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which, if not completely, in universal opinion, satisfactory, by reason of its introducing, as was foreseen it would do, in company with the abundant harvest of new and unexceptionable special jurors which it gathers in, a certain additional number of retail shopkeepers, licensed victuallers, and others, following avocations of a deeply plebeian order, is at least intelligible, and has brought upon the muster roll of special jurors a strong contingent formed of some of the most valuable material which their ranks contain.
The proper qualification of special jurors for the City of London is one of the first and most serious questions which must necessarily engage the consideration of the framer of any measure intended to affect the law relating to juries, and on the preparation of the Bill of last Session, the attention of the then Attorney-General was carefully directed to the matter. The point is one of some difficulty, since no criterion of the possession of intelligence and good judgment can be fixed by Act of Parliament, nor can a peculiar degree of knowledge of commercial matters, such as is supposed to be wanted to give a Guildhall special juror a proper aptitude for his duty be ascribed as a certainty to any man, except as a consequence of his following some avocation which compels the acquisition of such knowledge. But it will be found by experiment that it is, in practice, quite impossible to particularise specific callings as necessarily rendering those who pursue them desirable as special jurors in the City. To take one case only, out of a great number, as an example. Men who are described simply as “agents," take, as is well-known, a very important part indeed in mercantile transactions. But the profession of men styling themselves agents, extends from the members of a most respectable and wealthy class down to persons living from hand to mouth on their wits, and ready, like a Græculus esuriens, to do anything in the world for a shilling.
In default, then, of any available test which could be founded on a man's profession of his fitness to be a special juror, and the old formula of “ Banker, Merchant, or Esquire,"
having proved to be little better than useless, it was thought necessary, in framing the Juries Bill, to propose, as has been already stated, that the qualification of special jurors should be constituted by rating or rental only. It is not, of course, for a moment denied that rating or rental supplies but a very imperfect indication of a man's capacity for serving as an effective special juror. Still, these tests, rough as they are, afford some evidence, however inconclusive, of vigorous and successful habits of business, or at any rate of the prosecution of some substantial calling, or of the possession of some such means and position in life as are generally found to be accompanied by a certain degree of education, and they may, therefore, be at least preferred to the caprice, or opinion, or, as will certainly be suspected, the favour dependent on occult considerations, of the framers (in many cases very ignorant people) of the jury lists, which are probably the very worst “fancy” qualifications which could possibly be invented. It may very reasonably be doubted whether there is any sufficient foundation for the common assumption that causes involving questions relating to peculiar interests, as, for example, shipping cases, cannot be satisfactorily tried except by special juries composed of men who are practically familiar with such matters. Probably, a mixed assembly containing men of business of various occupations, and thus free, as a body, from the bias or contracted opinion which may, unsuspectedly, sway the members of any particular trade or clique, is the best tribunal for the trial of any issue of fact, whether the dispute be on a mercantile or any other transaction.
The Act of 1870, besides enlarging the standard of qualification of special jurors, introduced also two material alterations in the mode of summoning. It is necessary to speak of these, since they have acquired some relation to the subject of the qualification of special jurors.
The first of these was the abolition, as far as all ordinary practice is concerned, of the system of summoning separate special jury for the trial of each particular cause ;
a system which had been fully shown to involve, without any adequate degree of compensating advantage, the vices of unnecessary inconvenience and expence in all their most aggravated forms. It substituted a general panel of jurors to serve for a certain limited period, and available to try all the causes which may happen to come on for hearing during that period.
The second of the main alterations introduced by the act in question in the mode of summoning juries was in fact a declaratory statement of the existing law and an injunction that it should be better observed, rather than the initiation of any new practice. For it required Sheriffs and their representatives to do what was, and always had been, their duty by summoning special as well as common jurors for service on common juries.
It has been alleged that the quality of special juries, especially in the city of London, has latterly deteriorated. Now since it is plain that this fact, if such it be, cannot possibly be attributable to the system of promiscuous summoning just referred to, which has affected common juries only, a supposition has been sometimes expressed that it must necessarily be due either to the enlargement of the standard of qualification, or to the new method, just now described, of summoning special juries; that is to say, by general panels instead of by a separate panel for each particular case. But the truth will be found to be that the system of summoning which is pursued in the City of London, and which, in its principle, is also followed to a greater or less extent in many of the English counties, precludes the forming of any dependable conclusion as to the quality of the special jurors' list taken as a whole. This will be understood on a statement of what that system is. To describe it in the shape in which it is found in the City. The Secondary, with whom the duty of summoning jurors rests, does not at any time, when called upon to discharge this function, resort to any general list of jurors supplied from the whole area of the City, but lays the 28 wards into
which the City is divided successively under contribution. His plan, as it has been given in evidence, is to "work,” to use a common expression, two wards at a time, taking half the special, and half the common jurors who may be wanted at the moment, from each of these wards; and after exhausting the lists of these two districts, to treat two other wards, the next in geographical sequence, in the same manner. In actual practice, this scheme of summoning would not seem to be always quite strictly adhered to, since the result which is witnessed is that of jurors brought from even a still narrower field than would be covered by the arrangement just described. For it will be seen on inspecting the lists of special jurors supplied to any of the Superior Courts for its sittings at Guildhall, that in many instances the whole, or nearly the whole, of the men whose names appear or any particular panel are drawn from some single, and frequently very small, locality. Last year one of the panels which was furnished to the Court of Common Pleas, was almost equivalent to a column of the Directory under either of the headings “Woolbrokers," or "East India Avenue." The jurors' list is made out by streets, and not according to the alphabetical order of the names, so that in the natural course of things a summoning officer, when dispatched on a professional excursion, has to net his prey by proceeding along some series of contiguous houses. This system of summoning has prevailed for a great many yea past, and was handed down to, and not introduced by, the present Secondary. It is unquestionably a bad one, combining as it is so well calculated to do, the maximum of public inconvenience with the minimum of expediency as regards the jury box. Each trade or business, as is well known, is concentrated in some particular locality in the City.
• "Are the names arranged alphabetically in the Ward lists ?” No, it is according to Streets.”
“ Then you would summon a whole street at once ? ” “Yes, that has been the rule." Evidence taken before the Select Committee on the Juries Biil. 21st June, 1872.
The district which takes in a part of the Bank and of the Royal Exchange, in the Broad Street Ward, is largely occupied by stockbrokers, and dealers in stocks and shares of all descriptions. The headquarters of corn merchants are in Mark Lane, and those of sugar brokers in Mincing Lane, both of which streets, or the greater part of each, are in Tower Ward. Tower Street, with its wine merchants, is in the same ward. Fruit merchants are thickly settled in the adjoining ward, that of Billingsgate. Each leading business, in short, which is followed in the City, has, generally speaking, its own local habitation, or, at any rate, a local nucleus which is its centre of vitality. The area of each ward being, roughly speaking, not more than about one twenty-eighth of a square mile, the effect of its being fastened upon for jurors is partially to depopulate it for the time being, and the trades carried on within it are, on such occasions, more or less paralysed, the bulk of those who conduct them being carried into captivity at Guildhall. The juries also, which are thus collected, are not so completely efficient for the purposes of justice as they would be if composed of men familiar, taking them all together, with a greater variety of occupations, and thus less liable, as a body, to be affected by any of the narrowing influences or feelings which are sometimes found to prevail in particular circumscribed localities, or among the members of limited communities. In view also of the well known natural tendency which leads some men who, although of sound intelligence, are of so diffident or pliant a disposition as to surrender their whole independence of understanding to an inveterate habit of submitting their own opinion to the control of such of their neighbours as may happen to possess a more robust decisiveness of judgment or a spirit of more active self-assertion, it is better that the members of any given jury should come from several different districts rather than from one only, since in the latter case they would be likely to be all more or less personally known to one another, and some of them might exercise an undue ascendency over the rest.