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The People v. Benedict





WRIT OF ERROR to the Circuit Court of Macon County; the Hon. BIRCH E. MORGAN, Judge, presiding. MR. JUSTICE BRISTOW DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This case reaches this court on writ of error from the circuit court of Macon County, wherein defendant was charged and convicted of taking indecent liberties with a female under 15 years of age and sentenced to the Illinois penitentiary for an indeterminate term of one to twenty years.

The defendant contends that his guilt was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt; that various errors of a prejudicial nature occurred in the course of the jury trial; and that the court was without jurisdiction since the presiding judge was a judge of the county court of Piatt County, requested to preside in the circuit court of Macon County pursuant to statutes for interchange of judges, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1957, chap. 37, pars. 297, 298,) which are violative of section 29 of article VI of the Illinois constitution.

In September, 1956, the defendant was a resident of Niantic, Illinois. He owned a 40-acre tract of land on which was situated an old two-story frame house, in which George Knowles, his wife Pauline, and their five children dwelled. The child involved is Margaret Ann Knowles, age 5. The defendant was 57 years of age.

On September 27, 1957, the sheriff of Macon County was informed of an improper relationship between the defendant and the children of the Knowles family, whereupon defendant was brought to the sheriff's office, where he admitted committing indecent acts with Margaret Ann Knowles. He signed a statement to the same effect, and on trial admitted the verity of his sworn confession. Without further detail, we are of the opinion that the record clearly demonstrates defendant's guilt as charged.

Complaint is made here that the court committed prejudicial error in the trial of this cause. The State called several witnesses to prove that defendant's general reputation for truth and veracity was bad in his neighborhood. It was contended that their testimony was improperly received because their names were not endorsed on the indictment. The People were not in a position to know whether the defendant would take the stand, and not until then would impeaching evidence be appropriate. However, the defendant was accorded an opportunity to interview the State's rebuttal witnesses prior to their being placed on the stand to testify.

The questions propounded by the State on reputation were faulty in that the word "general" was omitted, but this technical omission was not mentioned at the trial or in the motion for new trial. Specific objection was urged that there was not sufficient foundation laid for such proof to be proper. We believe the trial court acted properly in refusing defendant's motions for mistrial and continuances because of any irregularity in their proof that defendant's reputation for truth and veracity was bad. People v. Billings, 372 Ill. 433, 441; People v. Mandrell, 306 Ill. 413, 420; People v. Jennings, 298 Ill. 286, 288.

Without merit also is defendant's contention that the court erred in giving certain instructions submitted by the State, and in refusing to submit to the jury several instructions tendered on defendant's behalf.

Defendant urges as a further ground for reversal that the court was without jurisdiction, since the statutes for interchange of judges under which authority the county judge of Piatt County presided in the circuit court of Macon County, violate section 29 of article VI of the constitution.

The controverted statutes in substance authorize the interchange of county and probate judges with each other and with judges of the circuit, superior, town and village and municipal courts of the State; and the relevant constitutional provision requires that all laws relating to courts shall be general and uniform in operation, and that the organization, jurisdiction, powers, proceedings and practice of all the courts of the same class or grade, so far as regulated by law, shall be uniform.

The practice of the interchange of judges between trial courts of record is by no means new or novel, either in Illinois or in other jurisdictions. It is authorized in the interest of the expedient disposition of litigation in practically every jurisdiction (30 Am. Jur. 745; 48 C.J.S. 1027), either pursuant to constitutional or statutory authorization, or both. Minn. Const. art 6, § 5; Fla. Const. art. 5, § 2; N.Y. Const. art 6, § 14a, 15a; Wis. Const. art. 7, § 11; Wis. Stats. § 252.13; Ark. Const. art. 7, § 22; Mo. Const. art. 5, § 15; Va. Const. § 97; Pa. Stats., Title 17, § 226, 225; Mich. Comp., Laws 1948, § 607.5; N.J. Stats. 2A 6-11; West Va. Stats. 5204; New Hamp. Stats. 491:3; Tenn. Stats. 17.207, 209, 220.

Although our review of the law of other States does not purport to be exhaustive, interchange is allowed not only among courts of identical jurisdiction, but wherever the administration of justice requires (Missouri constitution), or among courts of different units of government, or among those which hear different kinds of cases. (Duncan v. T.I. McCormack Trucking Co. 31 N.J. Super. 480, 107 A.2d 71; Cormack v. Coleman, 120 Fla. 1, 161 So. 844; Pa. Stats. Title 17, § 226; State ex rel. Thompson v. Day, 200 Minn. 77, 273 N.W. 684; State v. McCarver, 194 Mo. 717, 92 S.W. 684; Tenn. Stats. 17.207, 209, 220; Mich. Comp., Laws 1948, § 607.5; New Hamp. Stats. 491:3; Wisc. Stats. § 2432; Atkins v. State, 148 Tex. Cr. 523, 182 S.W.2d 723; Pierson v. State, 147 Tex. Cr. 15, 177 S.W.2d 975; McEachin v. Martin, 193 Ark. 787, 102 S.W.2d 864.) However, since analogies to the judicial practices of other jurisdictions necessitate consideration of the particular State constitution, and court organization as well, the value of such analogies is limited, and tends to be obscured by a maze of details. Consequently, we will confine our attention to the Illinois statutes and decisions respecting the interchange of trial court judges.

The Illinois courts have uniformly approved judicial interchange statutes. Although the practice antedates the constitution of 1870, it neither refers to nor prohibits the practice; hence, the court in Jones v. Albee, 70 Ill. 34, inferred that there was no constitutional intention to bar such a practice, and sustained a statute of 1873 providing that judges of the circuit court or superior court of Cook County may request any judge or judges of any other court of record to come to their assistance and hold a branch of the court with the same force and effect as if he were the judge of such court. The court stated that while the constitution requires such circuit judge to reside in the circuit in which he is elected, he is not, either in terms or by implication, prohibited from holding court in another circuit. That decision was reaffirmed in Hall v. Hamilton, 74 Ill. 437.

In Pike v. City of Chicago, 155 Ill. 656, the court upheld a statute, enacted in 1879, authorizing the interchange of county judges. The court reasoned that since such practice obtained in the circuit court, county courts, as courts of record, were entitled to the same privilege, particularly since the constitutional provision establishing them showed a plain intent that they should not be regarded as inferior tribunals (Bostwick v. Skinner, 80 Ill. 147; Propst v. Meadows, 13 Ill. 157), and the legislature could confer upon them the same jurisdiction as exercised by the circuit court.

In City of Moline v. Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Co. 262 Ill. 52, the court sustained the constitutionality of the act of 1885 providing that, at the request of the clerk of the court, county and probate judges could perform the duties of one another in case of the sudden death or incapacity of such judges. The decision that there was no violation of section 29 of article VI of the constitution was based on the fact that the jurisdiction of the courts is distinct from the eligibility of the judges, and, therefore, the court's jurisdiction was in no way affected by such interchange. The court specifically held that the fact that the jurisdiction of the courts was not coextensive would not preclude ...

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