Founding Principles Guide AJS at the Century Mark

By Hayes, Dennis Courtland | Judicature, May/June 2013 | Go to article overview
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Founding Principles Guide AJS at the Century Mark


Hayes, Dennis Courtland, Judicature


This issue of Judicature coincides with the official launching of the American Judicature Society's centennial celebration. On July 15,1913, AJS was incorporated in the State of Illinois under the name "American Judicature Society to Promote the Efficient Administration of Justice." The word "Efficient" was later replaced with "Effective." Fittingly, this issue contemplates not only the Society's glorious past and present, but it also anticipates a bright future.

It is shortsighted for one to see only the names, along with those special qualifications as evolved, of AJS' all-star cast of ten founders: Herbert Lincoln Harley, newspaper manager and editor; Frederick W. Lehmann, past ABA president; Woodbridge Ν. Ferris, U.S. Senator and Governor of Michigan; Col. Nathan William MacChesney, Chicago bar member; Roscoe Pound, Dean of Harvard Law School; Albert M. Kales, Northwestern University Law School faculty; John H. Wigmore, Dean of Northwestern University Law School; Harry Olson, Chief Judge of the Municipal Court of Chicago; John B. Winslow, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin; and James Parker Hall, Dean of University of Chicago Law School. Equally instrumental to AJS' successful creation, and most relevant to the celebration of the Society's 100th birthday, was the vision, planning, and management of the reform movement for which the Society was created to serve; a mission expressly stated in its name, which was, and is, the development of a fair and effective justice system.

An unplanned social exchange about inefficiencies in America's judicial system, occurring between two men (Harley and one Charles Ruggles, a millionaire businessman known today as the godfather of AJS) while aboard a sail boat, culminated in the creation of AJS, the sole membership organization in America that would be exclusively focused on maintaining the integrity of America's judicial system. Subsequent discussions between Harley and Ruggles led to a successful fundraising campaign, staked by Ruggles's generous initial contributions, to incorporate AJS and develop a business plan that would include indispensable organizing tools, such as membership acquisition, coalition building, and public education.

Strategic in the specific reforms that AJS would initially set out to accomplish, the founders laid out an ambitious plan for advancing long-term policies that would improve the administration of justice. These projects included:

* drafting a model judiciary act that would guide the reorganization of every state judiciary;

* establishing better methods for selecting judges that reduce political influences and heighten the importance of professional qualifications, judicial demeanor, and impartiality;

* promulgating a code of judicial ethics in collaboration with the American Bar Association;

* establishing procedures for discipline or removal of unethical judges;

* improving legal education methods and curricula and recruiting the most competent students to the legal profession;

* modernizing court structure and hierarchy;

* incorporating specialized scientific analysis and research into court improvements;

* simplifying civil and criminal procedures;

* developing model structures for written court decisions;

* establishing a journal and adopting a corporate structure for AJS; and

* promoting plans for lobbying before state legislatures.

None of the Society's early agenda items were easy to address or implement. Undoubtedly, carrying the plan to fruition required unyielding commitment and constant vigilance of the expressed goals. Along with any movement will come unintended consequences that must be rectified, troublesome mutations of old problems thought to have been solved, and the realization that each action produces an equal and opposite reaction-the hard truth being that there are always others working just as hard in opposition to one's goals.

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