THE NEW Sali.EME OP LAW REPORTMG.
THE establishment during the present term, for the first time in our legal history, of a consolidated system of law reporting at Lincoln's Inn and Westminster, under the patronage of the Lord Chancellor, and with the hearty con- currence of the Bar, is too important an event to be allowed to pass without notice. It is a striking instance of the success which sometimes attends the disinterested energy of a single man. It is only two years ago that Mr. Daniel, in a printed letter addressed to the Attorney-General, and through him to the profession and the public, seriously called attention to the evils of the existing position of the law reports. The subject was not new. It had been taken up by the Law Amendment Society nearly twenty years before. But it required some one of acknowledged position and force of character to quicken into life the theories of the Law Society. This service has been rendered by Mr. Daniel. Sir Robert Peel's magnanimous tribute to Cobden was not more deserved, than that which the profession is willing to pay to the single-minded and judicious labours of Mr. Daniel. The new scheme is the personification of one simple idea, namely, that the machinery by which case-law is preserved ought not to be the result or the creature of commercial enterprise, but should be supplied and controlled by the Bar. Law publishers may undersell each other in other ways, but they ought not to have the opportunity of directing the manufacture of law. When it is remembered to how great an extent our jurisprudence is composed of judicial decision, the great importance of providing means for its accurate pre- servation will not be denied. A few words will explain what has been the system of law reporting in times gone by and what is its present condition. Plowden says, "That in early-
times four reporters were appointed to cominit to 'writing, and familiar."
truly to deliver, as well the words spoken as the judgments and reasons therefore given in our Courts of Westminster, who conferred all together at the making and setting forth any book of reports." The result of this system was the production of the " Year Books," which contain, in clear and concise language, what has been termed, in contradistinction to statute law, the /ex non scripta, from the reign of Edward I. till the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII. These reports are admirable records, so far as they go, of judicial proceedings. They give a short statement of the case, the leading points in the arguments of counsel on each side, and the decision and reasons of the judge. They were not, however, generally circulated among the profession. They were for the most part preserved in manuscript. Some indeed have been printed for the first time within the last few years. It is not known by whom the four reporters spoken of by Plowden were appointed, although judging from the recital contained in the letters patent appointing two reporters, which Bacon in- duced James L to seal, to the effect that it was thought" good to revive and renew the ancient custom of appointing some grave and learned lawyers to attend in court for the reporting of judgments and resolutions of law," it is probable that they were appointed by the Crown. If this were so, it would go far to explain why in Lord Bacon's time they had ceased to be efficient, and why the new reporters appointed under his auspices also Soon fell into disrepute. The system produced sinecure Offices. It lacked the responsibility which would necessarily have attached to the service if the master had been not the Government, but the profession. Since the time of Lord Bacon, the record of the cases heard and determined in the Courts of Law and Equity has been left to a great extent to chance. Whole years might be pointed out in comparatively modern times when the judicial decisions in some of the Courts were almost unreported. The record of what, without much of poetic licence, has been described as
"That codeless myriad of precedent, That wilderness of single instances, Through which a few, by wit or fortune led, May beat a pathway out to wealth and fame,"
was left to depend upon the capital of law publishers; or the diligence of the barristers who have been employed by the publishers for the purpose of reporting what takes place in Court. It is true that some of the judges were accustomed to revise the notes of the so-called " authorized " reports, but the result of this process often afforded an illustration of the maxim that "an ox and an ass should not plough together." Great names are indeed to be found among the reporters, but in more recent times the reputation as lawyers of many of the "authorized reporters " has been such that they would have stood no chance whatever for the office under a system of open competition. The effect of delay and incapacity in these quarters was more than nega- tive. It gave rise to new schemes of law reporting. Advan- tage was taken of that privilege existing in the Courts which permits any barrister, whether engaged as counsel in the case which is under consideration or not, as miens curice, to inform the judge of any previous decision upon the subject of the case within his own loaowledge. The respect paid by the Bench to the Bar has always insured the respectful reception of such communications. The idea was accordingly conceived by the proprietors of a periodical law paper that if concise and speedy reports could be produced, authenticated by the name of a barrister, these would receive at any rate as much conside- ration in the Court as was paid to the oral statements made by the amid curio, and that thus the grievances arising from the existing system of authorized reporters would be remedied. The idea was carried out, and in course of time these reports were allowed to be cited as authorities as freely as the more privileged series. The remedy, however, was worse than the disease. A spirit of free trade, and also, it must be said, of wholesale piracy, sprang up, and at the end of last term there were no less than 125 barristers daily employed in recording these solemn legal determinations, which, according to an old legal maxim, which is by no means a legal fiction, every one is expected to know. Of course it is absurd, to suppose that the profession could keep pace with this mass of judicial re- production, yet it was felt to be dangerous to neglect these reports. That for years the profession should have borne such a system patiently would be truly astounding, were it not for, what. Lord Westbury has, well called " the blunted sensi- bility of lawyers to the evils with which they have been long
new scheme of law reporting has so many recommendations in itself that it can scarcely fail to supersede most, if not pounds a year. In future the judicial decisions pronounced in each year in every Court will be furnished to the profession at the price of five guineas. There is no reason why this price should not in time be greatly reduced. In consequence of the adoption of the principle to, which we have petitions are neglected send them to the papers, their efforts will
referred, that no profit is to be sought beyond what will pro- at last meet due success. The Dean and Chapter will break perly provide for the expenses of publication and the salaries through their silence, first put forward a defence, and at last find of the editors and reporters, the ultimate price of the reports it expedient to put the butler on wages, and to supply provisions is placed practically in the hands of the profession itself. The at something like their cost price.
greater the number of subscribers the less will be the amount Whether the Christ Church undergraduates fail or succeed, and of the subscription. Every barrister, attorney, and magistrate we own to thinking that the chances are against their success, they is thus directly interested in promoting the scheme. have done a great public service in calling attention to the economi-
Fears have been expressed lest the plan should after all only cal management of our Colleges. Christ Church is very possibly result in the establishment of another competitor in the already one of the worst managed colleges at Oxford or Cambridge, since overcrowded field of law reporting. Such fears are not wholly it labours under the special disadvantage that the tutors who do unfounded. They can only be removed by the resolute deter- the work of the college have no control over its government. mination on the part of the Judges and other members of the But Christ Church is not the only offender. Some colleges are far profession to support the new plan, and on the part of the better managed than others, but take what college you will in either council, editors, and reporters, to furnish a publication worthy University, and you will find prevailing a very curious system. to receive such support. In order .to ensure this, it is essential A few specimens of the sort of things that go on show to preserve a staff of learned and energetic reporters, and to what college economy is. At a large Cambridge college there publish the reports in a concise form, and with the utmost used to exist a few years ago, and very probably still exists, a rule speed. The new reporters, who have been already appointed, that on certain Saints' days a double allowance of meat should be and are now stationed in all the Courts, have been selected by dealt out at the undergraduates' dinner. As these gentlemen had
the council with admirable discretion, and with the sole desire to obtain the best men for the work. It is to be regretted that
the supposed vested title of the former "authorized" reporters, as in fact so much food wasted upon the servants. At another and the desire to conciliate the Judges in the various Courts, well-known college the scouts underlet their places ; thus one heavy has necessitated the acceptance of the services of all such of
these gentlemen as were willing to serve as members of the the whole of a scout's pay and perquisites, whilst a miserable youth
new staff. This circumstance will call for the exercise of does all the work, such as it is, and is underpaid for it. At a third much firmness on the part of the editors. It is easier to assume college, and one by no means ill-managed, a lame old woman used a new habit than to put off an old one, and we must look to some years ago to bring letters from the past-office, and was superintendents and colleagues to prevent the introduction into allowed to charge (we are not sure whether the whole gain went the new system of the delay and prolixity of the old. Speed into her own pocket) a penny per letter. In other words, it was in publication will also, we believe, be secured. It is proposed as expensive to have letters conveyed over the half-mile between to publish a weekly paper containing in very concise language the post-office and the college as from one end of England to the the outlines of all the cases, which will be reported in greater other. Any one possessed of an intimate knowledge of University detail at the end of each month. The monthly parts will life might string together endless details of such petty mismanage- make up the volume, and as soon as each monthly number has meat, and it will scarcely be disputed by any one who knows appeared the weekly reports may be disregarded. No more Oxford or Cambridge that on the whole college servants generally, admirable plan could have been devised than this to maintain from the miserable under-scout up to the superb butler, render less the efficiency of the reporters on the regular issue of the good work for the money spent upon them than any class in England. reports. We understand that the first monthly part will be What is the cause of all this mismanagement? Suspicious published in January. The effect of the establishment of the undergraduates have a ready answer. They believe that by every new scheme has been already felt. The latest and most pre- abuse the Fellows make some immense gain. They have some tentious of the weekly law reports has expired. The subscrip- excuse for entertaining this notion. Accounts of battes are tions to the publications of the very few " authorized " re- often so stated that it is impossible to ascertain prerigely the porters who have not given in their adhesion to the change ground of each charge, and for some reason which is un-
will no doubt sensibly decline. Mr. Daniel has thoroughly
succeeded in imbuing the Chancery Bar with his own.fathomable to the ordinary mind, college authorities are apt enthusiasm for the scheme, and the Common Law Bar to make reasonable charges in a most unreasonable form. Thus daily look with more favour upon it. We are quite sure that young Mr. Querulus is not charged an unreasonable sum for its actual establishment has only to be generally made known, tuition, &c., but it is certainly most absurd that this charge to secure the hearty sympathy and support of the whole pro- should be put in a shape which makes him appear to pay 151.