Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

378

Salaries of the County Court Judges.

"Write accordingly to the Commissioners of Inquiry into the Practice and Fees of the County Courts, and refer these papers and applications to them for their consideration and report.

"Inform the Judges of the Courts whose letters have been considered, of the course adopted by their lordships, and that no decision will therefore be come to until their report has been received."

to inquire into the practice and fees of these | 1846, when the first County Court Act was Courts to consider the claims of the different carried through Parliament, the two members circuits for a larger salary to be attached to the of the Government most connected with the office of Judge than the one now paid to it, administration of justice next to the Lord viz., 1,2001. per annum. Chancellor, namely, the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General, were opposed to the establishment of local Courts; it is firmly believed that the active hostility of those officers has not only encouraged the invidious opposition which has been vainly offered to the system, but that the prejudices engendered during their tenure of office have never wholly ceased to operate to the disadvantage of all connected with those otherwise popular tribunals. Whether this impression be well founded or not, certain it is that the Government have from first to last placed themselves in a position antagonistic, as it were, to the Judges and other officers of the County Courts, which, to adopt the graphic language of a living author, are excluded from their natural stitutions of the country,-left to stand or fall and proper place, as a part of the national inby a self-supporting agency, like some religious sect that is permitted, not approved, coldly tolerated, but not assisted or endowed by the State.'

Then follows a letter from the Home Office of 17th October, in which an application from Mr. Serjeant Jones for the maximum salary of 1,500l. is set forth, as contained in the following letter of the learned Serjeant, and which we deem it necessary

to submit to our readers. It is addressed to Lord Palmerston :

66

Encouraged by two speeches reported to have been delivered by your lordship at Perth on the 26th, and at Glasgow on the 27th ult., in which you emphatically invited all who have any representations to make, whether of existing evils or of suggested improvements, to communicate with that branch of the Government to which they relate, I offer no apology for bringing under your lordship's notice a subject connected with the administration of justice over which as Secretary of State for the Home Department your lordship at present presides.

"The subject to which I beg to direct your lordship's attention is the inadequacy of the salaries paid to some at least of the County Court Judges, and to the treatment which those functionaries have met with from the Government.

[ocr errors]

By the first County Court Act it is enacted that there shall be payable on every proceeding in the Courts holden under that Act, to the Judges, &c., such fees as are set down in the schedule (D.) to this Act annexed, &c.

66

By the 39th section it is enacted, that it shall be lawful for her Majesty, with the advice of the Privy Council, to order that the Judges, &c., or any of them, shall be paid by salaries instead of fees, &c.

"And by 40th section, it is enacted that the greatest salary to be received in any case shall be 1,2001. a year by a Judge, &c.

"In February, 1847, when this Act came into operation, it was impossible to ascertain what amount of fees might be collected on the several circuits; for, except where Small Debt "In stating my case thus broadly, I wish to Courts had previously existed, there were no explain that I do not desire to become the ad- elements on which to found a calculation, and vocate of others, that I write for myself alone, notwithstanding the country had for many and wherever I may enter on the system gene-years [called loudly for the creation of local rally, it will be only so far as it applies to my tribunals, and its demands were recognised in individual case, or as it may be necessary to the appointment of sixty Judges to preside elucidate the same, and that throughout I will over as many circuits, consisting of not less use no reserve, but simply endeavour to place than 491, several distinct Courts, the Governintelligibly before your lordship those grievances for which, in common with others, I have hitherto sought redress in vain, and which therefore keep alive a strong feeling of dissatisfaction, increasing in a ratio corresponding with their continuance and growth, a state of mind all must admit to be most undesirable for those engaged in the discharge of judicial duties."

ment of that day withheld all encouragement from the new system, and declined to incur the responsibility of placing the Judges on salaries, but sent them forth as adventurers, armed only with the Act of Parliament, to commence their sittings when and how they pleased, privileged to collect the fees sanctioned by the schedule, from such suitors as might resort to their untried Courts in the teeth of

The learned Serjeant then sets forth the the opposition offered by parties interested in opposition of the Home Secretary and the the maintenance of those abuses that had long Attorney-General to this small debt scheme, rendered the administration of the law a blot but it seems they yielded to the interested on the national character, compelled to pay clamour of its supporters. He says— their own travelling and other expenses, to find clerks and high bailiffs who might be "It is important to bear in mind that in willing and able to incur the responsibility of

Salaries of the County Court Judges.

379

engaging all the assistants necessary to set the and Mr. Serjeant Manning, on behalf of machine in motion, with no certainty of remu- the Judges, was closed with a letter from neration even for themselves. Thus the entire Mr. Waddington, dated the 31st July, 1848, risk of the experiment and the chances of stating that the subject had been very fully failure were thrown on the Judges, who were considered, and that it had not been thought left at liberty to follow their professions con-advisable to fix the salaries in the first instance currently with the discharge of their judicial at the maximum rate allowed by the Act of functions; no stipulation was ever made that Parliament; but, if other duties were thereafter they should retire from practice, or devote imposed upon the Judges which might occupy their whole time to their Courts, although a larger portion of their time, and interfere to many from various motives were induced to a greater degree with the private practice which do so." many of them continued, the question of an increase might be considered.

The learned Serjeant then asserts that, not"With this exception (we are informed withstanding all the disadvantages attending its that) no communication was ever made by introduction, the success of the measure was the Government to the Judges as to either Mr. most signal, far surpassing the anticipations of the amount of salary, or their bestowing their whole time on their judicial duties. its warmest supporters! and he states that— Waddington's letter, however, distinctly re"Unfavourably as the form in which the re-cognised their right to practise, and their claim to compensation, should that right be interfered with.

turns were framed in order fairly to represent the working of the Act, it still appears that the 'Judges' Fees' from the time the Act came into operation up to and inclusive of 30th November, 1847, only realised 82,6521. 14s. 5d., while the total amount of money received under the authority of the Act during the last few months reached the astounding sum of 600,5591. 18. 3d.; so widely, however, did the result differ, that the Parliamentary Returns disclose that while the fees received by one Judge who presided over a single Court amounted to 2,3111. 13s. 9d., the aggregate collected by two others from 24 circuit towns was only 1,5127. 17s. 1d.”

We are then told that so soon as this encouraging result was ascertained, and the Treasury caught a glimpse of a large surplus beyond the utmost amount of salaries to which the Judges were then entitled by law, they gave notice that payment by fees would be abolished, and salaries substituted!

"And in July, 1848, the Judges were informed that the amount had been fixed at one uniform rate of 1,000l. per annum, without re

"Not long after the date of Mr. Waddington's letter, "the whole administration of the Insolvent Laws beyond the Metropolitan District, was transferred from the Commissioners of the Insolvent Court to the Judges of the County Courts in the country, without any increase of salary to the latter, or any diminution of the salary paid to the Commissioners-then 50 per cent. higher than that of the Judges. A striking illustration of the treatment experienced by the County Court Judges may be here incidentally noticed, viz., the travelling allowance to the Commissioners when on circuit had been two guineas a day, and 2s. a mile for posting, the Treasury, however, reduced the scale for the Judges to 15s. a day, or 7s. 6d. when not out the night, 3d. a mile for railroads, and 1s. 6d. for posting,-the uniform allowance to revising barristers, before they were remunerated by a single fee, having been a guinea a day, and 2s. a mile."

It is then asserted, that by 1850, the popularity of the County Courts had become so great that the country insisted' on a repeal of the limitation which hitherto had restricted their usefulness, and the Bill for extending the jurisdiction from 20l. to 50l., and creating an unlimited one with the consent of parties, was carried in the House of Commons against the Government by a majority of 77.

"The feeling of hostility displayed (it is said) on that occasion by the Home Secretary rendered it futile to make any efforts to obtain redress so long as the seals of that department remained in the same hands; accordingly, from 1848, with the last additional duties, and the larger demand on their time,

ference to the extent or circumstances of the several districts, or to the amount of labour to be undergone. Respectful remonstrances were made on the part of the Judges to the Government, that the sum specified in the Act 1,200., had not been awarded. The Government were reminded that in Acts of Parliament, creating offices and enabling the Crown to fix salaries, the invariable practice had been to authorise the Crown to grant a sum limited to the amount at which the Legislature had estimated the value of the services, thereby avoiding the indecorum of binding the Crown to a precise sum, and enabling the Sovereign to stand in the position of a party showing favour by elect- It has been confidently asserted on the ing to bestow upon the appointee the largest other hand, that the petitions for the extension authorised amount, and that theretofore the of the jurisdiction from "small debts' amount named had been uniformly given; larger, were promoted by interested persons, and the correspondence between Sir G. Grey and not the voluntary act of the public.-ED.

[ocr errors]

to

380

Salaries of the County Court Judges.

occasioned by the heavier causes, and the more that it was imperatively due, as well to myself frequent attendance of counsel and attorneys as to the office I fill, and to those who may since 1850, the Judges continued to discharge succeed me in that office, respectfully to ap in silent dissatisfaction their onerous duties, their hope being that a change in the Ministry might lead to a more equitable adjustment of their claims.

"By the last County Court Act it is enacted, that the greatest salary to be received by a County Court Judge shall be 1,500l., but in no case shall such Judge be paid a less salary than 1,2001.

"This clause was founded on the injustice with which the Judges had been treated, and was framed expressly for their future protection. It will be perceived that the discretionary power of fixing the amount of salaries vested in the Government by the previous Act was thus so far controlled that the sum (1,2001.) named in the first Act as the maximum to be received by a Judge was then declared to be minimum, which should be paid to any, thereby securing to all that remuneration for the additional duties imposed on them since 1848, which the Under Secretary's letter had given them previously every right to expect, but which nevertheless had been withheld."

The Serjeant then contends that the original compact between the Government and the Judges was entirely changed by this Statute, inasmuch as it excluded them from private practice after the 30th September, 1852, thus inflicting on some serious pecuniary loss, and depriving them of those hopes inseperable from practice at the Bar; the only certain compensation offered by the Act, as well for the vast additional labours resulting from the administration of the Insolvent Laws and the extension of the jurisdiction, as for the extinguishment of those fessional advantages, being the before-mentioned ratification of the pre-existing right in all to 1,2001. per annum, and the extension for some of the maximum rate of salary to

1,500/.; and he thus continues :

pro

"Although the extent of the business of my Court appeared to render my title to the highest salary positive, experience warned me that it was not indefeasible; accordingly, on the 16th Aug. 1852, I laid before the Lords of the Treasury a series of arguments which seemed to justify the expectation that even their lordships would consider me entitled to the full salary of 1,500l.

peal against a decision that offered to a public servant a salary so wholly inadequate to the labours imposed on him, and so much below what Parliament evidently intended should be paid to him.

"I therefore addressed their lordships, recalling their attention to what I had urged in my previous communication, in which I had shown that the Metropolitan Judges occupy a different and more prominent position than those in the contry-a distinction recognised by the Legislature, and existing between the London and the country Courts of Bankruptcy. That the business of my Court was, with one occasional exception, the heaviest in England. That fees levied in my name from the suitors in my district had been annually much more than double the sum allotted to me; that I was deprived of my private practice, which had theretofore, in some measure made up for the inadequacy of my salary; that while that inadequacy caused me to enter upon my daily duties with the undesirable feeling that injustice was done me, a grave cause of complaint was furnished to the suitors in being quired to support the tribunal, and that either compelled to pay higher fees than were rethey were overtaxed or the Judge underpaid. I solicited their lordships' attention to the anlative duties discharged by the several Judges nual returns made to Parliament, of the rethroughout England and Wales, and to the amount of fees received in the name of the Judge on each Circuit, affording as they do a test of the extent of their several labours, and recent enactment; and I then appealed to forming as they had done, the basis of the their lordships' sense of justice, to say whether, when the Legislature had confided to the Government the duty of assessing the rate could be considered to be satisfactorily disof salary to be paid to each Judge, that trust charged, if the Judges of Circuit No. 42 (my own) and a few others, whose labours are more than threefold those of some, are suffered to be left merely in the receipt of the same remuneration which Parliament had deemed it but just to secure to those Judges whose labours are the lightest? and I submitted with much confidence, that the true construction of the 14th section of the last Act, vests in those Judges, whose duties are the heaviest, an equitable right to be paid 1,500l. a year, the duty of determining the number so entitled being imposed on their lordships, jointly with one of the Secretaries of State.

'Scarcely, however, had I reconciled myself to this exchange of a certainty for an un- "On the 12th of January in the present certainty, ere I received a circular from the year, after the accession to office of Lord Treasury, apprising me that it was not at Aberdeen's administration, I solicited the atpresent the intention of the Government to in- tention of the present Lords of the Treasury crease the salaries of any of the Judges of the to the letters I had so addressed to their County Courts above the minimum amount predecessors.

sanctioned by the Statute.'

"I felt, after calm and mature reflection, first Lord of the Treasury, I wrote, and who "Except from Lord Derby, to whom when

Salaries of the County Court Judges.

381

replied to my letter on the second day after its Judges. All thoughts of ulterior proceedings delivery, I have never been honoured by even were at once abandoned, and we patiently a simple acknowledgment of the receipt of any awaited a favourable communication from the communication I have addressed on this sub- Treasury. ject, either to the present or the late Government. A similar silence has been observed towards others of my brother Judges, and has been accepted by us as strong confirmation of the unanswerable nature of our remonstrances, and will afford, I hope, some justification for this intrusion on your lordship."

"Our hopes, however, were again doomed to be disappointed; for so soon as Parliament was prorogued, a letter was received by one of the deputation from Mr. Wilson apprising us that the Lords of the Treasury had referred the whole subject of the salaries of the Judges of the County Courts to a Commission recently appointed for other purposes, and that until their report shall have been received, their lordships will not be in a situation to come to any decision on the prayer of our memorial of

March last.

The letter then sets forth that the Judges of fourteen Circuits, with the heaviest business, concurred in a memorial to the Treasury, praying for the full amount of salary allowed by law, in which they set forth the increased Against this extraordinary proceeding the duties cast upon them, the loss sustained memorialists have forwarded, through Mr. by exclusion from practice, and the inadequacy of the salary fixed in 1846, when their duties were so much lighter, and no such restriction existed.

Serjeant Manning, a temperate but firm remonstrance, reminding their lordships that since the date of their memorial, and since the communication made by the secretary of the

[ocr errors]

"We also directed their lordship's at-Treasury in person, the jurisdiction of the tention to what had taken place in Parlia- County Courts has again very considerably ment on the subject, and showed, as well extended, and important additional duties have by those proceedings as by the terms of the been once more imposed on the Judges by the Act itself, that it was never intended that the discretionary power vested in the Govern'Charitable Trusts Act,' the Customs Conment should be suspended and become a dead solidation Act,' and the Succession Duty letter. We further referred to certain legal Act,'-accessions of labour never contemappointments, the duties attached to which it plated when the salary now paid to all the would be invidious to compare with our own in importance, severity, or responsibility, Judges was fixed by Parliament as the minithough much more liberally requited; and mum to be received by any. showed that we sought to impose no burdens on the public purse, or additional tax on the public purse, or additional tax on the suitors, but asked only for a larger portion of the fees earned by ourselves for the Treasury, in order to render our salaries less disproportionate to our enlarged duties, and more commensurate with the salaries paid by the State to other legal functionaries of inferior degree.

"This memorial, like the applications from individual Judges, received no answer, and we were about to avail ourselves of the services of certain distinguished members of each House of Parliament who have long advocated the Judges' claims, when we were relieved from a step repugnant to our feelings by an assurance given to two of our body by the present able Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Wilson, that their lordships were prepared to direct the payment of the maximum salary to some of the Judges, a list of whom he stated was made out, and that he was only waiting for an opportunity to obtain your lordship's sanction, in order to carry the same into effect. That gentleman entered fully into the subject, pointing out the difficulties which had presented themselves, and satisfied the deputation that he had made himself master of it; and they left him assured that, so soon as the pressure of the Parliamentary business permitted, justice would at length be done some at least of the

"Protesting against the propriety of referring to a Commission so constituted as to render the task peculiarly invidious to some of its members, as a matter which the Legislature has confided to their lordships, in conjunction with another department of the Government, we have expressed a hope that after the loss sustained during the last five years from the resistance offered by the Government alone to claims founded on statute, sanctioned by public opinion, and advocated by the highest authorities in both Houses, their lordships will take into further consideration the prayer of our memorial, and decide at once on the case of the memorialists, or of such of them concerning whose claims they entertain no doubt.

"What effect this may produce remains to be seen; but, as the irresistible inference arising from Mr. Wilson's letter, after his previous explanation in person, is, that some obstacle to the scheme arranged by the Treasury has been raised by your lordships, it is with a view to remove any difficulty which may have occurred in obtaining your lordship's sanction for the proposed increase of the salary of some of the Judges, and to put your lordship into possession of all that has taken place with reference to the claims of those, the magnitude of whose business appears to all disinterested parties to give them an undoubted right, that I have

382

Salaries of the County Court Judges.-State of Business in the Masters' Offices.

tween those who are admitted to be, and others who claim to be, but may not be, entitled to such increase.

"Premising that I have never encountered a difference of opinion among any free from prejudice, competent to form a judgment, and acquainted with the laborious services of the County Court Judges, that 1,500l. a year is no more than ought to be paid to all, and insufficient for some, I will, for argument sake, assume that many are amply paid with the minimum secured by statute, and I then respectfully ask your Lordship on what ground can the Government justly withhold the higher rate from those whose claims they are satisfied ought to be conceded? On what possible grounds can the dues of one man be kept back because it may not be certain whether others may not possess corresponding rights? Is it worthy, my lord, of any department of the Government to hesitate in doing a right to A., because in doing so offence might be given to B., or to permit any personal considerations whatever to interfere with the discharge of a public duty?

been thus minute, from a conviction that all that be necessary to secure your lordship's favourable decision is, that your lordship should be made conversant of the real facts. "In providing that in no case shall any Judge be paid a less salary than 1,2007.,' I submit that Parliament has emphatically declared the amount previously awarded by the Government, when no minimum existed, to have been even at that time inadequate, and that this security was essential for the protection of the Judges from a recurrence of the arbitrary treatment they had experienced; and in fixing 1,500l. as the highest salary to be received, it has declared not less plainly that some of the Judges were entitled to that amount, and has imposed on the Government the duty of drawing an equitable distinction between them, and of assessing salaries, bearing a due proportion to their relative labours. "Now, looking at the very unequal amount of duties which devolve on the 60 Judges, as disclosed in the returns, it is manifest that in paying none more than 1,200l., if all are properly remunerated some must be very much overpaid a proposition which no one has ventured to suggest; while, on the other hand, if none are more than properly paid, others STATE OF BUSINESS IN THE OFFICES must be very considerably underpaid, as your lordship will find from those returns, that the number of summonses issued from any Court in the years 1848, 49, 50, 51, was 57,190, and the fees collected in the Judge's name amounted to 9,3627. 15s. 10d., but that there are other circuits where the business and the Judges' fees have not averaged one-third of those

amounts.

the Legislature in the last Act, having re"The language then, I repeat, employed by

ference to such a state of facts then before

them, clearly indicates that in fixing a maximum as well as a minimum amount of salary, Parliament vested a right in some of the Judges to a higher rate than others; and I also submit, that although the Government may not have been prepared immediately on the passing of that Act to determine the precise numbers so entitled, and may therefore have some plea for the Circular of September, 1852, as a temporary arrangement, yet, so soon as they had had time to investigate the matter and arrive at the conclusion which they have intimated through official channels, that, although all the Judges were not entitled to an increase, some had undeniable claims, they were guilty of injustice to those so entitled, be they few or many, in withholding any longer from them that which the country had declared their services worthy of. Nay, I go further, and maintain that neither in law nor morals can the retention of the extra salary be justified, though there be but one solitary Judge to whom, in the exercise of an honest judgment, the Government might have decreed the higher rate.

"The only objection ever advanced against the immediate concession of that for which we have so long contended in vain is, that there exists a great difficulty in drawing a line be

[To be continued.]

OF THE

MASTERS IN CHANCERY.

Master Sir George Rose :

THE number of causes and matters origi nally referred to this office, in which reports have been made since the former return, and

23

of Masters Kindersley, Farrer, Brougham,
the inquiries referred disposed of, is
The number transferred from the offices
Senior, and Sir William Horne, and disposed

or

19

of, is
The number abandoned settled between
the parties, is.

4

There are 32 causes in which the reports are prepared, and which, when settled, will dispose of that number of cases, in addition to those before-mentioned. And 3 transferred from the offices of the late Masters since the former return. Master Richards:

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »