Page images
PDF
EPUB

hallucination to imagine a judicature equally able for all kinds of judicial work, and equally supplied with all kinds of legal learning. Imagine a lawyer equally able to conduct a suit in Equity and a criminal prosecution; to determine the construction of a conveyance, and to try an action turning on contradictory testimony. The great advantage of a fusion of the judicature is not that all the judges should be equally able to discharge all kinds of judicial business, but that the men best fitted for each kind of judicial business can be delegated to it. At present, through the artificial separation of the Courts, this is impossible. There will always be judges who are fittest for dealing with some classes of cases, and some more fitted for others. Thus Mr. Justice Grove, with two or three skilled assessors, would try patent cases admirably; Mr. Justice Brett or Sir George Honyman would be strong in maritime or mercantile cases, and a good real property lawyer would be invaluable when a question of title had to be ascertained. When Sir George Jessel, Mr. Joshua Williams, Mr. Charles Hall, and other eminent men, profoundly versed in real property law, were arguing the case of Roach v. Blake in the Exchequer Chamber, it was impossible not to feel a suspicion that the bar were, perhaps, far better qualified to decide the case than the bench. It is now more than half a century ago since Lord Eldon told the House of Lords in plain terms that the Common Law judges did not understand questions of title, not being versed in conveyancing. Probably, considerations of this nature governed Lord Selborne in his recommendations as to the choice of the Vice-Chancellor. He chose a good conveyancer, an able equity draughtsman, who, no doubt, will be a highly useful member of the new judicature. The Times thus touched upon tbe topic :

" Lord Selborne will, naturally desire to employ the occasion to facilitate the operation of the Judicature Bill, but he will be confronted with the difficulty pointed out. How is it possible to fuse the practice of Law and Equity when we have neither Judges nor Barristers who have mastered both ? There is no person at the Chancery Bar whose qualifications to fill the office of Vice-Chancellor are so overwhelming that

he is pointed out on all hands as the man who must be preferred to it, and if Lord Selborne could find a member of the Common Law Bar who would be translated to Lincoln's Inn, he might introduce the exotic without giving rise to any recriminations. If, however, there be any one with such double qualifications, his name is unknown to fame. The diversity of procedure has hitherto been so complete that it is only in discharge of the higher functions of Appellate Judges, from whose determination questions of procedure are practically eliminated, that members of the two Bars may be freely intermingled with each other. The truth, as now brought practically home to us, must damp the faith of those who thought that as soon as the Judicature Act of last Session comes into operation next year the divisions of Law and Equity would immediately fade away. This consummation cannot be attained until we have secured unity of procedure, and, we may be bold to say, until we have brought all our practitioners and Courts, working together, in one spot."

We confess we do not see much in the last element, the only effect of which can be to facilitate mutual conference and consultation between Judges sitting in different divisions, which are at the best casual and imperfect. It is the composition of the Judicature which must determine its character and that, in a great degree, will determine the nature of the procedure. The Times observed :

“ It would appear desirable to secure the members of the future Common Law Divisions of the High Court; but it would, perhaps, be difficult to procure many of the class who would also be competent to conduct trials Nisi Prius. The Common Law Bar might, moreover, be apt to complain if they saw their chances of promotion diminished by one half, and they would not consider themselves fully compensated by the suggestion that one or two of them might become Judges in the Chancery Division. Indeed, the more the question is discussed the more convinced must we be that the administration of a complete jurisprudence in one Court will not be realized forthwith, and perhaps not until a generation has been trained up to undertake it.”

The appointment of Mr. Charles Hall to the vacant ViceChancellorship appeared to give general satisfaction in the profession. It was an appointment of the same character as that of his predecessor, that is the appointment of a man of solid legal learning and great practical experience and sound

judicial qualities rather than of one famed for brilliant advocacy or forensic suceess. Our contemporary, the Law Journal, had these remarks upon the appointment :

“Mr. Charles Hall succeeds Sir John Wickens as ViceChancellor. We heartily acknowledge the wisdom of the Government in avoiding all delay in filling up this judicial vacancy, and the Lord Chancellor on the choice thus made. No counsel at the equity bar had so large and so important a business as Mr. Charles Hall, and his appointment will be unanimously approved in Lincoln's Inn. The learned gentleman, besides his high legal attainments, will carry with him the good will of those who have to practise before him-no small help in the Court of Chancery. There are objections to a judge of First Instance in Chancery who has never been a leader in the court; but even those who are heard to urge those objections with some vigour do not go so far as to exclude from the bench an exceptionally able barrister who has not chosen to become Queen's Counsel."

So the Law Times wrote in terms of entire satisfaction at the new appointment :

“ The new Vice-Chancellor was a pupil of Mr. Lewis Duval, the most eminent conveyancer of his day, and subsequently of the late James Russell, then an equity draftsman in very large practice. Though never raised to the dignity of a Queen's Council, he was offered a silk gown by the late Lord Westbury, then Lord Chancellor, which he declined, and in the year 1864 he was appointed by the same learned lord one of the conveyancing counsel to the Court of Chancery. Since the elevation of the late Vice-Chancellor Wickens to the Bench, he has been the acknowledged head of the junior Equity Bar, and his business has been, it is believed, more extensive than that of any other stuff gownsman. It will be a source of satisfaction to the Profession and to suitors in Chancery to know that his elevation to the bench is due to his professional eminence alone, and not to any political considerations."

There can be no doubt, that the class of lawyers to which Mr. Hall belonged—men behind the bar—are a distinct order of men from those who attain the front rank, and, while deficient in some forensic qualities, they may possess others of great importance on the Bench. They may have more learning, and judgment, even if less vigour and power of mind.

But the great event by which last Term will be remem

bered is, no doubt, the elevation of Sir John Coleridge to the Chief Justiceship of the Common Pleas, And there are circumstances which render this event peculiar, indeed, almost unparalleled in the history of the profession. The only instance at all like it is that of Sir Thomas More, who was Chancellor, while his son was a judge. There is no more modern instance of it. Lord Raymond, the son of Thomas Raymond, a judge of the Pleas, became Chief Justice of the King's Bench, but not in his father's life time. The Earl of Camden, the son of Chief Justice Pratt, became Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor ; but it was after his father's death. So Lord Chief Justice Denman did not live to witness his son's elevation. It was the peculiar felicity of Sir John Coleridge to attain to the Chief Justiceship of the Common Pleas in the life time of his father, who has thus lived to see his own honours transcended by those of his son.

Nor is this merely a matter of personal or biographical interest; it greatly enhances the qualifications of Sir John Coleridge for the high position he has attained. Not only has he had for the whole of his life the incentive of his father's example, but he has felt the influence of his father's mind, and had the benefit of his father's guidance. It is impossible to estimate the effect or the influence of of constant and familiar intercourse with such a mind as that of Sir John Taylor Coleridge, whose own career as a lawyer, or a jurist, and as judge, was so distinguished—extending over the whole period of his son's career, up to the very time of his ascending the Bench. And the retrospect of the father's career acquires at this time peculiar interest.

It is nearly sixty years ago, since Mr. Coleridge, writing, to Arnold of his intended pursuit of the law as a profession, spoke of it as favorable to ambitious aspirations, and elicited from Arnold the avowal of his dislike to the law as a profession. That was in 1817, and in 1813, in less than seyenteen years afterwards, Arnold, now

more than forty years ago, was writing to Mr. Serjeant Coleridge, soon to be elevated to the Bench. In the interval, Mr. Coleridge had produced a learned editon of Blackstone's Commentaries, acquired a solid reputation as a lawyer and a jurist, and had, in many learned arguments, given evidence of the most solid and valuable qualifications of a judge. Two years afterwards, Arnold wrote to congratulate his friend on his appointment to a judgeship, an appointment "honorable to the Government-honorable to yourself.” Not long afterwards, Arnold—now that his friend was a judge and would not be hurt by the avowal-avowed his abhorrence of the practice of advocacy.

“ The study of the law is quite to my heart's content, as is the practice of it in your situation. I think if I were asked what station within possibility I should choose as the prize of my own son's well doing in life, I should say the place of an English judge. But then, in proportion to my reverence for the office of a judge is, to speak plainly, my abhorrence of the business of an advocate. I have been thinking whether there is any path to the Bench but the Bar, that is, whether in conveyancing, or in any other branch of the law, a man may make his real knowledge available like the juris consulti of the ancients : that is, without the painful necessity of being retained by an attorney to maintain a certain cause, and of knowingly suppressing truth, for so it must often happen, in order to advance your own argument. I am well aware of the common argument in defence of the practice, still it is not what I can myself like.”

It would have been interesting to read Mr. Justice Coleridge's reply to this, but we may be certain that it would have quite sympathized with his gifted friend's feelings on the subject, and that any apology he might have urged in behalf of advocacy, though no doubt entirely in harmony with his own practice, and his own pure conscience, would have failed to satisfy Arnold as to the inevitable tendency of the system in the great majority of men engaged in it.

That tendency, however, was effectively counteracted in Mr. Justice Coleridge, and the writer cannot forbear from quoting here a passage from Sir Joseph Arnold's admirable and interesting life of Lord Denman, a work of which we hope ere long to offer an appreciating review :

« PreviousContinue »