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THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE IN ILLINOIS.
HIRAM T. GILBERT, OF CHICAGO.
Mr. President and Members of the Illinois State Bar Association: The manner in which justice is administered in the courts of this state may be illustrated, to some extent, by adjudged cases. PEOPLE EX REL. BIBB VS. MAYOR, ETC., OF ALTON, 233 Ill., 542:
In 1898 Scott Bibb, a colored man, filed in the Supreme Court his petition for a mandamus to compel the city authorities of the City of Alton to admit his two children, Minnie Bibb, then seven years old, and Ambrose Bibb, then eight years old, to a public school in that city. Issues of fact having been made by the pleadings the Supreme Court, following its previous practice in such cases, which practice had prevailed for about eighty years, sent the issues to the Circuit Court of Madison County for trial by jury. A trial being there had it resulted in a verdict against the petitioner, which verdict, being certified to the Supreme Court, was set aside. (People ex rel. vs. Mayor, etc., of Alton, 179 Ill., 615.) Six subsequent trials by jury were had in the Circuit Court in two of which the juries disagreed and in the other four of which verdicts were rendered in favor of the respondents. (People ex rel vs. Mayor, etc., of Alton, 193 Ill., 309; People ex rel. vs. Mayor, etc., of Alton, 209 Ill., 461; People ex rel. vs. Mayor, etc., of Alton, 221 Ill., 275; People ex rel. vs. Mayor, etc., of Alton, 233 Ill., 542.) Each verdict in favor of the respondents prior to the last one was set aside by the Supreme Court and an order made sending the issues back to the Circuit Court for another trial. When the last verdict came before the Court in 1908, ten years had elapsed since the com
mencement of the suit and Scott Bibb's daughter Minnie had reached the age of seventeen years and his son Ambrose had reached the age of eighteen years. The Court then, for the first time, discovered that there was no constitutional right of trial by jury in a mandamus case originally brought in the Supreme Court, and, finding that the last verdict rendered by the jury was plainly and palpably against the evidence in the case, the Court set it aside, found that all the material facts alleged in the petition were true and that the relator was entitled to the writ of mandamus prayed for, and ordered the issuance of the writ, in and by which the city authorities of Alton were commanded to admit the then grown-up children of the relator to the public school in question. Two of the judges of the Supreme Court dissented from the judgment on the ground that the parties had a constitutional right of trial by jury in a mandamus case brought originally in the Supreme Court.
This case needs no comment. Res ipsa loquitur. It may be remarked, however, in passing, that after it had been commenced, but before it was finally decided, the Court held that it was vested with a sound legal discretion as to whether it would exercise its original jurisdiction in mandamus cases, and determined it would only exercise it for the protection of the rights, interests and franchises of the state and the rights and interests of the public, to enforce performance of high official duties affecting the public at large, and, in emergencies, in cases affecting local public interests or private rights, when there was no other adequate remedy and when the exercise of such jurisdiction was necessary to prevent a failure of justice; and this conclusion of the Court was based mainly upon the proposition that when, in a mandamus case, an issue of fact was made up, it became necessary to certify the case to an inferior court for trial by jury, thus occasioning unnecessary delay and inconvenience to the Supreme Court and to the parties interested. (People ex rel. Kocourek vs. City of Chicago et al., 193 Ill., 507; People ex rel. Taylor vs. Board of Education, 197 Ill., 43.)
C., B. & Q. R. R. Co. vs. PERKINS, 125 Ill., 127:
About the month of September, 1881, Bernard Dougherty, a tenant farmer, came to his death through a collision with a passenger train of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company. He left him surviving a widow and two children, aged nine and eleven years, respectively. His estate consisted of personal property not exceeding in value $1,500. His widow, as administratrix, brought an action against the railroad company and, in 1882, recovered in the Circuit Court a judgment for the sum of $4,000. This judgment the Appellate Court of the second district reversed for errors in the instructions given to the jury and remanded the action to the Circuit Court for a new trial. (C., B. & Q. R. R. Co. vs. Dougherty, 12 Ill. App., 181.) In 1883, the case was again tried in the Circuit Court where the plaintiff recovered a judgment for $5,000. This judgment the Appellate Court affirmed in 1884. (C., B. & Q. R. R. Co. vs. Dougherty, 14 Ill. App., 196.) The railroad company thereupon prosecuted an appeal to the Supreme Court, with the result that the court, two judges dissenting, reversed the judgment on the alleged ground that an instruction given for the plaintiff was erroneous and remanded the action to the Circuit Court for a new trial. (C., B. & Q. R. R. Co. vs. Dougherty, 110 Ill., 521.) A third trial of the case took place in the Circuit Court in 1886, and resulted in another judgment in favor of the plaintiff for $5,000. This judgment was affirmed by the Appellate Court and subsequently, on a further appeal, was, on May 9, 1888, affirmed by the Supreme Court. (C., B. & Q. R. R. Co. vs. Perkins, 125 Ill., 127.) The judgment was finally paid in September, 1888, after the denial of an application for a rehearing, and nearly seven years after the commencement of the suit. From the amount thereof there was deducted over $1,000 which the railroad company recovered as costs in the Appellate and Supreme Courts on account of the reversals of the first two judgments, leaving to the widow and children, after the payment of costs, printing bills, attorneys' fees, and other expenses, a little less than $3,000.
CHICAGO ANDERSON PRESSED BRICK Co. vs. SOBKOWIAK, 148 Ill., 573:
In June, 1887, a Polish laborer named Frank Sobkowiak was severely injured while working in a clay pit of the Chicago Anderson Pressed Brick Company. He commenced an action against the company in the Circuit Court shortly after his injury and a trial thereof, early in 1889, resulted in a judgment in his favor for $6,000. (C. A. P. B. Co. vs. Sobkowiak, 34 Ill. App., 312.) This judgment the Appellate Court, in December, 1889, reversed because, in its opinion, the damages were excessive and because of alleged errors in the instructions to the jury. The case was again tried in the Circuit Court early in 1890, the trial resulting in another judgment for the plaintiff for $6,000. (C. A. P. B. Co. vs. Sobkowiak, 45 Ill. App., 53.) This judgment the Appellate Court, in December, 1890, reversed on account of errors in the instructions to the jury and of the award of excessive damages to the plaintiff. The action was tried a third time in the Circuit Court and the result was that the plaintiff obtained a verdict for $8,500, from which $2,500 was remitted, and judgment was entered in his favor for $6,000. This judgment the Appellate Court in December, 1892, affirmed. (C. A. P. B. Co. vs. Sobkowiak, 45 Ill. App., 317.) From this judgment of affirmance the defendant prosecuted an appeal to the Supreme Court, where, nearly seven years after the commencement of the suit, on January 16, 1894, the judgment was affirmed. (C. A. P. B. Co. vs. Sobkowiak, 148 Ill., 573.) After the appeal was taken and perfected from the Appellate Court to the Supreme Court, and while the case was being held "under advisement" by the latter Court, the defendant company, as well as the surety on its appeal bond, became insolvent and Sobkowiak never realized a dollar on his judgment.
The last two cases are referred to, not for the purpose of criticising the decisions of the Appellate and Supreme Courts upon the questions of law and fact involved, but merely as illustrations of a class of cases, very large in number, in which the litigants on one side are poor and weak and on the other are