Imatges de pÓgina
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years. The dignity has no salary attached to it, and involves the inability of supporting a client against the crown without permission to do so, which permission, however, is invariably given on application. Queen's counsel have precedence over their seniors at the bar who have not arrived at this rank, and they are entitled by the etiquette of the profession to higher fees. 3. Barristers below the bar, who wear stuff gowns. The judges are taken indiscriminately from the three ranks, though it is rarely that a stuff gown is elevated to the bench. The Attorney and Solicitor-General, officers appointed by the Crown as its representatives, are considered the chiefs of the bar in the common law and equity courts respectively. They have seats in Parliament, and are the official legal advisers of the Government. The remuneration they receive in the shape of fees is very large, the income of the Attorney-General from his whole business, public and private, averaging £20,000 a-year. On the occurrence of a vacancy on the bench, the offer of the place is always made to them in the first instance, but the Attorney-General will only accept the highest prizes of the profession.

The chief administrator of equity law is the Lord Chancellor, who is assisted by the Master of the Rolls and three Vice-Chancellors, each of whom has a separate court. From their decision an appeal lies to the two Lords Justices, who sit together, and their judgments may be reviewed by the Lord Chancellor, who now-adays seldom or never hears cases except in the way of appeal. Lastly, the ultimate court of appeal is the House of Lords. The whole house nominally hears and decides the appeal, but in point of fact the Law Lords (e. e., such peers as have been lawyers) decide the case.

The Chancellorship is a place of great dignity. The holder of it, though usually only a baron, ranks next after the royal family and before every other peer of the realm. He is speaker of the upper house of Parliament, where he sits on a particular seat called “ the woolsack.” He receives his appointment by delivery to him, by the hands of the sovereign, of the Great Seal of England, of which he is the custodian. This seal, placed in an embroidered bag, is deposited, along with the silver-gilt mace, upon the table when he takes his seat in court or in the House of Lords. This seal consists of two dies six inches across, one of which is engraved with the figure of the sovereign on the throne, the other with her figure on horseback. The mode of using the

seal is to close the dies, placing between them the ribbon or slip of parchment intended to receive the seal. The wax is poured in through a channel left for the purpose. On the death of the sovereign the old seal is cut into pieces, which are deposited in the tower, and a new seal is prepared.

The Mastership of the Rolls is an office of ancient date. The holder, besides being an equity judge, is the custos rotulorum of the realm, and the new Record Office has accordingly been built on the Rolls Estate in Chancery Lane. During term all the equity judges sit in courts at Westminster ; in vacation they sit in courts at Lincoln's Inn, except the Master of the Rolls, who sits in his own court in Chancery Lane.

There are three superior courts of common law, the Queen's Bench, the Common Pleas, and the Exchequer, all of which date from a very ancient period. The bulk of the business is of the same general nature in all, but the Queen's Bench has exclusive jurisdiction in criminal cases which belong to the crown side of the court, whilst civil business is taken on the plea side ; and the Exchequer has exclusive jurisdiction in revenue cases. There are five judges in each of these courts, all of whom, though only knights, are styled “My Lord.” The chiefs of the Queen's Bench and the Common Pleas are styled “ Lord Chief Justice," the junior or puisne judges, “Mr. Justice.” The head of the Court of Exchequer is styled “ Lord Chief Baron," and the puisne judges, “Mr. Baron.” The courts in which these judges and the equity judges sit, are on the right hand side of Westminster Hall; they were built from Soane's designs, and are so inconveniently small that new courts have been long talked of.

Appeals from the decisions of any one of these courts lie to the Court of Exchequer Chamber, which is constituted of the judges of the other two courts ; and from the Court of Exchequer Chamber the appeal is to the House of Lords.

The Court of Probate and the Court of Divorce were constituted in 1857, and are presided over by the same judge. In the former, questions relating to the proof of wills are decided ; in the latter, where, we are sorry to say, the business is large, applications for the dissolution of the marriage tie are heard. Previous to the constitution of this court the only mode of obtaining a divorce a vinculo matrimonii, was through the House of Lords, and the proceeding was so expensive that only very rich people could avail themselves of it.

Appeals from the Indian and Colonial Courts, and from the Maritime and Ecclesiastical Courts, lie to the Queen in Council, and are heard before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, sitting at the Privy Council Office, Whitehall.

This committee consists of persons filling or who have filled the office of judge in some other court.

THE COUNTY COURTS, constituted under a modern Act of Parliament, are minor courts distributed over England under the presidency of judges who are appointed by the Lord Chancellor from amongst the barristers, for deciding cases where the debt or demand does not exceed £50 ; and of these there are eleven in the metropolis.

CRIMINAL COURTS.

THE CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT in the Old Bailey was established in 1834 for the trial of offences committed in the metropolis and certain parts of the adjoining counties. The Sessions take place twelve times a year before two of the common law judges. The lighter charges are disposed of by the recorder and common serjeant, officers of the corporation.

THE SESSIONS HOUSE, Clerkenwell Green (now only a paved roadway), is the building where the magistrates for the county of Middlesex hold their quarterly sessions with the aid of the assistant judge. It was built in 1780, and refronted with Portland stone in 1860. One of the rooms contains a carved oak chimney-piece brought from Hicks' Hall, and bearing an inscription recording the gift of it in 1612 by Sir Baptist Hicks, a city mercer, afterwards Viscount Campden, who in that year presented to the justices and their successors for ever, for their meetings, a house which he had erected for that purpose in the neighbouring St. John Street. This building received the name of Hicks' Hall, and was a noted landmark from which distances were measured. There are milestones still remaining inscribed with the number of miles “from the spot where Hicks' Hall formerly stood.”

CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SECOND.

INNS OF COURT.

Lincoln's Inn-The Inner Temple-Gardens—Church- The Middle

Temple-Old Hall-New Library-Gray's Inn-Minor Inns.

THE INNS OF COURT comprise the four honourable societies of Lincoln's Inn, the Inner Temple, the Middle Temple, and Gray's Inn. Their common designation is derived from the fact of their having been at one time held in court of the king's palace. Each society is governed by Benchers, the principal of whom is the treasurer, who is annually elected from amongst the benchers. By them alone is the privilege of calling to the bar exercised. Before a student can be called, he must dine a certain number of days in each term in the hall of the society to which he belongs. When he has “kept” twelve terms (i.e., eaten his commons in the hall along with his brother students), and has attended a year's lectures, he is eligible to be called to the bar, if he has arrived at the age of twenty-one. The barristers, members of these inns, are upwards of 3000 in number. Beyond compelling a student to attend the lectures of two of the five readers for a year, and offering prizes to those who most distinguished themselves at the non-compulsory examinations, the Inns of Court do nothing to further the legal education of students. It would not be amiss, if some other portion of their vast revenues were devoted to this end. The chief part of a student's learning is obtained in the chambers of some practising barrister.

Ben Jonson dedicated his drama of “ Every Man out of his Humour,” to the “noblest nurseries of humanity and liberty in the kingdom, the Inns of Court." In the dedication he says, he looks upon the members of the Inns“ as being born the judges of these studies” (i.e., dramatic literature); and he boasts of his friendship with divers in those societies. In those days, the lawyers formed a considerable portion of the auditors who assembled in theatres, and hence it was worth the while of playwriters to conciliate their good will by frequent allusions to matters connected with the law. In Shakspere we find a great number of legal phrases which are introduced with such technical accuracy, as to have led some persons to suppose that he had spent part of his youth in an attorney's office.

LINCOLN's Inn is situate on the west side of Chancery Lane, and is called after De Lacy, Earl of Lincoln (d. 1312), who had a house and garden here, and whose device, a lion rampant, has been adopted by the Inn. The great gate-house in Chancery Lane was built in 1518. The Old Hall was rebuilt in 1506, on the site of an ancient hall. It is about 71 feet long, 32 feet broad, and about the same height. At one end is a screen put up in 1565, and curiously carved, a hundred years later, with the achievements of Charles II., and some of his lords. The ceiling is a modern disfigurement. This hall is no longer used as a dining room since the completion of the new buildings, of which the society may well be proud. These were erected in 1843-5, from the designs of P. Hardwick, in the late Tudor style, and are well seen from all sides. The Hall is 120 feet in length, and 45 feet in width. The windows are filled with stained glass, enriched with arms and mottoes. In canopied niches are life-size figures of several eminent members. The roof of oak is handsome, and the entire effect of the interior very striking. Here is Hogarth's picture of Paul before Felix, curiously characteristic of the painter. On the upper part of the north wall is a large fresco painting, 45 feet wide, by 40 high, representing in 30 figures the early lawgivers, from Moses down to Edward I. It was the gratuitous work of Mr. G. F. Watts, and was completed in 1860. In the drawing room are many portraits. The Library, 80 feet long, 40 feet wide, and 44 feet high, has an open oak roof, with a collection of upwards of 20,000 volumes, and man valuable MSS., chiefly bequeathed to the society by Sir Matthew Hale. The library was founded in 1497, and dates from an earlier period than that of any other library in London. Some of the books retain the iron rings by which they were secured to the shelves. Other books are in their original oak bindings. For a single odd volume of Prynne's Records, the society gave £335 at the Stowe sale. The new hall and library were inaugurated in 1845 by the Queen and Prince Consort, who were entertained at a banquet given by the benchers, The Prince was

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