charged with crime, to be kept for months at the expense of the county. Punishment would overtake the guilty, and vindication be afforded to the innocent. Every person could obtain "by law, right and justice, freely, completely and without denial, promptly and without delay.' If this were done, should the Circuit Court be abolished? That is not at all necessary. Enough circuit judges might be elected to constitute the four Appellate Courts, and to hold Circuit Courts in the very few counties where the volume of business is so great that the County Court and the Probate Court, provided for in the Constitution, cannot take care of it. The Circuit Courts, where the most vexatious and expensive delays usually occur, would, except in a few large cities and counties, be practically eliminated from the judicial machinery, and a law suit, when commenced, would march continuously along to final judgment, with only such rests as should be necessary to prepare it for trial. The County Courts would be elevated' to the present dignity of the Circuit Courts. Men of eminent ability and legal learning would be placed on the County Bench. All records of judgments and decrees affecting real estate would be found in one court instead of in two.
But little complaint has been made of delays in the Appellate Courts, and I submit that with more frequent sittings of these courts, and the entire relief of the judges from circuit duty, there would be no delays that would constitute any just ground for complaint.
In the early judicial history of the State, it was thought proper to have the Supreme Court hold its sittings at Ottawa, Springfield and Mount Vernon. There were reasons that then seemed to justify this opinion, but in the wonderful progress and changed condition of the State, they have passed away, and there appears to be no longer any reason why
the migratory character of that court should be maintained. If its sittings were located in this city alone, and salaries paid to the judges that would permit them to reside here during their terms of office, the business of the court would be more promptly transacted. The ability of the judges to consult together at all times, would enable the court to reach conclusions promptly and without delay. Opinions could be read, approved and filed as soon as prepared. The court might be, for all practical purposes, in perpetual session, and its work in constant progress. Here again, by the change I have suggested, the administration of justice might be facilitated.
I am aware that the positions here taken are open to attack, and subject to hostile criticism. I have prepared no defense for them. I have said nothing intended to disarm criticism. If they serve to provoke others to show a better way to "facilitate the adininistration of justice,” they will have answered the purpose I have in view in presenting them.
We have, in our constitution, said that another purpose of this Association is to elevate the standard of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession. There is certainly no profession in which the standard of these sterling virtues, integrity and honor, should be more elevated than in the legal profession. I believe that in respect to these qualities of character, the lawyers of the United States may safely challenge comparison with any and all other professions or callings. They are so much a lawyer's capital in business, that he cannot dispense with them. More trusts are committed to his keeping than to that of any other member of society, and the betrayal of a trust by an American lawyer is so rare as to be phenomenal. Misfortune, in all its forms, with all of its tongues and voices of sorrow, pain and despair, pours its confidences into our ears, and they are sacredly kept. The oppressed come to us with the bitter story of their wrongs, and whether they bring us gold for a fee, or come in the rags of penury, our services are faithfully given, and they receive such redress as the laws award. The fugitive from the fury of the mob seeks our counsel and protection, and we stand between him and the red-hot storm of evil and unreasoning passion by which he is pursued, and save him by putting ourselves in peril. The criminal, with the strong arm of the law reaching after his estate to satisfy penalties, or thrusting him towards a prison where bolts and bars would separate him from liberty, and where he would be clothed in the garb of disgrace and degradation, or threatening to lead him to a gibbet, appeals to us and receives our assistance. However hot the zeal of those who prosecute, we save him
from punishment beyond the measure of his crime, and the judgment against him is tempered with mercy, instead of being embittered with malice or hatred. The innocent, whom accident, adverse circumstances or falsehood has caused to be accused of criminal violation of the law, bring to us their unfortunate surroundings, and we listen patiently to their earnest but apparently uncorroborated protestations of innocence, and somehow a way is always opened for their escape and vindication. In all the important business affairs of life, men are led by our counsel and act upon our advice. We write their wills, and distribute their estates when they are dead; we drive away the pack of "wolves in sheep's clothing,' who, notwithstanding the homestead exemption laws, "devour widows' houses."
While we can take professional pride in the high standard of integrity and honor of the bar, we are still painfully conscious of the fact that a few members of the profession fall far below the high standard maintained by the American Bar. Let such be only examples of warning, and not imitatation.
Courtesy is a prime virtue, and a strong weapon in the quick, sharp contest of the lawyer's occupation. Its possession, upon all occasions, marks the mastery of the man over himself. To be genuine, it must be in-born. Though in-born, it requires the most assiduous and protracted culture. Like the shield of the Roman soldier, it should be borne into every conflict, no matter how sudden or how fierce. Among the most difficult places for the lawyer to observe that high degree of courtesy which gentlemen owe to each other on all occasions, is in the heated discussions that take place in the trial of causes in the court. Wrought up to that high tension which every lawyer feels on such occasions, engaged in an intellectual duel with an antagonist under like excitement and inflamed by like zeal; realizing that the issue of the duel is to be then and there finally settled, he may allow an angry passion to usurp the place of an intellectual effort, and in this moment of weakness, an uncourteous word or phrase leaps from his tongue. Any one, when under no strain or excitement, can select his words and moderate his tones in courteous measure. It is the strong man only who, in the white heat of controversy, when every passion is awake, when the eye flashes out the fires that burn in the soul, when every power of the mind is aroused, when the battle is on and the contest presses hotly forward, can thrust and parry, and parry and thrust in courteous phrases that flash and cut like a blade of Damascus. In all our forensic contests, thrusts and cuts must be received as well as given. If received from the polished shaft or blade of courteous though keen debate, they heal by first intention, and leave no scar; if received from the bludgeon of angry words, bitter epithet or coarse personality, the wounds are contused. They heal slowly, and leave ugly scars in memory.
There is nothing in the public life of the lawyer so little understood by the laity, as these public disputations in the trial of causes in court. They appear to forget that every cause has, in fact, two sides; that the reasons which lie on the weaker side of a cause are just as legitimate as those which lie on its stronger side; that in many cases the reasons on either side are so evenly balanced, that the desputants themselves are unable to say which, if either, is the stronger side. That each lawyer is confined in his employment and duty to one side of the cause; that a like duty as to the other side of the cause is upon the other of the disputants; that these two, together, carry on, in a public way, that same process of reasoning which every man carries on in his own mind, before acting in any important matter connected with his private business.
These disputations are absolutely necessary, though they may appear unseemly to those who do not understand their office and use. If in conducting them lawyers forget to be courteous, they are unseemly-they are the retorts in which proud falsehood and oppression are consumed, and the gold of right and truth and liberty is refined and purified. They are trials by battle, presided over by the genius of reason, and in which justice wins more and brighter victories, than upon any other field of human action.
Lastly, this Association has undertaken to build up and "cherish a spirit of brotherhood among the members of the legal profession.” On its success in this undertaking, depends the life of this Association, and its past and future reputation. In a measure, every man is, and has a right to be, selfish in the objects and results of his business life. He must be, and is, the center of his own personal world,-his home. From this center, all of his interests, duties, obligations and affections radiate towards his household, his kindred, his neighbors, his town, his county, State and Nation. The lawyer is no exception to this rule, but it is a very narrow view of his vocation that would allow him to make the pursuit and practice of his profession wholly selfish. His duties lie farther out from his personal self than those of the citizen whose occupation is purely private and personal. He professes a knowledge of the laws which quietly stand as sentinels at the side of every citizen, to protect him in obedience to, and punish him in disobedience of, the laws. He holds himself out to the public as an arm of the law, to aid in holding evenly the scales of justice. The public accepts him on his profession, and trusts him accordingly.
Knowing the law, he knows its imperfectness, and when, and where, and in what manner, the exigencies of business, and the advance of civilization require new laws to be made, or old ones modified, amended or repealed. This knowledge belongs to the public, and should be utilized for its benefit. Every citizen owes to the community or State, that quality of service that he, better than others, is qualified to render. If the lawyer understands the necessity of any reform in the law, and the means by which such reform can be effected better than other citizens whose knowledge and skill lie in other directions, he owes a corresponding duty to the public to bring about the needed reform. Public measures looking towards reforms, can only be carried by combination and cooperation. By unity of purpose and unity of action among many, or as our constitution expresses it, by cherishing a spirit of brotherhood. But it is well to remember that the domain of a brotherhood which seeks to confer public benefits, lies outside of and beyond the central world of self. The spirit of such brotherhood may well recognize that measure of selfishness by and through which each one provides for his own; but it reaches out beyond this, and spins golden threads which reach from one self to another self, and still on, and on, until a large number of men, with like tastes, or pursuits, or interests, are united in the cherished bonds of brotherhood. This is the spirit which this Association has sought to invoke among the lawyers of Illinois. It has sought to bring them together to discuss the reason and philosophy of the law, and compare notes as to its practical operation in the administration of justice. It has sought to lead the way in the growth and symmetrical development of our system of jurisprudence. In this work it has been at least partially successful. Many papers have been read here that were of profound interest to those who heard or have read them. Questions of great public interest have been ably and exhaustively discussed before this Association. These discussions have tended to prepare the public mind for the legal reforms which they foreshadowed. But they have not been as influential in that direction as they should have been, and one reason is that we have not given them as wide publication and circulation as was necessary to secure their proper consideration by the general public. Another reason is, that