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The English Master of Judicial Statistics in the letter to Hon. Joseph H. Choate already referred to, describing the promptness and despatch with which trials are conducted in England, stated that twenty-three judges handle all the litigation of England and Wales with a population of about 32,500,000 and that they actually try and determine an average of 5,000 cases a year, or more than twice as many as are tried by forty-three judges in New York and Kings Counties. As I write, July 1st, 1909, there lies before me a copy of news despatch which states that the English Court of Appeals has decided practically all the appeals that were on the docket at the beginning of the present term and that it is now disposing of cases that have been down for hearing less than five weeks. This seems wonderful indeed to us who are accustomed to a system under which our appellate courts are usually from one to three years behind with their dockets.
There is no longer any excuse for the retention of our present system in the form which it has come to possess. It is totally inconsistent with the standard of civilization which we have attained in other fields, and especially with our reputation for doing most things more rapidly than any other people. It is refreshing to note that the most candid members of the bench and bar are beginning to take a more common sense view of the purpose of a judicial trial and are joining in the agitation for reform.
1-Justice and Police Courts, Fairlie, J. A., Local Government, 95-118.
2-The Laws Delays, Baldwin, S. E., The American Judiciary, 365-73.
3-The Organization of the Courts of the States, Ibid., 125– 36.
4 The Trials of Jury Trials, Coxe, A. C., Columbia Law Review, I, 286-97.
5-Proposed Reform in Judicial Procedure, Deemer, H. E., Proceedings of the American Political Science Association, IV, 246-59.
6-The Administration of Justice, Taft, W. H., Green Bag, XX, 441-7.
66. HOME RULE FOR CITIES.
No branch of American politics has been more severely or more deservedly criticised than the government of our cities. At the same time no subject has been studied and discussed more thoroughly during the last twenty years and in no direction have there been more hopeful signs of improvement. One of the besetting evils of city government has been its slavish subjection to the government of the State. In the following selection Mr. E. P. Oberholtzer points out the evils of too close State supervision and outlines the movement toward municipal Home Rule up to 1903:
Another movement which is meant to prevent confusion, simplify the processes of government, and drive corruption from its sheltered haunts is the emancipation of cities from the State legislatures. I do not remember elsewhere to have read so intelligible a discussion of the incongruities and anomalies in our present system of making local boundaries, as that by Professor Patten. Lines have been drawn arbitrarily without the slightest regard for the temper or character of the population. Great industrial and maritime cities are thrown into agricultural States. Half the population may be settled perhaps on a few square miles of space in one corner of the State. With wholly different interests these two sections of the people, urban and rural, come together at the State capital, and in consequence the results are mutually disadvantageous. Neither section understands the needs or wishes of the other, and the effect is weakening, corrupting, and unwholesome for the political life of both the city and the State. How by practical means they are to be separated, now that they are joined
together, is a difficult question to decide. The State was present before the city. The city is an afterthought, and an aftergrowth. It has developed from the village, and while there was no little political friction between New York and Philadelphia and the rural counties a century ago, the understanding is infinitely less to-day since the cities have grown to their present proportions.
The State legislatures are in serious decline. They have lost much of their former title to public respect, and their powers have been curtailed in a variety of ways by the Constitutional Convention. Not a few of their ills and misfortunes spring from the lack of homogeneity in the population of the modern State. It is a grouping of diverse and discordant elements which work at cross purposes with each other. A partisan majority of one kind in the rural counties confronts a majority of a different kind in the city, and thus there is cordial and direct invitation of trading, bribery, "log-rolling," "jamming," and other evils, now very familiar at the State capitals. The State legislatures have made themselves more and more meddlesome in the affairs of the municipalities. To settle some grudge, to "strike" vested wealth for large sums by means of blackmail, to reward party men for some political service, the legislature, without warning, passes a bill changing the legal or institutional system of a city. The municipal government is a derivative creation-it is the absolute creature of the State-and the legislature, except as it has been limited by the Constitutional Convention, makes laws at will in reference to cities. It grants the charter, amends the charter, and by "special" and "general" laws is almost everywhere free at each session to make, unmake, or remake the government of any municipality within the State, no matter what its wealth or size. That these arbitrary and evil attacks upon the rights of great cities are contrary to public policy needs no particular demonstration. The disposition on the part of the legislatures, for no honorable or necessary cause, suddenly to withdraw grants which they earlier had made and to abuse the privileges they enjoy in superintending the government of
cities, has gone far to condemn absolutely the existing relationship and induce us to seek a safer system. Home rule for cities has become an imperative demand in all parts of the Union, and as a remedy for a certain class of ills, it is full of promise for the American municipality. It is not immediately practicable to separate the city from the State and let it stand in independent and direct relationship with the national government. It is considered feasible, however, in some States, to attempt to divorce the city and the legislature, a movement which while still rather new, has met with marked public favor. The elimination of the legislature closes at least one source of corrupt influence and dishonesty. If there is to be corruption, let it originate at home in the bosom of the people who are most concerned about it. The sage American politician, who, in a partisan controversy over a seat, was informed that both contestants were "rascals, " and who promptly inquired "which is our rascal?" betrayed a preference that may profitably be recognized in city government. With home rule we need patronize only our own rascals, which is a blessing worthy of note.
The only weapon with which to combat effectively the State legislature is the Constitutional Convention. It is true the legislature, in a season of virtue, may resign its powers over the cities by statute; it may agree as in Louisiana to let the people frame their own charters, and amend those instruments at their own pleasure. When a charter is submitted to the citizens, and is adopted by a majority vote, it gains binding force in any town or city, except New Orleans, which is expressly excepted from the provisions of the law. Such a grant, however, is wholly voluntary with the legislature, and the statute may at any session be repealed or changed. In many States the legislature without formulating its design in general statutory terms, submits local government acts and charters for the approval or rejection of the people of the districts to which they relate. Such a practice, while it is entirely praiseworthy, is likely not to prevail in regard to large cities. In the best case the legislature obeys its own will and