CURIA REGIS AND CENTRALIZATION OF JUSTICE
A. CURIA REGIS
ORIGINAL AND COMPOSITION
In the beginning, the term “Curia Regis” meant the “Magnum Concilium”, or Great Council of the Realm. It was a mixture of the Old Saxon Witanagemote and the Norman Feudal Court. Henry, I found the ‘Magnum Concilium” too complicated for practical purposes and formed a small committee. The inner council was composed of the greatest officers of state, members of the Royal household, and certain clerks selected by the Crown. The Norman Conquest immediately impacted the Curia Regis, which was given a new name: Curia Regis. It was made into a powerful centralized authority by William I and his successors through Edward the Confessor’s skilful and strong exercise of the king’s prerogative. Curia Regis was a British organization of Norman Kings. It was a model of the Curia Ducis in Normandy, but it differed in some respects from Witan. Curia Regis was the King’s Court, and the king was an essential and active court member. Curia Regis consisted of the King’s Tenant in-Chief and any Royal official. This large body was impossible to keep in continuous session, and it was too cumbersome to manage the normal affairs of the Kingdom. Many of the work needed to be delegated. A smaller Council, mostly composed of high-ranking officials of the king, was established to gradually take over the daily operations of the government. The Curia Regis, a system that included tribunals specifically charged with the administration and enforcement of Royal justice, was created by delegating duties and differentiation of functions. The Common Law Courts were born from this disintegration. A small committee, known as the Exchequer, was established to transact Curia Regis’ financial affairs. The Curia Regis was primarily a judicial organization after the Exchequer was established. The Curia Regis continued to serve as a collective, accompanying the king from one place to another. Henry II created a committee consisting of five judges in 1178 to fix the court and hear the Crown’s pleas. This is how the court of King’s Bench was born. Magna Carta Section 17 stated that the Common Pleas would not follow our court but instead be held at a fixed location (Westminster). The Curia Regis was divided into three sections by 1216. These were Exchequer King’s Bench, Common Pleas and King’s Bench. The establishment of separate justices for each body was the final part of Henry III’s reign. There was still a residuary authority: civil, criminal and appellate in King-in-Council.
These two headings make it easy to examine the jurisdiction of Curia Regis:
(A) FEUDAL JURISDICTION
In all cases between tenants-in-capite, the Curia Regis was a feudal court with complete jurisdiction. In such cases, the suitors of the court would be the Judges, and the king could only exert a personal influence. This was likely within the Magna Carta’s definition of a court, which requires trial by equals. Although the Curia Regis was given greater authority by feudal jurisdiction, it was not a legal cause for the growth and expansion of the Royal Courts.
(B) COURTS EXERCISING RESIDUARY JUSTICE FOR THE KING
The king had a certain authority over people before the Norman Conquest. This was due to two reasons: firstly, he was responsible for maintaining order, and secondly, all men could look to him to get justice if it was denied elsewhere. The king built many pleas for the Crown to maintain law and order. Most prominent among them were the breaches of King’s Peace, which was the basis of future criminal law in England. Because the king was responsible for justice being done to all parties for a long period, it was his right and duty to ensure that every subject was given a fair trial in any dispute. This principle was followed by Henry I and William I. Henry II established his court and encouraged men to join it. With Curia Regis’ help, Henry II introduced certain machinery to decide legal questions.
IMPORTANCE CURIA REGIS
The Curia Regis’ jurisdiction was unclear, so the king created Royal Courts to administer justice. English legal history might have been completely different if the king hadn't acted. The Curia Regis was able to act in two capacities when it came to administering justice.
- The king holds a court as a feudal lord for his tenant in-capite.
- The king exercised a jurisdiction inherited under the general principle of kinship that existed in the Anglo-Saxon period.
His duty and right were to serve justice to all men. The ‘Curia Regis” law court gained much popularity. Due to the nature of its work, the branches of Curia Regis split off and dealt with different types of business. The Common Law Courts emerged from this disintegration and inherited their unique features. Potter states, “The Curia Regis, a fertile mother of law courts, was responsible for another brood, now known as the Conciliar Chambers.” Although their dates of birth may differ, all Royal Courts share the same origin.
B. THE CENTRALIZATION OF JUSTICE
Anarchy was the result of bad government after Henry I died. Henry II, who ruled from 1154 to 1189, took strong steps against this anarchy. He also used certain principles in royal hands to centralize justice. Henry II believed that many abuse cases resulted from the government machinery's decentralisation, and Henry II’s future policy was to eliminate these abuses. Pollock and Maitland believe that the Centralization of Justice resulted from the reign of Henry II.
- A King can issue a writ directing a case before him upon a plea of default of justice made in other courts.
- A litigant could buy a Writ to Right to resolve land-related disputes, which would direct the Lord of Manor to hear the case.
- Henry II introduced Grand Assize in place of Trial by Battle. The king had to purchase a writ, and the trial was to take place before his Justices.
- The proceedings under Writ of Right were extremely technical. Henry II presented in Petty Assizes an overview remedy for seisin recovery by King’s Writing. This remedy was popular and fast.
- The Pleas of Crown grew greatly after the Conquest. The King’s Peace was extended to include civil wrongs through the development of trespass. The Normans extended the King’s Peace to include a longer duration.
- Other cases are transferred to Royal Courts via the Writ of Praecipe. Disobedience was considered contempt of the king.
- The interpretation of Statute of Gloucester 1278 also played an important role.
- This statute says that personal actions involving more than 40 shillings cannot be brought before local courts.
This jurisdiction was further diminished by the gradual fall in the value of money over time. These factors had immediate consequences: a steady and growing business flow to the king’s justices. Royal Justices could not attract business due to their high remuneration through fees and bribery. The Royal Courts could also make their decisions more effective than local courts by using possessory assizes. The Royal Courts offered an exclusive trial by Jury. These principles were the foundation of the centralization of justice in England under Henry II.