City Document — No. 6.
JOINT SPECIAL COMMITTEE
NORFOLK COUNTY JOURNAL PRESS.
CITY OP ROXBURY.
In Common Council, February 12, 1855.
The Report of the Joint Special Committee on the Police Court came down
from the Board of Aldermen accepted, and the question being upon concurring in
their action, —
Mr. Williams, from the said Committee, submitted a Minority Report.
Upon motion of Mr. Cushing the whole subject was laid upon the table, and
the Minority Report was ordered to be printed for the use of the Council.
JOSHUA SEAVER, Clerk.
The undersigned, a Member of the Joint Special Commit-
tee to whom was referred that portion of the Mayor's
Address relative to the establishment of a Police Court,
respectfully submits the following
The Chairman of the Committee, in his report, inadver-
tently states that the Committee were unanimous in the
opinion that such a tribunal was desirable and necessary ;
but the undersigned, after considerable reflection, and such
examination as he has been able to bestow upon it, finds
himself compelled to differ from their decision, but after
stating briefly some reasons for his conclusions, will cheer-
fully leave the settlement of the question to the City
Council. With the arguments — the theoretical arguments
they might well be called — urged by the Committee, on
the importance of having justice speedily administered in
its bearing upon both the innocent and guilty, and upon the
community at large, we entirely agree ; but how the pres-
ent method of administering justice can be materially
changed, even by a Police Court, we are unable to foresee.
The arguments resting upon the jurisdiction of a Court,
by which all the evils stated by the Committee — such as
being held for their appearance at Dedham, and, in want of
bail, associating there with the guilty and vicious, &c. —
are to be removed, are at once disposed of by the fact, that
under a Police Court the state of things will be precisely
the same ; for the assertion that its jurisdiction will be
but little inferior to the Court of Common Pleas, we are
more largely indebted to the imagination of the author
of the Report, than to any section of the Revised Statutes,
or the customary experience of Police Courts.
This subject was before the Government of last year.
A bill was procured for a Court from the Legislature ; —
after a full discussion upon its merits, and our wants, it
Has any thing occured among us, since that time, which
calls more loudly for such a Court, than the reasons which
existed then? Notwithstanding some sentiments in the
Majority Report, which savors of severe criticism upon our
community, we contend, from a long acquaintance with the
people, that it is our pride — and justly should be, consid-
ering the number of our inhabitants — that ours is pre-
eminently a peaceful city. Crimes of magnitude are very
rare. Most of our offences are for drunkenness, or other
trivial causes. That it has not been absolutely necessary,
long ere this, to have had a Police Court, speaks volumes in
our praise as a law-abiding and staid community.
In considering the subject of expense, the Committee
give us the report of last year's criminal proceedings to be
591. From our information, and from the reports of our
Police Officers, this number is much larger than is justly
chargeable to us. Many of them come from neighboring
towns for adjudication : deducting which, our own would
hardly reach 500.
From an examination of the returns of criminal cases to
the Secretary of State, we find that Justices, in ordinary
cases, receive but $2.05 as fees in each case, instead of
$3.00, as stated by the Committee.
Our estimate of the expense of a well-appointed Police
Court would be somewhat as follows :
Salary of Judge, -
" Clerk, -
" attending Officer,
Rent of Room, and care thereof,
Furniture, stationery, incidentals,
Justices' fees, 500 criminal cases,
" " civil "
■ • $1,025
thus causing an annual expense of about $1,200, unless our
business shall largely increase ; and who desires that ?
We are happy to learn, from various sources, that our
number of criminal cases are sensibly diminishing. But
even if 500 be the future ratio, to sit upon these cases
would not, upon an average, require more than an hour or
two a day. If this be so, does it not seem folly to pen-
sion for all coming time, upon an enduring people, a judge
who shall receive for this comparatively small outlay of
time and service, a sum much larger than our Mayor or
City Clerk receive for the arduous service they render
the city ?
We should be slow, we think, to surrender into the hands
of any one man the whole judicial interests of the city.
Numbering 20,000 people, among them all — although
there may be many — we should hardly know upon whom to
lay hands and exclaim, Here is a man combining so
much " integrity of purpose, talent, learning in the law,
judicial sagacity and discrimination, 1 ' that any further exer-
cise of these faculties for the future, by the rest of the
community, will be unnecessary. A Judge, after he is ap-
pointed, is beyond our control. He may be harsh and
severe, as some undoubtedly have been. He may be too
lenient and easy toward offenders, as some no doubt are.
Or he may be cross, captious, overbearing and despotic in
his decisions ; but all this must be borne, or a long and
tedious process becomes necessary to get rid of him. Jus-
tice administered by such Judges, even though it should be
"uniform," does not seem so desirable to obtain, but that
we should well consider the risks to be run, before we
give into any hands those rights and prerogatives which
we have so long enjoyed and exercised. In the practical
operations of a Court, there will be some inconveniences?
which at first sight will not appear. In trials before Jus-
tices, especially in civil cases, the convenience of parties,
counsel, &c, are generally consulted, and such time ap-
pointed as may best suit all. The officers, too, on many
occasions, may desire warrants at once for the arrest of
parties. j which may be absolutely needed, or offenders will
have time to flee from justice. But all these things must
bend to the established hours fixed by the Judge for the
sessions of the Court. To one mind, and his rules, we all
must submit, when to others, were we left free, we should
We wish to be understood as arguing our present neces-
sity — whether a Police Court is, or is not now needed.
In the far distant future, when our business is two or
three times as great as it now is, its urgency but few could
With the dignified arguments of the Committee on the
rights of the people, their desire for speedy justice, so
learnedly stated, we do not quarrel. The desire expressed
so well, that genuine law should keep pace with civiliza-
tion, has our cordial concurrence. Yet we must express
our surprise that, from such well-laid premises, the Com-
mittee came to the ignoble conclusion to ask for a bill sim-
ilar to last year's ; for that expressly declares that the
jurisdiction of the Court shall be the .same, and no greater,
than a Justice of the Peace.
In conclusion, allow me to state that various changes'
might well be made in our manner of conducting trials.
A suitable room for trials should be provided, by the
Mayor and Aldermen, with responsible justices to try crim-
inal cases, who should also detail some officer, or other
suitable person, to superintend and keep a correct account
of trials, decisions, &c, under such regulations as their
wisdom might suggest. With, then, somewhat of that
jealousy, so well alluded to in the report of the majority,
against restricting the rights of the people, we therefore
deem it inexpedient to petition the Legislature for a Police