4 MAY 1850, Page 11

Itttru tif fjr nitnr.


A series of " Orders " has been issued by Lord Cottenham, with the ap- proval of Lord Langdale and the Vice-Chancellors, for the reform of the course of proceeding in the Court of Chancery in suits for the administration of the personal estates of testators and intestates, suits for foreclosure and re- demption of mortgages, suits for winding-up partnerships, and some other simple matters : a summons is substituted for a bill, and an answer is dis- pensed with. A Bill is now passing through the House of Commons, brought in by the Solicitor-General, for simplifying and improving the proceedings in the Court of Chancery in Ireland; which, if good for Ireland, was meant, it may be supposed, to be extended to England. A Bill has also been brought in by Mr. Turner for improving the administration of justice in the English Court of Chancery • and there is a Bill pending in the House of Lords, brought in by. Lord Brougham, for giving primary jurisdiction to the Masters in ordinary in the Court of Chancery in certain cases. Whether the orders which have been issued will effect, or the rival measures above adverted to would effect, any important saving of expense, or diminish the delay, "which is indeed itself expense with the addition of a thousand ills besides," which are so vehemently is of under the existing state of things in the Court of Chancery, is a question of 'serious import, and on which the public and the lay members of the Legislature, as they cannot very well Judge for themselves, may desire to have some information ; and the Spectator is, I think, the best medium for affording that information. As regards Lord Cottenham's Orders : they will certainly save very con- siderable expense in the limited number of suits to which they are intended to apply; but as regards delay in those and the other suits not affected by the orders, the orders will afford but little relief—next to none in that im- portant 'class of aritia which are called amicable suits for the administration of the' esiatee Of 'testators and intestates. The orders are also materially de- fective even as regards the saving of expense in suits of this description. All the useless and expensive machinery of reports, exceptions to reports, con- firmations, and orders on further directions for the payment of debts and legacies, are retained, [section mail.] though the orders are confined to suns affecting personal assets only. As regards the delays in the Court of Chancery: it is notorious that it is

now in the Masters' Offices that all 1.,11 are chiefly complained of take place ; and yet the Orders haven .ene . .. . revision, excepting pos- sibly the lath, for affording any remed0Orfilast g grievance. One really

rhmight suppose that all that the lateW.r-.;life Master Senior, Master Farrar, and Mr. Field, have written; and that the late Master Lynch and Mr. Pemberton Leigh, have spoken, and the testimony of the host of wit- nesses who were emeined on the Chancery Commission, had been forgotten ; and yet not a week passes in which, if the Judges, in the cases which come before them for further directions, would look to the date of the order of re- ference to the Master and compare it with the date of the report, they would not find that it is in the Masters' Offices that all the material delay in a suit takes place. Indeed, in one branch of the court this is continually the sub- ject of remark on the part of the Judge. The Solicitor-General's Bill is considerably more efficient in many respects than are the Orders of Lord Cottenham ; for that bill (section xv.) authorizes the Masters, and most properly, (for the Masters in Ireland sit in public,) to make many interlocutory orders—for instance for injunctions and receivers; though, for no discoverable reason, the Milder is not trusted to make an order for distribution or payment of money, which if he were a Commissioner of Bankrupts he would do every day. Lord Brougham's bill, when the pro- posed machinery shall have been better considered, will be—assuming that the Masters' Mom shall be reconstructed—by far the most efficient mea- sure: it proposes, as in the Trustee Act and the Winding-up Act, that the claim or summons in administration suits, and some other suits, should be returnable not before a Judge but before a Master ; which is by far the pre- ferable course' as the Master will, if he think fit, have the opportunity of calling the parties themselves personally before him, which will stop many a useless and mere attorney's suit, and in many cases procure justice being done at once without suit. By sections iv. and ix. the same jurisdiction 18 conferred on the Masters in administration snits, and suits of that descrip- tion, as the Judges now exercise, with the addition of a power to examine witnesses viva vow, subject to appeal ; and certain special provisions are added to meet extraordinary cases. What may be the particular provisions of Mr. Turner's bill has not yet transpired; but it will not, as it is understood, affect the Masters' Offices. It is plain, therefore, that every scheme which has been as yet presented, 88 regards the English Court of Chancery, fails in touching the real evil, namely, the delays in Masters' Offices. It is lamentable that one should have at this time to notice these delays, which have been exposed moue ad nauseam for the last twenty-five years in and out of Parliament. Some few extracts from Mr. Pemberton Leigh's speech may be sufficient for the public, though no- thing seems to be sufficient to operate upon those who take the lead as Judges or legislators in the reforms of the Court of Chancery. "It is impossible to deny,' said the very distinguished lawyer, "that it is against the offices of the Masters more than any other, that the opinion of the profession i directed. According to that opinion, idibraruni hie locus est—somni noetisquesopons": and, after referring to the account which the eminent practitioner Mr. Field, in his valuable pamphlet, has given of the mode of doing business in the Masters' Offices, Mr. Pemberton Leigh observed—" 'What is the effect of this ? why, that which might be done in an hour occupies weeks, and the business of weeks is protracted through years." " It is rather to be wondered at, that with such a system accounts are ever taken—difticult inquiries as to facts ever answer- ed—than that matters of this kind only emerge after a lapse of years from the offices in which they have so long slumbered, and that many of them there sleep the sleep of death and never emerge at all." Then as regards the pri- vate sittings of the Masters, Mr. Pemberton Leigh remarked—" Secluded in the recesses of their chambers—exempt from the control or inspection of the Judges, relieved from the competition of the bar, independent of the opinion of the solicitors, and their proceedings totally unknolen to the public—Re- roiling no credit by diligence or ability, incurring neither loss nor censure by indolence or inattention—with nothing to hope and nothinv•' to fear—can any men be placed in circumstances so unfavourable to exertion?" "All, in- cluding solicitors and their clerks, are affected more or less by the genius loci." This—and a great deal more on the same subject, besides what has been written—was uttered in Parliament ten years ago : that it is founded in truth has never been denied, though the Masters have said, and most justly, that the fault is in the system and not attributable to thorn personally. It is therefore a mockery as regards the public, and unjust towards the Masters, to bring forward any plan for Chancery reform which has not for its basis the reconstruction of the Masters' Offices. The Registrars' Offices and the Six Clerks' Offices have been reconstructed, to the great advantage of the court and the suitors : why are the Masters' Offices, which, as Mr. Pemberton Leigh observed, in the opinion of the profession require it more than did any of the other offices, to remain untouched? To throw more business into offices where no business can be satisfactorily got through, is to increase the evil; such reform is worse than mockery. Besides, a considerable number of suitsmight, with the greatest advantage as regards expense and delay as well as efficiency, be disposed of either in the whole or in part before the local Judges or Commissioners of Bankrupts in the country,' and there can be no complete and efficient system of reform of the Court of Chancery that does not embrace this subject. But enough for the present. I intend to enlarge on the whole of these topics on a future occasion. In the mean time, let the public, and more especially the Members of the House of Commons, Bee that they are not deluded into the acceptance of a partial reform, which shall perpetuate the greatest evil that exists—the present state of the Masters' Offices. Your constant reader, A CHANCERY Pmtermorten.