Page:The Public Records and The Constitution.djvu/21
AND THE CONSTITUTION
The last semblance of local independence disappears; the pleas of each county are dissevered from other pleas of the same county, the bond of union being now the authority of the Court exercised over all the counties, and not any geographical position or local organization.
Only one Bench at first: its jurisdiction not then restricted to common pleas.This Court sitting at Westminster, at least as early as the reign of Richard I, describes itself, again and again, as 'the Bench', speaks of appearance duly made 'in the Bench', and gives adjournments into 'the Bench'. You thus see 'the Bench' established as a permanent Court, and you see why it was not called picas. 'the Common Bench' or 'Court of Common Pleas'—the simple reason being that its jurisdiction had not yet been quite precisely defined, and that there was as yet no other Bench over which Judges delegated by the King presided.
The Great Charter: the Bench, or Common Bench, or Court of Common Pleas, and the Court before the King himself, or King's Bench.You have, perhaps, been thinking, for some minutes, that I have forgotten King John's Great Charter. I have so far left out of consideration the old doctrine that the Court of Common Pleas came into existence because in that famous charter there was a provision that common pleas should not follow the Court of the Sovereign, but be held in some fixed place. It would, however, be truer to say that the jurisdiction of that division of the Principalis Curia Regis which was the Court coram Domino Rege, and was afterwards known as the King's Bench, was restricted in consequence of the charter, while the original Bench retained all its old jurisdiction, except in a few crown cases.When the King travelled through his realm, as he often did, his Court was with him, and there was then no necessity to delegate his powers by any commission. Wherever he might be, a Court was held nominally, and in the earliest times really, before himself. For many centuries after King John's time proceedings to be had in the King's Bench were invariably described as to be had 'before the Lord the King, wheresoever