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Josiah Gregg

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The only tribunals of 'justice' in New Mexico are those of the ordinary alcaldes or justices of the peace; and an appeal from them is carried to the Supreme Court in the department of Chihuahua. The course of litigation is exceedingly simple and summary. The plaintiff makes his verbal complaint or demand before the alcalde, who orders him to summon the defendant, which is done by simply saying, "Le llama el alcalde" (the alcalde calls you) into his presence, the applicant acting thus in the double capacity of constable and complainant. The summons is always verbal, and rarely for a future time instant attendance being expected. Should the defendant refuse to obey this simple mandate (which, by the bye, is a very rare occurrence), the alcalde sends his baston de justicia, his staff of justice, an ordinary walking-cane, distinguished only by a peculiar black silk tassel. This never fails to enforce compliance, for a refusal to attend after being shown the staff, would be construed into a contempt of court, and punished accordingly. The witnesses are sometimes sworn upon a cross cut on the baston de justicia, or more frequently, perhaps, upon a cross formed with the finger and thumb. Generally speaking, however, the process of examination is gone through without a single oath being administered; and in the absence of witnesses, the alcalde often proceeds to sentence upon the simple statements of the contending parties. By a species of mutual agreement, the issue of a suit is sometimes referred to hombres buenos (arbitrators), which is the nearest approximation that is made to trial by jury. In judicial proceedings, however, but little, or rather no attention is paid to any code of laws; in fact, there is scarcely one alcalde in a dozen who knows what a law is, or who ever saw a law-book. Their decisions, when not influenced by corrupt agencies, are controlled by the prevailing customs of the country.

Josiah Gregg

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The administration of the laws in Northern Mexico constitutes one of the most painful features of her institutions. Justice, or rather judgments, are a common article of traffic; and the hapless litigant who has not the means to soften the claws of the alcalde with a 'silver unction,' is almost sure to get severely scratched in the contest, no matter what may be the justice of his cause, or the uprightness of his character. It is easy to perceive, then, that the poor and the humble stand no chance in a judicial contest with the wealthy and consequential, whose influence, even apart from their facilities for corrupting the court and suborning witnesses, is sufficient to neutralize any amount of plebeian testimony that might be brought against them.

Josiah Gregg

It may already be generally known perhaps, that the predominant party, in Mexico, (and particularly in the North), is decidedly anti-masonic. During my stay in Chihuahua I had an opportunity to test their antipathy for that mysterious brotherhood. This was evinced in the seizure of a dozen or two cotton handkerchiefs, which, unknown to myself, happened to bear the stamp of the 'masonic carpet.' These obnoxious articles having attracted the attention of some lynx-eyed friars, one day, much to my consternation, my store was suddenly invaded by the alcalde and some ecclesiastics. The handkerchiefs were seized without ceremony, and by an auto de fe [act of faith], condemned to be publicly burned.

Josiah Gregg

I do not forget the position, assumed by some, that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding, in any case, upon the parties to a suit, as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.

Abraham Lincoln

Rarely cited by the Supreme Court today, Justice Black is generally viewed by the Court (as he was by Bickel) as too 'absolutist,' too unyielding, too unresponsive to other societal needs. But the Pentagon Papers case may, even now, best be recalled in Justice Black's opinion, the last he would write on the Court.

Hugo Black

Judy: [yelling at defendant, who is being sued for bleaching plaintiff's clothes and has just cursed at plaintiff in court] LISTEN TO ME!!! Where do you think you are? You think you're on Springer? [audience laughs] You're NOT! You're NOT! You wanna go to a therapist, go someplace else---
Defendant: No, I don't need a therapist.
Judy: Listen to me!
Defendant: I don't need to see a therapist... [continues trying to talk over Judy]
Judy: Only one person is going to have--only one... judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $5000! Your counterclaim is dismissed!
Defendant: Excuse me? No! What about my computer? But what about my computer? But what about my computer?
Judy: [getting up to walk off the set] That's all. Your counterclaim is dismissed.
Defendant: ...and you just gonna walk away like that? That don't even make no sense! What about my computer, I don't get no chance to say nothin'...
Judy: [over defendant's continued protests] I told you - I told you: it's my playpen, I have the word. Goodbye, go someplace else!

Judith Sheindlin
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