Baltimore Evening Sun (19 March 1912): 6.


Affecting argument by the Hon. James McC. Trippe, in favor of ward representation in the City Council, that seminary of smells:

Down in the Third ward there are many races and a City Councilman down there is a necessity. He must serve and help those people, and teach them the principles of American government, and bring them into the pale of our civilization.

How beautifully the facts support good Jim’s sweet windjamming! The present Councilman from the Third ward is the Hon. King Bill Garland. Just how he has served and helped his people, and taught them “the principles of American Government” and brought them into “the pale of our civilization” may be quickly learned by inspecting the records of Part 2 of the Criminal Court, for the days of February 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, 1909.

The fight against Colonel Roosevelt, it now appears clearly, is to be made upon the judiciary issue. The Taft press matter is composed almost entirely of laborious eulogies of the courts, which are described as vast reservoirs of liberty. Take aim at a judge and you hit the tall goddess. Denounce a decision and you commit treason. And so on and so on. Even the Hon. C. J. Bonaparte, pleading eloquently for his late chief, is at pains to insist that the recall of judges is a “detestable device.”

Behind all of this fuming and fury, of course, there is a perfectly sound idea, and that is the idea that an independent, intelligent and courageous judiciary is essential to the welfare of a free republic. Admitted. No one, so far as I have heard, has ever presumed to deny it . But an independent, intelligent and courageous judiciary is something which differs enormously from a subservient, ignorant and sneaking judiciary, and it is precisely because the American people have come to the conclusion that they are now saddled with the latter, and that the existing machinery is insufficient for its reform, that they listen to radical and revolutionary leaders--to Rooseveft with his scheme for the review of decision, and La Follette with his scheme for the recall of judges.

Two of the three branches of our tripartite government, the exectitive and the legislative, have been considerably overhauled during the past 15 or 20 years. The average Mayor or Governor of 1890 was merely the agent of a small group of professional politicians. The average Mayor or Governor of today is chosen, for weal or for woe, by the people. They may pick a bad man now and then, or they may saddle a good, man with asinine policies, but at all events their chosen ruler represents, to some degree, their honest theories and desires, and they have at hand a number of new and effective devices for punishing him in case he plays them false.

And in much the same way the legislative arm has been beneficently vaccinated by an aroused yeomanry. Legislatures, true enough, are still a bit smelly, but they are no longer frankly rotten, as they were 20 years ago. Corrupt practices acts and public service acts, forced upon them by the newspapers, have cut off most of the old opportunities of the lawmakers. It is no longer necessary for every large corporation to be a bribe-giver. And above and below, in Congress and in the City Councils, the same cleaning-up is visible. Joe Cannon and Aldrich are down and out and their methods are down and out; and in every large American city the old despotic powers of the City Council have been taken away.

But while all of this scrubbing aud disinfecting of the executive and legislative departments was in progress, the judicial department was overlooked. It was accepted, as a sort of axiom, that the judges could do no wrong. The man who attacked them was set down, without trial, as an anarchist. They were assumed to be extra-human creatures, gifted with a sort of angelic purity and infallibility, lifting them above all the brute passions and errors of mere man. It seemed as indecent to call a judge a rogue or an ass as to charge an archangel with blackmail.

Alas and alack, when the pails and mops were put away, when the jug of bichloride was corked, a sickening scent still lingered! Whence came it? The common people, their heads in air, sniffed uneasily. Suddenly some sacrilegious fellow set up a whoop and pointed pointed his finger. “The courts!” he cried. “The radiations which nauseate us, fellow-citizens, emanate from their honors! The atomizer–quick! Up, mops, and at ’em! Here with the big syringe! Sound the four threes!” And so was born the recall of judges. And so was born the review of decisions.

The current attack upon the bench, let it be clearly understood, is not based--at least not primarily--upon an accusation of judicial corruption. Time was when American judges undoubtedly sold decisions, for votes if not for actual cash, but that time is happily past. Here in Baltimore our gentlemen of the bench may court the voters a bit during the six months before election, and even flirt somewhat dubiously with the gentlemen of the bar, but it would be absurd to accuse them, individually or collectively, of dishonesty. They do not take cash bribes; they do not give palpable advantages to their personal friends; it is not possible to reach them through the ward executives. And elsewhere the same condition commonly prevails. The frankly corrupt judge has become a rather rare bird. The general fumigation of elections has rid the bench of that curse.

But if we turn from so obvious an evil to the more subtle but equally dangerous evil of judicial inefficiency, it at once becomes apparent that the bench is in sore need of an overhauling. After all, the proof of an institution, as of a pudding, is in the eating. We pay out millions of dollars every year to men who are sworn to work justice among us, to save us from thieves and blacklegs, to protect our lives, our property and our inalienable rights. Do we get what we pay for? Do the judges, indeed, make any intelligent, industrious effort to give us what we pay for? I leave the answer to any fair man.

The trouble with the bench at present, in brief, is not that it is corrupt, but that it is grotesquely and intolerably inefficient. The judges themselves are enmeshed in endless whorls of absurdity; their subordinates of all degrees grow more and more like harlequins in a play of marionettes. The net result is that right and wrong have become strangers to our courts; that the issue of a suit now has little if any relevance to its merits, that the whole judicial process becomes a farce so tedious, so exasperating and so indecent that it must turn the stomach of every civilized man.

It is against this that the recall of judges and the review of decisions are directed. Both devices may be faulty; both, indeed, may be insane. But at all events, their [Anon! anon!