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Common Pleas, Court of

Common Pleas, Court of. One of the three courts of common law. The Court of Common Pleas was an offshoot of the curia regis, the court which followed the king on his travels around the country. The insistence of Magna Carta led to a court being established in one place, clause 17 stating that ‘Common Pleas shall not follow the king but be heard in some fixed place’. The court was based at Westminster Hall and decided controversies concerning civil cases between the king's subjects, cases involving claims to land, trespass, and debt. It kept its own records known as the de Banco rolls and in 1272 was given its own chief justice. In the Middle Ages it was the busiest of the common law courts and the most lucrative for the judges and early members of the legal profession who practised there. Over the centuries this position declined as other courts encroached on its jurisdiction and poached its cases. In the Judicature Act of 1873 the Court of Common Pleas along with the courts of Queen's Bench and Exchequer all became divisions of the High Court of Justice. Ultimately, they were all merged into the Queen's Bench Division in 1880.

Richard A. Smith

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