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Common-Law Courts

COMMON-LAW COURTS

The early royal courts in England that administered the law common to all.

For a time after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, the king himself sat to hear cases involving royal interests and the court was called coram rege (Latin for "before the king"). When the king began delegating authority to administer justice, the tribunal he appointed was called Curia Regis, the King's Court. Out of the Curia Regis came the three royal common-law courts. The first offshoot was the Exchequer, which originally collected taxes and administered the king's finances, but by 1250 was exercising full powers as a court. Next to develop as a separate court was common pleas, a court probably established by henry ii during the latter half of the twelfth century to hear cases not involving the king's rights. The remaining part of the Curia Regis reviewed decisions of the Common Pleas by issuing writs of error. This court, later known as the King's Bench, also heard cases involving the king's interests, particularly criminal matters and cases involving high noblemen. For many years the work of the court was written as if proceedings before it were before the king himself. The common-law courts competed with the Chancery, which exercised equity jurisdiction, and their struggles shifted the division of authority at various times. They were consolidated with the other high courts of England by the judicature acts in the late nineteenth century.

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