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in Virginia. A few statements of fact and corrections of misunderstandings, and I am done. The proposed Bill does not make the Torrens System compulsory, but leaves it optional with every man whether or not he will register his land. The cost of original registration is uncertain, but should be moderate. It is certain that no such permanent improvement to real estate of equal value can be made at equal cost: and no one need undertake the cost who does not believe it will pay. The cost of registration will be only once incurred, and will avoid the endless examinations of title now in vogue. After registration titles can be passed quickly, cheaply, and with certainty: and certificates of title will be useful for quick loans, small loans, and short loans. The Act will afford absolute protection against secret loans, and pocket deeds will be worthless. The Act will promote the buying of homes, and will prevent losses by defective title. The “good fellow” who goes to village, town, or city and gets on a spree will not be able in a drunken moment to swallow his home and uncover the heads of his innocent wife and defenceless babes to the cruel storms of life, any more than he can now do so, even though he may have his certificate of title in his bottle pocket. A deed must be presented along with the certificate before any transfer can be made. The Act is not “for the benefit of the money sharks”, but will help the farmers and every one who owns or deals in real estate. It will also benefit the Commonwealth in many ways. What was “ good enough for our fathers” is not necessarily “good enough for us”. If there were anything in that so-called argument, we would have to surrender the steamboat, railway, telephone telegraph, and many other blessings of the 20th Century. “Our fathers'' struck out for themselves, and we honor them because they were Revolutionists and achieved better things not only for themselves but for succeeding generations. We will do well to follow their example. And finally, it is neither sacrilegious nor criminal to attempt a reform of the land laws. This much in answer to some of the “strong points" scored “by our friends the enemy” in the last House of Delegates.
THE DUTY OF BENCH AND BAR.
· It was charged by a number of newspapers last winter that
the proposed Bill was defeated in the Legislature by a few lawyers who feared it would injure their business. That the leaders of the opposition were lawyers, is true; but that such honorable gentlemen fought the bill from personal and selfish motives, I am not prepared to believe. For members of the bar have always been ready to sacrifice private aims for public purposes, and no country can produce more illustrious exemplars of this fact than Virginia. The patrons and advocates of this measure in the General Assembly are among those to sustain this statement, and furnish full proof that members of the Virginia bar are still mindful of the glorious traditions of our profession. If it be shown, as I believe it has been, that the endless examinations of title required by our present land laws obstruct dealings in lands, depress values, and operate as a perpetual and unjust tax upon buyers and borrowers, I am satisfied that the honorable members of my profession will unite with me in endeavoring to relieve the people of these burdens. Brethren of the Virginia State Bar Association I appeal to you for your potent aid in securing the reform of our land laws
Code of Ethics
Adopted July 24, 1889-Minutes 1889, Vol. II, Page 25.
The purity and efficiency of judicial administration, which under our system is largely governmental itself, depends as much upon the character, conduct and demeanor of attorneys in their great trust as upon the fidelity and learning of courts or the honesty and intelligence of juries.
“There is, perhaps, no profession, after that of the sacred mininstry, in which a high-toned morality is more imperatively necessary than that of the law. There is certainly, without any exception, no profession in which so many temptations beset the path to swerve from the line of strict integrity; in which so many delicate and difficult questions of duty are constantly arising. There are pitfalls and mantraps at every step, and the mere youth, at the very outset of his career, needs often, the prudence of self-denial, as well as the moral courage, which belong commonly to riper years. High moral principle is his only safe guide; the only torch to light his way amidst darkness and obstruction.”--Sharswood.
No rule will determine an attorney's duty in the varying phases of every case. What is right and proper must, in the absence of statutory rules and an authoritative code, be ascertained in view of the peculiar facts, in the light of conscience, and the conduct of honorable and distinguished attorneys in similar cases, and by analogy to the duties enjoined by statute, and the rules of good neighborhood.
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