Court of Common Pleas (England)

Court Of Common Pleas (England)

The Court of Common Pleas, or Common Bench, was a common law court in the English legal system that covered "common pleas"; actions between subject and subject, which did not concern the king. Created in the late 12th to early 13th century after splitting from the Exchequer of Pleas, the Common Pleas served as one of the central English courts for around 600 years. Authorised by the Magna Carta to sit in a fixed location, the Common Pleas sat in Westminster Hall for its entire existence, joined by the Exchequer of Pleas and Court of King's Bench.

The court's jurisdiction was gradually undercut by the King's Bench and Exchequer of Pleas with legal fictions, the Bill of Middlesex and Writ of Quominus respectively. The Common Pleas maintained its exclusive jurisdiction over matters of real property until its dissolution, and due to its wide remit was considered by Sir Edward Coke to be the "lock and key of the common law". It was staffed by one Chief Justice and a varying number of puisne justices, who were required to be Serjeants-at-Law, and until the mid 19th century only Serjeants were allowed to plead there.

As one of the two principal common law courts with the King's Bench, the Common Pleas fought to maintain its jurisdiction and caseload, in a way that during the 16th and 17th centuries was categorised as conservative and reactionary. Reaching an acceptable medium with the King's Bench and Exchequer of Pleas proved to be the downfall of all three courts; with several courts of near-identical jurisdiction, there was little need for separate bodies, and the superior courts of Westminster were merged by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873 into a single High Court of Justice. With an Order in Council issued on 16 December 1880, the Common Pleas Division of the High Court ceased to exist, marking the end of the Court of Common Pleas.

Read more about Court Of Common Pleas (England):  Jurisdiction

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