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“Do you take daily exercise ?”
After he had been engaged in this business for several years and been exposed in the newspapers, the Tennessee Bar Association denounced him as “an ignorant tyro, charlatan and fakir," and pronounced his college of law as “an arrant fraud and humbug.”
At length proceedings were commenced upon the relation of the Bar Association of the state, and the charter of “ The National College of Law" was forfeited. Thereupon, for a time, he continued his nefarious work under the name of “The Nashville College of Law" and “The Nashville College," for he had three charters from the state. His operations were finally brought to an end by indictment and conviction in the United States Circuit Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. He was indicted for making a fraudulent use of the mails and, upon conviction, was sentenced to four months in jail and to pay a fine of five hundred dollars and costs. The sentence was suspended until the further order of the court, upon the condition that the man pay into court twentyfive dollars and file an affidavit showing his inability to pay the fine and setting forth the fact that he would never at any time again engage in any such educational scheme. This he promptly did, and he has ever since been in retirement.
In 1897 an exposure was made of the operations of “The National University of Chicago.” This institution existed only on paper, and for a money consideration it scattered its degrees not only over the United States, but extended the scandalous traffic to England, Germany and India. Its conduct was denounced in the British Parliament, and the board of administration of Oxford University called public attention to its misdemeanors. The papers of Germany discussed the matter under the head of “American Diploma Swindlers."
American degrees have been brought into such disrepute in Germany that when Andrew D. White was ambassador of the United States at Berlin they were made a feature of a comedy which he witnessed at the Royal Theater in that city.
The difficulty is that in the United States there is no supervision over the degree-conferring power. General laws exist in almost all our states which permit even the most irresponsible persons to incorporate and confer degrees. An extreme instance of the extent to which the abuse has been carried is shown by a statement made upon reliable authority that in “the good old reconstruction days” of Louisiana a few men organized themselves into a board of trustees of a university in that state, and met and elected officers. At this the first and only meeting the board ever held the secretary moved that the degree of LL. D. be conferred upon the president. This was carried, and then the vice president moved that the same degree be conferred upon the secretary. This was likewise done, and before the meeting adjourned the degree had been conferred upon each member of the board. An adjournment followed and the trustees never reassembled.
Legislation is necessary, not merely as a protection against palpable fraud, but as against institutions with a real faculty and curriculum of study, but with such low standards of admission and graduation that their degrees do not represent those attainments in learning which justify the honors conferred. In Europe state supervision is provided, but in this country there is little or no check on the abuse of the degree-conferring power.
A degree has a legal sanction and authority. According to the courts the power to confer it is derived from the legislature. (5 Wendell 211-217; 3 Wharton 445; 62 Vermont 373.) Degrees “confer honor, influence and respectability to a certain extent.” A degree in law, or medicine, or dentistry, or pharmacy is, in some states, “a valuable property right of great pecuniary value.” To confer degrees upon the illiterate and unworthy is to destroy their value and bring reproach upon the whole degree system. The abuse of this degree-conferring power has been likened by the courts to the witty French minister who threatened to create so many dukes that it would be no honor to be one, and a burning disgrace not to be one.
It is full time for this Association of American Law Schools and for the American Bar Association also, to go on record on this important subject and initiate a movement to secure, so far as may be possible in all the states, a uniform law for the protection of the law degrees. The right to confer the LL. B. degree should be prohibited to schools which do not require a high school education for admission and a three years' course of law study for graduation. Other schools should have authority to grant simply the degree of B. L., or perhaps the right should be restricted to the two year schools. The right to confer the degree of L. M. should be restricted to those schools which have the right to confer the degree of LL. B., and which require an additional year's work done in residence. The degree of LL. D. should be made by law a purely honorary degree to be conferred simply causa honoris. The degree of J. D. should only be conferred by schools having the right to grant the degree of LL. B., and should be bestowed only upon those who have obtained a degree in arts or science. Recommendations to this effect will go to the Bar Association on Thursday, from the Committee on Legal Education. It is to be hoped that that Association and this Association will co-operate in the accomplishment of this great reform.
It is impossible longer to view with complacency the conferring of the LL. B. degree for one year, or even two years of law study. Now that there are sixty-four law schools in this country which grant it only to those who have studied for three years, it is not less disturbing to find schools conferring the master's degree in law at the end of a second or third year.
THE OPPORTUNITIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
OF AMERICAN LAW SCHOOLS.
FLOYD R. MECHEM,
With two bodies dealing in general with the subject of legal education, the Section of Legal Education and this Association, meeting annually, and with occasionally a third, the Conference of State Boards of Law Examiners, each endeavoring to present papers and arouse discussion, it is obvious that the number of new questions which anyone may hope to suggest is necessarily small. Most of the important questions have already been discussed, many of them more than once, and anything which is now presented is likely to smack of the truism or the platitude.
The very remarkable increase, however, both in the number of American law schools and in their attendance, suggests some questions concerning their influence upon American law and their responsibility for its development which seem worthy of consideration.
In a government like our own, a government “ of laws and not of men,” the question of the influences which have the most to do with the actual growth and development of the law cannot fail to be of importance.
One does not need in such a presence as this to call attention to the pre-eminent part which the legal profession takes in the making of our laws, whether in the form of constitution, statute or judicial decision. It is doubtless true that in every constitutional convention that has ever sat the most influential members, if not a clear majority, have been lawyers. In every legislature, both state and national, the same condition exists. While in respect of the law evolved by judicial decisions, which yet remains the largest and most vital department of our law, the legal profession holds undisputed sway. The judges who decide the causes, the advocates who argue them, all are lawyers coming from a common source.
If we assume that in these various functions of law making, constitutional, legislative and judicial, the participants are actuated by some conscious motive, that they are aiming to create good government, enact wise provisions and enforce justice among men, and then consider the question of the ideals toward which they aim, the standards of wisdom and fitness which they will seek to establish, the sentiments of justice by which they will be governed, it will be evident that the forces which play the most conspicuous part in the formation of these ideals, in the establishment of these standards and the arousing of these sentiments, must be worthy of attention. The influences which mould the lawyer are among the most potent of those which shape the welfare of the state.
In the making of the lawyer the law schools of the past have certainly taken a most important part. To estimate properly their effect we must take into consideration not only those who came directly within their walls as students, but also the vast numbers who indirectly fell beneath their influence.
Large as was the number, for example, of those who listened to regular instruction in the class room at Harvard Law School in the days of Story, Greenleaf, Parsons and Washburn, they were few compared with those whose legal learning was obtained by the constant study of those great books, the classics of our American law, which these teachers produced, a situation wholly without a parallel in any other school or any other time. Great as was the army of young men who yearly came to listen to the lectures of Judge Cooley and his associates, it was small compared with the number of those who in every part of the land were poring over his published books. Great as was the fame and influence of Judge Story and Judge Cooley and Chancellor Kent as judges, everyone will agree with me in saying that their reputation rests vastly more upon the books which they wrote as law teachers than upon the