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Referendum Measure No. 2, Entitled: “An act providing for the construction, maintenance and operation of a system of storage and irrigation works for the purpose of irrigating lands in Grant, Adams, Chelan and Douglas counties, including lands in the Quincy Valley; creating a state reclamation board, and providing for the sale of state bonds not exceeding $40,000,000 in amount.”
Amendment to the Constitution Proposed by the Legislature.
Entitled: "An amendment of Section 33, Article 2 of the State Constitution, enabling alien residents of this state to acquire by purchase and hold lands lying within municipal corporations, and providing for the escheat of such lands to the common school fund in case the owner thereof becomes a non-resident of the state for the term of five years.”
Measures Nos. 3 and 8 received substantial majorities; all others were defeated by a large vote. It is possible these rights (initiative and referendum) have been and may again be abused, but so are all others exercised by human beings. If every right is to be taken away or curtailed because misunderstood or abused by some, the very right to eat and live must go with the others. The remedy is not in their denial or unnecessary restriction, but in a perfect education of the masses to their true intent and purpose. None are better equipped for this line of public service-for such it is—than lawyers. In this, as in all other things, we should meet our obligation in conformity with the spirit of our institutions and our own opportunities and light.
Initiative Measure No. 3, thus enacted into law by a direct vote of the people, involves a moral and economic rather than a partisan political question, and the law will not be permitted to remain on the statute books until every resource of those antagonizing it is exhausted, nor is it probable it will become a permanent fixture until at least one more vote is taken thereon. Since its constitutionality has been attacked and yet remains undecided by the Supreme Court no reference need be made to its validity in its present form. Many well-informed men, close students of economic conditions, claim its enactment and enforcement will be a calamity. Maybe so, but without trespassing on the field of the temperance lecturer, may I be here permitted the suggestion that while I have been known to indulge in a mint julep with evident relish, and to stow away a few light drinks, such as whiskey and brandy, I have never yet seen or heard of the man who made any money buying and drinking intoxicating liquors, or who was any better husband, father or citizen by reason thereof. In the event the Supreme Court sustains the law, it should be given a fair and impartial trial. That it will disturb business conditions for a time, especially in the larger cities, seems reasonably certain. It would be too optimistic to suppose otherwise. What has hitherto been considered and classed as legitimate business enterprise cannot be eliminated without injecting
a disturbing element. Hundreds of buildings heretofore devoted to the liquor traffic will either become temporarily vacant, or will be occupied by tenants who in turn will leave other buildings vacant, and many wage-earners will be out of their usual employments. Nevertheless these conditions should and in all human probability will adjust themselves to the new order of things within a comparatively short time. Much depends on the manner in which the law shall be generally received by the whole public. If there shall be an honest desire on the part of all to conform to the law and meet the new economic conditions with a sincere desire to see good times and as little disturbance as possible in the business situation, there is nothing to fear. On the other hand, should any considerable portion of the population join with those financially interested in the liquor traffic in an endeavor to depress business and financial conditions, much uncertainty and some depression is liable to follow. A complete readjustment should not require more than two or three years.
The most important decision rendered by our Supreme Court since the last meeting of this Association is the Brislawn case, dealing with the power of the Legislature to tack emergency clauses to laws when passed. Early in the last session of the Legislature numerous bills were introduced and some passed carrying an emergency clause, embracing every variety of acts, from authority to construct a bridge over a slough to appropriation bills. Twenty-seven bills were thus passed, many of them over the governor's veto, and after the decision mentioned probably twenty-five or thirty emergency sections were dropped from bills on final passage.
The State Constitution provides that “the second power reserved by the people is the referendum and it may be ordered on any act, bill, law, or any part thereof, passed by the Legislature, except such laws as may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions;" and with these exceptions no law shall take effect until ninety days after adjournment of the Legislature passing it. House Bill No. 54, Ch. 6, page 19, Session Laws 1915, carrying an emergency clause, was passed over the governor's veto. It amends Section 6605 R. & B. Code and reorganizes the board of State Land Commissioners by eliminating the tax commissioners and substituting elective officers. Immediately upon the passage of the law over the governor's veto the elective officers named in the law (land commissioner, secretary of state and treasurer) claiming to be the board of State Land Commissioners, undertook to organize and do business as such, whereupon Brislawn and Jackson, members of the board under the old law, commenced quo warranto proceedings in the Supreme Court, claiming to be members of the board and advancing the contention that the act did not fall within the exceptions of the Constitution permitting emergency clauses, and could therefore not be effective until ninety days after adjournment of the Legislature. Respondents contended the legislativ declaration of emergency was conclusive upon the courts, while plaintiffs urged that a proper construction of the Constitution is necessarily a judicial question and before the court. It may thus be seen that the broad question of the power of the Legislature to deprive the people of the right of referendum by tacking an emergency clause to a law passed by it was the real bone of contention. It is difficult to imagine a more vital question to adherents of the initiative and referendum. The court divided, five judges holding for and four against the plaintiffs. This is evidence of the complexity and difficulty of the question, yet it has seemed to me easy of solution on first principles. The part of the Constitution quoted is found in the seventh amendment thereto, and gave the people of the state of Washington for the first time the right to initiate laws by popular petition and refer to the voters those passed by the Legislature. This evinces a clear-cut determination and intention on the part of the electors to hold authority over the Legislature and to undo its acts when believed to be inimical to public interest. How then can the intention be imputed to them to place it in the power of the Legislature to deny them this right by the simple expedient of declaring an emergency.
But the discussion of questions merely dealing with civil rights seems trivial when we remember that 30,000,000 men in Europe are industriously engaged in killing one another with the most devilish and effective devices known to the world in any age; when our sister republic on the south manifests an insatiable desire to commit starvation suicide; when Hayti is squalling and when the highest order of statesmanship and patriotism, backed by an enlightened and unselfish public opinion is the only thing that can save the United States of America from losing an honored position of neutrality and becoming a belligerent in the world-wide war now shaking the foundations of the earth and pounding triphammer blows on civilization itself. Yet in the great and trying hour of real necessity it is glorious to note that statesmen of the highest rank, scholars of the best repute, patriotic men and women of the best possible equipment for great service, followed by the great masses of the people, have laid personal ambition aside, forgotten partisan politics and subordinated all other considerations in a sincere desire and effort to assist those upon whom governmental control now rests in avoiding the horrors of war and at the same time maintain the honor and dignity of a great nation. When history takes her toll, and acts, deeds and influence are finally and carefully audited, our distinguished guest of honor will be found to be supreme in these respects.
The American people are peace-loving. They have no desire to kill their neighbors nor to encroach upon their territory or rights. They do not desire war with any nation. But they are a courageous and self-respecting people. They cannot and will not permit their national right, founded on international law and the universal law of humanity, to be trampled upon on land or sea with impunity. And the awful scenes which have been enacted by some of the warring nations should serve as a reminder that our state of preparedness is inadequate to meet conditions that may yet possibly be forced upon us. The exigencies of the situation as well as crystallized public sentiment, demand that while we devoutly pray that we may remain at peace with the whole world we should yet immediately prepare to resist encroachments the international turmoil may bring forth.
In all these matters members of the bar have a distinct obligation resting upon them. From time immemorial our profession has stood for right, justice and fairness in all things. Its voice has sounded the golden note of liberty. Its hand has helped to lay the cornerstone of freedom in every land where freedom exists. It is an implacable foe of oppression, tyranny and bigotry. Of course I am not speaking of the occasional shyster we have had with us since the world was young and who unhappily promises to endure until the end of time. Reference is made to those who are lawyers in fact as well as name. That our profession has usually been judged by the least worthy member detracts not in the least from our responsibilities. When we take the oath of office as a lawyer these responsibilities are added to those of citizenship. Nothing less than the solemn and proper discharge of each can satisfy the traditions, ideals and ethics of the profession. We may each mould in our own way yet all for a common purpose and that the preservation of liberty, dispensation of justice and the wroughting of good to our fellowman. But our immediate and imperative duty is to contribute our full share toward the protection of this fair land and to aid in maintaining an honorable and permanent peace where the tree of freedom grows tall and strong and the flower of liberty is eternal in its beauty and fragrance.
THE BENCH, THE BAR, AND THE PEOPLE.
George Turner, Spokane. It is a fact which none recognize more clearly than members of the bar, that that high respect for the courts which the American people inherited from their ancestors of the mother country, and which has distinguished the people of both countries in the past, has been much shaken and weakened in this country in recent years. The result is seen in an increased spirit of lawlessness, and in assaults on the independence of the courts which, if successful, would destroy most that is valuable in them as agencies in the administration of the law. Much has been written and spoken on the subject, particularly with respect to concrete proposals put forth by the assailants of the courts, intended confessedly to weaken their independence and make them responsive to the popular will. Not much that is new can be said on any branch of the subject, and I take it that not much needs to be said to an assemblage of lawyers and judges, on the branch of the subject last referred to. Our training and experience on the bench and at the bar, teaches us to know, and to know without doubt or misgiving, that an independent judiciary is essential to liberty and good government and the happiness of the people. We know also that the first to suffer from breaking it down, and the class that would continue to suffer, would be, not the wealthy male factors, or influential wrongdoers, but the great masses of the people themselves, comprehended under the term the common people; the farmer; the mechanic; the artisan; the middle man; and those occupying a lower position in the social scale, the poor and the humble, the weak and the inconspicuous. It is for such as these that constitutional limitations are written, and that independent judges are needed to interpose those limitations as a bar to wrong and injustice. Wealth and power need no constitutional protection when before corrupt or servile judges. Yet strange to say, it is to the common people that the strongest appeal against the courts is made and it will be through the misdirected and misguided action of that class that the courts will be wrought to their undoing, if these appeals should prove successful.
It is not my purpose, however, to discuss the recall of judges or the recall of judicial decisions, the principal concrete proposals put forth by those who would limit the independence of the judiciary by bringing it under the influence of the popular will. That has been so well done in his series of articles and addresses by our brother of the Minnesota bar, Mr. Rome G. Brown, that not much that can be said is left to be said against those proposals. I will content myself today with looking briefly at the influences which have produced the