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take those four men and put them in the attorney-gencral's office,-as attorney-general, deputy, first and second assistants, and I believe that they would do better work than any attorney-general's force that we have ever had in the state of Wisconsin, and I have known all the attorneys-general and their assistants for the last 25 years. Now this was a position which did not pay a large salary, but if we had been giving an examination for the first assistant attorney-general I think that we should probably have had a larger number of applicants, and I have no doubt but that we could have filled all of the legal offices that were to be filled several times over. And I say to you that we are very much pleased with the result in Wisconsin, and if I were to pick out four lawyers in the State of Wisconsin to select for this position, I do not know where I would go and pick out four men that I would sooner have than the men who stood highest on the examination.
I hesitate a little to say anything because I have already spoken once this evening, but the subject is naturally one that interests me a good deal, and there are one or two matters connected with it about which I feel a desire to testify. In the first place, I want to say something on the question of confidential positions. Now I do not altogether agree on this point with some of the gentlemen that have preceded me. I do think that there is an element of confidence in a legal relation, extending even to the subordinates of a legal relation, which is somewhat greater than that which exists in the ordinary routine business. Moreover, I do not agree that there is less reason for that confidence, for secrecy, as it has been said, in conducting the public business of the government, the litigious public business of the government, than there is with regard to a private litigation. I must say though that that view seems to be very widely diffused. I think that most of the representatives of the newspapers think that the Attorney-General ought to conduct the litigation of the government with their advice as to everything which he does, or at all events by taking them into his confidence not only as to what he does but what he in
tends to do at various definite or indefinite times in the future. But I do not think that if any gentleman had had the experience which I have had in the past ten months he would maintain any serious doubt that there was just as good reason for keeping to yourself the business of your client, when that client happened to be the United States, or any other political entity, as there is for keeping it to yourself when it is a private citizen. But the real point of the story is this, that for confidential positions you do not want people who are selected for political reasons; you want people who are selected through confidence on your part in their integrity and honor, and it is, to say the least, not the strongest recommendation as to a man's integrity and honor that an influential politician wishes him appointed. It may be that that is a recommendation, but there are other recommendations which are weighed. Now I think it is perfectly proper, by a proper system of examination, to obtain for subordinate legal positions, in any public office entrusted with the litigation for the public, men who represent all the guarantees of integrity which you could obtain under any circumstances unless from personal acquaintance with the individuals, and that is utterly impossible for you to have. The head of one of the departments of the government at Washington cannot, in the nature of things, kuow one per cent of his subordinates probably, personally, or know anything about their lives, or, at all events, not know enough about them to form any intelligent opinion as to their fitness for confidential positions, and as a matter of fact I think it will be found that persons chosen by competitive examination have proved particularly well fitted for confidential positions. They are just the class of people in general in whom one can place confidence with assurance that it will not be abused.
There is one other point that I want to say a word about, and that is as to the selection of the higher classes of subordinates; that is to say, of subordinates who are assistants, who are junior counsel to the head of an office of that description. Provided the head of his office is allowed to select his own assistants, provided the man
who has the responsibility for the success or failure in litigation is allowed to select his own assistants, without interference from outside sources or on grounds outside of the welfare of the department itself and the success of his work, and if he is of course a competent man, which was presumed in trusting him with any duty of that character, I think that he can select assistants of that character as well from the actual competition which they have had at the bar, for every practicing lawyer is undergoing, if he is in active practice at all, an actual competitive examination under circumstances where there can be little doubt as to the practical results of the test. Now if the head of the office, as I say, has a free hand in selecting his subordinates there he will be led by his own interest and the regard for the success of his work to select men who will practically do as well as if they were chosen by any other system. The difficulty is that in a great many offices of this character, partly for one reason and partly for another, the head of the office has not a free hand. Sometimes he has it under the law, but by reason of political influences-I am not now speaking particularly of my own case, of course—but by reason of political or other influences he is not able to exercise the same free choice which he otherwise would. In other cases it is limited by the law and the appointment of his assistants or their selection is placed in other hands. Now what criticism I think is to be made on that system depends on the source of the selection and the reasons for the choice and I believe that it is perfectly practicable to choose, even for those higher places, the men by a system in which competitive examination will have some part. I do not think that it could be a decisive part; but I should advise in any practical application of it to a public office, that it stop at the point where the duties become those of assistants and advisers to the head and not merely his subordinates and that from that point on the effort be to give as nearly as possible a free hand to the man who has the responsibility. In any case the power of removal, I think, ought to be unlimited. The arrangement under the present federal practice is perfectly satisfactory according to my experience in that regard. There
is not the slightest difficulty in getting rid of an undesirable subordinate and the only requisite is that you give him an opportunity to state in writing the reasons why he should not be removed, but I would not go beyond that in any case and especially I would not go beyond it in a case involving participation in the legal work of a department of that character.
Oral Examinations and Practical Tests.
CHARLES S. FOWLER, CHIEF EXAMINER NEW YORK STATE
CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.
The civil service examination system is in a certain sense only a negative remedy for the evils which it tries to cure. I mean this, that such a benevolent despotism is conceivable that it might be considered better and safer to leave to the despot the entire selection of
public servants in minor capacities or major capacities. The civil service examination system was devised primarily to obviate certain observed evils and it has grown from a plan devised to obviate or prevent political influence in appointments and the use of public office for the promotion of personal or political ends into a machine for something a little bit broader than that. There is another difficulty in the way of the benevolent despotism and that is the difficulty of the despot knowing his constituency sufficiently well to pick out the best people for appointment. The civil service examination has therefore its positive side. We think, those of us who are intimately connected with the actual operation of the civil service examinations and civil service rules, that there are a good many cases where we discover people particularly suited for not only the lower subordinate places, but even for places of considerable responsibility, wlio would not otherwise have been known to the appointing officer or the appointing power at all. But the negative character which was first important in the devising of the system ;-that is, the system was devised to prevent somebody from doing something that he ought not to do ;-has always put it upon the defensive. The system of examinations has been an open field for criticism by public officers, spoilsmen and disappointed office seekers and for years the prevailing cry was the unpractical nature of the examination set. A whole lot of the talk on that subject was without any founda