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a-nnum -these many years——<>r why is he now deprived of his salary, when ,a “competent ” editor is still required? -
Curiously enough we read at the close of the report, that the ninety consolidation bills prepared under the direction of the Commission, require further consideration," and it is modestly proposed that a lawyer, one of “eminence,” “ should be selected by her Majesty, who should devote his whole time and attention to superintending the wor ” of revision.
\/Ve regret to see such names as those of Stanley, Lyndhurst, Brougham, Wensleydule, and Coulson, good naturedly (but we think erroneously) allowe-i to be appended to such a report. Others, such as the present Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief-Justice of England, the Lord Advocate, Mr. Walpole, and Mr. Napier, have withheld their authority from the document in question.
On the occasion of Lord Cranworth making a laudatory speech when he introduced five bills (for the especial purpose of their not passing, although they originated with this precious Statute Law Commission), he entered upon some of the discussions connected with the subject, which are, alas l but too familiar to our readers, and to all law reformers. He elicited, however, from the chancellor one piece of valuable information ,- viz., that the Commission was at last considered by the government ineflicient enoughto be doomed to immediate destruction. It had indeed been previously mentioned that Mr. Bellenden Ker’s salary was already stopped (the date, however, being uncertain), and there were not Wanting those whose shrewdness—taking the form of uncharitablene-ss—led them to infer thereupon, that the life of the Commission itself would not be much further prolonged. It will always, however, be a melancholy satisfaction to those interested either pecuniarily or otherwise in the fate—we do not say success—of the Commission, to recollect the graceful compliments and amiable sympathy which followed its last days. Prejudice and ignorance, we have been told, had induced some to doubt Mr. Ker’s merits as a commissioner. Like qualities doubtless, with an addition of malice, have prompted men to deny that the Commission, in its various phases, has wrought any thing of practical advantage ,- though it has filled the place which others might have usefully occupied, and blocked up the avenues, and broken about and thrown doubt on the roads which others might have trodden, and who might have had some chance of reaching the goal. Whatever wounds may have been inflicted on the feelings of the commissioners through blindness and spite, have been amply compensated for by the handsome manner in which the commissioners have been spoken of in the House of Lords, where the habit of compliment and adulation, in cases where it were better to avoid them, is just now much indulged in. “The commissioners have done everyt/ting they could do.” G1-anted—But this turns out to be nothing. “Are ninety bills, then, nothing?” Yes! for they are bills which no one trusts ; and no one dare ask the House to pass them. Is it not obvious that, if the work so ostentatiously P05-lltfid at be Qf any Credit, the abolition of the Commission at its
culminating point of service is an extravagant blunder? It is clear that either the Commission has been ungratefully handled and maligned, or the public infamously pluudered,‘and its interests cruelly abused.
What is thought of the matter by the present Attorney-General (who seems to be the only man of the present day capable of carrying out any great measure of reform), may be perhaps gathered from a remark made by him in the House on 30th June last, which was to the eflect that “ we had had for several years a Statute Law Commission, but with the exception of some bills laid upon the table, upon the day before the dissolution of the last parliament, by the late Attorney-General, that Commission had not produced a single measure.” These remarks of the Attorney-General were elicited upon the introduction by Mr. Whiteside of twelve bills to consolidate and amend the Criminal Statute Law of England and Ireland. We need hardly inform our readers that these twelve bills did not reach a maturity riper than that attained by the seven bills of Sir Fitzroy Kelly, to which the Attorney-General alluded as above. _
Mr. Whiteside could not have expected, and Sir Fitzroy Kelly never intended, to carry their respective projects further than the stage at which they naturally stopped. It appears to be a habit into which those who would acquire at a cheap rate the reputation of la\v reformers fall, to parade ostentatiously bills which not only could not be adopted by the legislature, but which would not even bear its investigation. No one, however, does give the slightest credit to the ambitious gentlemen who pursue this course. These “ measures,” moreover, are never of such value as to be taken up by any one subsequently. They are simply a grave mockery.
On Mr. \Vhiteside’s acting as undertaker to these bills of his, when he moved their second reading he made a speech. \Ve only refer to it because the Attorney-General, in noticing it, took occasion to say that the present government would, in the next session of parliament, undertake the consolidation of the statute law, and that the criminal law would be that part first introduced to parliament. It is granted that the House of Parliament cannot examine the provisions of a consolidation bill. Parliament is not the proper machine for this purpose. The legislature must give its sanction to any comprehensive measure on the credit and faith of those to whose care it is committed. The Statute Law Commission has not earned, nor does it possess such credit. The Attorney-General has pointed out frequently what is the only course now open to us, that of establishing a “ DEPARTMENT 0F JUSTICE,” which should comprise men,‘ whose sole duty should be to enter upon and carry out the necessary measures, “who should be responsible,” who should perform their duties after a “ different manner to the Statute Law Cmmission,” “ and upon whose credit and faith all measures of consolidation should be introduced to parliament.” —(T'i'mes, Par. Rep, July lst.) Though this is the real step which
1“The state of things is this, that we must either forcgo consolidation altogether, or leave it implicitly in the hands of a few learned and able men in whom we have confidence.”—(Lord Brougham, Times, Par. Rep., July 19.)
ought to be taken, yet adverse influences seem still to stand in the way of the Attorney-General, who is driven to undertake, in the way he has mentioned, that which we do not think is rightly thrown upon the law-oflicers of the crown, and of the success of which, we regret to say, we are still not sanguine.
The country has been too long trified with in this matter, and its interests made subservient to those of private individuals whose incapacity is now confessed.
Under Sir R. Bethell’s auspices, we will still hope that new light will be thrown on the darkness in which his predecessors have been
FUTURE LAW Raromus.-The session now coneluding—tha.nks to the patriotism of the late government in dissolving parliament at the most important crisis of the c0untry’s afl'airs—has been too short to accomplish any of the multitude of the reforms now pending either in promise or threat. The programme for the future session may probably be made out from sundry fair promises of the Lord Chancellor-—(House of Lords, July 18th)-—f1'om which we gather the subjects of legislation will include bankruptcy, the transfer of real property—equity courts reform, in regard to the vicious mode of taking and “cooking” evidence now in vogue in Chancery-—and the assimilation of the practice of courts of law and equity.
The Attorney-General, previously, in a more expanded form, and in answer to a question by Mr. Scully, stated as to the proposed reform of the law touching titles to land, that “the report of the Registration Commission was under the consideration of the Government, together with the very valuable schemes brought in by the late Solicitor-General. A measure would shortly be prepared and submitted to Parliament; but it was impossible at present to state the details, except that its object would be to give effect to the proposition for a registration of titles, and to carry into effect the commissioners’ recommendations.” 1
Be it however remarked, that the “ valuable schemes brought in by the late Solicitor-General,” were completely at variance with “ the Commissioners’ recommendations.” The considering of the “ scheme" and of the “recommendations,” must be therefore carried out in compliment to Sir Hugh M. Cairns, or for the purpose of profiting by the contrast thereby presented.
The Committee of the Four Inns of Court, appointed to consider the whole subject of legal education, have made their report, which will be found in a previous page. The benchers of all the respective inns have not as yet given in their adherence to the report. We trust, however, in a future number to be able to inform the profession that the principles and suggestions of this report have been accepted
by each of the inns, and that ere long rules will be drawn up in accordance therewith. The profession and the public are under great obligation to the committee, and it is hardly to be anticipated that any bench will hold out longer against the well-considered proposals
which have been made, and the general feeling in the profession in favour of them.
Tan Rncnnr ELECTION or THE J UDGE or THE Lonnon SHERIFF'S COURT.—Some sixteen barristers were found who condesoended to become candidates for tl1e offioe. Some of them, doubtless, repudiated the idea of degrading themselves and the oflice by canvassing, and adopting the demeanour and trickery which are usual on a popular election—and so they lost their election. We must do the electors the justice to say, that they saw the propriety (not to say the necessity) of purifying in some measure the list of candidates, by adopting a. certain resolution which, according to a successful electioneering device, was carried immediately prior to the show of hands. The resolution was as follows :—-“ That no person be eligible to be a candidate for the ofiice of judge of the Sheriff’s Court who has ever been convicted of fraud, or who has compounded with his creditors, or been a bankrupt, or has taken the benefit of any of the acts for the relief of insolvent debtors, and has not paid 20s. in the pound, this court being of opinion that the terms of the 39th standing order, disqualifying members of the court from serving on committees or commissions chosen by this court, or from becoming governors of either of the Royal Hospitals, by virtue of an appointment of this court, should be applied and acted upon in the cases of candidates for judicial appointments under the corporation.”
Mr. Corrie, whom the profession would have been willing to see preferred to the judicial ofiice, unfortunately lost the election by two
votes, and the scramble for the coveted prize terminated by Mr. M. Kerr’s getting it.
THE doings of the new parliament during the short session, now terminating in favour of the moors, must be briefly adverted to. Our main difiiculty in alluding to them here, is the uncertainty and incompleteness which attend measures at this period of the session. No one knows what may not be slipped through, or postponed, compromised, or muddled, in the last struggles.
Lord St. Leonards’ “ Law of Property and Trustees’ Relief Amendment Bill," having been again carried through the House of Lords, is now in the Commons. The old objection there formerly made to the clause exonerating a purchaser from crown debts upon which process had not issued, may, we fear, be again advanced to the detriment of this truly useful law reform. There is evidently a misapprehension on this matter in ofiicial minds. Under the statutes 33 Hen. VIIL, c. 39, and 13 Eliz., c. 4, the rights of the crown affect purchasers of freehold property 3 2 & 3 Vict., 0. ll, protects purchasers unless the obligations we are referring to are registered. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated in the House, that only bonds of a permanent nature, when the responsibility amounted to £1000 or more to each party to the bond, were registered by the departments of the cus~ toms, excise, stamps and taxes, woods and works, the paymastergeneral, the national debt, war, and ordnance. And further, that since 1856 only thirty crown bonds were registered on the part of the custom-house ofiicers, who used to register an enormous number. Of course the registration of these bonds only affects freehold property. In effect, therefore, for the sake of the possible enforcement of crown claims against the freehold property of a small number of crown debtors (and it is not a striking, but a very certain fact that all crown debtors are not possessed of large freehold estates), every purchaser or mortgagee of every freehold, however small, is put to a considerable expense in making search to secure himself against the contingency of liability to the crown. Well may Lord St. Leonards’ say, “ It is to be lamented that sounder views are not entertained on the subject.”
No opposition was encountered by the “ Attorneys’ and Solicitors’ Bill,” in its rapid progress through the Houses of Parliament ,' but questionable amendments having been introduced by the Lords, it will require close attention by the legal members of the House of Commons. The object of the bill is “to amend the act for consolidating and amending several of the laws relating to attorneys and solicitors in England and Wales.” One of its new provisions is directed to en— courage those about to enter the profession to seek a liberal education, and thus raise the standard of intelligence among lawyers. But many other points aifecting the lawyer find place in the bill. Instead of “ consolidating and amending several” of the laws on this head, it would have been expedient, but too reasonable a thing to have given really one good consolidation statute, which here it was possible to have effected.
The Divorce Court Amendment Bill is now in the hands of the legislature. In what shape it may ultimately come out, our readers will know in due time. The Chancellor has expressed his “readiness to pay all attention in his power to any amendments which might be submitted to his notice before the bill is committed,” (Times Parl. Intell, July 21st.) The primary intention of the bill is to increase the judicial force of the court, by including all the judges among the assessors of the judge ordinary, when a full court is wanted. Another provision has been introduced at the instance of Lord Brougham, to prevent collusion: the court having the power to call in at discretion the aid of the Attorney-General. Lord Ohelmsford took, we believe, a correct view of this Amendment Bill ,' he seemed to think it might be an improvement, but was not the proper reform—nor that which was called for. He said the court ‘ought to be made entirely independent, and he pointed out the disadvantage of the judge-ordinary not presiding in the full court. On the