Mr. Schuyler to Mr. Fish.
St. Petersburg , April 15, 1875. (Received May 6.)
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that on the 19th of February, (3d of March,) the anniversary of the accession to the throne, the Emperor issued a decree extending the judicial reform to the provinces formerly constituting the kingdom of Poland.
There are some differences between the system applied to Poland and that introduced in 1864 into other parts of the empire, the most material of which are, that the justices of the peace in the towns are appointed by the government, and are removable at pleasure; that the judges of the superior courts are also removable unless they have served in the same capacity for three years; that the jury system is not applied, and that councils of advocates are not formed. As in the articles with regard to juries and to the removability of the judges the expression “until further order” is used, it is probable that the application of the new tribunals to Poland is looked upon as an experiment, and if it be successful they will be assimilated to t he Russian system. The introduction of the jury system would even be easier in Poland than in Russia, in consequence of the relatively general education of the country and the existence of the Code Napoleon, as well as of the fact that the jury system formed part of the old Polish jurisprudence.
Another very important difference between the Polish and Russian systems is, that by the terms of the law the government has the right of transferring matters from one court and district to another court and district. The importance of this is obvious when it is seen that the whole of Poland constitutes but one judicial district, and therefore it will be possible for the authorities to transfer cases from the kingdom to other provinces of the empire. In one respect the Polish system is far better than the Russian. The cantonal or gmina courts, with their elective justices, are retained much as they were instituted in 1864, and are assimilated to the courts of justices of the peace existing in the towns; appeals being taken to a general session composed of justices of the peace and of the cantonal judges. The cantonal or volost courts in Russia are in a bad state, and have nothing in common with the rest of the judicial system. The gmina or cantonal court consists of a cantonal judge and of not less than three lavniks or assistants, all elected for three years by the cantonal assembly. The judges must be residents of the canton, not less than twenty-five years old, with a right of participating in the affairs of the assembly, and must have either studied in some educational institution or passed a corresponding examination, or have served for three years in duties from which they could obtain a [Page 1061] practical knowledge of jurisprudence, and, besides, they must have a certain property qualification.
This part of the reform must necessarily exercise a beneficial influence, because it shows the confidence of the government in the rural population, and does not prevent the local nobility from taking part in public matters, as they are eligible for members of the cantonal courts. It is only by giving them in this way some share in public affairs that they will be brought into complete sympathy with the government.
I have, &c.,