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Wednesday morning

Ten o'clock

July 9, 1919

The meeting was called to order by President Brown,

—The members of the Executive Committee feel themselves particularly fortunate in having obtained the presence of the distinguished gentleman who is to address us. He comes here at great personal inconvenience to himself.

Judge Stafford comes here to address us upon a subject which is in the public mind above all other subjects possibly in this country, the question of the League of Nations; not from a political standpoint, but purely from a legal and constitutional standpoint. He takes no political ground, as I understand, whatsoever.

It affords me great pleasure to introduce to you Honorable Wendell Phillips Stafford, formerly of the Supreme Bench of the State of Vermont, and now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.

Judge Stafford then delivered his address. (See Appendix, page 66).

THOMAS A. JONES, of the Ohio Supreme Court:- I move that the thanks of the Association be extended to Judge Stafford for the very excellent address that he has delivered. Motion seconded and carried unanimously by a rising vote.

The various judicial districts then met for the election of members of the standing committees.

(For members of standing committees, see pages 152–155).

A recess was then declared until Wednesday afternoon, July 9, 1919, at two o'clock.


Wednesday afternoon

Two o'clock

July 9, 1919

The meeting was called to order by President Ensign N. Brown.

The report of the Committee on Judicial Administration and Legal Reform was presented for consideration and was acted upon, section by section.

The Secretary read proposition one of the report as follows:

1. “Should the law for the non-partisan election of judges be repealed?

THE PRESIDENT:—What is the pleasure of the meeting?

SIDNEY G. STRICKER, of Cincinnati: I believe it has been the observation of all the members of the bar that however well the non-partisan judicial ballot was planned it has been demonstrated that in practice it does not work good results. The voters go to the polls in the large cities where there are six or eight judges to be elected at a single election and where they have as many as twenty to twenty-five different candidates. The intelligent voter may know for whom he is voting, but the average man gets in a booth and sees a lot of names. There is nothing there to designate one from the other except a name, and they do not know whom they are voting for or what they are voting for. I know that both parties have been compelled in the city of Cincinnati to have circulars with the Democratic candidates on one ballot and the Republican candidates on the other. It results in the voter having to pick the candidate according to his party affiliations from this blind ballot. I believe that it is the general consensus of opinion among the lawyers at the bar in my bailiwick that it has been a failure, and I therefore move that it is the sense of this Association that the non-partisan judicial ballot law be repealed.

Motion seconded and carried.


The Secretary then read the second proposition of the report as follows:

2. “Should the jurisdiction of the State Supreme Court be enlarged and more accurately defined?"

LOUIS H. WINCH, of Cleveland:-On behalf of the Committee I move that the recommendation contained in the report of the Committee be approved and that a committee be appointed to draft an amendment to be submitted to the people under Section 1 (a) of Article II of the Constitution, said committee to take charge of procuring signatures to the initiative petition. If you want to accomplish anything along the lines suggested by the report, if you are in favor of it, you should have a committee appointed to prepare a petition and secure the requisite number of signatures. I think the Clerk of the Supreme Court at one time told me it would take about one hundred and sixty thousand

This would be the practical thing to do if you are in favor of the recommendation of the Committee.

Motion seconded.

LEWIS BRUCKER, of Mansfield:-May I ask Judge Winch if the time has now gone by in which such a proposition could be laid before the people this year?

Louis H. WINCH:I cannot answer. I don't know.

LEWIS BRUCKER:-Does any member of the Association know whether the time has gone by?

JOHN A. BOURKE, of the Cleveland Leader-News:- I think you have until August 4th.

ALLEN ANDREWS, of Hamilton-Before the Committee could procure the requisite number of signatures the time will have gone by for the coming election.

THE PRESIDENT:-Are you ready for the question?
Motion carried.

The Secretary then read the third proposition of the report, as follows:

3. "We also recommend that a committee be appointed to draft and present to the next session of the Legislature a bill providing for the broadening and extending the supervising power of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court over the various Courts of the State to the end that there may be efficiency and uniformity in the administration of justice in Ohio."

LOUIS H. WINCH, of Cleveland: In behalf of the Committee, and in order to get the matter before the meeting, I move the adoption of that resolution as indicated, and desire to make this explanation, for perhaps you are not all familiar with the situation. In our congested district we find our dockets crowded. It is hard to get business done. The Chief Justice has authority to transfer judges and he has been doing it. I speak rather from my knowledge of the situation in Cleveland and general information. In Cleveland we have twelve Common Pleas Judges and because of the war and other circumstances and conditions, our docket got so far behind that the Chief Justice found it necessary to keep and has kept at Cleveland from four to six and possibly eight additional Judges from time to time. I have talked with the Chief Justice, and while he does not give his personal approval or request concerning any legislation, he said it would be useful if in advance of the situation developing in a locality he had information, carefully prepared information, furnished him from time to time by the Clerks of the Court, that he might thereby be in position to prevent congestion in the populous districts. The purpose of this resolution is to put in the hands of a Committee that would have time to discuss the matter, the whole subject, so that some provision might be made under the present Constitution, which gives only limited power to the Chief Justice, to require the Clerks of Court or the Court officers of various districts to furnish monthly, quarterly or semi-annual reports of the conditions of business and the amount of work done by each Judge. That would furnish a record also to the public and for the information of the Supreme Court. In large cities we are over a year behind in our docket. We should not be more than three months behind. The Court of Appeals is up within three months of its docket and it has a very large docket.

THE PRESIDENT:—It is a serious proposition, gentlemen. I hope there will be a full and free discussion of this subject. We are all interested in it.


WALTER D. MEALS, of Cleveland:- I am opposed to the resolution, for the reason I do not understand it. So far as the Court of Appeals is concerned, it derives its jurisdiction from the Constitution and it has been so held. I do not know what is meant by the resolution. It is provided that the legislature shall enact suitable legislation extending the powers of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I should think the resolution should be more specific. The power should be defined. It should be shown what power is to be exercised. The legislature cannot transcend the Constitution and give the Chief Justice power not given by the Constitution. To what extent the Chief Justice can regulate the activities of the Courts of Common Pleas I do not know. I doubt very seriously whether the legislature can vest the additional power to which the Committee may refer. But I should like to know what power is intended to be vested in the Chief Justice under the resolution.

ALLEN ANDREWS, of Hamilton:—I am not sure I have any better understanding of the problem than the gentleman who just addressed us, but as I do understand it, I think it does not contemplate enlarging or in any way affecting the power of the Chief Justice. It simply contemplates a method of bringing to the knowledge of the Chief Justice the information as to the condition of the Courts, so that he may more intelligently exercise the power which he already has. It seems to me that could be done in a simple manner if we should have legislation providing that the Clerks of the different Courts in the State, the Clerks of the Court of Common Pleas and the Clerks of the Courts of Appeals, should at certain periods advise the Chief Justice of the condition of the docket in their respective Courts, how many cases are on the docket and how many cases are for trial. Then the Chief Justice would know the situation over the State. He would find which Court had but little to do and which Court had much to do and he would know where he could bring an additional Judge to the best advantage and from what source that help should come. It seems to me it would be a simple way of preventing this congestion in certain counties.


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