Jurisprudence by James Mill -1825

The Judicial Establishment

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The Judicial Establishment; or Inquiry what is the best form of the Agency required for giving effect to the Laws.—Securities for the intellectual Endowments of the Judge.—Securities for the moral Qualities of the Judge.

We have now seen the whole of the operations to be performed. The parties are received to state before the judge the investitive or devestitive facts on which they rely. If they state, for this purpose, a fact which is not possessed of those qualities, they are immediately told that it is not possessed of them, and not calculated to support their claim. They come, by two or three steps, at the longest, to a fact upon which the question ultimately turns; and which is either contested, or not contested. In a great many cases it would not be contested. When the subject was stript of disguise, the party who had no right, would generally see that he had no hope, and would acquiesce. The suit would thus be terminated without the adduction of evidence. When it was not, the cases would be frequent in which it might be terminated by the evidence which the parties brought along with them. In these cases, also, the first hearing would suffice. A vast majority of the whole number of suits would be included in these two sets of cases. For the decision of a vast majority, therefore, of the whole number of suits, a few minutes would suffice. When all the evidence could not be forthcoming at the first hearing, and only then, would a second hearing be required. In this mode of proceeding, justice would be, that without which it is not justice, expeditious and cheap.

In all this there is nothing which one man, with the appropriate intellectual and moral qualities, is not as competent to perform as any number of men. As one man is cheaper than any greater number, that is one reason why no more than one judge should be allowed to one tribunal.

The next object of inquiry is, to ascertain what securities can be provided, that those who are entrusted with the business of judicature shall possess the requisite intellectual and moral endowments.

The intellectual endowments depend upon those who have the power of choosing and of dismissing the judges: and who do or do not appoint men whose knowledge and capacity are ascertained. The moral behaviour of the judges depends upon the interests which act upon them in the situation in which they are placed.

Into the question, who should have the appointment of the judges, we do not intend to enter. The answer would be different under different forms of government; and this is not the place to compare the different forms of government, either for this or any other of the ends of its institution. One thing only we shall state, because it carries its evidence along with it. Those who appoint the judges ought to have no interest contrary to the best administration of justice.

As the uprightness of the judge is assailed by interests inseparable from his situation; viz. the profit which he may derive from misdecision, it is necessary to counterbalance them by opposite interests, assuming the character of securities. Several of the securities, which we have already seen applying to the situation of witness, apply also to the situation of judge: Some are peculiar to each. The following is the list of those which apply to the situation of judge.

  1. Punishment.
  2. Shame.
  3. Publicity.
  4. Writing, for the sake of accuracy and permanency.
  5. Singleness of the functionary.
  6. Appeal.
    For the Punishment of the several kinds of judicial offences, provision ought to be made in the penal code.

In the case of the judge there is particular occasion to point accurately, and to strengthen to the utmost, the operation of Shame; for in the situation of judge it is possible to be guilty of offences very numerous and very serious, without permitting so much of evidence to attach to any definite act, as would suffice to form a ground for punishment.

The great instrument for the application of shame is Publicity. The importance of publicity, therefore, is paramount. It is not only the great instrument for creating and applying the moral sanction, the approbation and disapprobation of mankind; but it is of essential service towards the application of punishment, by making known the occasions on which it is deserved. It is not only a great security in itself, but it is the principle of life and strength to all other securities.

All other publicity is feeble and of little worth compared with that of the Press. Not only, therefore, ought this to be allowed to operate with its utmost force upon the judge, but effectual provision ought to be made to cause it to operate upon him with its utmost force. Not only ought the judgment hall to be rendered as convenient as possible for the reception of the public; not only ought the greatest freedom to be enjoyed in publishing the proceedings of the judge; and in publishing all manner of observations upon them, favourable or unfavourable; but measures ought to be taken to make a public, and to produce publication, where there is any chance that a voluntary public, and voluntary publication, would be wanting. For this purpose, unless other very important considerations intervene, the judgment seat should always be in that place, within the district to which it belongs, where the most numerous and intelligent public, and the best means of publication, are to be had.

In England, where there is no definition of libel, and where the judges, therefore, are allowed to punish, under the name of libel, whatever writing they do not like, the publishing of unfavourable observations on the conduct of a judge—nay, in some instances, and these the highest in importance, the simple report of his proceedings—is treated as one of the most heinous of all possible offences. No wonder! Allow judges, or allow any men, to frame laws, and they will frame them, if they can, to answer their own purposes. Who would not, if he could, make a law to protect himself from censure? More especially if he were a man disposed to act in such a way as to deserve censure.

Would you allow falsehood to be published against the judge? The word falsehood is here ambiguous. It means both erroneous opinions, and false statements with regard to fact. Erroneous opinions we would undoubtedly permit, because we know no standard for ascertaining them, other than that which is afforded by public discussion; and because this is an adequate remedy for all the evil which erroneous opinions have any tendency to produce. Affirmation of facts injurious to the judge, if false, and made without reasonable grounds for having been believed to be true, we would prevent.

Allow facts, injurious to the judge, to be published, even when true; allow comments, unfavourable to the judge, to be made upon his actions, you discredit the administration of justice. Discredit the administration of justice, to which the people are resorting every day for the greatest of all possible benefits, protection from injury! As well talk of discrediting the business of a bread-baker, a meat-seller, if the fraudulent dealer is exposed to the censures of the public! Discredit the administration of justice, indeed, by taking measures of security against the vices of judges, indispensable for its perfection!

The importance of recording, in permanent characters, what takes place before the judge, we must content ourselves with assuming. We may do so, it is presumed, with propriety, on account of the facility with which the reasons present themselves. We must also leave it to our readers to draw the line of distinction between the occasions on which it is requisite, and the occasions on which it may be dispensed with; the occasions, for example, where every thing is simple and clear, and all parties are satisfied.

It is a great security, both for diligent and for upright conduct in the judge, that he occupy singly the judgment seat. When a man knows that the whole credit and reward of what is done well; the whole punishment and disgrace of what is done ill, will belong to himself, the motive to good conduct is exceedingly increased. When a man hopes that he can shuffle off the blame of negligence, the blame of unfairness, or fix a part of it on another, the uncertainty of the punishment operates, as we have already seen, to the diminution, and almost to the extinction, of its preventive force. Certain common, and even proverbial expressions, mark the general experience of that indifference, with which a duty, that belongs in common to many, is apt to be performed. What is every body’s business is nobody’s. This is as true in the family as in the state; as true in judicature as in ordinary life. Much remains to be said upon this topic, which is one of great importance; but we must pass to the next.

Of the use of appeal, as a security against the misconduct of the judge, there is the less occasion to adduce any proof, because it seems to be fully recognized by the practice of nations.

One thing, however, which is not recognized by that practice, is, that, if it is necessary in any one sort of causes, so it is in every other, without exception. Not a single reason can be given why it should exist in one set of cases, which is not equally strong to prove that it should exist in every other.

It is instructive to observe the cases in which it has been supposed that it ought to exist, and the cases in which it has been supposed that it might be omitted. The cases in which it has been thought necessary, are those which concern property of considerable value. Those in which it has been dispensed with are those which concern property of inconsiderable value. The first set of cases are those which are of importance to the aristocratical class; the second are those which are of no importance to that class. It is the aristocratical class who have made the laws; they have accordingly declared that the suits which were important to them should have the benefit of appeal; the suits not important to them should not have the benefit of appeal.

We recognize only one standard of importance; namely, influence upon human happiness and misery. The small sum of money for which the suit of the poor man is instituted is commonly of much greater importance to him, than the larger sum for which the suit of the rich man is instituted is to the rich. Again, for one rich man there are thousands and thousands of poor. In the calculation, then, of perfect benevolence, the suits for the small sums are not, as in the calculation of perfect aristocracy, those of the least, or rather no importance; they are of ten thousand times greater importance than the suits for the largest sums.

If an appeal ought to be had, how many stages should there be of appeal? This question, we imagine, is easily answered. If you go for a second judgment, you should, if possible, go to the very best source: and if you go at once to the best source, why go any farther?

What is required to be done, in the case of an appeal, is the first thing which deserves to be ascertained. An appeal takes place in consequence of a complaint against the previous judge. Where no complaint, there is no appeal, nor place for appeal.

A complaint against the judge must relate to his conduct, either at the first, the second, or the third stage, of the judicial operations.

If to his conduct at the first stage, it must be a complaint of his having permitted a party to rest upon a fact which had not the investitive or divestitive quality ascribed to it; and this implies either a mistake with respect to the law, or that he allowed the decision to turn upon a fact which did not embrace the merits of the question. It is evident, that for the decision of this question, all that is necessary is an exact copy of the pleadings, and transmission of it to the court of appeal.

If the complaint relates to his conduct at the second stage, it must turn upon one of two points; either that he did not take all the evidence, or that he did not properly determine its value.

If he did not take the evidence properly, by a failure either in assembling the sources of it, or in extracting it from them when assembled, the proper remedy is to send back the cause to him, with an order to supply the omission; or, if he be suspected of having failed wilfully, to send it to the judge of one of the neighbouring districts, to retake the evidence and decide.

If the complaint relates to a wrong estimate of the evidence, the statement of it, transmitted to the court of appeal, with the reasons assigned by the judge for the value affixed to every portion of it, will enable the appellate court to decide.

With regard to the third stage, the only complaint there can be is, that the judge has not taken measures to execute his own sentence. If any inquiry is in this case to be made, the proper course is, that the appellate court refer it to one of the neighbouring judges. When a simple act is to be done, the proper order is to be dispatched, and the proper penalties for non-performance exacted.

It thus appears, that for every thing which is required to be done by the appellate judicature, nothing whatsoever is required, as a foundation, but certain papers. The presence is not required, either of parties or of witnesses.

As it is of no great consequence, in a country in which the means of communication are tolerably provided, whether papers have to be transmitted 50 or 500 miles, the distance, even though considerable, of the seat of the appellate jurisdiction is a matter of very little importance. The object, then, is to get the best seat; that is, the best public. The best public, generally speaking, is in the capital. The capital, then, is the proper seat of all appellate jurisdiction. And that there should be one judge, and one judge only, in each court of appeal, is proved by exactly the same reasons, as those which apply to the courts of primary jurisdiction.

The question how many courts there should be, as well of primary as of appellate jurisdiction, is to be determined by one thing, and one thing only; namely, the need there is for them. The number of the courts of primary jurisdiction must be determined, in some instances, by the number of suits; in some, by local extent. To render justice sufficiently accessible, the distance from the seat of judicature must not be great, though the number of accruing suits, either from the paucity or from the good conduct of the people, should be ever so small.

As the judgment seat should never be empty, for the need of staying injustice is not confined to times and seasons, and as one judge may be sometimes ill, sometimes called to a distance even by the duties of his office, provision ought to be made for supplying his place. For this purpose the proper expedient is a deputy. That the deputy should well perform his duty, the best security is, that he should be chosen and employed by the judge, the judge being responsible for the acts of the deputy, as his own. Whatever it be, which the judge cannot do, or cannot conveniently do, in that he may employ his deputy. If there is a great influx of causes, the deputy may be employed in some of the least complex and difficult. If there is any business, not of first-rate importance, requiring the presence of the judge at a distance, the delegation of the deputy or deputies is the proper resource.

Besides the judge and his deputy, there are two adjuncts to every tribunal, which are of the utmost importance; indispensable, indeed, to the due administration of justice. These are, a pursuer-general, and a defender-general. The business of both pursuer-general, and defender-general is, to reclaim the execution of all laws in the execution of which the nation has a peculiar interest, though individuals may not. The peculiar business of the pursuer-general is, to act on behalf of the administrative authority, in its character of plaintiff, and on behalf of every plaintiff who is without the means of engaging another advocate; to obviate any prejudice he sees likely to arise to justice from the conduct of plaintiffs, whether in civil matters or penal; and to perform, in the case of all offences, where no private prosecutor appears, the office of prosecutor. The peculiar duty of the defender-general is, to act on behalf of the administrative authority in its capacity of defendant, and on behalf of every defendant who has not the means of engaging another advocate, and to obviate any prejudice he sees likely to result to justice from want of skill or other causes on the part of a defendant who pleads his own cause, or on the part of the advocate who pleads it for him.

The courts of appeal, though all seated in the metropolis, ought to be as numerous as the speedy hearing of all the appeals which come to them requires. The judges of appeal ought all to be chosen from the judges of primary jurisdiction, not only on account of the education and the experience received, but as a step of promotion, and a proper motive to acquire the requisite education, and to merit approbation in the inferior employment. There is the same propriety, and for the same reason, in choosing the judges of primary jurisdiction from the deputies.

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