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becomes a barrier to the highest usefulness. He is considerate of the convenience of suitors, until kindness becomes antagonistic to duty. Appreciating the help to be derived from argument, he has the courage and tact to curtail repetition and tediousness. Regardful of the particular case on trial, he does not forget that the public is a party to every cause. Careful to refrain from the semblance of advocacy, he is yet the implacable foe to wrong, and the faithful friend to right. Justice is his mistress, and his devotion to her is without blemish. Careful of the rights of juries, he is nevertheless jealous of the prerogatives of the 'bench. Appreciating that the law's delay is often productive of more evil than the law's imperfections, he permits nothing to stand in the way of celerity and promptness. At war with oppression in every form, he ailows neither the love of gold to seduce him from justice to the
poor, nor the fear of popular wrath to frighten him from equal justice to the rich. Feeling that interest in public affairs which is the safeguard to republics, and which every patriot ought to feel, he does not degrade his office by low scrambles for the political preferment of himself or others. Prompt in deciding, he is too dignified to argue with counsel, and too careful of time to stop the wheels of court while he gives a reason for every ruling. He knows no tear but the fear of God; he feels no love but the love of truth; he has no ambition but to walk uprightly before men, with unsoiled honor and blameless life.
Brethren of the bar, you will not think me presumptuous if I remind you that the judge is only a part of the court.
THE ATTORNEY is its right arm. Without the aid and co-operation of the bar, the bench is emasculated. Public virtue suffers from antagonism of feeling or of conduct between judge and lawyer. It is more popular than praiseworthy to sneer and jest at the sometimes real, and often fancied, shortcomings of the bench. Indeed, it is too often true that the most active jesters and fault-finders are those whose standing anxiety to be subjected to the same gibes would be pathetic, if it were only disinterested.
The bench is the highest goal of the bar; but while the laurel is so rare and lovely, beneath its beauty lurk insidious stings to him who wears the crown. If we can, by courtesy, by patience, by forbearance, by sympathy, assuage one of the many pangs which too often afflict the Circuit Judge, our labors will not be in vain.
THE GEORGIA BAR ASSOCIATION,
AUGUST 3RD, 1887,
By I. E. SHU MATE.
All that is undertaken in this paper, is to invite the members of the Association to accompany the writer along certain lines of thought, practical and pertinent to the times, with the hope that their own reflections, stimulated possibly by his suggestions, may prove profitable. Even in so unambitious an undertaking, the danger of fatiguing the patience of so learned and critical an audience is great. However, the proverbial politeness of the profession and their complete facial control in the presence of disappointment, acquired by painful discipline, can be relied upon with reasonable confidence. There is relief, too, in the thought that the affliction, be it light or grievous, is but for a moment.
A year ago the retiring president of the Association, in an admirable address, propounded and discussed the proposition: "Lawyers, the trustees of public opinion." In that discussion, the prominence of lawyers and their controlling influence in public meetings were affirmed, without arrogating to the profession any natural mental superiority, but attributing their recognized influence to the superior training acquired in the study and the practice of the law, and to the practical cast of mind resulting froin constant contact with practical affairs. The welltrained lawyer, with readiness approaching intention, perceives the true issues involved in any proposition, and states them clear!y and concisely. He marshals his facts rapidly and plausibly, and presents his arguments pointedly, and, frequently, if occasion require, powerfully. He often exposes a fallacy by a vigorous dash of sarcasm, and effectually punctures plausible error with a single well-directed thrust of the Ithuriel spear of truth. Thus he leads the minds of others along lines his own has traveled, to conclusions he himself has reached.
The leadership of lawyers in public meetings, where opinions and policies are formulated, and whence they are projected upon the general public, is usually cheerfully accorded, though unsought. It is seldom immodestly and never impudently assumed. In the social circle, in the club room, in the private conference, as well as in the public gathering, the lawyer leaves his impress upon public opinion while in the formative state, and gives direction to it when sufficiently matured to express itself in public action. Behind the scenes, if he enter there, where plots in politics are matured, where “coups" in stocks are organized, and where booms in real estate are incubated, his influence is an appreciable factor.
If these statements be even approximately correct, the proposition that lawyers are the trustees of public opinion, in an important sense, is tenable, and the corresponding responsibility must necessarily attach.
An honest lawyer clearly perceives, in a political contest, where legitimate criticism upon the personal character and public acts of one seeking or holding office degenerates into personal abuse or slander or libel. Trained in the interpretation and assertion of the principles of right and justice, which constitute the science of the law, he easily and correctly defines the line which separates between legitimate transactions in business and unscrupulous speculation and schemes, verging upon criminal conspiracies promoted by concerted misrepresentations, and which result in fleecing the ignorant and incautious. His impulses impel him always to advocate the right and expose the wrong. Frequently, however, motives of interest-sometimes direct, oftener indirect-silence him, when a word might prevent injustice and injury. However atrocious a political slander, or however nearly a business scheme may verge upon a criminal conspiracy, he sometimes hesitates to voluntarily expose the one or to antagonize the other, especially if parties directly interested in them command influence and patronage by reason of their personal standing or political or business connections. To determine when voluntarily to expose a scheme likely to deceive the too sanguine to their injury, for the results of which one does not feel directly responsible, however clearly he may foresee them, is a delicate exercise of discretion. In deciding such a question, too great deference should not be paid to considerations of policy. It is not too much to say that the lawyer who fails to actively exert his influence, wherever he touches society-whether in the discharge of his professional duties at the bar, or in the counsel chamber, or in pubJic assemblies, or in private conferences—who fails, by every means he judges to be effective, to give such tone to public sentiment, with direct reference to pending questions, as will restrain political zeal within the bounds of truth and justice, and confine business schemes within the limits of common honesty, fails to recognize and to meet his responsibility
No intelligent observer, who has attended the sittings of the Superior Courts outside the cities, has failed to note that they are veritable schools for the education of the people in matters of public concern. The several panels of jurors, grand and traverse, and the almost entire body of upright and intelligent citizens of the county in attendance upon the organization of the court, and during its sessions, constitute the public, and their opinion is public opinion for all practical purposes. They give marked attention to the general charge of the judge, whether in crisp, clear statement he summarizes the penal and other statutes required to be given in charge, and defines sharply the duties of each branch of the court, or lapses into fervid exhortation upon the general duty of enforcing the laws and of preserving public morals, or mounts his hobby—that he has one may be safely assumedand exercises for an hour to the wonderment of his attentive listeners . Ordinarily, at least a respectable number of his hearers regard the judge as little less infallible than the Pope. It may be affirmed, without contempt of court, that His Honor is ordinarily no more infallible than His Holiness. The interest the throng takes in the intellectual combat between well matched adversaries upon the trial of any case of importarce, civil or criminal, is intense. Every sally of wit, novel or striking
, statement, sharp retort, outline history of a siatute, and suggested change in the law, is caught up with avidity and repeated and discussed in neighborhood discussions many days after. Every more than ordinarily ingenious or strong argument, especially if it be enlivened by an occasional sparkle of wit, or play of humor, or tinge of brilliancy, or show of enthusiasm, real or feigned, holds the rapt attention of the admiring assembly. Even the local orator, with fine orotund voice, who puts every jury before whom he is permitted to pose, either as retained or volunteer counsel, to the proof of an hour's frothy declamation, is not only tolerated, but is accorded a respectful hearing.
Who of us does not know that in every circuit the pithy sayings of the half-century ago leaders of the bar-as Swift, Kenan, and the elder Underwood of the Cherokee Circuit-have passed into proverbs ? They are still recognized as condensations of common sense, not always elegant, but even yet as strikingly applicable to often-recurring contin
gencies in affairs as if newly coined. They have upon them the clearcut imprint of genius. Some of the judges of our Sapreme Court who have passed away had, and some still living have, splendid mental
compresses," and scattered through the Reports are their packed sentences and phrases, which have become aphorisms familiar, not only to the bar, but to intelligent laymen as well.
These statements, confessedly trite, yet true, illustrate that the bench and bar exert an influence second only to that of the press in moulding public opinion. Almost every question of general interest, during its pendency, passes under review in court-house discussion. It requires no great ingenuity to weave into an argument discussion of some liveissue, as prohibition, or the power of corporations, or the grasp of monopolies, or the concentration of wealth, or the misfortune of poverty. Such opportunities are not always permitted to pass unimproved by the advocate.
The trial of a defendant indicted for a violation of a prohibition law, or for any crime resulting directly or indirectly from intoxication, affords to the representatives of both the prosecution andi the defense an opportunity to ventilate their peculiar views upon a pending issue of vital public importance-or, at least, the views supposed to be favorable to their respectiye positions in the case--the one to inveigh against the great polypus, intemperance, the other to raise the alarm against the alleged fanaticism that would throttle personal liberty by the enactment of sumptuary laws.
The trial of a case: against a railroad company opens the way for diatribe upon the powei.cf .corporations and the danger of accumulations of individual and corporate wealth. In a great variety of causes, the crime of being a rich man may be presented in startling contrast with the alleged virtue of poverty.
One would scarcely suppose that the convict lease question could arise collaterally in the court-room. Yet, recently, in the trial of a convict for the offense of mutiny, the supposed cruelties and inhumanities of the lease system were held up with holy horror on the one hand, and on the other an elaborate defense of the system was essayed. All this, too, entirely impertinent to the issues involved, and outside the record.
It would be well for those who indulge in this sort of performance to inquire whether they are always entirely candid in their zeal, and whether their eloquence, like other gas, is harmless where it has ample room to explode in ? Not long since, in an excited multitude in Georgia, dissatisfied with the punishment inflicted upon a desperate criminal