Judicature Acts

The Judicature Acts are two Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873 (36 & 37 Vict. c. 66) and the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1875 (38 & 9 Vict. c. 77), which were designed to fuse the administration of the courts of Equity and the courts of Common Law. Both the Common Law courts and Equity courts were in disarray before the Acts were passed.

Common law and equity

The Common Law courts focused on the efficient administration of justice. The result was a highly technical and stylised process. For example, to bring an action in the Common Law courts, one had to file a "writ", but the writ had to be chosen from a set of standard forms. The court would only recognise certain "forms of action". This led to many legal fictions, with people trying to bring claims that did not fit into a standard "form" disguising their claims. The emphasis on efficiency led to substantial injustice.

On the other hand, running in parallel with the Common Law Courts, the Court of Chancery (the Equity court) emphasised the need to "do justice" on the basis of the Lord Chancellor's conscience, softening the blunt instrument of the common law. The difficulty was that conscience has no limits, and proceedings before the Court of Chancery dragged on and on, with cases not being decided for years and years (a problem that was parodied by Charles Dickens in the fictional case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in "Bleak House"). Further, in time, the Lord Chancellor's conscience itself became hide-bound by rules of equity which restricted the manner in which the courts of equity would intervene.

Added to which each party would 'forum shop' between the two systems seeking the rules most likely to give judgment in its favour.

The two systems, bewilderingly complex, slow and inflexible, involuted and convoluted, frequently contradictory, were increasingly falling into disrepute.

The solution was to adopt a middle ground and fuse the administration of the two forms of action. The two were fused by the Judicature Acts 1873 and 1875. Pleadings became more relaxed, with the emphasis was not on the 'form' of action, but rather a 'cause' of action or a set of causes. The result was that, when the issues arising from the causes of action were decided in favour of one party, that party got relief.(It became a matter of listing in the writ facts that showed the basis of a recognized claim, not guessing which pigeon hole the case fitted into.) The same court was able to apply rules of the common law and rules of equity, depending on what the substantial justice of a case required and on what specific area of law the pleadings involved.

pecific changes in procedure

Among the specific changes to procedure that occurred as a result of enactment of the Judicature Acts was one impacting on the matter of "abandonment of an action". Such an abandonment involves the discontinuance of proceedings commenced in the High Court, typically emerging because a plaintiff is convinced that he will not succeed in a civil action. Prior to the 1875 Act, considerable latitude was allowed as to the time when a suitor might abandon his action, and yet preserve his right to bring another action on the same suit (see nonsuit); but since 1875 this right has been considerably curtailed, and a plaintiff who has delivered his reply (see pleading), and afterwards wishes to abandon his action, can generally obtain leave so to do only on condition of bringing no further proceedings in the matter.

ee also

*Courts of England and Wales
*Common Law
*Equity (law)

External links

*UK-SLD|1062555|Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1891 (c.53)
* [http://97.1911encyclopedia.org/J/JU/JUDICATURE_ACTS.htm 1911 Encyclopedia article]


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