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Full text of "[City documents, 1847-1867]"

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City Document — No. 3. 

REPORT 



OF 



COMMITTEE 



ON 



POLICE COURT. 




ROXBUEY: 

NORFOLK COUNTY JOURNAL PRESS. 

18 55. 



CITY OP ROXBURY. 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 with funding from 

_ , In Bo Aim of. Aidekmen, January 29, 1855. 

Boston Public Library 

Read, laid upon the table, and ordered to be printed. 

JOSEPH W. TUCKER 5 City Clerk. 



http://www.archive.org/details/citydocuments553roxb 



The Joint Committee of the Board of Aldermen and Com- 
mon Council, to whom was referred so much of the 
Inaugural Address of his Honor the Major, as refers to 
the establishment of a Police Court, respectfully 

REPORT: 

That they have duly considered that subject, and are 
unanimously of the opinion, that public good and private 
interest, so far as the latter is connected with a speedy 
and intelligent administration of the law, require the estab- 
lishment of a Police Court in this city. 

To such tribunal would be committed jurisdiction over 
criminal and civil cases. And in each of these departments 
it is highly necessary that a uniform practice should pre- 
vail, that the interpretation of the law should also be 
uniform, and that parties, often in their character and in- 
terests most deeply interested in its decisions, should feel 
assured that their fate or their property is dependent on a 
tribunal, combining with integrity of purpose, talent, learn- 
ing in the law, judicial sagacity and discrimination. 

The Bill of Eights of this Commonwealth recognises the 
claim of the citizen to speedy administration of justice. Of 
the abuses which have made the ministry of the law obnox- 
ious to criticism and reproach, a prominent one has been the 
delay of the comets on whose action depends the acquittal 
of the innocent, or the conviction and punishment of the 
guilty. A Police Court, open at all times, and vested with 
criminal jurisdiction extensive, or nearly so, as that of the 
Court of Common Pleas, would at once determine cases 



which are now subjected to long delay, awaiting the regu- 
lar session of the Court of Common Pleas. Persons 
charged with crime are now held for trial by order of a 
justice of the peace, and in want of bail for their appear- 
ance at Dedham, are confined in jail ; and thus, whether 
guilty or innocent, are subjected to penalty before trial. 
The intercourse thereupon had with persons already under 
sentence, cannot fail to demoralize the young : the confine- 
ment is unjust to those who may be found innocent, and 
even to the guilty it may be deemed hard, if not unjust, as 
not being an adjudged penalty for guilt. The prompt 
action of a court sitting in our midst would obviate this 
inconvenience and wrong. 

It is deemed, too, that the convenience of parties and 
witnesses would be greatly promoted, and the expense to 
individuals having business in the court would be reduced 
by the proximity of the tribunal to the place of their resi- 
dence. Such a court as is proposed, having cognizance 
not only of violations of the criminal law, but also having 
jurisdiction to the amount of one hundred dollars in civil 
cases, and of some forms of action affecting title to real 
estate, ought to be convenient of access to a population 
of nearly 20,000 people, over whom its jurisdiction would 
reach. 

The proximity of our city to Boston makes it the ready 
retreat of the dissolute and the reckless from that 
place : foreigners, who constitute a large part of our pop- 
ulation, and whose names are found in rank luxuriance and 
disproportion on the records of all our criminal courts, 
afford the same materials for disorder and punishment in 
our community, that they do in every other in the land. 
An efficient, learned and dignified court would do much to 
repress and to prevent the commission of crime by this 
class of our population. 

The experience of other cities in which city courts were 
early established, has been satisfactory ; and where there 



lias been discontent, it has been caused by personal consid- 
erations, sometimes narrow, rather than by any radical de- 
fect in the system. Police Courts now exist in Salem, 
Newburyport, Lawrence, Milford, Haverhill, Lowell, Cam- 
bridge, Worcester, Blackstone, Springfield, Adams, New 
Bedford, Fall River, and perhaps some other towns and 
cities. 

Upon looking to the question of expense, your commit- 
tee is of opinion, that the change proposed would be of no 
cost to the city, and probably would be the means of con- 
siderable saving. The returns of the last year, in the 
office of the Secretary of State, show 591 criminal proceed- 
ings in the city of Eoxbury. Estimating the magistrates' 
fee at $3 in each case, the amount of justices' fees during 
the year would have been $1773, not including fees in civil 
cases. - f Perhaps it would not be desirable that the Justice 
of the Police Court should be paid by the fees received in 
his office. The usage seems to be in favor of an honorable 
and fixed salary. But as it is not probable that the amount 
of it would be so high as $1700, and as the costs taxed 
for the magistrate in civil as well as criminal cases would 
then be paid into the city treasury, it is obvious that there 
are no economical objections to the measure. 

Your Committee are aware of a feeling in the commu- 
nity opposed to the creation of offices, and to increasing 
the machinery of the law. This is a laudable feeling : it 
is a healthy jealousy. It is one of the safeguards of lib- 
erty. Let it always be respected : in its healthy action let 
it be cultivated. But although the maxim that " power is 
daily stealing from the many to the few," should set us 
ever on our guard against abuses, still it must be admitted 
that it is for the benefit of the many that power is en- 

* Besides those cases which are included in the returns, there has been 
a large number of prosecutions for violation of the liquor law, instituted 
elsewhere. In ascertaining the amount of business, these should be con- 
sidered, as they would be brought before a Police Court. 



G 

trusted to the/ew. To this complexion must it come at 
last. 

In uncivilized or despotic countries the people have but 
few rights, and there is but little law. The forms of 
the latter are simple, its ministers arc few, its practice 
summary. As popular rights are developed and acknowl- 
edged, laws increase, and the officers and apparatus foran- 
noimcins and enforcing them likewise increase. Civilization 
and commerce advance, the ingenuity of enterprise projects 
new forms of business and nicer subtleties in contracts. 
The law must keep pace with this progress of the chang- 
ing community : and so, that arrangement for ascertaining, 
defining and enforcing the rights of the citizen, whose sim- 
plicity was well enough adapted to the wants of society 
in its primitive form, having accomplished its mission, 
ceases to be further appropriate or useful, and should give 
way to something more in harmony with the progress of, 
and corresponding to the wants of modern times. 

In conclusion, your Committee would say, that they have 
examined a law for the establishment of a Police Court in 
the city of Roxbury, passed by the last General Court, but 
which, not having been accepted by the citizens of Rox- 
bury, did not go into effect, and they recommend that the 
Mayor bo requested to procure the passage of a similar 
act by the Legislature now in session. 

For the Committee, 

CHARLES BUNKER, Chairman. 

In Board of Aldermen, Jan. 29, 1855.