Halsbury's Laws of England (First Edition)/Volume 2

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[Pages 366-367]

For the purpose of the assizes (b), all England except Middlesex is divided into seven circuits, namely, the Northern Circuit (Westmoreland, Cumberland, and Lancashire), the North-Eastern (Northumberland, Durham, and Yorkshire), the Midland (Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire (c) , Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Rutland, Buckinghamshire, and Bedfordshire), the South-Eastern (Norfolk, Suffolk, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Surrey), the Oxford (Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire), the Western (Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, Devonshire, Cornwall, and Somerset), and the North and South Wales Circuit, which is divided into two divisions: the North Wales Division (Montgomeryshire, Merioneth, Carnarvonshire, Anglesey, Denbighshire, Flintshire, and Cheshire), and the South Wales Division (Glamorganshire, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire, Brecknockshire, and Radnorshire (d)).


Each of these circuits has its own bar, composed of those Circuit barristers who have joined the circuit and have been elected members of the circuit mess, which is a society formed of barristers practising on the circuit. Originally formed for the the social purpose of dining, the circuit mess supervises the professional conduct of its members, and lays down rules by which its members are bound with reference to professional etiquette on circuit. No barrister can attend more than one circuit or be a member of more than one circuit mess, nor, except in special circumstances, can he join a circuit after the expiration of three years from his call, or change his circuit except within such three years. It was at one time usual for all barristers to join one or other of the circuits, but in the early part of the nineteenth century equity barristers began to cease attending circuit (e). Most common law barristers join one or other of the circuits, but there is now no general rule or practice on the subject. It is not usual for a barrister to hold a brief at the assizes on a circuit of which he is not a member, unless he is specially retained. A barrister who is specially retained, or who “goes special" on a circuit which is not his own, must have a special fee (f), and must have some member of the circuit briefed with him.

614. Similarly, practice at the county and borough quarter sessions where barristers have the exclusive right of audience (g) is confined to those members of the circuit, to which the county or borough belongs, who have "opened" sessions, i.e., have been present in robes at the sittings of the court within a certain time (usually two or three years) of their joining the circuit (h). At each quarter sessions where barristers have the exclusive right of audience, there is a sessions bar, composed of those who have regularly opened sessions and who alone have the right of practising there without a special fee (i) Each sessions bar has generally its own mess, and, subject to the circuit rules, lays down regulations with reference to professional etiquette in matters relating to that particular sessions. A barrister who is not a

(d) [1876] W. N. p. 88 ; Statutory Rules and Orders Revised to 31 December, 1903, xii. 26, 42. (e) Atlay, Victorian Chancellors, Vol. I. 386. (f) See p. 408, post. (g) See p. 374, post. (h) A barrister who has not joined a circuit, but who has a bond fide intention of joining a particular circuit at the earliest opportunity which the rules of the circuit permit, may attend sessions on such circuit and accept briefs there before he has been actually elected (Annual Statement of the General Council of the Bar, 1896-7, p. 9) (i) As to special fees at sessions, see p. 409, post.

Organisation of the Bar. Circuit mess. "Going special." Quarter sessions.

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