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Some four hundred years ago, one of the greatest advocates of the case system of studying law-indeed, the only one, so far as I am aware, who ever wrote a series of law reports for students' usesaid: “The reporting of particular cases or examples is the most perspicuous course of teaching the right rule and reason of the law; for so did Almighty God himself, when he delivered by Moses his judicial laws.” 5 Reports, Preface, p. ix. And apparently those who agree with this eminent professor of law have been increasing in numbers for some time. I do not wish to challenge the statement, but to call attention to the maturer experience and after conduct of the great judge who made it.
There are various methods of reporting decided cases, and there are various methods of studying law by the case system. The most elaborate method of case reporting is first to give the entire record in the case, then a briefer statement of the facts, then the arguments on both sides at large and all the authorities cited on either side stated at length as to each point in the case separately, together with any other arguments and authorities that the industry of the reporter can discover, and finally the conclusion of the court as to each, with the reasons assigned therefor. By this method of reporting Lord Coke made many of his cases such storehouses of learning that they have been the delight and admiration of every seeker for the law on these questions ever since; for nowhere could such elaborate statements of the matter be found, nor even anything to add to what he had said. For example, there are Shelley's Case and Chudleigh's Case, in the first volume of Lord Coke's reports. What more could be said than is there reported? Indeed, these are the fountains from which all we have has been drawn. Yet what teacher of law has seen fit since to incorporate either of these cases in the assignment of matter for his students to prepare for recitation and discussion in class? Indeed, it is evident to all that the law is too large a subject for such a method, and life is too short to study law in that way. In the preface to his first volume, Lord Coke said: "In these reports I have (of purpose) not observed one méthod, to the end that, in some other edition (if God so please), I may follow the form that the learned shall allow of, and will sequester my own opinion; for it may be I should prefer those reports which are less painful, and yet (perhaps) no less profitable.” It would seem that his conclusion from his experiment was that the more compendious report is the more profitable, for we notice a very decided tendency to brevity in his later reports, and finally he abandoned the case system entirely and devoted himself to the writing of his celebrated commentaries or institutes.