Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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 focussed 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 of efficiency led to substantial injustice.
On the other hand, the Court of Chancery (the Equity court) emphasised the need to "do justice" on the basis of the Lord Chancellor's conscience, and 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 became hide-bound by rules of euity which restricted the manner in which the courts of equity would intervene.
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. 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 requires and depending on what specific laws are pleaded by each party.
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