Page images

portion of territory within its jurisdiction. Your committée ve. rily believe that there are few intelligent citizens who do not know, and feel, the inefficiency of the courts, as at present organized. Public confidence in judges who are to decide on life and liberty, and to settle questions of property of incalculable amount and magnitude, is indispensable. There are few men, whose dearests interests are to be affected by judicial decision, who would be willing to rest upon the judgment of a single judge, bowever learned and enlightened he may be. There is no judge, if he be learned, who is, singly, to decide upon great and intricate questions, in every shape and variety, who will not feel the im. mense weight of his responsibility, and lament the necessity which imposes it upon him; and moreover, deeply deplore the loss and expence accruing to suitors from his erroneous opinions, which are reversed upon error or appeal. And although this will be the case, occasionally, under any system which could be devi. sed, yet confidence will unquestionably increase in proportion to the number and learning of the judges, and appeals will be fewer. It is an evil too (and it cannot be concealed that the evil exists) where it is known and felt that the talents of counsel are superior to those of the judge; and confidence diminishes as the fact is notorious. To dispense the law of the land through the instru. mentality of those who understand it not, is absurd. And how. ever respectable may be the characters of the associate judges (and there are many who are truly respectable,), the president can look to them for no assistance when pressed with difficulties; and the people have long ceased to view them with respect in their judicial character--and in case of sickness, or unavoidable absence of the president, generally, all important business stagnates. A system like this, is therefore, unworthy of Pennsylva nia, great in resources, and powerfully increasing in population. It is true, no advantageous alteration can be made without addi: tion expence; but it is an expence which we should chearfully encounter, when the object is so important. The mischief is increasing and is radical. The remedy should also be radical, and the reform such as will give dignity and vigour to the courts of justice, and lustre to the legislature which shall magnanimously adopt it. The committee have therefore submitted a plan which they have judged to be expedient, and calculated to promote the public good.

1. That the supreme court of this commonwealth shall consist of five judges, and the Governor shall appoint and commission two persons of known integrity and ability, who shall be added to the judges now constituting the said supreme court, and shall in all respects have the same power and jurisdiction as the present judges of the said court now have and exercise, and shall receive the like compensation for their services; and in case of vacancy in the office of a judge of the supreme court, the same shall bě forthwith supplied by a new appointment, so that the said court shall at all times hereafter consist of five judges.

2. That the act, entitled “ An act to provide for the erection of an additional court within the city and county of Philadelphia,” passed on the 30th day of March in the year 1811, shall be conţinued without limitation; and on the expiration of the commis. şions of the present judges of the said court, the Governor shall appoint and commission three judges of known integrity and ability, who shall be judges of the said court, and shall hold their offices during good behaviour, one of whom shall be nominated as the president of the said court, and shall all of them have and receive for their services the same compensation as is allowed to the president of the said court in and by the said act, and shall have and exercise all the powers, authorities and jurisdiction now vested in the said court, and of the court of common pleas of Philadelphia in civil matters, exceeding the sum of one hundred dollars. And there shall be a prothonotary appointed for the said court, distinct from the prothonotary of the court of common pleas, who shall in all respects do and perform the like services and duties, and for the like fees and perquisites, and be subject to the like account to the commonwealth, as the prothonotary of the common pleas.

3. That the original jurisdiction of the court of common pleas of Philadelphia, in all matters and things, and in all suits and plaints, exceeding one hundred dollars, shall be restored, and be concurrent with the jurisdiction of the district court. And the Governor shall appoint and commission two persons of known integrity and ability, who together with the president, shall compose the said court, and shall hold their offices during good be. haviour, and shall have the like powers, jurisdictions and authorities, and receive the like compensation as the president of the said court. And immediately thereafter the offices of the present associate judges of the said court shall cease and determine.

4. That the remainder of the state shall be divided into districts, as follows: The counties of Chester, Delaware and Montgomery shall be the first district; the counties of Lancaster, York and Dauphin shall be the second district; the counties of Berks, Schuylkill and Lebanon shall be the third district; the counties of Bucks, Northampton, Pike and Lehigh shall be the fourth district; the counties of Cụmberland, Franklin and Adams shall be fifth district; the counties of Northumberland, Lycoming, with its present dependencies of Potter and M'Kean, Union and Columbia shall be the sixth district; the counties of Luzerne, Bradford, Susquehanna, Wayne and Tioga shall be the seventh district; the counties of Bedford, Huntingdon, Miflin, Centre, with Clearfield annexed thereto, shall be the eighth district; the counties of Westmoreland, Somerset, Cambria and Indiana with Jefferson, shall be the ninth district; the counties of Washington, Fayette, Greene and Allegheny shall be the tenth district; the counties of Beaver, Butler, Mercer and Armstrong shall be the eleventh disfrict; and the counties of Crawford, Venango and Erie with Warren, shall be the twelfth district.

5. That the Governor shall appoint and commission, within each of said districts, three persons of known integrity and abil

ities, who shall be judges of the several courtscomposing the same, who shall in all and every of the said courts, and within the said district, have all the powers, jurisdictions and authorities vested by the constitution and laws of this commonwealth in the said courts, or in the judges thereof. They shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall receive for their services, each of them, the sum of

dollars, yearly, to be paid in quarter yearly payments; and during their continuance in office shall reside within the district, But where any one or more of the present presidents of the courts shall be resident within any of the districts hereby created, the Governor shall appoint one or more judges in and for such district, as occasion may require, so that, with the said president or presidents there shall be three judges for such district. And the judge residing in any county shall preside in the courts for such county--but where any district consists of more than three counties, such one of the judges who shall be oldest in years shall preside in the courts of the county or counties of the district in which no judge may reside. And as soon as the districts or courts shall be organized under this act, the offices of the present associate judges of the several courts of common pleas shall cease and determine.

6. That any one of the judges may hold the courts of common pleas and orphans' courts, and with the register of wills, the registers court; and any two of the judges may hold the courts of oyer and terminer, and courts of quarter sessions, in any county of the district. And it shall be the duty of the said judges, by an effectual arrangement among themselves, to hold adjourned courts from time to time, and as often as occasion may require, for the trial of civil causes, in each and every county of the district, so that

any suit commenced in said courts shall have an opportunity of being tried within one year from the term in which it shall have been commenced, and refusal or neglect so to do, shall be a misdemeanor in office. And such adjourned courts shall be held by one judge only—and the said judges together shall hold the stated terms appointed for the common pleas, and shall have power to adjourn the same from time to time, if necessary, as well for the trial of causes, as for hearing and deciding upon arguments and motions depending in said courts, or arising upon trials at any of the adjourned courts : Provided, That in any district consisting of more than three organized counties, such arrangement shall be made by the judges thereof among themselves, that all the judges shall assemble toyether at least at two terms in the year in each county of the district, and at least two of the said judges at the remaining terms in the year-and in case of sickness or unavoidable accident happening to a judge, the judge or judges attending at any court, shall notwithstanding proceed in the business thereof; and in the like case at any adjourned court, the prothonotary shall have power to open and adjourn the court, and continue the process as occasion may require, until a judge shall attend for the trial of the causes, during the time fixed for holding such adjourned court. -7. That the supreme court, and the several courts of common


pleas shall have power to grant relief in equity in cases of account and waste, and in cases of trusts, so far as regards the

appointment of trustees to prevent a failure of the trust; the requiring from trustees who are insolvent, or whose insolvency may reasonably be apprehended, security for the faithful execution of the trust, compelling the settlement of the accounts of trustees, either upon their application, or upon the application of the cestui que trusts, and compelling the trustees, where the trust has expired to convey the legal estate; and also to grant relief in equity 90-far as regards the compelling the specific execution of contracts, and ordering instruments obtained by fraud, or which in equity ought to be considered as paid and satisfied, to be deliverup

to be cancelled. 8. That relief in equity shall be granted in the cases aforesaid in the following manner: The party, or parties complaining may offer his, her, or their bill or petition to the court, with his, her or their oath or affirmation added thereto, that the facts therein stated are true; and if on the face of the bill or petition sufficient matter appears to warrant the court to grant relief, a summons shall issue, returnable at such day as the court shall appoint, com manding the party or parties complained against to appear and make full answer. If the party or parties complained against shall appear at said return day, and confess the matter of the bill or petition, or so much thereof as may be material, the court shall make such decree as in equity and law ought to be made. If the party or parties complained against as aforesaid shall not, at or before the return day of the said summons, appear and make full answer as aforesaid, the court shall decree as if the matter of the said bill or petition were confessed. If the matter of the bill or petition be denied in whole or in part by the answer, the court shall direct an issue to try the facts in dispute, and a jury shall find and certify the facts in dispute, and upon the finding of the jury, and matter confessed in the answer, if any such matter shall be so confessed, the court shall make such decree as in equity and law ought to be made; and upon the trial as aforesaid either party may offer in evidence any material matter or fact, though not charged in the bill or petition, nor stated in the answer, of which the adverse party had notice in writing one month before the trial. Where the decree of the court shall be for the payment of money, execution shall issue as on judgments obtained at common law, subject to the provisions and regulations of any act of assembly-and where the decree shall be that any thing be done or performed by the party or parties complained against, and he, she, or they shall not comply with the decree of the court within the time limited for that purpose, an attachment may issue, and his, her, their persons be imprisoned until he, she, or they shall conform to the decree of the court as aforesaid ; and if he, she, or they cannot be foud, a sequestration of his, her or their goods or estate may issue, until he, she, or they shall conform aforesaid. And the said courts shall have power to issue injunctions to stay waste, until a decree shall be obtained in manner afuresiad.

But nothing herein contained shall be so construed to authorize or extend to any process or decree against any public officer, for any matter or thing in his official capacity. And from any final order or decree of any court of common pleas, there may be an appeal to the supreme court, upon giving security as in case of appeals from the decrees and orders of the orphan's court.

9. That every single judge of the supreme court, and several couris of common pleas, shall have as full power and authority to entertain bills to perpetuate testimony, and to isssue process thereon, as the supreme court and several courts of common pleas now have; and rules to take depositions of witnesses may be granted by any single judge as well before as after the return day of tħe writ, by which any action or suit may be commenced; and every single judge as aforesaid shall have full power and authority to compel such witnesses to appear before him, or an examiner io be by nim appointed, in any cause depending in the court of which he is judge, by process of attachment, so that the testimony of such witnesses may be taken.

10. That no deposition hereafter taken shall be read in evidence, by consent or atherwise, unless actually taken in the both parties, or their attornies, or actually taken by, or in the presence of a judge, alderman or justice of the peace, after due notice given to the parties, or taken by an examiner appointed by the court, on interrogations filed by the parties or their attornies, And the supreme court, and several courts of common pleas may fix the fees which shall be received by any such examiner for taking such depositions, and make such rules and regulations prescribing the time form and manner of taking such depositions, as may be consistent with law, or any act of assembly heretofore passed,

11. That debts and shares in the capital stock of any incorporated company may be taken in execution in the following manner; The plaintiff or plaintiffs in any action wherein judgment shall have been rendered, in any court of record within this commonwealth, may

issue a writ of execution directed to the sheriff of the proper county, in the following form :County of (L. S.) The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the Sheriff of

county. Whereas (here insert the name of plaintiff or plaintiffs) hath (or have) recovered by the judgment, or decree Fas the case may be) of our court, the sum of


for his costs of suit against Chere insert the name of the defendant or defendants) and the said Chere insert the name of the defendant or defendants) hath or have) hitherto neglected to pay the same you are therefore commanded to levy the money aforesaid and costs, upon any debt or debts due or to become due from Chere insert the name of the person or persons, body politic or corporate who may be indebted to the defendant or defendants) to the said Chere insert the name of the defendant or defendants) and render the same to the said there insert the name of the plaintiff or plaintiffs ) - or, fas ther


[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »