English Common Law Background Paper Example

Before the Norman Conquest in 1066, there was no single system of law common to the whole country. Instead, a varying range of unwritten, local customs were upheld throughout the countryside. Although, the law systems were specific to local communities and locally enforced, the general effect of these laws were similar in application. Legal disputes were generally resolved by local sheriffs, the courts of the shires and in the feudal courts held by landowners. This system was extended to hear civil cases in 1285. Over time the judges began to establish a system of law common to the whole country- the common law.

By t1400, courts were staffed by professional judges. The common law system slowly developed as judges tended to make judgments based on the decisions of previous rulings in related cases. In certain circumstances, judicial precedents even became binding rather than merely useful guidance, 2. What is the relationship between “Common Law” and “Equity”? (100 words) Common law became rigid; that, coupled with expense and delay led to an increasing number of unhappy citizens. They petitioned the king directly to exercises his royal prerogative as the ‘ fountain of justice.

’ In certain situations the common law was directly challenged by equity. The matter was referred to King James I, who decreed that, even where a case had been decided at common law the Court of Chancery could intervene, Therefore equity prevailed over the common law. Over time, equity continued to develop and became more systematic. Equity is a source of law in England and Wales, but it is not part of the common law. 3. Why do we need a system of courts? (100 words) Courts are a set of institutions to enforce rules and regulations. Without them, there would be no legal system and society would devolve to unsystematic lawlessness.

Court systems ensure equally applied justice over an entire societal group, promoting security and harmony among communities. Rules and regulations cannot stand alone and achieve maximum effect; they must be coupled with a ruling, enforcing agency – which, is the court system. The combination of higher courts and lower courts are also necessary for adequate balance within the justice system; they offer the mechanism for individuals to bring appeals arising from the outcome of cases in lower courts. 4. In what ways may the courts within the English system be classified? (100 words) Courts may be classified in a number of different ways.

Within the English system, courts are classified based on 1) the types of cases which they hear and 2) the personnel who hear and decide those cases. There are three groups of courts in the English system: Firstly, the criminal and civil courts. Sometime a particular set of facts can give rise to proceedings in both courts. For example, if you were knocked down and injured by a reckless driver while walking down the street, this could result in both a criminal and civil court case. Within these two courts, there are also other different types of court, which respond to different cases.

The crown court, however, deals almost exclusively with criminal matters. Secondly, there are the trial and appellate courts. Thirdly, there are the superior and inferior courts. There are also a number of courts under these two courts. The House of Lords and the High Court are under superior court; while the county court and magistrates’ courts are under inferior court. The House of Lords hears appeals in criminal cases from the court of appeal and the high court; it also hears appeals in civil cases form the court of appeal and the high court,