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DELIVERED BEFORE THE ILLINOIS STATE BAR ASSOCIATION AT PEORIA, JUNE 24TH, 1909.
E. P. WILLIAMS, OF GALESBURG.
In opening this the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Illinois State Bar Association, with a feeling of deep humility, I state that, whereas, I had arranged to devote my entire time from May 31st ultimo to a thorough consideration of the matters of importance to the Association, to the end that, among other things, I might be thoroughly acquainted with the members of the different important committees, learning from them in advance something of what they had been able to accomplish in the interest of the Association, which is the interest of the Bar of the State and the people thereof. Instead, for three weeks, without intentional fault I was prevented by illness from properly performing the duties of the trust reposed in me. I have always felt that unless the man honors the office, he is out of place therein. In this view, alone, do I regret the situation.
Paragraph two of our Constitution states: "The Association is formed to cultivate the science of jurisprudence, to promote reform in the law, to facilitate the administration of justice, to elevate the standard of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession to encourage a thorough and liberal legal education, and to cultivate and cherish a spirit of brotherhood among the members thereof." The Association has from year to year moved steadily forward with a view to the promotion of the objects and principles so embodied in the Constitution as the "corner stone" of the organization. Its every effort; its every public exercise; the work of its committees as well have been in the line of the promotion, in the spirit of the Constitution,
of the public weal. It is due to consider that this is the day of immense aggregations of capital, of corporate organizations and control as well, that in other words, the individual is practically lost sight of in the transactions of ordinary business.
Serious loss was suffered by the Association in the untimely death of George F. McNulty of East St. Louis, a valued member of the Executive Committee, a lawyer of large ability and high character, specially acquainted with the Bar of Southern Illinois. The letter asking for special assistance in matters of importance was received at his home on the day of his death. Shortly thereafter, the Executive Committee requested our honored Vice President, E. C. Kramer of East St. Louis, to render such assistance as best he might in securing the services of an eminent member of the Bar of Southern Illinois to deliver an address at this meeting. Mr. Kramer, with the kind assistance, as he writes, of Judge Alonzo K. Vickers, succeeded in obtaining the promise of Hon. Val Mulkey of Metropolis, Illinois, to deliver such address and on April 24, 1909, Mr. Mulkey accepted the invitation, saying, "the subject of my paper will be, 'A Legal Injury.' We now had a most excellent program, to-wit: the acceptance by Hon. O. H. Dean of Kansas City, Missouri, a lawyer of high character and attainments, of the request to deliver the Annual Address on the morning of the 25th inst.; likewise, the consent of Professor Floyd R. Mechem to deliver an address on the subject of "Employers' Liability," than which, perchance, no matter more closely pertaining to the public interest is now engaging the attention, not only of the Bar, but of the general public as well; while Hiram T. Gilbert, kindly consented to deliver an address on the subject of "The Gilbert Bill," so called. In asking the Judge to address us on this subject, he was personally advised by me that the prevailing sentiment of our membership was, at present that the reforms proposed by the bill were so radical and so unique, as, if enacted into law, to be to a very serious extent subversive of the best interests of the public instead of promoting simplicity and efficiency in the attainment of justice through the forms of law. That in this view,
the Association desired to hear from him with the view to a full discussion thereof at this meeting. Prompt and courteous was the reply accepting the invitation as tendered. Your committees have felt that the subject of this address would deservedly receive thorough discussion and consideration with a view to ascertaining the right as best we may be able.
On May 21st, ultimo, we were saddened to receive a letter from Hon. Val Mulkey advising us that, while engaged at intervals of leisure in preparing the proposed address on "A Legal Injury," he was summoned to the bedside of a beloved son, who for five years last past, had been seeking a renewal of health in the mountain climes of Colorado; that he feared this would prevent his preparation of the address and its delivery at our annual meeting. Since then, we are not in receipt of any further communication from him and it seems to be consistent that we may not rightly ask him at this time to give us his special attention.
The recent annual meetings of the Association have been specially favored by addresses from distinguished members of the Appellate Bench. Each time, the suggestions made by each of these distinguished judges have been gladly listened to and prized by the membership of this Association. In this view, your committee asked Judge Dorrance Dibell of the Second Appellate District to kindly give us the benefit of some suggestions gleaned in his ripe experience. This notwithstanding we were well advised that so oncrous were the burdens pressing upon Judge Dibell in attending the session of the Nisi prius Courts of his circuit in addition to the exacting duties pressing upon him as Judge of the Appellate Court of the Second District as to be almost beyond human endurance. Judge Dibell found himself unable to accept the invitation.
The proceedings of the General Assembly of 1909 have been somewhat unique in character, seemingly not alway in every part conducted with special view to the public weal, as contradistinguished from the advancement of personal and partisan ends.
The increase of salary voted by the last previous General Assembly, with a view to obtaining better service, is as yet on trial. The avowed object of the increase was to enable competent statemen, able and busy lawyers as well, to give of their time and energy to the promotion of the public weal, untrammelled by the apprehension that their material business interests. would suffer thereby. The truth read and known of all men. as to Governmental affairs in this country, both State and National, to-day is, that every law is made by lawyers; that the decision of every court of record from lowest to highest is made by trained lawyers; that in legislative matters, whether State or National, no matter how able the member not a lawyer, he relies upon, and in the end, adopts the judgment of brother legislators who are skilled, trained lawyers.
Shortly before 4:00 P. M., June 14th, there was received in the office during my enforced absence, a letter from his Excellency, Charles S. Deneen, Governor, addressed to me as President of this Association, as follows:
"I enclose herewith a copy of House Bill No. 534 and should be pleased to have your opinion upon the merits of this bill. I shall be compelled to act upon it not later than Tuesday next. If you care to express your opinion upon the bill, I should be pleased to receive it not later than Tuesday morning.
C. S. DENEEN."
This letter was not called to my attention until 3:00 P. M. of the 15th. I immediately telegraphed the Governor as follows: "Letter received too late. Doubtless, the great majority of the Bar will approve this Bill. Personally, I do not. Did the bill provide for a lien for a reasonable fee to be fixed by the court on hearing, after verdict, there would be no objection." So it was the bill became a law without the signature of the Governor. My conviction is that the bill is vicious in that it does not properly safeguard the rights of those who need protection against unconscionable practitioners not as yet disbarred, and lets down the bars for fraud and chicanery.