Page images

Lord Justice. In the Exchequer the cause list contained the names of 100 cases In the Queen's Bench there was a similar number of cases.

The common jury cases were of the same character, these were railway or omnibus accident cases, false imprisonment, slander, and seduction, verdicts from £5 to £15 or £20, or, perhaps, £30, £40, or £50. In many cases it was found, as Lord Chief Justice Coleredge said, in one of the first cases he tried, " that the verdict would not be conclusive, as there were points of law to be raised," and the facts were not in dispute, so they were reserved for the Court. One day, in the same Court, three cases was disposed of without trial, and only a portion were tried out. In one case Mr. Justice Brett observed, “that it was an important action.” In another Mr. Justice Honyman said " he should never forget the speech of the defendant's counsel to his dying day.”

At the sittings at Guildhall the character of the common jury cases was similar, but the special jury cases were more of a commercial character, and a large portion of them became remanets.

WINTER CIRCUITS.—There were several Winter circuits : Durham, Liverpool, Manchester, Mr. Justice Quain, Mr. Justice Honyman, and Mr. Baron Pollock; Western and Oxford: Mr. Justice Keating and Mr. Justice Archibald ; Home-Essex, Sussex, Surrey, and Kent-Mr. Baron Piggott, Gloucester and Staffordshire, Worcester. There were very few cases of murder, and rarely more than one or two at a place, and all the rest were cases which might well have been tried by good recorders or chairmen of Quarter Sessions, and then one judge instead of five or six would have sufficed for the business. Thus, at Stafford there was one case of murder, two of manslaughter, three of highway robbery, one of bigamy, one of arson, one of forgery, one of larceny. So, at Taunton, there were fifteen persons, of whom, though three were charged with murder, there were only bills for manslaughter, and the rest were offences of a minor character.

On the Northern Circuit, the business, civil and criminal, was very heavy, and three judges were required to discharge it; but much of their time was taken up with minor business fit for inferior judges. As it was six judges were fully occupied through the month of December.

The COURT OF ADMIRALTY.—The first case which came before the Court last Term was one of great interest, the case of the Murillo, a Spanish ship, which ran down the North fleet and caused the loss of all on board, under circumstances of great atrocity. The case illustrated remarkably the efficacy of the process of the courts to enforce its jurisdiction. The Courts of Admiralty of any country can exercise its jurisdiction on any ship whatever its nationality in the locality of the injury, because the jurisdiction of the courts extends any where on the high seas, and is, in that respect, international, not unsuccessful in its character, and because its process is in rem, i.e., is exercised against the ship itself, so that the ships coming within a port in the power of the court is sufficient to ground the jurisdiction of the very use of the vessel itself is the process by which it is exercised. Hence when the Murillo came into the port of London she was at once seized and sued. The owners did not appear to defend, knowing the case defenceless. The Court ordered her to be condemned for damage and sold.

In the next case, which was defended and heard as usual before the Judge and the Trinity Masters, the collision occurred in the Downs, between a Russian bark and a German brig, both being at anchor. The German brig's anchor gave way, and drove upon the Russian bark. The Court decided in favour of the Russian bark that the German brig was solely to blame for the collision, and decreed accordingly. (Gustave Fuohurst, Nov. 5.) In another case, which took three days, a Calcutta steamer parted her cable in the Mersey, and drifted against and sank another steamer. The Court held that the pilot on board was alone to blame for the collision, and that therefore the owners were exempt from liability. (The City of Cambridge, Nov. 18, 19, 20.)

The law upon that head will be found in Luce v. Ingram, 6 M. and W. But in the early part of the year it was held that there may be cases in which the captain may be responsible. The exemption of the owners rests upon the statutory obligation to take a pilot on board and obey his orders.

Several cases of salvage occurred, and it is to be observed that this class of cases are heard before the judge alone without the Trinity Masters, although it might be supposed that they required more than other cases the assistance of nautical assessors, since the amount of the salvage must turn chiefly on the risk incurred, and it is hardly possible for anyone but a mariner to understand the degree of risk. It is only with reference to this element that the great apparent disparity in the sums awarded can be understood, a disparity far beyond the mere difference, the amount of service rendered. Thus, in the first salvage case heard last Term, a Norwegian barque, saved in the North seas, with her main mast gone, and the wind blowing strong, and a heavy sea running, a fishing smack took her crew on board and lay by her all night, and next morning this, with two other smacks, took her in tow, and after two days brought her into Grimsby. The net value of the property saved was under £1,000, the salvage awarded was £400, evidently on account of the risk. (The Washington, November 6th). In another case a steamer broke her propeller in the English Channel, and was towed by another steamer, next day to Portland Roads. The service lasted 16 hours. The value of the property saved was £20,000, the salvage awarded was £650, a comparatively small sum, evidently because the risk was not great. (The Mary).

In the course of the Term, a case occurred under the extended jurisdiction of the Court which now approaches to that of a mercantile tribunal, and includes cases of breach of contracts by shipowners. This was a case of what is called “damage to cargo”-that is, it was a suit by a merchant firm, who had shipped goods on board, for damage done to

the cargo in the course of the voyage, through want of care. The judge sits to hear these cases, as all cases of salvage, with two Trinity Masters as nautical assessors. The evidence, however, was insufficient to satisfy the judge of the damage resulting from negligence, and he dismissed the suit. (The Prospermo, Nov. 14.)

In another salvage case: an English steamer 120 miles from the Lizard was disabled, and a Russian steamer towed her all day towards Falmouth, where with that aid she got next morning. The value of the Russian ship and cargo was £75,000, the value of the English steamer with her freight was £13,000. The Court awarded £300 salvage. Here the service was not great, and the risk was inconsiderable, although the values were large, hence the salvage allowed was comparatively small.

COURT OF PROBATE, DIVORCE, AND MATRIMONY. — This court exhibits the anomaly of courts, each with enormous business, and with only one judge between them, the result of which is that, as of course he can only sit in one of them at a time, one of them must necessarily be closed while he is sitting in the other. When Sir J. Hannen sat for the first time last Michaelmas Term, there was a total of 185 cases in the Divorce Court, 14 of which were suits for judicial separations, 6 for restitution of conjugal rights, 3 for nullity, and the rest for divorce. There were 127 causes down for trial by the court without juries, 81 of which were undefended and 46 defended : 34 causes were down for trial by special and 20 by common juries. There were also 4 appeal cases to be heard before the full court. In the Probate list there were 11 causes down for trial by the court itself, 18 by special, and 13 by common juries. There were also fifteen causes standing over by consent of parties. The learned judge began by sitting or taking probate cases to be tried by himself alone without a jury. One of the first cases tried was remarkable, the will being propounded nearly twenty years after the death of the testator. His widow took possession of the property and did not prove the will. After

her death a copy was propounded, and though it was opposed by the heir at law, the judge found it proved and pronounced for the copy. (Slater v. Scattergood).

The next case was curious : two wills were executed on two successive days, the testator dying on the 5th the day after the second. After hearing the evidence of the witness who had prepared the will of the 4th December, the court came to the conclusion that it could not be supported, as the testator was evidently unable to understand what he was doing at the time of its execution. The court, therefore, pronounced for the will of the 3rd of December, but allowed costs out of the estate. (Murrey v. Murrey).

After sitting four days in the Probate Court, Sir James Hannen sat for nearly the rest of the Term in the Divorce Court, and tried a number of cases by himself, without a jury. In the first day he tried nine cases, in all of which conditional decrees of divorce were granted; in four of them against husbands for cruelty and adultery, and the other five against wives for adultery; 50 on most days for the remainder of Term, there were several similar cases, on one day eight, the proof in each taking a short time. In more than one case the Attorney-General, on behalf of the Queen's Proctor, intervened to prevent suspected collusion. In one case, in which there had been two unsuccessful petitions by the applicant, and then a demand for cohabitation, the Attorney-General said the Queen's Proctor had intervened for the purpose of having the facts as to the previous suits fully laid before the Court, but seeing no reason to doubt the bona fides of the petitioner's offer to resume cohabitation, he should not oppose the decree.-Decree nisi. (Fitzgerald v. Fitzgerald.)

In another case, in which the Queen's Proctor intervened, it appeared that the petitioner himself had been impare delicte, and the petition was dismissed. (Harper v. Harper,) In one case the petition failed because the marriage was invalidated by false names. The petitioner married the respondent, who was a farmer in Monmouthshire, in May, 1870, and she now

« PreviousContinue »