Justice, Courts of. Judicature Acts. The superior Courts of Justice, prior to the passing of the "Judicature Acts, 1873-75," consisted of the Courts of Chancery, Queen's Bench, Common Pleas, Exchequer, Admiralty, and Probate and Divorce. The jurisdiction of all these were by the above Acts transferred to and became vested in the High Court of Justice, so as to effect a union and consolidation of these several courts, and the London Court of Bankruptcy has since been added thereto as a division of the High Court, and all these courts therefore now constitute (in conjunction with the Court of Appeal, newly established by such Acts) one single supreme tribunal wherein is administered both law and equity; so that if any plaintiff, petitioner, or defendant shall advance an equitable claim or defence, such relief is now given therein as theretofore given by the Court of Chancery, and so that all legal claims, demands, and liabilities existing by common law, custom, or statute, are recognised and given effect to therein as theretofore by any of the above-mentioned courts. A short summary of the jurisdiction of the several courts now amalgamated as above is all that our limited space will admit of.
1. The Court of Chancery, otherwise called the High Court of Chancery, always deemed in matters of Civil property the most important of any of the superior Courts of Justice, was the principal court in which that part of the law of England known as Equity was enforced, and it is said to have taken its name from the judge who presided over it, the Lord Chancellor. [Equity; Chancellor.]
2. The Court if Queen's Bench, so called because the sovereign used formerly to sit there in person, whence the style of the court was coram ipsa regind, was the supreme Court of Common Law in the kingdom. Yet though the sovereign himself used to sit in this court, and still in contemplation of law is supposed so to do, he did not, neither by law is he empowered to, determine any cause or motion but by the mouth of his judges, to whom he is deemed to have committed his whole judicial authority. The jurisdiction of this court was very high and transcendent. It kept all inferior jurisdictions within the bounds of their authority, and might even remove their proceedings to be determined before it or prohibit their further progress below. It superintended all civil corporations in the kingdom. It commanded magistrates and others to do what their duty required in every case where there was no specific remedy. It protected the liberty of the subject by a speedy and summary interposition. It took cognisance of both criminal and civil causes, the former in what was called the Crown side, and the latter in the plea side of the court. It enjoyed a general jurisdiction and cognisance over all actions between subjects, except matters affecting the revenue of the Crown and matters appertaining to the realty.
3. The Court of Common Pleas (otherwise known as the Court of Common Bench) took cognisance of all actions between subject and subject, including real actions and actions appertaining to the realty. This court was also in modern times entrusted by the legislature with an exclusive jurisdiction in election matters on appeal from the decisions of the revising barristers and in some other matters as under the Parliamentary Electors'Act, 1868, and the Corrupt Practices (Municipal Electors) Act, 1872. And from the judgments of this court proceedings in error lay primarily to the Exchequer Chamber and ultimately to the House of Lords.
4. The Court of Exchequer was at first intended principally to order the revenues of the Crown, and to recover the sovereign's debts and duties, though it afterwards acquired (by usurpation founded on a legal fiction) the additional character of an ordinary court of justice between subject and subject. The court is said to have derived its name from the chequered cloth (Scaccarinm), resembling a chessboard, which covered the table there and on which certain of the king's accounts were made up, the sums being marked and scored with counters. It was formerly a Court of Equity as well as a Court of Common Law, but its equitable jurisdiction was taken away by a statute passed in the early years of the present reign. The judges were called Barons.
5. The High Court of Admiralty had jurisdiction to try and determine all maritime causes - that is, all injuries committed on the high seas - and, generally speaking, and with the exception of any case otherwise provided for by Act of Parliament, all causes so triable must be causes arising wholly upon the sea, and not within the precincts of any country.
6. The Court of Bankruptcy; 7. The Court of Probate; and 8. The Court- of Bivorce and Matrimonial Causes, will be found dealt with under their several titles in this work.
Such having been the several courts which were united and consolidated together into the High Court of Justice, it is now constituted a superior Court of Record, and to it is transferred the jurisdiction which, when the Judicature Acts came into operation, belonged to all and any of the several courts as already specifically mentioned: as also the common law jurisdiction which at the same time belonged to the Palatinate Courts at Lancaster and Durham, and also the jurisdiction appertaining to such courts as are created by commissions of assize, of oyer and terminer, and of gaol delivery, or by any of such commissions. The members, i.e. the judges, of the High Court of Justice consist of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice of England, the Master of the Rolls, and puisne judges, and the judges of the Court of Probate and Admiralty.