This section of the book is from the "Introduction To Public Finance" book, by Carl Copping Plehn.
We now come to those expenditures that are treated as conferring a benefit divided between the particular individual who pays for what he gets, and the people as a whole who pay in the general taxes for the general or common benefit. The first and oldest of these is the expenditure for the courts. The adjudication of disputes between different persons was one of the earliest functions of government. The payment of the costs was originally thrown upon the suitors.
But modern governments conceive that it is in the common interest to have justice universally administered. Upon the general and accurate administration of justice depends in great measure the prosperity of business. But either as a preventive of too frequent litigations or on account of the special benefit supposed to accrue to the suitor, the costs are divided, and one part paid by the people, the other — a minor part — by the suitor. In criminal cases the whole cost, practically, falls on the State ; in civil cases the attempt is generally made to assess the cost upon the party at fault. In England, the cost of the judicial system is £3,787,167. A large part of the local administration of justice is rendered without emolument by the Justices of the Peace. The United States federal expenditure for this purpose is about $7,000,000. The commonwealths, the counties, and the cities spend much more, making a total of over $23,000,000. Besides the mere deciding of disputes and of criminal cases, the judicial departments perform other legal functions of importance, as, for example, the probating of wills, the disposing of property of intestates, etc. Somewhat similar legal functions are performed for the special benefit of the individual citizens by the administrative branches of the government, as registration and legalising of deeds, mortgages, marriages, and other contracts, the granting and registration of copyrights, trademarks, patent rights, corporation rights, etc.
In the United States the courts have developed a number of legislative and administrative functions of great importance. As the interpreters of the federal and commonwealth constitutions, they have had to meet new conditions, and indicate the bearing of the constitutions thereon. They have often been called upon to interpret the meaning of constitutional customs that have grown up outside of the written documents, and have in this way given those customs a certain degree of legal prominence. They were formerly in some of the commonwealths (following an old English custom) allowed to determine the tax levy or apportionment. Quite recently, by the use of injunctions, they have exercised a sort of administrative control over industry, especially as affects the relations of employers and employees in industrial monopolies of public importance, as for example common carriers. In the control of municipal corporations, both by punishing illegal acts and compelling due compliance with discretionary duties, they have largely performed the functions exercised by the administrative departments in Europe.1 In all this work they are considered as acting for the common benefit. 1 See Goodnow, Municipal Home Rule.