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ruling carries the case up by writ of error, to be informed by the court above that although the City Court in question is like the City Courts of Savannah and Atlanta, in that it is no more like them than they are like each other, it is not unlike them, in the manner contemplated by the Constitution for them to be different, sufficiently to make of it a constitutional court, and although it is freely granted that it is different from any court the reviewing court has yet viewed, still they are constrained to hold its points of difference are different from what they should be, and it is, therefore, not a constitutional City Court from which a writ of error would lie. So he cusses the court, his client cusses him, the next General Assembly abolishes that particular City Court because the judge didn't support the county's representative (who is our hero's brother-in-law) in the race for the Legislature, and everybody is happy again, perhaps. And so it goes.
And the very fact that the City Courts have been made the football of the General Assembly, tinkered with, amended, abolished, and kicked about at almost every session, has necessarily had an unwholesome influence upon the public's attitude towards them not only, but towards, all courts in general.
There are City Courts (I personally know of one) which have jurisdiction over one militia district only, and that not in a county-site. There are City Courts in which defaults can be opened in the same manner as in Superior Courts, and there are those in which they can't. And there are those in which they can not be opened at all. There are City Courts in which direct writs of error can be had to the Court of Appeals and others in which the only appellate procedure is by writ of certiorari to the Superior Court. Some City Courts can grant new trials, others can not, and others won't; and so on and so forth. My time is limited else I could go on multiplying instances of distinctions, differences and inconsistencies. But as this
ABOLITION OF CITY COURTS is a constructive criticism I must tell you what to do. What, then, is the remedy?
In my opinion, unless there is going to be a general revision of our judicature all along the line, which naturally would call for the abolition of the City Courts, we had best at least convert all of our so-called constitutional City Courts into Superior Courts, and all of our nonconstitutional City Courts into County Courts, or rather abolish them and make their judges Superior Court and County Court judges respectively. Then make all cases in all of our trial courts triable at the first term. Have the petition filed, say, thirty days before the term, served in ten days, require the answer to be filed within ten days after service of the petition, and served within five days.
To do this would, perhaps, require a rearrangement of most of our judicial circuits, but the task is not difficult, and in nearly all sections of the State a readjustment is desirable.
It need not be argued that most, if not all, of our socalled constitutional City Courts in the larger cities and towns in the State are filled with business of equal importance and magnitude as that in our Superior Courts, and the judges are equally as well qualified as the Superior Court judges. There can be just as many terms of the Superior Court as there are of the City Courts, and we will have at least a uniform judicial system throughout the State.
I would advocate, also, an amendment to the County Court Act requiring all judges to be members of the bar,
Undoubtedly there is need of revision of the judiciary. It has been repeatedly pointed out by the most eminent members of the bar that the legal profession, aye, our whole system of judicature, is not keeping up with the progress of the world and they cite as evidence the hundreds of extra-judicial commission bureaus, councils, boards and the like, which the public have created and clothed with great powers and left unrestricted by any
· rules of evidence or procedure, and these bodies are gradually usurping many of the most important functions properly belonging to the courts. Isn't that a fair warning that unless we adopt a business-like and common sense system of administering justice in the courts the public will establish other and less safe methods of disposing of all controversies?
And isn't one of the first steps in applying the principles of business management to the courts, to make them uniform as to jurisdiction, procedure and all other functions?
What possible advantage is it to have as many different kinds of courts as there are judges, with jurisdictions and powers so involved that none but a trained lawyer could define them?
For every reason it is most desirable the public should know the powers and limitations of all the courts.
When men, laymen, understand that there is reason and common sense in the organization and administration of the courts, and that business will be dispatched there as expeditiously, say, as by a board of arbitrators, litigation will more nearly approach the ideal.
Some of us are wont to think that specialized tribunals, complicated procedure and intricate rules of pleading are necessary concomitants of a high and complex state of civilization, but a moment's reflection will convince that quite the contrary is true. Fundamental principles are few and simple. The great thoughts that have lived have been those most simply expressed. And the greatest code of procedure would be, of course, that one which is most simple and direct. It is indeed a primitive type of mind that prefers form to substance.
In this connection I want to read you a paragraph from an article on Anglo-Saxon Law written some twenty years ago by Sir Frederic Pollock. He said:
“A modern reader fresh to the subject might perhaps expect to find that the procedure of the old popular courts
was loose and informal. In fact it was governed by traditional rules of the most formal and unbending kind. Little as we know of the details, we know enough to be sure of this; and it agrees with all the evidences we have of the early history of legal proceedings elsewhere. The forms become not less but more stringent as we pursue them to a higher antiquity; they seem to have not more but less appreciable relation to any rational attempt to ascertain the truth in disputed matters of fact."
“He lost his cause without a chance of recovery if any slip was made in pronouncing the proper forms."
The whole trend of law reform now is towards unity of courts and simplicity of procedure.
England, to whom all lawyers in this country instinctively turn, because she is the mother of our legal institutions, has taken great strides towards the unification of courts and the simplifying of procedure. Strange as it may seem, America appears now to be the most backward of all civilized countries in this regard.
Is it a mere coincidence that by far the greatest number of important rulings affecting controversies involving millions of dollars of property are made by our railroad and public service commissions and trade boards whose procedure is simple and whose methods are direct, at a time when our courts of law are bound and fettered with an archaic system of rules and involved procedure, and no business organization whatever ?
I am frank to say, gentlemen, that if we are to give to the courts the prestige they should enjoy, I think we have got to have a general revision throughout, especially along lines of procedure. But as I was asked to address my remarks to the City Courts I will not stray further into other fields. Indeed, if we can now get rid of this judicial hybrid we will have taken a substantial step along the road of unity and progress.
SHOULD THE CITY COURTS BE ABOLISHED?
IF SO, WHAT SHOULD BE SUBSTITUTED?
I assume that we all have in mind, not the City Courts established upon the recommendation of the grand jury, of which there are very few, if any, in the State, but those City Courts established by legislative enactment, such as the City Courts of Macon, Savannah, Atlanta and a large number of others of like jurisdiction, from all of which a writ of error may be taken as a matter of right to the Court of Appeals.
In the county of my residence, in which, of course, I do most of my practice, there is no City Court of any sort and there is not the least probability of there ever being one. My practice has not been very extensive in City Courts, and consequently I feel that I am entirely capable of discussing City Courts generally and of giving specific reasons for their abolishment. Nevertheless, I take the position that all City Courts should be abolished; but if it should appear that I champion the losing side of the question, I wish it clearly understood that I have in mind no particular City Court; certainly I have in mind no City Court in which I have ever practiced or in which I may ever practice, or of which I have ever heard or of which I may ever hear.
Of the courts established by legislative enactment there are at this time seventy-one. These courts handle more or less efficiently a vast volume of civil and criminal litigation. In a few counties, because of satisfactory service rendered, City Courts are well established fixtures; but upon information and belief, I allege that in most of the