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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 names. This would be the practical thing to do if you are in favor of the recommendation of the Committee.
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?
The Secretary then read the third proposition of the report, as follows:
“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.
JOHN F. CARLISLE, of Columbus:-Insofar as the information from Common Pleas Courts is concerned, relative to the condition of the docket, I doubt seriously without express words from the Judge of the particular Common Pleas Court whether statistics relative to the number of cases would indicate the congested condition of the court docket. The mere number of cases on a docket does not indicate congestion. The Secretary of State receives from the Clerks of the Court of the State statistical reports that are sent in to him by the first of July of each year. He then embodies these statistics in a volume, and I will leave it to you men whether when you investigate that particular record it is possible to determine the question of congestion. That question could only be answered from the personal knowledge of Judges of the Courts, regardless of the number of cases on the docket. There are times in a year when you may have quite a number of cases and yet there may not be any congestion; but you might run into a condition of the docket where you would have a large number of cases running a week or two or three weeks, during the trial of which your docket would become congested. You might have congestion one particular week or month of a term and still be up to date six weeks from that time. I know that as a practical proposition, because I happen to be the Assignment Commissioner in Columbus and am assigning cases and have been doing so for sixteen years. When we need a Judge we notify the Chief Justice of the congested condition of the docket and he sends one to us. I do not doubt that it might be a good thing from a statistical point of view, but insofar as it would be of any particular advantage to the litigant in the matter of getting up on the docket, it could only operate as such in a proportion of cases, because you men all know from experience that the number of cases on a docket does not necessarily indicate congestion. You can find on the most of our dockets now-a-days hundreds of uncontested divorce cases. That is not congestion. You can get rid of those in a very short time. But you might run across one case on the docket that would take a month to try.
THE PRESIDENT:Are there any other remarks, gentlemen?
P. L. A. LEIGHLEY, of Cleveland:-I am opposed to any law that requires any Common Pleas Judge to make any report to any Court of Appeals or any Supreme Court, because I believe in an independent judiciary. It is not for the Chief Justice or the Court of Appeals to require reports from any lower Judge. That Judge gets his power from the unit in which he is elected. He is only obliged to report to that. The Court of Appeals to its unit and it ought to report only to people who elect it. In the interest of an independent judiciary, do not compel the Judge of a lower Court to do the clerical work of reporting to any upper Court.
Louis H. WINCH, of Cleveland:-I think this resolution is misunderstood. May I read it and explain it? There is a suggestion that a Committee be appointed to study the situation in the hope that something may be done. There is a suggestion that a Committee be appointed. It may be that you have all studied this situation and know so much about it that you are prepared to vote intelligently on the merits of the proposition. The Committee was not of that opinion. The Committee has no definite Bill to suggest. It has no definite suggestions to make. It points out a situation and suggests that a Committee be appointed to study it. It is possible that the Committee should report to the next Annual Meeting of this Convention or Association, rather than to appeal to the legislature. I think an amendment of that kind would be very good, but so far as shutting off the consideration of the subject entirely it would seem strange that the Bar Association would attempt to do that unless it has already studied the matter and made up its mind.
WALTER D. MEALS, of Cleveland: I should like to have it read and then I would like to ask what the condition is that necessitates such investigation.
LOUIS H. WINCH:The resolution reads: “That a committee be appointed to draft and present to the next session of the legislature a bill providing for 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."