125 Years Ago

December 1887: In a battle over the power of the purse, a mandamus was sought to require Newark Mayor Joseph Haynes to affix his signature to a warrant for payment of city funds to a vendor. The appropriation had been properly made and the bill was ordered paid by the common council, but the mayor vetoed it and it was passed over his veto. Judge William Magie held the mayor’s duties in this regard were only ministerial and that he had to sign the warrant ordered by council (Salmon v. Haynes).

100 Years Ago

December 1912: New Jersey’s first female lawyer, Mary Philbrook, argued to the Court of Errors and Appeals that because it was never settled whether the state constitution of 1776 allowed women suffrage, the constitution of 1844 — which created the court system then in force — was improperly adopted, because only men voted on it. “This contention has the distinction of being as courageous as it is novel,” Justice Francis Swayze wrote. “If she is right now, we have been without legally constituted judicial tribunals. Results so startling suggest that the argument is defective.”

75 Years Ago

December 16, 1937: The Law Journal editors weighed in as debate droned on over a proposal to create an integrated bar — one that all lawyers would pay into as a condition of licensure, in contrast to the voluntary-membership State Bar Association. “A bar association which bears a name statewide in character should speak in point of fact as well as in theory for the bar at large,” they wrote. “In the past, however, it has been representative of a majority of a small fraction represented by the association.”

50 Years Ago

December 13, 1962: Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Charles Whittaker spoke out for creating a public-defender or compensated-counsel system for representing indigent criminal defendants in federal court. He called the system then in use — court-assigned private counsel at no pay — unfair to the lawyers and their families. Frequently, assigned counsel were young lawyers just scraping by, who sometimes had to spend months on cases without reimbursement for their expenses.

25 Years Ago

December 17, 1987: The Law Journal‘s first-ever survey of law-firm finances in New Jersey showed McCarter & English, then with 113 lawyers, leading the Top 10 with $26.9 million in gross revenues. Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, with 86 lawyers, was second at $22.1 million. Lowenstein Sandler, with 90 lawyers, placed third at $21.5 million but led all firms in profits per partner, with $325,000.