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125 Years Ago January 1879: In Righter v. Penn. R.R. Co., a case before the Essex County Circuit Court, the driver of a horse-drawn carriage sued over injuries he, his wife and children suffered when a locomotive struck them at a crossing in North Elizabeth. The plaintiffs, represented by Thomas N. McCarter, claimed they could not hear the locomotive’s warning bell due to another train engine blowing off steam nearby. The jury awarded $2,000 to Mr. Righter and $6,000 to Mrs. Righter. 100 Years Ago January 1904: Assemblyman Harry Scovel, a member of the Camden Bar, was fined $50 for contempt of court by Judge Bergen of the local district court. Scovel, angered at an adverse decision, had remarked, “There’s too much Bergenism in this court.” He explained that he did not mean to reflect on the judge, but to no avail. The fine was promptly paid, and in the next breath Scovel was given a judgment of $25 in a case in which he was a plaintiff. 75 Years Ago January 1929: Handing up 211 indictments against 10 men based on morals charges made by young girls in Dover, a Morris County grand jury included a presentment criticizing the girls’ parents for indifference to their daughters’ morals. They urged a 9:30 p.m. curfew law for children under age 14, and restrictions on admitting children to dance halls and theatres, to “curb the spread of such debauchery.” 50 Years Ago January 28, 1954: Building on the precedent set in “The Miracle” case of 1952, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not censor motion pictures for immorality or tendency to promote crime. “The Miracle,” an Italian film about a frail-minded woman raped in a drunken stupor, who believed her pregnancy an immaculate conception, drew Vatican criticism. New York City authorities suspended a theater’s license for showing it, but the high court ruled that sacrilege could not be policed using statutes aimed at obscenity. 25 Years Ago January 25, 1979: New Jersey was shortly to join other states in certifying legal specialties. The first specialty to be certified was trial advocacy, following two and a half years of study. The Law Journal editors thought the program worthy of experimentation but worried that even if it didn’t achieve its goals, it would continue by sheer momentum. As an antidote, they suggested that the Supreme Court attach a sunset provision, so that the program would expire after a set time unless a positive decision were made to continue.

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