The Star Chamber (Latin: Camera stellata) was an English court of law that sat at the royal Palace of Westminster until 1641. It was made up of Privy Councillors, as well as common-law judges and supplemented the activities of the common-law and equity courts in both civil and criminal matters. The court was set up to ensure the fair enforcement of laws against prominent people, those so powerful that ordinary courts could never convict them of their crimes. Court sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, and no witnesses. Evidence was presented in writing. Over time it evolved into a political weapon, a symbol of the misuse and abuse of power by the English monarchy and courts.
In modern usage, legal or administrative bodies with strict, arbitrary rulings and secretive proceedings are sometimes called, metaphorically or poetically, star chambers. This is a pejorative term and intended to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the proceedings. The inherent lack of objectivity of any politically motivated charges has led to substantial reforms in English law in most jurisdictions since that time.
Famous quotes containing the words star and/or chamber:
“Don Pedro. To be merry best becomes you; for, out o question, you were born in a merry hour.
Beatrice. No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but then there was a star danced, and under than was I born.”
—William Shakespeare (15641616)
“A snake, with mottles rare,
Surveyed my chamber floor,
In feature as the worm before,
But ringed with power.”
—Emily Dickinson (18301886)