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PRESIDENT HARKER: At the request of Mr. Wheeler, the report of the Committee on Judicial Administration will be passed. We will now listen to an address entitled “Copyright Law," by Judge L. L. Bond of Chicago.
[The address will be found in Part II.]
PRESIDENT HARKER: The next number is an address on "The Commerce Clause of the Constitution," by Mr. Robert Mather, of the Chicago bar.
[ The address will be found in Part II.]
PRESIDENT HARKER: Mr. Charles L. Capen, of Bloomington, will now open the discussion on the question, “How can the Illinois State Bar Association best fulfill the purposes of its organization? What have we done that we ought not to have done? What have we left undone that we ought to have done?”
MR. CAPEN: The Constitution declares the objects of our Association to be: "To cultivate the science of jurisprudence, to promote reform in the laws, to facilitate the administration of justice, to elevate the standard of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession, to encourage a thorough and liberal legal education, and to cherish a spirit of brotherhood among the members thereof."
In some of these grand purposes the measure of success has been gratifying. The papers read during the nineteen years of our existence have been, for the most part, instructive and some of them notable contributions to the science of jurisprudence. The social features have been uniformly delightful to all participants. In these two respects we should perhaps be satisfied if, in the future, we maintain the high standard of the past. As a literary and social organization we have been, and are, a brilliant success.
In other respects, we can but feel disappointment and regret. But a very small proportion of the bar of the State are members of our institution, and of the members, many take little interest in our annual meetings. We can point to no achievement of consequence in law reform; we can boast that the establishment of the Appellate Courts-an important matter-is mainly due to our efforts, but probably we are
entitled to little credit for any other thing done in facilitating the administration of justice. Our influence in elevating the standard of the profession is not perceptibly felt in the State at large, and is limited to the elevating influences enjoyed by those who have availed themselves of the great privilege of our meetings. The educational or other requirements for admission to the bar are little higher or better than they were twenty years ago-though this is not wholly our faultnor are they rigid enough to exclude from our profession all but the thoroughly qualified. Upon the negative side, of helping to defeat unwise measures—which is of the utmost importance-we have as little cause for self-congratulation.
It is far from true that no efforts have been made in these directions. Many of our Presidents—all distinguished men-have offered suggestions of grave importance, none more so than in the address of yesterday, many of which have met the approval of our members. Many of our speakers have urged reforms of moment that have received our tacit commendation. Discussion of more or less earnestness has sometimes followed, too often hurried in the closing hours of our meeting; then all has been buried in our printed proceedings, to be heard of no more. While it is true that, let us do our best, we can only hope to be one factor in bringing about any change, yet it is idle for us to complain of the great majority of lawyers in the State, to say nothing of the press and laity, when our meetings have produced so small results; when observers see so little fruit of our labors. It is but fair to say that organizations like ours in some other States are suffering from similar causes, and in some of these States, men of great earnestness are striving for a better condition of things.
It cannot be said that there has not been, and is not, demand for improvement and reform in our laws and proceedure. The feeling is well nigh, if not quite, universal among the citizens of the State that the administration of justice has not kept pace with the advance in all other departments of human effort; that the outcome of appeals to courts is not so speedy, certain, economical or just as it should be; that it takes too long a time to reach a case for trial; that some of our methods have outgrown their usefulness-should be abandoned as obsolete, and more modern and satisfactory substitutes adopted. We cannot so shut our eyes as
not to see there is a widespread, even if sometimes indefinite, feeling that matters pertaining to our courts are not as they should be, and that reforms are desirable and necessary. This opinion is more pronounced in certain localities than in others, and in some branches of litigation than in others, but is everywhere prevalent.
It is no adequate answer to this to say that many changes proposed are not reforms, but the contrary; that suitors are often unjust in their assertions; that things now complained of were once valuable or even essential, or that decided dif. ference of opinion is sometimes manifested upon this floor. After making full allowance for all these, no one doubts that there remains ample' cause for complaint. Nor can convinced that recognized evils must remain, where there is no full agreement as to the best remedy; nor can we wholly justify ourselves by reflecting that the literature of the past as well as of the present, is not free from sarcasm and denunciation of courts and lawyers.
I now come to a matter of some delicacy, upon which the opinions of members will probably differ, and yet which it seems to the writer ought to be mentioned. Lawyers by their training and experience are the most conservative class of people; no other sort or condition of men holds so religiously to the husk after the kernel has dried up and been blown away. An eminent writer has declared that "every law reform has been accomplished in spite of the opposition of the legal profession," and it is submitted that there has been far too much truth in this as regards this Association. Individual lawyers can do little; and the more eminent they are, the more absorbed in their private business. It is only by co-operation they can work for results, and the only plan of co-operation in this State, or, at least, the chief one, is our Association, which can only appeal for support to the more progressive members of the bar. This class feels that there is an influence which embarrasses them in their efforts almost as much as would a Locrian law, and which does not encourage the presentation or prosecution of suggested improvements. We are not without self-denying and public-spirited members, who feel, or have felt, great responsibility, but who have met with so little countenance that in despair they have ceased their efforts, and no longer meet with us. These men
believe, after giving us all due credit, that our organization has done more in the past to prevent, than to aid the progress of legal reform.
We are not bound to render perpetual all of which Lord Coke approved, nor even to follow blindly all the teachings of Lord Mansfield. Legal methods and procedure should not keep halting step with the spirit of the age, but should be stirred by it to keep at the front. Our courts should move faster, and with less intricacy than before the days of railroads, telegraphs and telephones. Every delay and hindrance not clearly unavoidable should be swept away. Present abuses are not sanctified by the authority or necessities of past generations. In all other kinds of business we see great changes, possibly revolutions; in law affairs alone do we see an aversion to anything modern, and it is certain that the laity are far in advance of our profession. A diminished conservatism will certainly result in a quadrupled attendance and interest. The twentieth century is almost upon us, and a disposition to satisfy the reasonable expectations of our clients, who pay the bills, who sustain the losses, and who cannot be brought to see the winsome light of many of our methods, will render our services more satisfactory. I plead earnestly for a greater liberality. Conservatism is a noble trait when needed, but, carried to an extreme, means stagnation and death. It was never designed that the Goddess of justice should once for all establish laws and then fall into a final sleep. Because it is advisable that progress be deliberate, it does not follow there should be none at all, or if any, that it be delayed for years after necessity for it has been plainly demonstrated. Let us try in our discussion and action to be broader men, to assume more fully the obligations resting upon us and to meet the responsibility public opinion places upon our shoulders, and both the Bar Association and all upon its roll will be the gainers in every respect. It should be remembered in this connection that whatever we do favor, carries the greater weight because we generally oppose everything that contains an element of novelty. Our highest duty and advantage is to try to come up to the level of all reasonable expectations by taking the initiative in the abolition of existing evils and in devising and promoting improvements. The people rely upon us for leadership and criticise the meager results. Let our brother lawyers once understand that there is a fair promise
of enough practical outcome to justify the expense and trouble of attendance and greater numbers will be present at our annual meetings.
It is not within the scope of the present inquiry to try to suggest what particular matters should receive the paramount attention or approval of our body; but if the judges and lawyers of the State understand that upon some matters of general importance this Association would take action at each meeting, and after adjournment have competent committees prepare carefully drawn bills to be presented to the legislature, and then advocate and explain them and their necessity, and otherwise press them to accomplishment with all the energy and influence it possesses, a much wider attention would be shown and larger attendance be invited. This Association ought to possess great influence; it ought not to be in the rear of public sentiment; but, keeping strictly within its own limits, should he a leader, relied upon for effective action. It ought to and can reach the attention of the bench, bar and legislature of the State in bringing about one by one such changes as are of real merit, so as to bring our courts nearer the level of public expectations; to meet new requirements as they arise; to render our profession more deserving of popular esteem; to increase confidence in our courts. All this will draw to our numbers the very best of our profession, and create such an enthusiasm as to enable us to do our duty more effectively than now appears possible. Is it not true that heretofore we have relied for the interest in our meetings too exclusively upon literary productions and friendly intercourse? No one wishes any lessening in these respects, but action alone can create deep interest. An appeal to the combined sense of duty and of public welfare will command attention.
The value of every institution is measured by its positive achievements; its attractiveness to liberal minds depends upon the scope of successful effort it offers them; if practical advantages are few and rare, interest flags and indifference follows.
It is further suggested as one other answer to the question proposed-how to increase the interest in this Association? is at each meeting to decide what one measure, or at most two or three, within the sphere of our calling, is most