125 Years Ago
July 1888: The Court of Errors and Appeals caught the bar off guard at the June term by tearing through the list of cases at breakneck speed. One afternoon, an hour and a half before the usual time for adjournment, the court called a case marked “ready” and, hearing no response, sped down the rest of the list from numbers 28 to 57 and closed off the term. Lawyers on cases low on the list were absent because they had never expected to be reached that day. Their cases were put off until November.
100 Years Ago
July 1913: Jury reform was on the legislative agenda but enthusiasm was wanting. Some measures seemed designed to fail. One, called the Egan bill, provided for a jury commissioner in each county, appointed by the state Chancellor, who would act together with the sheriff in drawing voir dire panels. But the bill by its terms would become law only upon a vote by the public, which ensured it would either be declared unconstitutional or, due to the unlikelihood of a referendum, never be enacted.
75 Years Ago
June 30, 1938: The New York State Bar Association vetoed a proposal to establish a state compensation system for victims of automobile accidents, patterned after workers’ compensation laws. Lawyers expressed doubt that the system would accomplish two of its principal purposes: avoiding delay in payment of claims and relieving court congestion. They further believed it would result in unequal awards, since the loss of a finger to an artist or surgeon would be treated the same as to a salesman or lawyer.
50 Years Ago
June 27, 1963: Sen. Estes Kefauver on the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced a bill that would require federal judges to file annual reports listing all their financial interests. The action was motivated by a Wall Street Journal article that listed a number of instances of judges sitting on boards of directors of banks and insurance and industrial companies. Failure to comply would make a judge liable for impeachment. However, the reports only would be circulated within the judiciary, not made public.
25 Years Ago
June 30, 1988: The state Supreme Court announced a plan to allow plea bargaining in municipal courts on a test basis. The action was welcomed as a long-awaited and crucial step toward unclogging court dockets and easing strain on lawyers and judges. The one-year pilot program, to begin Sept. 1, would allow restricted plea bargaining except for drunken driving cases and certain drug offenses. It would be limited to the municipal courts that had prosecutors — about 90 percent of the total.