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It is obvious that the quality of juries must, under the system which has been described, vary extremely according to the spots from which they may happen to have been taken. The Aldgate, Langbourne, and Tower Wards probably supply the best jurors, and those of Farringdon Without and Cripplegate Without, which are largely occupied by retail tradesmen, the worst. A short time ago, in the result of the arrangements which are pursued at the Secondary's Office, the common jury panel of 48 jurors, which served throughout the after-term sittings in the Court of Common Pleas at Guildhall was exclusively composed of men qualified as special jurors, and several of the most considerable names in the City were noticeable
The special jury panel, which was provided for the same Court for the some period, was of a very inferior quality to that of the common jury. A reasonable complaint was made of the composition of the special jury panel, but could the two panels have been interchanged, no ground for adverse observation could have arisen. Application was made not long since to the Court of Common Pleas by Sir John Karslake for a new trial of a cause which had been heard at Guildhall, on the ground that the special jury which had tried the case had not consisted of such elements as to possess even any moderate degree of capacity for dealing with a mercantile question in a satisfactory manner. It may quite confidently be assumed that in the case just referred to the state of circumstances which, apparently with much justice, formed the subject of complaint, arose from the accident that some infelicitous vein of special jurors had been struck by the summoning officer, and that the yield thence obtained was untempered by the admixture with it of the product of any sounder mine. It is a matter of simple arithmetical demonstration that if the entire City, and not merely some one, or two, small precinct, or precincts, within its area were to be taken as the recruiting field on all occasions when jurors are demanded, a special jury of so poor a quality as that which incurred the observation of Sir John
Karslake could not ever, according to all the distinct arithmetical conditions of probability, have existence.
It will thus be seen that no reliable judgment can be formed from any single example as to the result of any given standard of qualification until it has been ascertained whether the sheriff who has supplied the panel summons at all times from the whole body of the county, whether corporate or at large, for which he acts, or whether, under some private arrangements of his own devising, he draws upon limited portions of it only. Ample provision was made by the Juries Bill against the summoning by sheriffs on various independent systems of their own, of which the public has no knowledge whatever, and founded on their own caprice, convenience, or notions of expediency, by imposing on them under penalties easily recoverable, the observance of a rota. The objection that the system which is, as as been described, followed in the City of summoning the inhabitants of a whole street at a time economises the distance to be traversed by the summoning officer, would have been fully met by the provision of the Juries Bill, which required that all summoning should be by post, under certain prescribed arrangements.
The direction to summon, by post, only, secures other advantages also, among which
may be mentioned that it precludes, in the sole way probably in which this can be ensured, all attempts to corrupt summoning officers, and it thus relieves such officers from the imputations and suspicions of bribery to which they are now exposed.
It was proposed by the Juries Bill that in the City of London the managing directors of public companies carrying on their business within the City should be made liable to serve there as special jurors. In the absence of any express provision for bringing such officers within the scope of the Act, by enduing them with an ex-officio qualification, they would, as now, being neither rated nor paying rent, nor being, in any sufficiently full legal sense, occupiers of premises, escape service. The propriety of this measure will scarcely be questioned when it has been mentioned that there are nearly
1,500 of such companies holding premises in the City, and constantly using the courts as litigants, and since mercantile business is passing in a constantly increasing degree into the hands of companies, the burden of service on juries at Guildhall, which is now thrown on private traders only, would become more and more oppressive and unfair if the present total exemption of all the representatives of companies were to continue. The very moderate proposal of the Juries Bill was materially enlarged by the House of Commons by extending its terms so far as to reach not the managing director or manager only, but every director of every public company carrying on its business within the City. Some remonstrance or protest on the part of directors who have no semblance of actual occupation in their own persons of premises in the City, and who are only bound to attend occasionally at their respective offices, may probably be anticipated if the proposal to make them liable to serve as special jurors for the City should at any future time pass into law.
In conclusion, there are two remarks which may be made on the qualifications of common jurors as these stand defined by the Juries' Bill after its alteration by the House of Com
The first of these is as to the lodger qualifications for special and common jurors. It will be seen that the terms of the clauses which set out the limits of these qualifications were so shaped by the House of Commons as to enact that “any man who shall have occupied for six months prior to the 24th of June in any year” any such premises as are afterwards described shall be qualified as a special or as a common juror, as the case may be, according to the annual value of the premises held by him. Hence, if a man occupies premises on any such terms as come within the scope of the clauses just referred to, he will be clothed with, and keep for his life, however much his social status may decline, the qualification which one such temporary occupancy may have at any time conferred. To preclude criticism, or a wilfully perverse compliance with the mere letter rather than what must be assumed to be the real
intention of the clauses in question, the language of the passages referred to should run, it is submitted, as follows“Who shall have occupied for six months prior to the 24th of June in any year, and shall at the time when the jury lists are revised, be in the occupation of,” &c., &c. The effect, no less than the frame work of the clauses, will probably be considered to be improved by the addition to them which has been suggested, since it is inexpedient that a man who relinquishes his tenancy even before the lists are revised should be returned as a juror. How, for example, would a summons to serve reach him ?
The final observations to be made on the qualifications of common jurors, as settled by the House of Commons, has reference to the proper composition of common juries, which is the most important point in the whole system of trial by jury.
It was considered on the framing of the Juries Bill, for the reasons which were fully stated in an article on "Composite Juries,” which appeared in the Law Magazine in the month of April last, that in accordance with the theory of English trial by jury, and in conformity with the practice which was rigidly insisted on and carefully followed from the very inception of the institution down to about fifty years ago, every common jury should contain a certain infusion of the special juror element. That every common jury ought to comprise some jurors of the higher class was twice emphatically pressed on public attention by the Common Law Commissioners, and was also urged by the Judicature Commissioners. In pursuance of those recommendations, as well as on every ground of clear expediency, it was proposed by the Juries Bill that the right composition of common juries should not be left to chance, which, as has been shown by absolute demonstration, must, and in practice does, in the great majority of cases, fail to produce the desired result, but that a proper and uniform quality should be secured to such juries by certain simple but effective arrangements devised
for that purpose. In Scotland this has always been done. The plan failed to win favour in the House of Commons. The discussion, however, which took place, supplies much ground for encouragement to those who hope that the proposal may receive fresh consideration, since good reasons may be pointed out for the belief that it was but imperfectly understood by Parliament and the public. It is submitted that if the proposal for “composite” juries be again rejected, then that the qnalification for common jurors should be very materially raised.
For common juries should, according to sound and ancient custom, be those to be impanelled for the trial of all issues in the criminal and civil courts for the decision of which a jury is demanded, and special juries, with their attendant expense should only be employed in the relatively very small number of causes which present some exceptional difficulty. But common juries, composed as in the great majority of instances they now are, exclusively of common jurors, form a tribunal of baser quality and less capacity than will, in the contemplation of English law, serve the purposes of justice. Their existence, alien as it is to the mode of trial by jury which prevailed from the earliest times through many centuries downwards, dates only, as has been mentioned, from a very recent period, when the whole system of summoning and impanelling juries was permitted to lapse into utter illegality and confusion.