Henry W. Swift


In 1901, Henry Swift was appointed to the office of Reporter of Decisions. He contributed volumes 177 through 233 of the Massachusetts Reports. Mr. Swift handled between 400 and 500 cases per year, and produced approximately four volumes of reports a year.

One of Mr. Swift's tasks as Reporter was to attempt to raise the monetary compensation for his office. In a letter from the Supreme Judicial Court to Mr. Swift, the court stressed that it was reasonable for his compensation "to increase somewhat, but not very much".

In 1908, Mr. Swift found the reports far behind. The court's suggestion was to hire a "young lawyer" at $1,000 per year and use another $1,000 for additional help and expenses. The court suggested this move in lieu of help from a clerk, a Miss Douglass. (Letter to Swift from Supreme Judicial Court, January 5, 1903) Mr. Swift hired Ethelbert Grabill to help, but the new attorney did not replace Miss Douglass.

Beginning in April of that year, Mr. Swift solicited help from Mr. Grabill. Mr. Swift handed the duty of making the indexes over to Mr. Grabill. Mr. Swift and Mr. Grabill consulted, and Mr. Grabill wrote that he helped in "other minor ways." (Grabill's letters, December 7, 1920)

From April 1, 1908, through October, 1908, Mr. Swift and his staff worked with no vacation. During this time, their goal was to produce no less than seventy decisions per month in order to update the court's reports. Miss Douglass worked from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. daily and on Saturdays from 9 A.M. until 2 P.M. (Letter to Hon. Henry E. Turner, Auditor of the Commonwealth, October 14, 1908)

Mr. Swift then sought relief in the Legislature. Specifically, he sought to raise the salaries of his staff and acquire extra funds for additional expenses. Mr. Swift retained Miss Douglass. In letter correspondence between Mr. Turner and Mr. Swift, Mr. Swift requested an extra month of salary for his entire office staff.

The outcome provided no increase in salary, but the Commonwealth gave Mr. Swift $6,000 for the next year and $4,500 the years after that for other expenses. These funds would enable him to catch up with the Reports and to keep up, according to a letter written by Mr. Grabill in 1920. The rate at which Mr. Swift was to report the decisions was still fixed at $2,000 per year, a number that had not changed since 1892. (Mr. Grabill's letter, December 7, 1920) In 1911, Mr. Swift also increased the salary of the assistant clerk, Ellen Crozier.

Throughout his career as Reporter, Mr. Swift sought to put his employees needs first. He recognized that, without their dedication to editing and reporting cases in a timely fashion, his office would fall far behind.

Office of the Reporter of Decisions  

The Reporter of Decisions makes true reports of decisions upon all questions of law argued by counsel before the Supreme Judicial Court and the Appeals Court, and prepares them for publication, in print and electronic form, with suitable headnotes, tables of cases, and indexes.

Massachusetts Court System  

The Massachusetts court system consists of the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, the Executive Office of the Trial Court, the 7 Trial Court departments, the Massachusetts Probation Service, and the Office of Jury Commissioner.