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county courts

county courts. The shire or county courts were the most important of the communal courts which governed all aspects of local life in Anglo-Saxon and Norman England. Each shire held a monthly court or assembly where all local business, legislative, administrative, or judicial, was conducted. The shire court gradually declined with the growth of the common law courts from the curia regis and with the development of Parliament in the 13th cent., though it remained important as the court in which the itinerant justices sat and as the assembly in which the representatives of the shire to Parliament were chosen. By the 19th cent. there was no legal forum available to the would-be civil litigant whose means were small, hence the gibe that the English courts were open to all ‘like the Ritz Hotel’. In 1846, to meet this criticism, the County Courts Act set up a network of new ‘county courts’ within each area, not necessarily synonymous with the county in which they sat. These courts became and remain civil courts of limited jurisdiction.

Maureen Mulholland

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