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THE BAR AND'THE BENCH.
REMINISCENCES OF A JUDGE
THE HULLS BUILDINGS
'THE TAXATION OFFICE* , THE COSTS OF LITIGATIONS
[Bs R. S. TAYMIÏ.]
jv The chambers of the Judges of the
¡ Supieme Court of Queensland are " neither large nor elaborately litted up. Each Judge has tlnee rooms allotted to him, one of which he occupies himself, another is devoted to his associate, aud the third is used by his tipstaff. The apartment which Mr. Justice Harding has occupied for ninny years is com- fortable, but the wear of years has told upon the" appearance of- the furniture. Its chief feature, so far as this article is concerned, is the fine legal library which it contains. T/he shelves from the floor almost to the celling, and even the spaces above the doors, have lately been shelved in. His Honour is simply walled in by his books, and the cry is " still they come." New books are con- tinually arriving, and at no distant date the rapidly diminishing unoccupied areas of wall space will have completely disappeared. Ou one of my visits to his Honour's chambers the conversation turned on books and libraries. It did not stop there, I may add, 'but branched off on to several interesting and im- portant subjects.
" I have always,^' said his Honour, >" had a great weakness for books, and I think few things have given me moro pleasure than the getting together of ¡i library for our Supremo Court. Some nine years ago, when H became chair- man of its committee these books could be numbered hy the hundred. I think I am within bounds when I ¿say that they now amount .to about 10,000 volumes. My own law library -exceeds 2000 volumes, and nuy library ol' (mis- cellaneous books»-amounts to ¡probably SOOOjj A taste of this kind grows upon one. During* the times of which I am speaking in these recollections I used constantly to attend the library of the British Museum with a member's ticket. The library of my Inn-Lincoln's Inn was then large, and it was estimated to contain upwards of SO.0OO volumes. The room in which these books were stored was a long room built as a transept to the rest of the buildings of the Inn. It had windows at tlio side and at the two ends, and between each window there projected into the room buttresses shelved with books on eacli side, thus forming from ten to fifteen little rooms, where there were tables mid writing appliances, and you could sit aud read and write. Above this lhere was a light Iron gallery, which enabled you to get at the books in the higher ranges. The whole of the library was divided into .sections. One section would_ contain law hooks from a certain date to a ' certain date, nnotjlier reports, another, history, an- other philosophy, and so on. In each section the books-wore arranged in the alphabetical order of the names of the
writers, and anyone with v ordinary aptitude boiug introduced to the library und spending half-an-hour under the tuition of the librarian should thereafter be able to And any book he wanted that was in tile library without assistance in a very few minutes. Mr. Spilsbury was then the principal librarian. Ile wrote and published a book on Lincoln's Inn and some volumes of essays. The sub-librarian was Mr. Nicholson. The latter gentleman, on my recent visit to
England^ I found to be the principal librarian, Mr. Spilsbury having joined the majority. These gentlemen were most assiduous In their attentions, and rendered every assistance to anyone seeking information on any subject.
Rolls Buildings, where the archives are stored, are situated in Rolls Yard, adjoining the ojd court of the Master of the Rolls, in Chancery-lane, *the Master of the Rolls bbing the'keeper of the records. It was then simply an un- presentable, but Immense, block of brick
buildings. Since that time it ^as boen
added to, and brought to Chancery-lane, with, I understand, a magnificent-front. I liad occasion myself once to make a search amongst these archives, under leave from the Master of the "Rolls. The more ancient of the records, and especially thosp relating to court matters, are written in the old court hand, and are totally undecipherable hy anyone unacquainted with the writing. In order to assist you in yoxir researches, the precincts are frequented by a num- ber of persons, wlio are able to trans- late these documents from the old court hand into modern writing. Their charge used to be 2s. an hour, and with their assistance**anyone could obtain any document they required, and could make themselves conversant with its contents.
The Record and Writ Clerk's Office was then a large building, also situated off Chancery-lane. In this building were filed all the proceedings )n pend- ing suits, which required to he filed. The room open to the public was a long room, with an alley up the centre, the sides being divided Into little compart- ments, each one labled with a letter of the alphabet from A to 55. Desiring to file a document in a suit, say, of Jones
and Smith, you walked in to the letter. J, at which spot the document, was re- ceived and filed. « .
The offices for Qie taxation of costs were in close proximity to the same spot. The outer office was a large room, filled with long deal tables, with forms on each side. Part of this room was par- titioned off with windows, something
similar to those at railway statloug, where you take your ticket In the further part of the building were the offices in which the taxing officers them- selves sat. A great deal of the routine business of taxation was done in the large room I have spoken of. Say, that the costs in the suit of Jones and Smith were to be taxed. An appointment hav- ing been made, the solicitors attended in the large room, and notified their attendance at the window. They then proceeded to one of the tables, and each criticised the bill of the other, giving and taking as they could or could not sustain the item objected to. When an item arose as to which they could not arrive at an amicable decision they went to the. window, and the clerk in the first instance intimated his opinion. If they
were dissatisfied with this the matter stood for decision by the taxing master himself. When the bill had been treated in this way it was left at the window, and was subjected to a scrutiny by the officers, and subsequently handed out taxed. litany, of the points were serious ones tlie parties taxing went in and argued the matter out before the taxing master himself.
Tlie question of the costs of litigation is one which is always agitatiug com- munities at largo. Many schemes have ,been and no doubt will bo proposed for their reduction. Probably oue of the most serious reasons for their magni- tude is the interference of the, client. The client during litigation, as a rule, is affected with a certain amount of antagonism against his autagouist, and urged on by this animus will scarcely stop at anything in order to secure suc- cess. He is like the invalid who is
always calliiigtyu the doctor, never thinking of tlie expense until the bill comes in. It ia thus that a large amount of very often unnecessary costs are incurred. Nothing will suit the litigant but having the most expensive counsel he can obtain. Rvery point that is likely to damage the other side
must be thrashed out to the last grain, i and so the costs pile up. If you could ' do away with this animus tuon I think the costs ol' litigation might be very largely reduced. That they need not necessarily he so largo as tiley fre-
quently are is shown by a suit in which '
1 was in from the beginning to tlie end. |
It was an administration sail. On the ' original, hearing there wore two couusol , on lae one side anil JOUO on ihe other, i On The bearing on firmier consideration after tho taking of the1 accounts and the realisation ofuhe estate, when the order for their distribution was obtained there
was one counsel ion each pille. Tlie . property jfousisted of land Mud goods, | which realised upwards of £30,000, and , the taxed costs which wore paid out of , the estate ililli inot .exceed tCSO. Here , there was no animus displayed by either ] side. AH thnt each party wanted was to secure the realisation and distribution of the estate willi the settlement of a few points of construction. Had there been any animus in Ubis caso I (have very little doubt the costs might have been piled,' ¡up-iand would linve taxed
from £800 to £400. It was only recently, I when speaking at a public entertain-,
mont, that tho (present) (Master of the I
'Rolls said that he believed that the con- ' struction of the judicature practice had ,
cost litigants upwards of £300,000. |
This discloses another menus hy which thu costs of litigation aro iucroased. Few Acts of Parliament or rules of court that arc passed or made do not leave some loophole for argument as to their meaniug. There Is an old saying that a conch and four horses can be driven through any Act of Parliament that was ever made. ( Thus all these changes and alterations,' however slight, go to Increase the costs of litigation. The question of the amount of costs is very little in the bunds of the court. Of course everything lu the ultimate end is by reference amenable to tlie jurisdiction' ol' a .Tudge or the court,
yet in the lailie majority of cases the ' amount "depends upon the ticverity with which the solicitors of each side criti- cises the items ol' the coals of the other side and tile criticism and severe use
ol' the kuife hy the taxing master. ,
But I have been induced to run a little off the rails. Let us return to our mon; immediate subject. I have already said that in the earl j' part of these times there were no examinations or eross cxaniiuntion lu thu court: If a witness
would not make an atllilavlt or you, de- sired to cross-examine á deponent who had already made an affidavit, you ob- tained his attendance before the ex- aminer, who took dowu the evidence in writing. The examiners liad their office in the neighbourhood of Lincoln's Inn. The room in which they sat was arranged something like the chancel of a church, tlie examiner having his table where tile altar would be, and the ooun .sel and solicitors occupying the part occupied by the choristers, the plain- tiff's party on one side, and the defen- dant's party on the other, whilst the
witness was seated on a chair about half-way down the room opposite the examiner. At the last examination I attended before leaving tiie old country my antagonist was Hannon, who was afterwards Sir .Tames and President of the Probate, Divorce, and Matrimonial Division of tlie High Court of Justice in England. He was a tall man with a hard countenance, but very pleasant In
his manner and dealings. I don't re^
member that he ever received the silk gown before his elevation to the bench. The examination was for the purpose of getting at the actual details of an ac- count rendered by a money-lender against his client. It carne out that one of the items was the price of eighty-two great-coats. The curious thing was to understand what a young mau of pros- pects could want with eighty-two great- coats. Tl|e witness explained the matter by saying that at the time application was made to bim for the loan of the monpy the applicant was draining a certain part of. his property, and it was veiw cold weather, aud on his (the money-lender's) recommendation the borrower took eighty-two edats for the workmen. v
A trumpery old riddle runs as follows : -What street in London do dogs most frequently frequent ?-Why, Cur-sitor street. Cursitor-street nins out of Chancery Lane, and on the left-hand side is situated the spunging-bou.se. I
just mention it as there are few readers j of fiction who have »not heard of the , spunging-house, though probably not so many know its locality.
-* We wonder whether any other colony of the group can show a deputation such as waited, according to the " Austral *asian," upon a Victorian Minister quite' recently. The first sppaker opened with, " Mr. Minister, the chief speaker for the other side is not a man to be believed in fact, he's a forger." The Minister was surprised, but said nothing. When .it came to the maligned one's turn, he simply said, " Mr record is as good as his, Mr. Minister1. Ile was hidden* in a hollow log for five days, when there was <a warrant out for him for horse-steal-
ing." The Minister felt that the at- mosphere was growliig warm, and re- marked, "Now that honours are easy, gentlemen, hadn't you better stick to business ?" He was careful, however, in replying, to assure the M.L.A. that he had been much struck with the argu- ments advanced by the leading men of his
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