Baltimore Evening Sun (20 November 1913): 6.


Whatever the desirability of paying our judges better wages, it must be plain that there is a good deal of bumcombe in the current argument that the scale now in force keeps “the better sort of men” off the bench. It has, in point of fact, no such effect. The men who have sat upon the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City during the last 20 years have been, with surprisingly few exceptions, men of a very respectable order of talent and so far as I know, no charge of dishonesty, nor even of conscious unfairness, has ever been made against them. In brief, they have been reasonably wise and wholly upright judges, and that is more than most other cities have got for twice or thrice the money.

In New York, I believe, the judges corresponding to the members of our Supreme Bench get $17,500 a year. Has that vastly larger salary brought forth greater knowledge or greater honesty? Not at all. Compared to our own, indeed, the New York bench is in a lamentable state. A few very respectable men adorn it, but side by side with them sit Tammany war-horses whose bias and ignorance cobnstitute a public scandal. These men were attracted to the bench by the large salary and nothing else. A judgeship in New York is frankly a political job and is usually conferred by Tammany for purely political services. But in times of drought in Fourteenth street, if rumor is to be believed, actual cash is sometimes accepted in lieu of such services.

No need to say that the sort of men who reach the bench by such a route are not the sort who do it honor. Far from being “the better sort,” they are very apt to be the worst sort. Even supposing that a low salary deprives us of the services of the prime donne of the bar, it is not to be forgotten that it also deprives us of the candidacy of many avaricious shysters, whose political influence is apt to be much greater than that of the aforesaid prime donne, and with it their chances of election. A large number of such shysters have got to the bench in New York city, but it is not recorded that even the $17,500 salary has been sufficient to attract lawyers of the highest calibre and reputation. The men of that rank, indeed, are scared off by the character of their prospective associates. They do not want to sit with knaves who have bought places on the bench, nor with political hacks who have been rewarded for questionable services, and who hold office only during “good behavior” in the strictly political sense.

Isn’t it far better to recruit judges from what may be called the middle class of lawyers--that is to say, from those who are neither blinding meteors of eloquence and sagacity nor money-hungry fourth-raters? That is what we have been doing in Baltimore ever since the new judge movement, and the plan has worked very well. If our judges make a sacrifice ito go upon the bench, then that very fact adds to the dignity of their position and bars out the sort of men who love money more than they love honor. In brief, we get judges who look upon judicial service as an honor in itself and not as a mere road to profit, and their influence, it must be plain, will be always exerted to augment that honor by their own acts, or at all events, to keep it unsullied. But a Tammany judge, at $17,500 a year, puts the money first. With him, the honor is a secondary consideration. If he is intelligent (and most political shysters are), he knows that it has little actual existence, and that even laymen have small belief in it.

In all this, of course, I do not argue against the adequate payment of judges. It goes without saying that they should get enough salary to provide them with the comforts, and even with the luxuries, of the higher variety of professional men. But it is certainly absurd to argue that mere money can buy a good bench. Here, indeed, is the one place where the power of money, save perhaps to corrupt, is at its lowest. The sort of man we need most on the bench is that sort of man who sees in judicial service something better and more honorable than mere money-grubbing, and who is willing to make a definite sacrifice of money in order to undertake it.

But not many men of that mind, it may be argued, are available. The majority of successful lawyers get into the habit of living upon a somewhat lavish scale, and even when their own needs are simple they often have others dependent upon them. Well, what of it? Since when has the most successful lawyer been the best lawyer, and, by inference, the best judge? And even admitting the validity of such a rule, has it no exceptions? We do not need a whole army corps of judges, but merely a dozen. Is it impossible to find a dozen men who are both sound in the law and modest in their tastes? Is it not a fact, indeed, that, with all other things equal, the simpler the man the better the judge?

Here, perhaps, we come to the inner truth of the matter: our judges should constitute a separate and superior caste, remote from the lusts of the world and a bit disdainful of them. In other words, they should have a certain flavor of the monk about them; their business is not to mingle with the crowd of self-seekers and dollar-chasers, but to stand in judgment upon it, remotely, unemotionally, perhaps even somewhat austerely. They approach the ideal in proportion as they rid themselves of the more vulgar ambitions and appetites, the aspirations of the common herd. If they are not above the mass and safely beyond its petty temptations, then they fail to justify the great power that we have given to them and the honest reverence that we pay to them.

Untoward effects of instruction in “sex hygiene,” as described in American Youth:

Not infrequently a boy is found who has allowed this subject to get so large a place in his mental processes that he has an abnormal satisfaction in talkaing the subject over with every accessible adult, and in reading every procurable piece of literature. * * * We need to find the very best books for each particular sex need. Recommend these widely. Then urge that a boy read no other.

In other words, first arouse a feverish and unhealthy interest and then blot it out with a simple recommendation. What imbecile rot! And how quickly this whole “sex hygiene” movement has become a mere branch of pornography!

Meanwhile, the kaifists at Back River are beginning to prepare for next season. It is expected that all of the empty bottles will be gathered up and carted away by February 1, and immediately afterward the trees will be whitewashed.--Adv.

At the moment of going to press I hear that the old maids of the Maryland Anti-Vivisection Society are again roaring in the Letter Column. A polite and convincing answer to these female Isaac Lobe Strauses tomorrow!