W[illiam] T[ownsend] McCoun et al. to R[euben] H[yde] Walworth, 18 February 1829
February 18th, 1829.
We have recently been appointed a committee of the New York law institute, which is composed of all the principal members of the bar of this city, to take such steps as may be thought necessary towards procuring the passage of a law for the appointment of a vice-chancellor to reside here.
We have it in contemplation to present the subject to his excellency the governor, as we deem it a matter of great importance, and to ask him to recommend it to the particular attention of the legislature; but before we do this, we beg leave with all frankness to submit to you our views of the necessity which exists for the measure, and to request the favor of your communicating to us your own opinion concerning it. Every one acquainted with the court of chancery, or who has been conversant in it during the last few years, cannot but have observed the overpress of business upon the chancellor, and must have perceived that whatever industry and exertions may be used, the powers of no one man are adequate to the discharge of the duties of that office; and we apprehend that those duties are likely to increase under the new revised laws, which confer upon that court, some additional jurisdiction. It is therefore manifest that something should be done to relieve the chancellor from a portion of his labors, otherwise great ruinous delays must soon be incurred in causes depending in that court.
The best way in which this relief can be given is to take off the weight of the business arising within this city, by appointing, a vice-chancellor to reside here and to hold the court, whose time and attention shall be wholly and exclusively devoted to it. This it appears to us, will afford the chancellor sufficient relief, and at the same time be the means of despatching the business.
The legislature however, have already proposed a remedy in the revised laws, by constituting the circuit judges, vice-chancellors. We are confident this plan, as far as regards the city of New-York, will not answer the purpose. Our experience fully shews that there is sufficient equity business in this city to keep the court constantly engaged, and to require that the person holding the courts should not be called off to attend to other duties. And we are likewise convinced that the judge of the first circuit (notwithstanding the successful experiment of the superior court) will continue to have in his own courts, including the criminal side, which is often very laborious, as much business as will fully occupy him; and that it is in vain for us to hope that he will be able to hear and dispose of the causes in the court of chancery also; many of which are very heavy, and require the most patient investigation and research. It is therefore very certain from the unavoidable pressure of other business upon the circuit judge, that if we are obliged to depend upon that officer, as proposed in the revised laws, the chancery business of this city can not be got through with, and the consequence will be an almost total suspension of the powers of that court as respects this city, or delays amounting almost to a denial of the benefit and advantages to be derived from our equity system, which we in common with the rest of the state, are entitled to enjoy. We may add, moreover, that if this plan is adhered to, which requires that suits in equity shall be brought before the circuit judge where he has jurisdiction, (as will with few exceptions be the case here) and the hearings must take place before him in the first instance, instead of the chancellor, then we shall be in a much worse condition than we are now under the present system, and shall not enjoy equal advantages with other suitors who may be so fortunate as to be able to sue before the chancellor himself or other circuit judges, where the same causes for retarding the proceedings or delaying the decision do not exist.
These sir, are among the reasons which induce us and our constituents to urge that provision should be made for the appointment of an officer, other than the chancellor or circuit judge, to perform the duties of chancellor in this city. They show the necessity which exists for it; and that the plan adopted in the revised laws, will not answer the intended purpose. We are satisfied our opinions are well founded, and should your honour coincide with us, we shall be much gratified to have your opinion of the necessity or propriety of the measure, that we may lay the subject before his excellency the governor, and take such other steps as may be deemed advisable to bring the matter under consideration in the legislature. We have the honor so be, with great respect, your most ob’t serv’ts,
GEO. W. STRONG,
GEO F. TALMAN,
JAMES I ROOSEVELT, Jr.