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et generales, ou en les supleant par des arrets de reglement. Mais, pour eviter l'abus qu'on en a fait, il faut laisser au juge l'interpretation, sans laquelle il ne peut exercer son ministere. En effet, les contestations civiles portent sur les sens different que chacune des parties prete a la loi; ce n'est donc pae par une loi nouvelle, mais par l'opinion du juge, que la cause doit etre decidee. On craint que les juges n'en abusent pour juger contre le texte de la loi; s'ils se le permettaient, le tribunal de cassation aneantirait leurs jugements."
Le C. REDERER dit "que l'article IV donne trop de pouvoir au juge, en l'obligeant de prononcer meme dans le silence de la loi. Il appartient au juge djapplixuer la loi; il ne lui appartient pas de remplir les lacunes de la legislation, quand la loi garde un
Le C. PORTALIS repond "que le cours de la justice serait interrompu, s'il n'etait permis aux juges de prononcer que lorsque la loi a parle. Peu de causes sont susceptibles d'etre decidees d'apres une loi, d'apres un texte precis; c'est par les principes generaux, par la doctrine, par la science du droit, qu'on a toujours prononce sur la plupart des protestations." "En matiere criminelle le juge ne doit prononcer que lorsque la loi a qualifie de delit le fait qui est defere a la justice, et qu'elle y attache une peine; en matière civile, au contraire, le juge ne peut se refuser a prononcer indistinctement sur toutes les causes qui lui sont presentees, parceque, s'il ne trouve pas dans la loi de regles pour decider, il doit recourir a l'equite naturelle. Ce serait trop multiplier les lois, que de les faire naitre des doutes des juges." a'
a Titre Preliminaire, p. 27.
NOTE 7.-The minister of justice says, "that there are two kinds of interpretations, that of legislation, and that of doctrine; that the latter belongs essentially to the courts; that the former is forbidden to them; that when the judges are forbidden to interpret, it is evident that it is the Legislative Interpretation that is He quotes Article VII of the first act of the ordinance of 1667, which forbids the judges to interpret the ordinances. Trouchet says, that in order to re duce the judges to a state of purely passive, there has been an abuse of the prohibition put upon them by the Consituent Assembly, of interpreting the laws and making rulings. This prohibition had for its object only to prevent the courts from exercising a part of the legislative power, as the older courts had done, by fixing the sense of the laws by abstract and general interpretations, or by supplimenting them by rulings. But in order to prevent the abuse that has been made of it, one must leave to the judge the interpretation, without which, he cannot exercise his functions. In truth, civil disputes depend on the different sense that each of the parties gives to the law; it is not therefore by a new law, but by the opinion of the judge, that the case ought to be decided. It is feared that the judges may abuse this in order to decide against the text of the law; if they permitted themselves to do this, the superior courts would amend their decisions."
It is necessary to bear these explanations in mind, in perusing the following passages from the masterly discourse prefixed to these Discussions sur le Code Civil; and it is not less important to remember that in all civilized countries, except England, the United States of America, and ancient Rome, the jurisdiction of common law and of equity has been committed to the same courts, and that, by blending law and equity together, greater latitude is given to the judges in matters of property to modify the laws, in order to meet the purposes of justice in particular cases, than where the judges are bound by settled rules. With us, even in the courts of equity, which are supposed in some instances to admit of determinations according to conscience, and arbitrium boni viri, * but which really act upon settled principles, it has been a question with enlightened lawyers how far this most liberal description of equitable jurisdiction should be at any time permitted; and whether courts of equity ought not to be, in all cases, governed by general rules. On the one hand it is admitted, that if this were the case the consequence would inevitably follow, that a judge would sometimes be bound to pronounce decress which would be materially unjust; since no rule can be equally just in the application to a whole class of cases, that are far from being the same in every circumstance. But on the other hand it has been thought, that even this dreadful evil should be tolerated, to avoid a greater-that of rendering judges arbitrary, and their decrees so fluctuating, that the public could never trust to them as a rule of conduct. a
The observations of Lord Hardwicke upon this subject, (of the establishment of general rules in our courts of equity,) are enRaederer says, "that Art. IV gives too much power to the judge, by obliging him to decide even in the silence of the law. It belongs to the judge to apply the law; it does not belong to him to fill the chasms of legislation when the law observes an absolute silence."
Portalis replies, "that the course of justice would be interrupted if it were only permitted to the judges to decide where the law has spoken. Few causes are susceptible of being decided according to precise law and text; the greater part of disputes have always been decided by general principles; by doctrine, and by the science of law. In criminal matters, the judge must only decide where the law has designated as a crime, the deed which is remanded, (or deferred), to justice, and when it attaches a penalty to it. In civil matters, on the contrary, the judge cannot refuse to pronounce indiscriminately on all the causes presented to him, because if there are in the law no rules by which to decide, he must have recourse to natural equity. To let the laws spring from the doubts of the judges, would be to multiply them unduly."
a Lord Kames' Principles of Equity.
Story well explains the arbitrium boni viri, by the "Vir bonus est quis? Qui consulta patrum, qui leges juraque servat." Eq. J. vol. 1, p. 13. Courts of Equity are as much bound by precedents, as Courts of Law.
titled to great attention, and his remarks upon the subject of frauds seem quite conclusive upon that part of the subject. "Some general rules there ought to be, for otherwise the great inconvenience of jus vagum et incertum will follow; and yet the Prætor must not be so absolutely and invariably bound by them, as the judges are by the rules of the common law. In the construction of trusts, which are one great head of equity jurisdiction, the rules are pretty well ascertained; so they are in cases of redemption of mortgages, which makes another great branch of that business. But as to relief against frauds, no invariable rules can be established. Fraud is infinite, and were a court of equity once to lay down rules how far they would go, and no further, in extending their relief against it, or to define strictly the species or evidence of it, the jurisdiction would be cramped, and perpetually eluded by new schemes, which the fertility of man's invention would contrive." a
In the same letter, but in the handling of a different topic, (which will be the subject of notice hereafter,) Lord Hardwicke expresses a decided feeling against a measure, the tendency of which would be to make the judges of the common law, law-makers in matters of property. Not so, mutatis mutandis, the French codifiers; by whom some contempt is indicated for the practical wisdom of those "qui osent prescrire imperieusement au legislateur la terrible tache de ne rien abandonner a la decision du juge."
a Letter to Lord Kames; Lord Woodhouselee's Memoirs of the Life and Writ ings of Lord Kames; Parke's History of the Court of Chancery, Appendix, No. 4
NOTE 8. "Who dare imperatively to prescribe to the legislator, the terrible task of abandoning nothing to the decision of the Judge." "Whatever we may do proceeds this same profound and analytic discourse, positive laws can never entirely take the place of natural reason in the affairs of life. The wants of society are so varied; the intercourse of men is so active; their interests are so multiplied, and their relations so extended, that it is impossible for the legislator to provide for every thing. In the very matters which especially engage his attention, there is a crowd of details which escape him, or which are too conflicting and too changing to become the subject of clearly expressed letter of the law."
A multitude of things is then necessarily left to the rules of custom; to the discussion of learned men, or to the arbitrary decision of Judges.
The office to be performed by the law then, is to settle by broad views, the general maxims of law; to establish principles, productive of uniform consequences; and not to descend into the details of the questions which may arise on every occasion.
It is the duty of the magistrate, and the lawyer, imbued with the general spirit of the laws, to direct its application.
Hence, among all civilized nations, we always see formed by the side of the sanctuary of the laws, and under the controlling guidance of the legislator, a
"Quoi que l'on fasse," proceeds the same profound and analytical discourse, a "les lois positives ne sauraient jamais entierement remplacer l'usage de la raison naturelle dans les affaires de la vie. Les besoins de la societe sont si varies, la communication des hommes est si active, leurs interets sont si multiplies et leurs rapports si etendus, qu'il est impossible au legislateur de pourvoir a tout. Dans les matieres meme qui fixent particulierement son attention, il est une foule de details qui lui echappent, ou qui sont trop contentieux et trop mobiles, pour pouvoir devenir l'objet d'un texte de loi."
"Une foule de choses sont donc necessairement abandonnes a l'em pire de l'usage, a la discussion des hommes instruits, a l'arbitrage des juges."
"L'office de la loi est de fixer, par de grandes vues, les maximes generales de droit; d'etablir des principes feconds en consequences, et non de descendre dans le detail des questions qui peuvent naitre sur chaque matiere."
"C'est au magistrat et au jurisconsulte, penetres de l'esprit general des lois, a en diriger l'application."
"De la, chez toutes les nations policees, on voit toujours se former, a cote du sanctuaire des lois, et sous la surveillance du legislateur, un depot de maximes, de decisions, et de doctrine, qui s'epure journellement par la pratique et par le choc des debats judiciaires, qui s'accroit sans cesse de toutes les connaissances acquises, et qui a constamment ete regarde comme le vrai supplement de legislation."
"Il serait, sans doute, desirable que toutes les matieres pussent etre reglees par des lois."
"Mais a defaut de texte precis sur chaque matiere, un usage ancient, constant et bien etabli, une suite non interrompue de decisions semblables, une opinion et une maxime recue, tiennent lieu de loi. Quand on n'est derige par rien de ce qui est etabli ou connu, quand il s'agit d'un fait absolument Louveau, on remonte aux principes du droit naturel. Car, si la prevoyance des legislateurs est limitee, la nature est infinie; elle s'applique a tout ce qui peut interesser les hommes."
"Pour combattre l'authorite que nous reconnaissons dans les juges de statuer sur les choses qui ne sont pas determinees par les lois, on invoque le droit qu'a tout citoyen de n'etre juge que d'apres une loi anterieure et constante. Ce droit ne peut etre meconnu. Mais pour son application, il faut distinguer les matieres
a Discours Preliminaire, p. 20.
fund of maxims, of decisions and of doctrine, which is daily sifted by practice, and the collision of judicial debates, incessantly increasing by all the knowledge acquired, and which has constantly been regarded as the true supplement of legislation.
It would doubtless be desirable, that all cases should be decided by laws.
criminelles d'avec les matieres civiles," &c. "En matiere criminelle, ou il n'y a qu'un texte formel et pre-existant qui puisse fonder l'action du juge, il faut des lois precises et point de jurisprudence. Il en est autrement en matiere civile: la, il faut une jurisprudence, parcequ'il est impossible de regler tous les objects civils par des lois.'
Quand la loi est claire, il faut la suivre; quand elle est obscure, il faut en approfondir les dispositions. Si l'on manque de loi, il faut consulter l'usage ou l'equite. L'equite est le retour a la loi naturelle, dans le silence, l'opposition, ou l'obscurite des lois positives."
The tenor of these passages, (for the citation of which, from so interesting a work, no apology is considered necessary to the intelligent reader,) may perhaps be thought, in some measure, to confirm Bacon's sagacious opinion:-" Apud nonnullos receptum est, ut jurisdictio que decernit secundum equum et bonum, atque illa altera quæ procedit secundum jus strictum, iisdem curiis deputentur ; apud alios autem, ut diversis :-Omnino placet curiarum separatio. Neque enim servabitur distinctio casuum, si fiat commixtio jurisdictionum; sed arbitrium legem tandem trahet." a Even as it is, when the jurisdictions are separate, does not this effect appear to be produced; arbitrium legem trahere? how has the statute law been dealt with?
Where so much is left to the discretion of the Judges, it is desirable to know whether any rules are prescribed for their government, and the guidance of that extensive discretion.
a De Aug. Scient. lib. 8, c. 3 aph. 45.
"But in default of a precise direction for every case, ancient customs constant and well established; an uninterrupted series of similar decisions; opinions, or received maxims, take the place of law. When we are directed by nothing that is established or known; when a case absolutely new occurs, we go back to the principles of natural law. For if the foresight of the legislator is limited, nature is infinite, and her rights apply to all that can interest men.'
"To contest the authority that we acknowledge in Judges of deciding things that are not determined by the laws, we appeal to the right of every citizen of being judged only in accordance with an anterior and fixed law. This claim cannot be ignored, but for its application we must distinguish between civil and criminal cases, etc."
"In criminal matters, where there is only a formal and pre-existing text which can sustain the action of the Judge, precise laws are needed, and no jurisprudence. It is otherwise in civil matters; there jurisprudence is needed, because It is impossible to settle all civil cases by the laws."
"When the law is clear it must be followed; when it is obscure, its intent must be investigated. In the absence of law we must consult custom or equity. Equity is the return to natural law in the silence; in the opposition, or in the obscurity of the positive laws."