125 Years Ago

December 1887: Pre-Search-Engine Legal Research — “There is a very annoying defect in the new digest of the New Jersey reports in the absence of an index,” the Law Journal editors remarked. “You have no index but the alphabetical arrangement of the digest itself. … If a subject has two names you may miss it if you guess the wrong one. You look in vain … for recoupment and cannot find it unless you happen to think it may be found under the compound title of set-off and recoupment.”

100 Years Ago

December 1912: A commentator from the Midwest, Arthur Eddy, said that in many states, election of judges tended to “make moral cowards of many,” since they feared the “unseen forces” that could oust them from office. The Law Journal editors observed, “In New Jersey, the trouble of which Mr. Eddy complains does not exist, simply because our judges are appointed for long terms, and, if they are of the right stamp, they are pretty sure to remain on the bench until they can and ought to retire.”

75 Years Ago

December 23, 1937: In the continued debate over a proposal to create an integrated bar — one that all lawyers would pay into as a condition of licensure — State Bar Association director Milton Unger offered a legal justification: Since colonial times, governors had conferred upon the courts the authority to regulate the practice of law. The constitutions of 1776 and 1844 did nothing to diminish that inherent power. Therefore, he said, the judiciary could impose on lawyers any restrictions it wished.

50 Years Ago

December 20, 1962: “Responding to a long felt need at the bar,” the state Supreme Court created the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, charged with furnishing opinions on proper conduct under the Canons of Professional Ethics, and under rules of court governing lawyers, without need of a court proceeding. “Freedom from the inhibitions of particular litigated controversies should give new scope and perspectives to the evolution of ethical doctrine,” the Law Journal editors said.

25 Years Ago

December 24, 1987: The state Supreme Court’s ruling in State v. Tischio, prohibiting use of extrapolation evidence to show a drunken driver’s blood-alcohol level was within legal limits at the time of arrest, was taking bread out of lawyers’ mouths. The defense had been used in 80 to 90 percent of DWI cases, which would now be pleaded out. That meant legal fees of $500, compared with $1,500 to $2,500 for trials.