Common Law and Equity

A) Explain the history of Common Law. The common law developed because the legal system in England and Wales couldn’t rely only on customs. It wasn’t until after the Norman Conquest in 1066 that a more organised system of courts was created. William the Conqueror set up the Curia Regis (The Kings Courts) and appointed his own judges. These judges were also sent to major towns to decide any important cases. When Henry II came to throne in 1154-1189 tours became more regular so Henry divided the country into areas for the itinerant judges to visit, so they would all cross paths.

Originally the judges would use the local customs or the old Angelo Saxon laws to decide the outcome of the cases, but then over a length of time it is thought that the judges would discuss the laws and customs they had used, and the decisions they had made, with each other when they returned to Westminster in London. Gradually all the itinerant judges chose the best customs and then these were used by all the judges throughout the country. This was a very long process as they didn’t have any other means of communication apart from travelling on horseback to each area.

The laws then became ‘common’ throughout the country and this is where the phrase ‘common law’ has come from. Common law is the foundation of our law today that has developed from customs and judicial decisions. The phrase ‘common law’ is still used to tell laws that have been developed by judicial decisions apart from laws that have been created by statute or other legislations. Common law is also used to distinguish between rules that were developed by the common law courts or the king’s courts and the rules of equity which were developed by the Lord Chancellor and the Chancery courts.