A History of English Common Law Essay

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A History of English Common Law

The origin of English Common in the 12th century was sparked by the death of King Henry I in 1135. The nephew of Henry I was Stephen, and he was acknowledged to be the rightful king, but the magnates and such had sworn loyalty to Henry’s daughter, Matilda. The entire reign of Stephen, which lasted from 1135 to 1154, was spent fighting with Matilda and her French husband. Upon Stephen’s death the son of Matilda, Henry II, became king in 1154. It was from here on that the King started to take noticeable interest in the dealings of the court system, and put in to place a royal system instead of allowing the lords to deal with all matters in feudal courts.1 According to F. W. Maitland,
…The reign of Henry
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The treatise called Fleta states that “the Crown asserted a general responsibility for the judicial work of every secular court in the land.” Third, the laws are made in reaction to actual legal controversies, as opposed to the whim of the lawmakers. Fourth, the jury selected becomes increasingly more knowledgeable about the facts and particulars of a certain case. Finally, the supremacy of law is very important to the tradition of common law. All subjects are held responsible for the laws decided, and are all subject to examination. These five principles of common law briefly explain what common law is.6
To differentiate between how the laws of England changed after King Henry II, a comparison of the court system can be used. Local, ecclesiastical, and borough courts decided cases in the old system of English law. Each of these courts could render very different decisions based on the same case and it was acceptable. The common law courts can be listed as Common Pleas, Seignorial courts, King’s Bench, and Exchequer.7
The local courts, or courts of the counties, began to lose their importance as the royal courts, the Common Pleas, began to extend jurisdiction. The people of the area created the local courts; the royalty had nothing to do with it, so these new Common Pleas courts took away certain feelings of local pride. Therefore, these common courts were the most difficult to establish, and for many years many of the hundreds

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