The Conservative (Nebraska City, Neb.) 1898-1902, February 06, 1902, Page 2, Image 2

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

wish , wo hope nud we almost believe
that the pardon by Governor Savage
may bring to light the names of the co
parceners of Bartley and let the people
know just how many men should share
penalties with him as they certainly did
share his peculations and speculations
in the money of the state of Nebraska.
Governor Savage is the under-oath
executive of the state of Nebraska. He
pardoned Bartley and he had the right to
pardon him. If ras some of the repub
lican newspapers intimate Governor
Savage was influenced unlawfully and
improperly to do this thing ho is amen
able to the law. And if , instead of
cowardly innuendo against the governor ,
direct charges are proved he may be
impeached and deposed from office , as
was hia predecessor , David Butler. Why
assault Savage merely because it is sup
posed that this pardon may have
harmed the republican party ? Why
not show how and where Savage erred ,
either morally or legally , instead of
politically ? Is there no criterion of
right and wrong except the domiuancy
of the republican party ?
The thanks of
POLITICAL decent members of
COURTS AND the bar and of the
PARTISAN people of this com
JUDGES. monwealth , are
due to Mr. W. D.
McHugh , the outgoing president of
the Nebraska State Bar Association ,
for his address at the recent meeting
of that organization. The address
deals clearly , courageously and forc
ibly with the evil of political judges
and courts in Nebraska. Mr. McHugh
also strongly condemns the condition
of "uncertainty of the law" in this
state , which is due to "the process of
overruling still going on , every volume
of Nebraska reports containing some
decisions over-ruling prior decisions of
the court. " It is pointed out that the
method or fad of undertaking to do
"substantial justice" in each case ,
largely independently of fixed princi
ples of law , "is at variance with the
fundamental theory of our legal sys
tem" and that "the consequent shift
ing of our substantive law is deeper
than appears at first glance. ' ' Under
such a system the public cannot know
the law , nor can the lawyer safely ad
vise his clients. While ho does not
definitely say as much , wo may well
suspect that the speaker believes that
the shiftiness of our supreme tribunal
is due in part to the partisan methods
of choosing , and the consequent parti
san responsibility of its judges.
"First and foremost among these
evils , " says Mr. McHugh , "is the
practice on the part of so many of our
judges of taking a continuous , active
aud prominent part in the politics of
our state , both general and local. At
the last state convention of one of the
great parties of this state , the temporary
ary chairman was a judge then upon
bench. At the last state conven
tions of two other great parties there
were at least cloven judges then upon
the bench attending those conventions ,
many of these judges leading their
delegationsand all of them active and
prominent in the partisan work of
these conventions. And we all know-
that in local politics quite generally
throughout this state , judges are act
ive iii party affairs , participating in
the campaigns and constituting an
efficient and potential force in the
various factional and partisan con
How deplorable all this is , then ,
lawyers of the state must fully real
ize. By allying himself , as he neces
sarily must , when he takes part in the
manipulation of politics with the
schemers to whom politics is a busi
ness and whose ambition is personal
gain or advaucoment , ho necessarily ,
to some extent , mingles with them on
their plane and becomes under obliga
tions to them aud their methods. To
the mere politician nothing is sacred.
The highest office is to him merely
an instrument of party. His mind
and habits of thought are not such as
to appreciate the time , true dignity or
function of the judicial office ; aud he
therefore demands that the judge shall
hold his office as a reward of a party ,
and so conduct the office as to have in
mind the necessities of the party and
the opportunity of rewarding those
most active in its behalf. The judge
who mingles with these men , identi
fies himself with these politicians ,
who works in the atmosphere sur
rounding the party caucus , is in great
danger of imbibing some of this spirit ,
and hence , of looking upon himself and
his office as a part of the machinery
of the party , to be administered in
accordance with the policies of the
party councils. The bar of this state ,
and they are the men v ho have the
best opportunities of judging , do fear
if they do not believe that we do have
judges in this state whose active and
continuous exertions in the manipula
tion of party affairs , affect , if they
do not determine their action as
judges. The office of judge is not on
ly one of dignity , but it is one of
power and of influence. Many men
desire to cultivate the favor of a judge
and all men fear his ill-will. The
position , therefore affords to a de
signing politician very great opportun
ities. A man ambitious of political
preferment securing his nomination
and election as judge , and then act
ively engaging in the strife of party
politics , bringing to his contentions
and his wishes all the power , prestige
and influence of his office , can so co
erce men and work upon the fears of
men that his will becomes potential
and the duties of his judicial office
are perverted and prostituted to the
necessities of his ambition as a poli
ticiau. A greater evil than this , in
the administration of justice , can
hardly be conceived. "
Mr. McHugh observes that "the
only remedy , and the efficient remedy ,
is a healthy , sound sentiment on the
part of the people and the bar , vigor
ous in expressing itself in denuncia
tion of the practice under considera
tion. ' ' While a sound and vigorous
public sentiment must precede and can
alone bring about a complete cure of
the disgraceful and disastrous evil in
question , yet we think that Mr. Mo-
Hugh is needlessly and discouragingly
exclusive in his suggestion of a
remedy. It will take many years , if
not eons , to evolve the public senti
ment which he presents , and wo think
a partial remedy may bo applied to
meet at once ' ' the annoyance of the
meantime , ' ' as Mr. Dooley would call
it. The besotted party habit into
which the people have fallen is very
largely responsible for the choosing of
unfit elective officers. There is neither
need nor defense for the selection of
any such officers , except the president
and members of congress , by the party
criterion and method. There is no
political principle involved in the
duties of any other of our elective
public offices. The Australian ballot
has done a great deal toward making
independent voters , but not enough.
The direct primary nominating sys
tem , now undergoing development
and adoption in many states , while it
is an auxiliary of the Australian bal
lot system , promises to be far more
potent in bringing about independent
voting and in loosening , if not finally
breaking , party bonds. Under the
primary system in its advanced form ,
primary elections must be held for all
parties , at the same time and place ,
and each voter is supplied with a bal
lot containing all party tickets , so
that he votes either of them in secret ,
without disclosing his party affiliation
past or prospective. Candidates for
all municipal , county , judicial and
state offices , and for member of con
gress are nominated under this secret
system , though the law will not be so
comprehensive. The Nebraska pri
mary law is but feeble , innocuous
imitation of the genuine article. This
system can be quickly adopted , and it
would afford at least partial relief
from the evils considered by Mr. Mo-
Hugh , during the slow process of his
moral reformation , and it would also
greatly accelerate the progress of
that reform.
Furthermore , the influence of the
Omaha bar ought to be strong enough
to spread , by degrees at least , all over
the state the non-partisan plan of
making judicial nominations which
Judge Savage has started by permitt
ing the local bar to name the success
or to Judge Baker in the Omaha dis
trict. In Wisconsin , non-partisan
nominations for circuit judges have
been common , and for supreme judges
have been general , for more than
thirty years , with a most wholesome
effect upon the judicial s ° rvice , and
the tone of judicial character and pub
lic sentiment. The superior character
of the Wisconsin supreme court decis
ions , known of all lawyers , is very
largely the fruit of the non-partisan
choice of the judges. The holding of
judicial elections in the spring , apart
from general and distinctively partis
an elections , has encouraged and up
held the non-partisan plan.
It seems quite practicable to The
Conservative for the State Bar Associ
ation immediately to turn Mr. Mc-
Hugh's strong precepts into benefi-
cieut example along the lines here