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APPELLATE COURTS The problem of the law's delays has been given much attention by the Commonwealth Club of California from its early days, and the efforts of the Club have resulted in an extensive revision of procedure to “make justice more speedy and certain.” (See Transactions, Vol. X, No. 7, “Changes in Civil Procedure,” for a history of the Club's activities in this matter.) One result of the legislation has been to shorten materially the time of getting cases before the appellate courts. This has brought a greater number of cases before the higher courts and shifted the point of delay. The constitutional amendment which calls upon the appellate courts to consider the evidence before determining that an error of procedure has produced such a miscarriage of justice as to require a new trial has imposed additional burdens upon the appellate courts. The result has been a congestion of the calendars which has caused much delay in securing a final hearing on appeal.
The situation attracted the attention of the special session of the Legislature of 1916, which in a formal resolution requested the Supreme Court, the judges of the other courts and the various bar associations to suggest a remedy. The same problem has engaged the attention of the recent sessions of the California Bar Association.
The Commonwealth Club was requested to co-operate with the members of the Supreme Court and a committee of the California Bar Association in considering plans for dealing with the problem. On the authorization of the Board of Governors, President Hodghead, in March, 1916, appointed the following Committee on Appellate Courts :
Charles S. Cushing, chairman; Messrs. A. E. Bolton, William B. Bosley, William Denman, Warren Gregory, E. S. Heller, A. F. Morrison, Charles A. Shurtleff, Matt. I. Sullivan, Grant H. Smith, E. F. Treadwell, Randolph V. Whiting.
After several meetings with the members of the Supreme Court and the committee of the California Bar Association, the following was approved as a plan for temporary relief:
Proposed Constitutional Amendment Drafted by Special Committee of California Bar Association, in Conference with Members of the Supreme Court and Special Committee
of the Commonwealth Club. To provide for the disposition of pending cases, to render temporary assist
ance to the Supreme Court and the District Courts of Appeal, and to avoid delay in the transaction of the appellate business, a new section is hereby added to Article VI of the Constitution of the
State of California, to be numbered 26, and to read as follows: Sec. 26. The Governor is authorized to create, on the request of the Supreme Court, one additional District Court of Appeal in any Appellate District. Each court so created shall continue in existence for a term of four years from the date of its creation, and upon a like request, may be re-created for a further term of four years. The Governor shall appoint a presiding justice and two associate justices of each of said Courts, and fill all vacancies therein, except in case of recall. Each Court so created shall be known as “District Court of Appeal Number Two of the Appellate District.” All provisions of the Constitution and laws relating to the District Courts of Appeal, and the justices thereof, not inconsistent herewith, including those providing for the recall, shall apply to such newly created Courts. Such Courts and the justices thereof shall have jurisdiction only of such cases as may be transferred to them by the Supreme Court. Any Court so created shall hold its sessions at the place at which the District Court of Appeal of the district for which it is created is required to hold its sessions, and it shall have the use of the courtroom and be served by the officers and attaches of the District Court of Appeal of said district. Approved: F. M. ANGELLOTTI,
ORRIN K. MCMURRAY,
CHARLES S. CUSHING,
Wm. J. HUNSAKER,
CHARLES S. WHEELER,
A. E. BOLTON,
Committee of the California
Bar Association. Associate Justices of
The committee of the California Bar Association undertook the task of placing the amendment before the voters by initiative petition for ratification at the election of November, 1916. The Club's committee therefore presented a report at the Club meeting of May 17, 1916, and the matter was discussed at length. No vote of the Club was taken upon the question, but the reports and discussions were ordered printed in the Transactions for the information of Club members and the public.
Syllabus of Reports and Discussions Mr. Cushing (Page 47)-Constitution of 1849 provided for a Supreme Court of three judges. In 1862 Court was enlarged to five. The new Constitution of 1879 enlarged Court to seven members and provided for two departments to clear away congestion of calendars. In January, 1885, three Commissioners were provided to assist the Supreme Court and in 1889 the Commission was re-created with five members. In 1904 the Constitution was amended to abolish the Commission and to substitute three District Courts of Appeal with three judges each. In 1879 the State had a population of about 840,000 and in 1910 of about 2,400,000; probably considerably greater today. New industries and policies have brought new sources of litigation. Great variety of public corporations, more complicated structure of government and society bring new problems which get into courts. As population expands we shall have more litigation instead of less. Bulk of laws two or three times as great as ten years ago. Public utilities act, workmen's compensation, blue sky laws, election laws, etc., bring many cases to the courts. Consideration of preferred cases delays others. When the committee report was prepared there were in the Supreme Court unsubmitted cases from San Francisco, 334; from Los Angeles, 329; Sacramento, 129; criminal cases, 4; total, 1096. In 1915 Supreme Court rendered opinions in 361 cases; the District Courts of Appeal, 553 cases. In the ordinary civil cases the Supreme Court is two years behind in its work. There are 115 Superior Judges in the State whose work is reviewable by the one Supreme Court and three District Courts of Appeal. Therefore, committee recommends plan for temporary creation of Courts of Appeal to handle accumulation of business, leaving permanent solution for future action.
Chief Justice Angellotti (Page 57)—Conditions confronting the Court are worse than at the date considered by the committee (March 27th). Cases unsubmitted in the Los Angeles district now number 650; in the San Francisco district, 375; and in the Sacramento district about 150. The Court is over two years behind in Los Angeles, just about two years in San Francisco, and about a year and a half in Sacramento. No matter how important it may be to a man to get relief (unless a preferred case under the law) he must wait
that long before his case can even be put on the calendar for hearing. This not due to any lack of effort on the part of the judges; all are working as hard as they can. Many novel questions presented to courts by new legislation. Constitution requires that Court shall give reasons in writing, which causes much delay. Amendment drawn after very careful thought. It is the only remedy suggested. If not adopted, people must bear with delays of present system. Remedy is temporary in character, economical, and should be adopted. Our system of Supreme Court with District Courts of Appeal and absolute power in the Supreme Court to transfer cases to equalize the business of all Appellate Courts, is elastic. The amendment provides only for such additional District Courts of Appeal as may be needed, to which cases may be transferred. We feel that this affords the only practical immediate remedy for conditions. Objections answered.
Mr. Adams (Page 64)-Admit need for temporary relief. For a permanent remedy, the great body of laymen want not more courts, but fewer and shorter lawsuits. Personal experiences. Remedies proposed: (1) Increase jurisdiction of justices' courts and make decision final where expense of appeal would exceed amount involved; (2) Authorize justices' courts, upon consent of both parties, to proceed informally without lawyers, dealing directly with the merits of the case; (3) Encourage arbitration regardless of amount involved, and make judgments final and enforceable like judgments of a court of record; (4) Restrict appeals to cases in which the amount in controversy is substantially greater than the cost to all parties, including the public, of the appeal; (5) Make decisions of District Courts of Appeal final except in cases where the amount involved is very large, or the court shall certify some question of law to be decided; (6) Empower the Supreme Court to prescribe rules of practice and the summary correction of all technical errors before proceeding to trial; (7) Compel suits to be tried on the date set; (8) Give judges more power over the courts. If it were not impossible, appoint judges for life, after the age of forty and not less than ten years' successful practice at the bar.
Mr. Stafford (Page 73)–Courts and lawyers, like military, forget that they are the layman's hired man. Offer resolution, “That it is the sense of the members present tonight that there should be no increase in the number of our Appellate or other courts until a resolute attempt has been made to secure relief by diminishing litigation, especially by limiting appeals and otherwise as suggested in the paper of Mr. Adams, and whatever other devices may be found practicable.”
Mr. Gray (Page 75)-Address of Judge Olsen of the Municipal Court of Chicago. Importance of arbitration trade agreements. Compromise is the life of justice as well as trade.
Mr. Gregory (Page 77)—Concrete problem before us: There are over one thousand cases awaiting decision and the courts are not able to handle them. Do we wish that condition to continue until we can readjust our whole judicial system before relief is had? Proposed remedy directly in line with our judicial history. Objections considered. Delay denies justice to creditor, and hampers trade. Banks will not lend to those who might litigate obligations; for the mere filing of a suit would keep them out of their money for three years.
Mr. Sexton (Page 80)—Supreme Court fifty-three years ago had three judges and decided over 600 cases in one year. I wonder if we could not get those old fellows back again?
Mr. Bosley (Page 81)-Additional courts provided by amendment can not accomplish more than aid existing courts to dispose of pending appeals. It will give time to devise a better judicial system for permanent relief for litigants. Extensive and careful revision needed.
Mr. Bolton (Page 82)–Our present Supreme Court could decide a thousand cases a year if you will let them decide cases without a written opinion. Temporary remedy to ease present trouble will allow us to find and cure the cause.
Mr. Black (Page 83)—Burden of delay rests on litigants. Client paid $8000 in interest while waiting for Supreme Court to affirm decision. People would vote this relief if they understood that they pay cost of delay.
Mr. Thompson (Page 83)—In Los Angeles, more than one thousand cases filed in the Superior Courts every month, and an average of one appeal a day. Impress upon the voters that this measure is temporary, and that following it will be an effort at permanent remedy.
Justice Shaw (Page 84)—This measure not for the relief of the courts, but of litigants. Members of the Court cannot do more work than now, under any circumstances. If the amendment is passed, it will not reduce their work. When I came on the Supreme Bench in 1903 the Court was a little over three years behind. District Courts of Appeal organized in 1905. We transferred several hundred cases to these courts. For two years District Courts of Appeal cleared away accumulated cases and brought the courts by 1910 within one year of date. Since then business has increased, and the courts are now two years behind and will soon be three years behind. Believe the amendment will bring courts up to date inside of four years.
Action of Club Meeting (Page 87)-Resolution of Mr. Stafford laid on the table.