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The Death of Sir JOHN BUDD PfiEAB, Kt., Late ChiefJustice of Ceyion.
Monday, April 10, 1905.
Present .-—The Hon. Sir Charles Peter Layard, Kt., C.J.,and the Hon. Frederick Charles Moncreiff, P.J.
Before beginning the work of the day the ‘Chief Justice,addressing the Solicitor-General, as representing the Bar, said: —
Mr. Solicitor,—Before we commence the work of the day, Idesire to express the great regret with which this Court hasread the announcement of the death of Sir John Budd Phear,one of the most distinguished of my predecessors.
Unfortunately for his contemporaries and for the Colony atlarge he did not continue very long as Chief Magistrate of thisIsland. During the short time he presided on the Bench he wonthe respect and regard of his colleagues and of the whole body<of the legal profession, by ‘whom he was much beloved.
His, sterling ability and unflagging industry were his mostremarkable characteristics, and his kindliness to the youngermembers of the Bar will ever be remembered by those who “hadthe good fortune to come into direct contact with him.
He earnestly endavoured to eradicate from our procedurefictitious causes of action, and the subsequent over-ruling of hisdicta on that point I, for one, have ever regretted.
Though he has passed away, his lucid and clear expositions ofthe law have left an indelible mark in the administration of injusticein this Colony.
Mr. Bamanathan, K.C., C.M.G., said: —
My Lord,—On behalf of the Bar, and for myself, I can onlysay that you have accurately described the qualities of the lateSir John -Budd Phdar. He was indeed one of the most distin-guished Judges that ever graced the Bench of the Supreme Court.He occupied a great position in India, not only as a Judge oft^e High Court of Calcutta, but also as a man of great publicspirit who took an abiding interest In the welfare of the nativesof the country. He was deeply appreciated in India. On resign-ing his appointment there, he accepted the office of Chief Justice•of this Island. That was in 1877, nearly eight and twenty yearsago. I was then comparatively young at the Bar.
( f*s )One of the first services he rendered to the profession was theinstitution of a weekly publication of authorized reports of casesdecided in appeal by the Supreme Court. He found that theJudiciary of the Island went without authorized law reports, andthat it was not unusual in those days for Judges to hear caseselaborately argued, only to find later on that the very pointsinvolved in them had been argued before and determined byearlier Judges. The ruinor Magistrates also had no opportunityof becoming familiar in proper time with the decision of theAppellate Court. Sir John corresponded with the Governmentand brought about the publication of the Supreme Court Git*culaf. I was selected by him in 1878 as its first editor. Hiascheme still lives in the present New Law Reports.
^.Another service earned for him speedily the gratitude ofthe whole Island. At the time he assumed office the SupremeCourt had gone greatly into arrears. Cases sent up in appeal layundisposed of for eighteen months, much to the inconvenience ofsuitors. Sir John Phear addressed himself to the task of render-ing speedy justice in appeal, even as you, my lord, with the helpof your colleagues, are endeavouring in these days. He intro-duced the routine of Appellate Judges sitting almost every dayin the week. By assiduous work he cleared off all arrears in thecourse of eighteen months, which contributed not a little to the« peace of the country and to the elasticity of trade in the Island.
Another service, the highest and best in the estimation of theBar, was his training of the Bar and his demonstrating to it thetruth that the so-called “ uncertainty of the law ” Is nothing more*than the uncertainty of ill-trained Judges as to the true facts ofthe case and the proper principles of law applicable to it. In.those days your lordship, who was practising at the Bar, willremember the state in which the Bar was, for want of good example-in the art of pleading. Sir John severely condemned inaccuratestatements of facts, and was ever on his guard against the colouringgiven to a case by inconclusive arguments. He cared naught for theopinions of counsel. He would accept, pacts opd legal principlesonly. He trained the members of the Bar to be not onlyaccurate in regard to the facts of the case, but also guarded in theexpression of opinions. He had a way all his own of manifestingerrors of thought and faults in reasoning. Above all, he made*the Bar argue cases upon first principles of law. Before hiaadvent^ legal principles were’ of little avail in the determination:of a case unless supported by a judgment of a competent Courthere or in England. After Sir John’s arrival, if in arguing a*case an advocate cited a. decided case without going into first
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principles, his lordship would say, “ I do not want authorities;let us solve this case even as a mathematician would solve aproblem, by applying^ the axioms and propositions we havelearned in our Books.” Advocates were thus encouraged to lookup tiie first principles of law applicable to the case and to carefullyapply then<.
Sir John Phear would often help them in the art of applyingprinciples to facts. If they passed on to authorities toospeedily, he would say:”We do not want authorities just yet;
they are only of corroborative value. Let us solve the questionby the proper application of first principles, and then lookinto authorities to discover whether our conclusions on < firstprinciples are corroborated by them. ’’ In this way first principlesbecame paramount. Before his time legal principles had becomeso elastic and uncertain by pronouncements from the Bench thatit was difficult to advise clients. During Sir John Phear’a timethese difficulties disappeared. Lawyers were able at the outsetalmost to prophesy what would be the result of a case inappeal. Training such as this one can never forget, nor cease tobe grateful for.
The grandeur of Sir John Phear’s intellect and character is■universally recognized at the Bar. They deeply regret his death,and will be pleased if the sympathy of the Bench and Bar couldbe conveyed at once to the family of Sir John Phear..
The Chief Justice directed that a note of these proceedings bemade in the minutes of the day, and a copy thereof forwarded toMiss Phear..