Today's legal system

Battle of Hastings, after this William the Conqueror gave large areas of land to his supporters. These people were called Barons, they were solely in charge of their area of land and they decided the laws of the land. This is called the Feudal System. The King decided to impose his own legal system throughout the country due to his growing concern about the barons joining forces and over powering him. He did this by appointing Royal Commissioners, which would visit all local courts. They later became known as Circuit Judges.

Initially local courts continued as well as assizes, which were run by RC's. People had the choice of which court to been seen by. Local courts died out as the people decided they would prefer to wait for a Circuit judge. To bring a claim to court the litigant had to use a prescribed form, a Writ. Royal Commissioners created Writ's. If there were not a Writ in existence that covered the litigants' problem then they would be denied justice, and if the litigant were to use the wrong writ or even make a small mistake on it the case would be thrown out.

After the Thirteenth Century the Royal Commissioner's refused to create any new Writs. Many litigants were very dissatisfied with this, and decided to go the King in London. They were not going to ask the king for new law to be put into place, just to do justice based on conscience in their case. Due to the RC's not creating any more Writs, endless amounts of people were going to the King asking for justice. With only one King and so many people asking for this, the King appointed a Lord Chancellor to be keeper of the Kings Conscience.

The Chancellor was both a lawyer and a priest, and the decisions he made were based on what seemed 'right' in that particular case. Over time equity developed due to problems in common law, and the Court of Chancery came into being which operated these rules of fairness or equity. Equity and common law existed side by side for several centuries, but many problems did arise, Equity was expensive and very time consuming. Also common law courts would make an order in favour of one party and the Court of Chancery in the other.

This problem was finally resolved in 1615 when the King ruled that equity should prevail. In the early 19th Century, common law was becoming more flexible, and the King decided to merge the courts so that all courts administered both common law and equity. The merging of the courts created The Supreme Court of the Judicature, Under the Judicature Acts 1873-1875. Today the Supreme Court of the Judicature has become the High Court. And the assizes have changed to County Court for civil cases and Crown Court for criminal. 1. 1 County court County courts were created for the trial of civil disputes.

There are about 230 County courts; large numbers of cases are heard in these courts each year. They were created by the County Courts Act 1846 and are now governed by the County Courts Act 1984. Cases are heard by Circuit Judges appointed by the crown. These judges have to have 10 years advocacy Qualification/5 years as a recorder; they generally deal with more expensive (i?? 50,000 plus) complex first instance civil cases or appeals from District Judges. The judge usually sits alone although in rare cases there is a provision for a trial by a jury of eight persons.

A district judge would act as a clerk of the court, and may try cases such as less expensive/complex first instance cases up to five thousand pounds. The County court will try nearly all-civil cases; the most commonly tried cases are all contract and tort claims, all cases for the recovery of land, making a claim for i. e. faulty goods, road traffic accidents ect. Cases are most commonly heard in open court and the public are entitled to attend. Exemptions for this are cases that involve family matters for example "Maintenance hearings and proceedings under the Children Act 1989" (Martin, J, 2002 p.97)

In the event of the claimant wanting to appeal, if they had been seen by a district judge they would have their case tried by a Circuit judge, for fast track cases if they had been dealt with by a Circuit judge you can appeal for judicial review to be heard by a High Court Judge and for final decisions in a multi track case's heard in a County court be it by a District or Circuit judge the right of appeal is to the Court of Appeal. 1. 2 High Court The High Court is based in London and also has judges sitting at 26 towns and cities throughout England and Wales.

It is staffed by a maximum of 96 judges when all posts are filled. These judges are known as puisne judges (pronounced 'puny'). It has the authority to hear any civil case, to do so there are three specialist divisions, they are; the Queens Bench Division, the Chancery Division and the Family Division. Queens Bench Division The President of the Queens Bench Division is the Lord Chief Justice, there are almost 70 judges in this division, and they deal with contract and tort cases. Cases dealt with by this division are tried by one judge, although in some cases i. e.

fraud, slander false imprisonment there is a right to jury trial, in these circumstances when a jury is used there will be 12 members. Also in the Queens Bench Division they have specialist judges to deal with insurance, banking and other commercial issues. The Queens Bench Division has supervisory role to play over inferior courts. Judicial review is concerned with whether a decision has been carried out correctly and legally. Chancery Division "The Lord Chancellor is technically the head of the division, but for practical purposes the Vice-Chancellor is the head" (Martin, J, 2002 p. 99).

There are around 17 High Court judges in this division. The focal business for this division is to deal with matters such as copyright, patents, the enforcement of mortgages etc. Juries are not used in the Chancery Division; a single judge will see each case. Family Division The Family Division deals with cases relating to family matters, such as nullity of marriage, probate, and all cases relating to children under the Children Act 1989. It also has 17 High Court judges assigned to this division. The High Courts three divisions each have what is called a Divisional Court; this has the power to hear appeals from inferior courts.

The most important of these is the Queens Bench Divisional Court, the process is known as the Judicial Review. The Chancery Division deals with few cases mainly appeals from decisions of the County Court. From a decision the High Court have made appeals usually go to the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) in some cases, although very few can 'leapfrog' to the House Of Lords under the Administration Act 1969. The Court of appeal civil and criminal division is bound to follow the decisions of the European Court of Justice and the House of Lords.

They also usually follow decisions made in the past by them, although this is not always the case, there are some exceptions. "The work of the civil division is currently carried out by 32 Lord Justices of Appeal" (Keenan, D, 1995 p. 35). A normal court consists of three judges, occasionally there may be a full court of five or seven. There is always an odd number so that when a decision is made on a case there will be a definite verdict. The Court of Appeal hears appeals from any division from the High Court and from the County Court (not in bankruptcy cases). 1. 4 House of Lords

House of Lords at the top of the hierarchy, is the most senior national court, and the decisions made here are bound by all courts in the English legal system. The House of Lords are not bound by their past decisions but tend to follow them accept on rare occasions. At any one time there are between nine and twelve Law Lords, and two of these generally come from the Scottish judiciary. When an appeal is heard three Law Lords are required to be in court but normally 5 sit, decisions are made by majority judgement. Conclusion Before Henry II introduced his own legal system Barons were solely in charge of their own area of land.

It could be said that it was quite unfair on the people who worked and lived in these areas. Each different area had its own laws; the baron decided what would happen to anyone who broke one of his laws. After Henry II appointed the circuit judges and his own law throughout the country things became much fairer for everyone and a sense of equity could be established. In the present day new laws are being constructed and implemented with a wide range of levels of courts. Any decision that is made today can be seen as far greater than one made back in the time of William the Conqueror.