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The Legislature. Woman Suffrage. — This state has the distinction of having, by a nearly unanimous legislature, proposed an amendment to its constitution extending the right of suffrage to women. All the oppressed and afflicted ones, without regard to sex, color, race, or previous condition, can prepare to take up their domicile in Iowa. Perhaps Utah can contribute. We shall watch the event of the final adoption of this amendment with great interest, somewhat, however, we confess, with the feeling of the doctor, who, when asked where was the preferable place to have a boil, replied, " On another man's leg."
Personal Identity. — Portland has just witnessed one of the most singular cases on record, in which the defendant was a woman variously called Catharine Waller, alias Carrie M. Kent, alias Carrie M. Waite, and whose maiden name, it was charged, was Catharine McKenzie. To commence at the beginning: In May, 1862, John Waller, at that time living in Pictou, Nova Scotia, was married to Catharine McKenzie, of the same place. Two children, one now eleven and the other seven years old, were the fruits of this marriage. In November, 1869, Mrs. Waller came to the states to earn money enough to furnish the house. She stopped a portion of her time in Portland, and the balance of the time in Boston, and seems to have been known as Kate Waller, Kate Wallace, and Carrie M. Kent, and related various stories concerning her life. During all this absence it is reported that she corresponded with Waller. The husband, John Waller, claims that early in 1873, his wife, Catharine Waller, married a man by the name of Waite; so he had her arrested for bigamy.
The case came up for trial in Portland recently, the woman pleading mistaken identity. Mrs. Waite and her husband were in court at the appointed time. Waller was sworn, and testified that the woman in court was his wife. Waller's sister and his brother-in-law also identified the woman as the wife of John Wallev. The girl of eleven years stepped up close to the woman and said, " Yes, sir, that is my mother." The little boy said this was the woman who visited their home in July last and lived for a time with his father as wife, and that she bought him (the boy) a pair of boots and a jack-knife. Other witnesses were called, who knew this woman as Catharine McKenzie and as Mrs. Waller.
The defendant is said to be quite a handsome woman, and was unmoved during the trial. She introduced witnesses to show that she had been mistaken frequently for a woman known as Catharine Wallace, who, it was claimed, was the real wife of Waller, and of course swore positively that she knew nothing about Waller or his children. She made quite a strong defence, and the jury failed to agree, nine standing for acquittal and three for conviction.
This is really a most remarkable case, and will pass into the law-books to afford precedent as a most singular case of mistaken identity, or of the ability of some persons to show that they are not themselves, but somebody else. — Central Law Journal.
Massachusetts Reports. — hi consequence of the resignation, by Albert G. Browne, Jr., Esq., of his position as reporter of the decisions of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, John Lathrop, Esq., of the Suffolk bar has been appointed. For the late reporter we have only to express the greatest praise, so far as his work has been performed. The twelve volumes of Massachusetts Reports issued by him are extremely creditable to him, and have received the commendation of the profession in other states as •well as here. But we trust that we may not hereafter have to qualify our praises by complaints as to the delay in issuing the volumes of opinions delivered during his term, but not yet printed. Of late nearly every change in the reporter has resulted in an embarrassing and, we think, indefensible delay in the completion of his work.1 The 12th Metcalf was printed in 1849; the 13th in 1851. The 11th Cushing In 1857; the 12th in 1860. The 14th Gray in 1862; the 15th and 16th in 1869 and 1871.
Mr. Gray succeeded Mr. Cushing as reporter. Seven volumes of Gray's Reports preceded the publication of the twelfth and last of Cushing. Allen succeeded Gray, and Brown, Allen; and under their supervision eighteen volumes of Reports appeared before the last of Gray was rendered accessible to the public. And so far have the volumes whose publication has been delayed, been lost not only to the profession, but to the court itself, that in the case of Elliott v. Stone, argued in 1854 (1 Gray, 571), the court decided, upon the same state of facts, the reverse of the conclusion at which it had arrived in the same case in 1S5-3 (12 Cush. 174). This delay of seven years in the publication of the latter volume prevented contemporary criticism of this change of base; and it is a strong illustration of our assertion that a volume delayed is a volume lost, that the above-cited discrepancy is not generally known to the profession.
The beginning of a new series of Reports, or at least the opening of the career of a new reporter, is certainly a proper time to consider any defects in the existing system. That the present plan is faulty is a fact beyond dispute; the remedy, we think, is equally evident.
By the statute creating the office of reporter it seems that "the reports of the decisions upon all questions of law argued and determined before the first day of September in each year shall be published within ninety days thereafter." Again, he is to publish his Reports annually. We all know that this wise provision has been quietly ignored, not only in the special cases above cited, but in the usual course of publishing the volumes. The 108th Mass., issued in December, 1873, contains the cases argued and determined in October and November, 1871.
This delay, as is commonly understood, arises from the practice of reporting cases by counties. Hence, if the learned court keeps back any one case for consideration, the preparation and printing of the volume must stand still
1 Quincy's Reports (1761-1772) appeared in 1865. Yet none of his successors before the date of its imue could have pleaded this venerable precedent. Possibly gome tradition of the advisability of deliberate action is handed down orally from one reporter to another.
Although this practice of reporting by counties has prevailed so long in this state, there seems to be no reason in favor of it; certainly none to be compared -with the argument against it, derived from the manifest injury of the delay.
If the new reporter publishes the decisions as fast as made, what possible objection can there be? The court is the same, and its conclusions are of equal interest and value to the community, whether its opinions be delivered in Berkshire or in Suffolk. If occasionally some case is held over for consideration and appears out of the chronological order of the hearings, this does not affect the real symmetry of the Reports.
In fact, the perfect arrangement afforded by the present system is one which savors of the mechanic rather than the author. It is the uniformity which would be the result of prescribing a certain number of pages to be given to each case, and a fixed number of cases to each volume. It is the precision which is the pride of Chinese art; in a word, it is red-tape.
We trust, therefore, that the Supreme Court and its official reporter will, at this favorable moment, come to an understanding that hereafter, whenever the material for a volume has accumulated, it shall be at once put in press. In this way the law will be obeyed, and the decisions of the court will be applicable to the transactions of the generation in which they were pronounced.
We may be pardoned if we suggest that the court is not entirely free from blame. The statute says, " The full court shall, as soon as may be after the decision of the question submitted to it, . . . cause a rescript to be filed "... "and, if no further opinion is written out within sixty days, the reporter shall publish the case, with the opinion contained in such record or rescript."
The legislature undoubtedly expected that the court would file the rescripts as soon as a decision had been made. But in practice the court withholds its rescripts until the opinions have been prepared. That the present system is becoming intolerable is shown by the motions which have been made during the present session of the general court. One act already passed reads as follows: "The reporter of the decisions of the Supreme Judicial Court shall keep, in some safe and convenient place, to be provided by the county of Suffolk, in the city of Boston, the written opinions of the court in all cases argued in the several counties, until their publication in the Reports, and also his dockets and copies of papers in such cases, and shall afford due facilities for their examination, for which purpose he shall be allowed a sum not exceeding fifteen hundred dollars per year, to be expended in clerk-hire and for incidental expenses."
Here we see that, in the opinion of the general court, the present system works so great an inconvenience that one county will pay a large bonus to have an opportunity given to its bar to examine in season these important records. And yet it is obvious that this remedy is one-sided and unfair. The lawyers in other counties must come to Suffolk to read the manuscripts, or he at a disadvantage .as compared with their associates of that bar. We regard this act as a confession of the serious troubles caused by the present system, and almost as an admission that the promptness which prevails in other states and in England is impossible in Massachusetts. Surely it comports not with the dignity of the legislature or of the Supreme Court that an act should be passed directing prompt Reports to be issued, and thus to declare that the court had been evading the existing law. And yet we are afraid that the court would consider its course as obnoxious to that construction if the case could be brought officially to its notice.
Such a change as we propose would put an end to all such reflections, and would be in entire harmony with the existing law. It is by no means the lightest argument in favor of the new plan that it removes one of the very few grounds of complaint against the present admirable system of judicature in this state.
The Albany Law Journal, a newspaper for which we have hitherto felt much respect, makes merry over the administration of criminal law in Massachusetts. It must afford great satisfaction to the criminal classes to have their persecutors thus held up to scorn.
"' The trial of ^Charles Hazeltine, in the Superior Court at New Bedford, for exhibiting a statuette of Narcissus in his shop window, was closed Tuesday, and the case given to the jury. After remaining out nine hours, the jurymen were discharged, being unable to agree. They stood nine for conviction and three for acquittal.' — Exchange.
"We furnish the foregoing as an interesting item of legal news; but we confess we do not exactly understand what Mr. Hazeltine's offence was. There are three ways of looking at the matter: First, as an offence in Hazeltine; second, as an offence in the statuette; and, third, as an offence in Narcissus. In the first place, we can imagine that the accused is an artist who has produced a bad statue. We know how sensitive Massachusetts, and especially Boston, is in respect to classicism and correctness in works of art. We know what remarkable productions the public statues at the 'Hub' are. There is that wondrous figure of Webster in the State House grounds, with that Roman candle in his hand, for instance. It may be that Hazeltine has recklessly published and uttered a figure as reprehensible as a bad figure in rhetoric. If so, we linve no sympathy with him. Let bim be taught sculpture in the stone-yard of the state institution at Charlestown. Or if the -accused is not a sculptor, and therefore, has not exhibited his own work, but simply that of another, the offence is not mitigated, but rather enhanced; for one may possibly be pardoned for being proud of his own productions, however unshapely, but not when the cause of offence is created by another. But, after all, we suspect that the sensitiveness of our Eastern neighbors arose from the subject of the sculptor. If we recollect right, Narcissus was a beautiful youth, who, seeing the reflection of his own image in the water, fell in love therewith, and pined away in consequence. Perhaps the citizens of Massachusetts felt the covert satire conveyed by the exhibitor in the subject of the figure. If so, our neighbors are unnecessarily sensitive. True, we have occasionally heard that they thought well of themselves rather than otherwise, but we cannot believe that Mr. Hazeltine intended any thing unkind in this reference to the self-respect prevalent in the meridian of Cape Cod. It was probably merely playful, and we should advise the commonwealth to discontinue the proceedings, say on payment of costs. Let the public authorities reflect that it might have been worse, as, for instance, if the accused had set up an image of Bacchus, or Mercury, or Midas, or some such reprehensible satire in plaster, and let them hush the affair up as quietly as possible."
The Legislature. Rvport Of The Land Commission. — We print in full that portion of the Report of the Land Commission that relates to the transfer of title to real estate. The commissioners, though young men, have done their work thoroughly, and we are glad to believe that their report mil receive general attention.
The difficulty and delay attending all transfers of real estAie in this commonwealth, and the irregularity in the fees of conveyancers, together with a widely expressed dissatisfaction with real property law as here administered, have led the commissioners to compile the following code and to recommend its adoption: —
An Act To Regulate Conveyancing. Be it enacted, &c., as follows :—
Sect. 1. No conveyances shall hereafter be made in this commonwealth, except hy deeds of warranty with full covenants. All other deeds shall be void.
Sect. 2. Every person making a conveyance shall describe therein the origin of his title; if by deed, then the date and book of registration shall be given; if by inheritance or devise, appropriate references to the probate records shall be given, and the names of all heirs or interested devisees shall be furnished.
Sect. 3. No person shall make more than one conveyance annually. A second one shall be void, and the maker thereof shall suffer death.
Sect. 4. All conveyances of executors, administrators, guardians, trustees, and assignees are void.
Sect. 5. All estates shall be conveyed by their original bounds. No alteration or subdivision shall be allowed oftener than once in fifteen years.
Sect. 6. Five years' possession of real estate, whether disturbed or undisturbed, shall establish an indefeasible title thereto.
Sect. 7. Corporations have full authority to convey by deed, and the signature of any member thereof shall pass title.
Sect. 8. The fees of examiners of titles shall hereafter be limited to fifty per cent of the value of the estate conveyed, unless the title is declared to be without flaw. In this event, seventy-five per cent shall be the limit, and shall constitute a prior lien on the estate.
Sect. 9. All records of deeds in all the registries of this commonwealth of more than six years of age shall be burned.
Sect. 10. Whoever styling himself a conveyancer shall raise a " nice point," so called, in conveyancing, shall be imprisoned in the state prison for a term not exceeding ten years, and the term shall be proportioned to the nicety of the point.
Sect. 11. Any magistrate may, with or without oath or complaint of any one, issue a warrant to search the premises of any person styling himself a conveyancer, and destroy every thing found therein.
Sect. 12. All conditions in deeds and rights of way, all tenants in dower, and also all conveyancers of more than forty years of age, and the Conveyancers' Association, are hereby abolished.
Sect. 13. All persons hereafter sty ling themselves conveyancers shall be imprisonod for the term of their natural lives.
Sect. 11. All contingent remainders, whether now or hereafter created, shall bo vested.
Sect. 15. The word " grab" interlined, indorsed upon or otherwise inserted in any conveyance of land, shall constitute the same a mortgage; and all debts whether then or thereafter payable from the grantor to the grantee shall be secured thereby.