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Mr. THATCHER. Mr. S. S. Yantis, of Lexington, Ky., is here, Mr. Chairman, and would like to say a few words.
STATEMENT OF S. S. YANTIS
Mr. S. S. YANTIS. Gentlemen of the committee, I do not know that I can add anything to what has been said except that I might emphasize some features of the controversy.
It has been stated by Mr. Calvert, who is certainly qualified to judge, that about 80 per cent of the civil business arises in the present eastern district of Kentucky, which would arise, if it is divided, out of the proposed southern district. The reason for that is that most of the land titles have been litigated in that section of the State, the mountain section of the State; and the corporate interests are located there. That is in great measure, owned, controlled, and operated by nonresidents; and for that reason that kind of litigation arises in the Federal courts.
In the proposed eastern district that same situation does not exist. The reason for the diminishing Federal civil business in the eastern district arises from the fact that in the last few years there have been a great many land titles settled finally, and there is a marked feeling of a falling-offin that practice in the eastern district of Kentucky.
The railroads have been extended and the coal mines have been operated, and the coal land titles have been settled, in great measure; there was a good deal of litigation there about oil fields, but those titles are easy and fixed so that the occasion for Federal practice, even in the eastern mountain section of Kentucky, has been diminishing
The reason, I should say, for the fact as stated by Mr. Calvert, that about 90 per cent of the criminal business arising in what would be the southern district, is the fact that a great deal of that criminal business arises from the illicit distilling of liquor, and the fact that there have always been a great many violations of the liquor law there.
Now the 3,700 cases arising out of violation of criminal laws, I do not know what percentage of these arises from the liquor end of it, but it must be a large percentage; and I have been in Judge Cochran's court a good deal, and I served as his commissioner many years ago at Lexington. In those cases there are hundreds of them that are merely minor infractions of the liquor law, and a big percentage of them show no contest or controversy whatever. It is a matter of entering the plea in writing of guilty and, although the defendant may not be present, he is convicted of the misdemeanor on his own plea of guilty. If caught red-handed, which is usually the case, they are prompt to enter a plea of guilty.
Mr. THATCHER. Where they enter a plea of guilty, does that obviate the necessity for the witnesses to appear at the trial?
Vír. YANTIS. Yes; and it eliminates the transportation of witnesses to distant parts.
Then, there are many of the cases where they have no written plea of guilty, but they confess and take their punishment.
That is the reason why in so many of these cases there is virtually no contest whatever. And the way they are disposed of will explain the situation.
There never was a more considerate judge than Judge Cochran. I have known him 25 years. Now, no matter how poor or how destitute the defendant, he is always striving to see that their safeguards are protected; and in matters of civil business and questions of law, and of trial, I doubt if there is a better judge in America than he is.
A few years ago I asked him as to whether or not he ever got sick. He said he was sick once when he was 7 years old, and his twin sister died; and he was in the seventies then, when I asked him.
The Chairman. How old a man is he now?
Mr. YANTIS. And he has a wonderful constitution, mentally and physically. His recreation is work. I think it is best to keep him there.
Mr. THATCHER. Now as regards the western district, what, in your judgment, would be the best form of aid to relieve growing congestion--a third judge, who might be used in any part of the State or the creation of a new district?
Mr. YANTIS. Governor Thatcher, I think the logical outlook, the sensible thing, is to have that moving or floating judge. Louisville is a big growing city. The collector of internal revenue is there, and the work on Judge Dawson gets sometimes pretty heavy, and I think another judge would answer all purposes. I think that is the logical thing to do.
Mrs. LANGLEY. I had one other witness Mr. Chairman, the Hon. Bailey Wooten, from Hazard County.
STATEMENT OF HON. BAILEY WOOTTEN Mr. BAILEY WOOTTEN. Gentlemen of the committee, this thing has been pretty thoroughly discussed and you have before you the brief of Mrs. Langley, which sets out in detail the number of cases commenced, disposed of, and tried, and the number of acquitals, and all of that, both in relation to the civil and the criminal cases.
I might also add that in a speech before the House on the 7th of March, which is published in the Congressional Record of that date, is a speech made by the Hon. Carl George Bachman, which touched largely on this proposition.
In that he set out all the various prohibition cases tried in the various courts of the United States, taking them up State by State. I might add that I would like to give a few of the facts shown there and which apply particularly to Kentucky and the districts in Kentucky. These are from the attorney general's office and are authoritative; and I would like to give the committee just a brief summary of these cases tried in 1929; and in these records you will find them taken up from 1926 to 1929, four years; but 1929 being the last year and running with the others, I take it, that will be the best way to arrive at what is being done in these three districts.
In Kentucky there were more than 3,000 cases disposed of in 1929 in the eastern district. The old eastern district, over which Judge Cochran presides.
I agree with the others in saying that Judge Cochran is a fine judge. We do not want to get rid of him. I doubt if any other judge could do that work. I doubt if any other judge could do it with justice to himself and to the litigants, and to the attorneys, and to the citizens generally.
Now, those 3,009 cases were prohibition cases. That does not take into account various other cases. There are other criminal cases and civil cases coming up in the Federal courts. There were in all 3,137 criminal cases disposed of: 176 civil cases, 622 bankruptcy cases. Besides, there were 280 cases in which the United States was a party, making a total of 4,815 cases disposed of in 1929 in the eastern district of Kentucky, as at present composed. There were in that time 984 jury cases in the eastern district of Kentucky; that is, prohibition cases tried by jury. That did not take into consideration these United States cases where the United States was a party, such as the forfeiture cases as mentioned here, and transactions for the prosecution for robbing post offices, and killing prohibition officers, United States marshal, and so forth. In those forfeiture cases there is no trial; hardly ever any trial.
Mr. THATCHER. In some of those cases where pleas of guilty had been entered and bonds forfeited, were they not cases of ex parte trials?
Mr. WOOTTEN. Yes, sir; and sometimes one would be contested and it would take a jury trial to settle it.
The ChairMAN. That would be over three jury cases for every working day of the year.
Mr. WoOTTEN. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Is it proper to assume that would be five or six jury cases every day the court was in session?
Mr. WOOTTEN. Yes, sir; it would be more than that for each day the court was in session.
The CHAIRMAN. Are you familiar with the practice in this court? Mr. WOOTTEN. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. In view of the volume of business apparently handled there, would you say that speed is one of the elements there, and that cases are handled with a view to clearing the dockets rather than to giving due consideration to them, or what else would you say?
Mr. WOOTTEN. I would not say that; as I stated, Judge Cochran is a fine judge, but if necessary he has to speed up to keep up with the docket, or within sight of the end of the docket.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you think a judge could handle five or six jury cases during a day and give that consideration to each that each should have?
Mr. WOOTTEN. I do not believe it is humanly possible for any judge to try five or six jury cases on an average each day.
The CHAIRMAN. What is the usual practice there in regard to the examination of juries?
Mr. WoOTTEN. When they are impanelled? The CHAIRMAN. Yes; in such a case. Mr. WOOTTEN. The judge or someone else comes in there and some of them are disqualified for cause, and they are designated “Jury No. 1," and so forth. Then when we get into the trial of a jury case the lawyers can examine those jurors to the extent they wish.
The CHAIRMAN. That probably can not be followed if they handle that many cases in a day.
Mr. Woorten. The examination of the jurors takes probably an hour, at most, we do not use an hour generally, but sometimes they do.
Mr. THATCHER. But in the petty cases they move along very quickly?
Mr. WOOTTEN. Yes, sir; and in the prohibition cases no questions are asked, and so it is very quick there.
The CHAIRMAN. Does the judge discourage any questions on the part of the lawyers?
Mr. WooTTEN. No.
The CHAIRMAN. Would you feel that you could examine the jury at length, even if it was a minor case?
Mr. WOOTTEN. The attorney would be at liberty to ask those questions; but he must know he must move-keep in action.
The CHAIRMAN. The feeling is, he must not take up too much time of the court with it?
Mr. WOOTTEN. Yes, sir; and the same in the civil cases. I do not appear in criminal cases, but I am around the court waiting for them to get out of the way.
The CHAIRMAN. I wondered at the system that made it possible to try that number of jury cases.
Proceed, Mr. Wootten.
Mr. WOOTTEN. Now, some of the gentlemen here say that 80 or 90 per cent of the business comes from the proposed southern district and that would not leave anything in their district. I think if we have any other district created down there, with the machinery of the court, a judge, marshal, district attorney, etc., that they would not be true; I think one of them said “most of the business cross the line here,” now that is true, Probably more of the business does originate up there, and I am sure most of it is tried at Lexington, Covington, Richmond, and Frankfort at the present time. A great deal of our business belonging up here (indicating on map] is tried down there indicating).
One of the reasons for that is this: They are transferred therethe criminal business; at Jackson on the Kentucky River in that proposed district that cuts off the Kentucky River and the Big Licking River--they go down there. There are 10 counties surrounding the division where Jackson is; but it is not possible to try all these at Jackson, they have only two weeks in the year to do that.
The CHAIRMAN. Jackson is in the new southern district?
The CHAIRMAN. And you say they do not clear the docket in that week?
Mr. WOOTTEN. They do not.
Mr. WOOTTEN. They leave part of it and many of the cases are transferred to Richmond, Frankfort, and Lexington.
The CHAIRMAN. Is it not a fact that those transfers are made for convenience, and only by consent?
Mr. WOOTTEN. No, sir; they are not.
Mr. WOOTTEN. They may be made for the convenience of the court, but they are not made for the convenience of the litigant.
Now, speaking for the civil cases, most of those which originate there are tried at Lexington. That is true, and most of the civil cases we were told were taken to Lexington by agreement. That is partly
true, but not wholly. Sometimes we know we agree because we can not get them tried at the other place.
The CHAIRMAN. So the judge has only one week of court at these places?
Mr. WOOTTEN. Yes, sir.
Mr. WOOTTEN. That is transferred also. Sometimes at Jackson the jail is large enough for 25 people, as our State board of health says, but quite frequently there are from 200 to 300 in that jail, and they are there packed like sardines in a box.
They separate the men from the women, but none of them can sleep, they are standing up, and the basement of the court will have a number of men down there waiting transfer to Richmond, Frankfort, and other places.
Judge Wilson. Is it not true that of the large number of so-called jury cases, that you have mentioned, that one-half of them are tried under peremptory instructions? By a directed verdict of the courtfully one-half of them?
Mr. WOOTTEN. I do not think there would be one-half of them. I am not so well acquainted with the criminal part, I only know as a man sitting on the side lines and watching and waiting for something to break. I do not think that is a reasonable percentage.
The CHAIRMAN. Is the criminal business in those counties there such that it crowds out the civil business at those terms?
Mr. WooTTEN. Yes, sir; especially at Jackson, and I take that to be true in a number of other places.
Judge Wilson. Isn't it true that we have a rule if no steps are taken for two terms of court, the case would go off the docket unless there is some explanation for the delay by affidavits or other statements; and isn't Judge Cochran noted for dispatch of business coming before him?
Mr. WOOTTEN. I think we have such a rule; and I will say further, in justice to Judge Cochran, that he rarely dismisses a case under that rule.
Judge Wilson. Now, there is another thing that happens. Mr. Yantis here, I believe, stated that a great many of the corporations brought their suits down here to Lexington and around at other places.
Mr. WOOTTEN. That is true. Most of the southern districts, and the southern half of the present half of the eastern district is mineral, coal, oil and gas. At least 80 per cent of that coal, oil, and gas is owned by nonresident corporations, and a great deal of the lands-infee-including, as Mr. Calvert, the attorney for Ford, has said, 120,000 acres in Clay, Bell, Harlan, Leslie, and Perry Counties. They file the suit at Lexington. You do not have to file the suit in the nearest place for holding court. They can bring a suit against a man in Perry or Letcher County at Lexington, and that necessitates us trying it at Lexington or going there with a bunch of affidavits or motions to get that case back to Jackson, so as not to get the case tried at Lexington. So, we do try many there.
Judge Wilson. Under section 83 of the judicial code the motion to remand will be made without support of affidavits or otherwise.