125 Years Ago

March 1888: Vice-Chancellor John Bird held, in Emerson v. Pierce, that complainants in a chancery suit, having won a decree that the defendants had no interest in a parcel of land, could not then get a decree partitioning the land among themselves. He said the defendants were out of the suit, just as if they had died, so the court was without jurisdiction. "Can two persons unite in asking the court to aid them in settling an account or making a division of goods? I think not," he concluded.

100 Years Ago

March 1913: Gov. Woodrow Wilson resigned on March 1, three days before his inauguration as the nation’s 28th president, and took with him Vice-Chancellor Lindley Garrison as his secretary of war. Wilson’s successor, James Fielder, signed a law creating a new vice-chancellorship, to be filled by John Backes, who would take over the Trenton docket of Vice-Chancellor Vivian Lewis, who in turn would assume Garrison’s Jersey City docket. Garrison’s seat would be moved to southern New Jersey.

75 Years Ago

March 24, 1938: Alabama congressman Sam Hobbs surmounted the first hurdle in his effort to bring about the use of sound recordings in place of stenographic records of court proceedings. He argued that recordings would provide appeals courts with a better record, since they preserved voice inflections and emphases not apparent on a printed page. The House Judiciary Committee reported out a bill authorizing trial experiments — in actual trials in the federal district court in Washington, D.C.

50 Years Ago

March 21, 1963: Harvard Law School dean Erwin Griswold criticized the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed prayer in New York State schools as an "absolutist" theory of constitutional interpretation. America, he declared, "is a Christian country in origin, history, tradition and culture. It was out of Christian doctrine and ethics … that it developed its notion of tolerance. Does the fact that we have officially adopted toleration as our standard mean that we must give up our history and tradition?"

25 Years Ago

March 24, 1988: No basis was found for a judicial misconduct action against Passaic County Judge Sylvan Rothenberg, who co-owned a welfare hotel that was cited for more than 200 health, safety and zoning violations, including overcrowding, inoperable fire alarms and cockroach infestation. A management company had run the Garden Motor Lodge in Parsippany-Troy Hills since Rothenberg bought in, and he convinced Chief Justice Robert Wilentz that he had no knowledge of the conditions.