Page images
PDF
EPUB

I believe Governor Thatcher is leading the opposition.
Mr. CHRISTOPHERSON. We shall be glad to hear Mr. Thatcher.

STATEMENT OF HON. MAURICE H. THATCHER, A REPRESENTA

TIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF KENTUCKY

Mr. THATCHER. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, it is not a very pleasant task to oppose my worthy colleagues, Mrs. Langley and Mr. Finley in this matter, and I do not wholly oppose them. But, of course, I must represent my district and my part of the State, just as they so well represent theirs.

I concede that there is a reasonable need for relief in the courts in Kentucky, and that this need will increase. But, of course, the committee must look at the subject in a broad way and undertake to give relief to all sections. The whole State must be considered.

You take the city of Louisville, which I have the honor to represent, a city of 350,000 people.

Mr. MONTAGUE. What county is that city in?

Mr. THATCHER. Jefferson County. Seventy-five per cent of the civil business of the Western District is tried in Louisville, and the preponderance of the criminal business of the western district is tried in Louisville.

The fact that Louisville is the State's metropolis and has this great percentage of cases, makes it difficult to carve off rural counties from the western district and give aid to Louisville, where there is real need for relief.

Our judge, Judge Dawson of the western district, three years ago, took the position, and now takes the position, that the only substantial relief that could be accorded the western district would be through the appointment of a third judge who might be assigned alternately to the two districts. He, and Judge Cochran of the eastern district both oppose a third district.

So far as bringing the courts anywhere to the people of any section of the State, I am quite in sympathy with that idea. That could be reached, of course, by a mere amendment of the law providing for courts to be held at these additional points.

As regards the distance lawyers of southeastern Kentucky, in dealing with special or emergent cases, must travel in order to reach the judge of the eastern district when he is at Covington, the headquarters of the district, permit me to suggest that attorneys in the southwestern portion of the western district, on the Missisippi River and adjacent to the mouth of the Ohio River, in similar cases must travel close to 300 miles in order to appear before the judge of the western district, whose district headquarters are at Louisville. Hence, those of the southeastern portion of the State are placed at no greater disadvantage on this score than are those in the southwestern section of Kentucky. Therefore, a third judge, with statewide jurisdiction, would materially help in the solution of this phase of the problem, whereas, a new district in the southeastern portion of the State would not give any relief, so far as southwest Kentucky is concerned.

In other words, if the solution reached should be that of the creation of another judgeship, so he could be assigned as conditions might warrant to one or the other of the present districts, additional points could be created in the same act, as you know, for additional places

for holding court in the sections of the State where it might be wise to “bring the courts closer to the people.”

Mr. STOBBS. May I interrupt you?
Mr. THATCHER. Yes.

Mr. STOBBS. What is the proportion of the criminal business in the western district to that of the criminal business in the present eastern district?

Mr. THATCHER. Mr. Calvert, who will speak later, has that information, and unless you want it at this time, I should prefer have him give it to you when he makes his presentation.

Mr. STOBBS. That will be agreeable to me.

Mr. CHRISTOPHERSON. That information is in the brief which has been filed with the committee.

Mr. THATCHER. Ten counties would be taken off from the western district by this bill. That would give practically no relief to that district from the standpoint of the civil business. There are three of these 10 counties where there is a substantial amount of criminal business and that would, of course, be subtracted from the western district. There would be some element of relief involved in that.

Mr. MONTAGUE. That criminal business is mainly business growing out of the prohibition law?

Mr. THATCHER. Mainly that.

Mr. CHRISTOPHERSON. I think Judge Dawson said that about one-fourth was criminal business.

Mrs. LANGLEY. He said it would relieve one-fourth of the business in Jefferson County.

Mr. THATCHER. I should like to read Judge Dawson's letters. Here is a letter written to me on January 28, 1930.

Mr. MONTAGUE. By whom?
Mr. THATCHER. Judge Dawson of the western district.

LOUISVILLE, Ky., January 28, 1930. Hon. M. H. THATCHER, M. C.,

Washington, D. C. DEAR MR. THATCHER: I have your letter inclosing copy of the bill introduced by Mrs. Langley in the House and by Senator Sackett in the Senate, which provides for a third Federal district in Kentucky.

My views on this subject are fully expressed in my letter to you under date of January 9, 1927, and in my letter to Senator Ernst of May 24, 1926, copy of which I inclosed in my letter to you of January 9, 1927.

Briefly summarized, my view is that the proposed district is unwise and that it will not result in giving any very substantial relief to the western district of Kentucky, and in fact it will operate to close the door to future relief, which this district must ultimately have unless there is a material let-up in criminal business. If any relief is to be given I favor a third judge, with jurisdiction coextensive with the two districts, the bill specifically allotting to him the trial of criminal business in each of the districts, with jurisdiction to try such civil cases as may be assigned to him by the senior circuit judge of the sixth circuit. One judge who devoted all of his time to trying criminal business could dispose of all the criminal business in my district and in Judge Cochran's district each year in less than six months, leaving him plenty of time to assist in the trial of civil business and leaving the other two judges in a position to try the important civil business without being constantly swamped with petty criminal cases.

Another objection to the proposed bill is the provision for a court at Hopkinsville, As I heretofore indicated when the former bill to create a third district was pending in Congress, there is absolutely no necessity for a court at Hopkinsville. If provision were made for such a court it would simply result in my going to Hopkinsville one day and coming back the next day or the second day thereafter. The volume of business coming from that section does not justify a court there. To provide for holding court there would simply mean additional

expense and the taking of that time from the business at Louisville, which can not be spared.

Furthermore, the bill rearranges the times for holding court in my district in & way not at all satisfactory. If there is any likelihood of the bill being passed, I earnestly suggest that instead of the dates fixed in the bill the dates for holding the terms in the western district be as follows:

Louisville, second Monday in March, first Monday in October; Paducah, third Monday in April, second Monday in November; Owensboro, first Monday in May, fourth Monday in November; Bowling Green, third Monday in May, second Monday in December; and if court is to be held at Hopkinsville, let the dates be the third Monday in February and third Monday in September. Thanking you for writing me, I am, Very truly yours,

CHARLES I. Dawson. Here is a further letter on April 3, addressed to me by Judge Dawson, and which he asked me to place before the committee:

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY,

Louisville, Ky., April 3, 1930. Hon. M. H. THATCHER, M. C.,

Washington, D. C. DEAR MR. THATCHER: On January 22 you inclosed me a copy of House bill 5624, introduced by Mrs. Langley, which creates a third judicial district in Kentucky, and asked my views as to the advisability of the proposed legislation. Under date of January 28 I answered your letter, and for fear you have mislaid the answer I am inclosing herewith a copy. Supplementing that letter, I desire to offer the following observations:

The western district, over which I preside, as now constituted embraces 53 counties of the State. Louisville, the metropolis of the State, with a population of approximately 350,000, is in my district. The law provides for holding court twice a year at Louisville, Paducah, Owensboro, and Bowling Green. I think it is safe to say that 85 per cent of the litigation in my district, excluding criminal business, is at Louisville, and 70 or 75 per cent of the criminal business originates and is tried at that point.

Of course such recent enactments as the national prohibition act, the Harrison Narcotic Act, and the motor vehicle theit act have resulted in a tremendous increase in the criminal docket. The criminal docket has not grown within the past two years, but I can not say that there has been any appreciable decrease. On the other hand, in the last six years there has been a tremendous increase in the civil business in my district. Practically all suits brought by citizens of Kentucky to recover refunds on income taxes are filed in my district, as the collector is located at Louisville. Suits on war-risk insurance policies have very recently materially increased the size of the docket here; and,

since the rule laid down in the case of Security Mutual Life Insurance Co. 1. Prewitt (202 L'. S. 246), was overruled by the case of Terral v. Burke Construction Co. (257 U'. S. 529), practically all suits against insurance companies find their way into the Federal court. Within the past four years there has been a very extensive oil and gas development in the territory surrounding Owensboro, and this development has been the occasion of considerable litigation in my court. I think it is safe to say that, with the growing importance of Louisville and the developments which are taking place in the western district of Kentucky generally, the civil docket will continue to increase and unless there is a material decrease in the criminal business the docket will soon reach the point where it will be a physical impossibility for one judge to handle it. As the situation now is, I am kept constantly busy-in fact, in the five years I have been upon the bench I have not felt at any time that I could afford to take a vacation of any reasonable length.

The Langley bill, now under consideration, takes 10 counties out of my district. Green, Nelson, Marion, Spencer, Taylor, and Washington are allotted to the eastern district, and Adair, Casey, Clinton, and Russell are allotted to the proposed new southern district. Taking these counties from my district affords practically no relief, so far as the civil docket is concerned. In the five years I have been upon the bench, I can recall only eight civil cases which came from these counties, excluding, of course, a few small bankruptcy cases of no practical importance, so far as the work of the judge is concerned. With the exception of Nelson, Marion, and Washington, the elimination of these counties from my district would afford no substantial relief, so far as the criminal docket is concern!

Excluding the three counties last above named, I feel quite confident that the other seven counties proposed to be taken from my district, in the five years I have been upon the bench have not furnished as many as 50 criminal cases. The civil and criminal cases originating in Nelson, Marion, and Washington are tried at Louisville, and a very considerable part of my criminal docket at Louisville originates in these three counties. I would say that these three counties furnish about one-fourth of my criminal business at Louisville, and the proposed bill would to that extent afford me relief.

The situation we shall ultimately have in the western district of Kentucky, however, can never be relieved by creating another judicial district in Kentucky, unless Jefferson County, with possibly two or three adjoining counties, should be carved into a separate district, which I think is not at all desirable. I am in no position to definitely speak about conditions in the eastern district of Kentucky, but I am of the opinion that at the present time the proper way to meet the situation in Kentucky is to provide for an additional judge, with jurisdiction coextensive with the two present districts in Kentucky. In view of the fact that the present tremendous burden on the two Kentucky judges is due to the large in-crease in criminal business, and in view of the fact that one of the problems which the authorities at Washington are now trying to solve is the handling of this additional criminal business, my suggestion is that the bill creating the additional judge specifically allot to him the trial of criminal business in each of the districts, and the trial of such civil business as may be assigned to him by the senior circuit judge of the sixth circuit. One judge, devoting his time thereto, could easily dispose of all the criminal business in the two districts in seven months each year, and I feel quite confident in considerably less time.

I want it to be distinctly understood that I am not taking the attitude that Kentucky should be content with its present Federal judicial machinery. What I am trying to do is to suggest the best method of solving the problem. I don't. want the attempted solution to be such as will result in no substantial relief to my district, but will result for many years in closing the door tɔ such relief, and such would be the inevitable result of creating the proposed southern district.

Will you please deliver this letter, together with a copy of my letter to you of January 28, to the subcommittee which has the proposed bill under consideration? Sincerely yours,

Chas. I. Dawson. Mr. STOBBs. You are an attorney, of course, are you not? Mr. THATCHER. Yes.

Mr. STOBBs. Of course, we want to give all due consideration to the statement of any judge on the bench, but I am rather surprised at that letter in view of the statistics which we have here before us as to the number of cases disposed of in the western district as compared with the number disposed of in the eastern district.

Mr. THATCHER. Those are criminal cases, are they?

Mr. STOBBs. They are both criminal and civil cases. He complains in that letter of the great number of civil cases that he has handled in Jefferson County. The figures show here that on civil business, the number of cases disposed of for the year 1929 was only 89. From your experience as an attorney-certainly from my experience-89 civil cases disposed of in a whole year by one court would be a comparatively small number of cases, would it not?

Mr. THATCHER. Yes. I do not understand that. What is it you are reading from?

Mr. Stobbs. Let me quote you some figures-
Mr. THATCHER. What are you reading from?

Mr. STOBBs. The published report of the Attorney General. Those are the cases in the United States courts.

Mr. THATCHER. Those are not the private civil cases?

Mr. STOBBs. No. In 1929 there are only 99 cases commenced in which the United States was not a party; in all, 134 terminated and 102 pending. In Massachusetts we would not call that a heavy

docket. That is a light docket, for civil cases, especially for a city like Louisville. I live in a city of 200,000 and I can not get the drift of this letter.

Mr. THATCHER. I know the court there is busy; many of them are major cases. The collector of internal revenue for the entire State has his office there.

Mr. STOBBs. We have the figures here. Take for instance, the eastern district; it had three times as many cases in which the United States was a party, in 1929, as the western district. And it had over four times as many criminal cases as the western. In other words, in the western portion there were 763 convictions in 1929, of cases disposed of, and 934 cases on the docket. That is not heavy.

I have been a prosecuting attorney where we began the year with 2,000 cases on the docket and waded through quite a good many.

Mr. THATCHER. I do not know the number of cases, but I know the court there is very busy.

Mr. Stobbs. The figures speak for themselves; and I am rather surprised at his letter in view of these figures.

The CHAIRMAN. And, as a matter of fact, if a new district should be created, that means that not one of these two judges would be able to aid in the other districts?

Mr. THATCHER. That is true if they are assigned regularly to their district; it is harder to get them out of their own district than if they are appointed as floating judges. In Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, and other places, they have done that where they provided for new judges. You have to do that with new judges in view of the narcotic and prohibition cases to be considered.

Now wherever you can do it, that is, meet the situation by the creation of new judges, you save the appointment of United States marshals, and United States attorneys, and clerks.

Mr. MONTAGUE. Don't you also save the cost of erecting or securing space for courthouses?

Mr. THATCHER. Yes, sir.

Mr. STOBBs. But is not the great volume of your criminal cases and even your civil cases—the great volume of it-is found in the eastern district of Kentucky?

Mr. THATCHER. Yes; as to the criminal cases.

Mr. STOBBS. Something like four times as many cases as in the western district?

Mr. THATCHER. I don't recall the proportion, but most of them are petty cases.

Mr. Stobbs. Now, it is the policy to relieve congestion; and Kentucky is known throughout the United States as having in eastern Kentucky, a most congested district.

Mr. THATCHER. The two judges have been very busy.

Mr. STOBBS. Well, if you are to relieve congestion it would seem on these figures that it should be largely from that eastern district. It is true you can assign an extra judge to work over the whole State; but if you have the topographical conditions there which have been referred to, which make it difficult for people to travel, even though you have the extra expense of your United States attorney, marshal, deputy marshals, courthouse, and so forth, isn't it only fair to make it accessible to these isolated people to have all the machinery of the courts within comparatively easy reach?

« PreviousContinue »