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Proceedings of the Court of Chancery, 1669-1679
Volume 51, Preface 35   View pdf image (33K)
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     The First Century of the Court of Chancery.   xxxv

     Bishop of Durham as warden of the Scotch frontier by William the Conqueror.
     With independent authority little less than regal in civil and military matters,
     the Bishop of Durham down through the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was
     the virtual ruler of a kingdom within a kingdom. Although by the seventeenth
     century, many of these medieval powers had been considerably curtailed, until
     reorganized in 1536, the administration of justice and the appointment of judges
     was in the name of and under the control of the Bishop. It was but natural that
     Cecilius Calvert, to whom as Lord Proprietary his Charter had specifically given
     all the authority ever possessed by a Bishop of Durham, should have been
     influenced in the adoption of the form of administration of justice in his
     Province by the former usages of the Palatinate of Durham. It also seems prob-
     able that as a native of Yorkshire, a county near Durham, he was familiar with
     the history and customs of the Palatinate and the wide judicial and civil powers
     exercised in the previous century by its ruler, and felt that these would be desir-
     able powers for the Proprietary of Maryland.
      The subject of the Palatinate judiciary has been exhaustively treated by
     Gaillard Thomas Lapsley in his The County Palatinate of Durham, 1900
     (pp. 156-198). At the opening of the sixteenth century we find functioning
     separately in the Palatinate both law and equity courts, which had gradually
     evolved since its founding, made up of members of the Bishop's Council. In
     the equity court, or Court of Chancery, the Bishop appears to have sat as chief
     judge, with his Chancellor and a varying, but often considerable, number of
     associate judges. The decisions of this court were final and were not subject to
     review by the High Court of Chancery of England, but were appealable to “the
     Bishop in Council “. When Cardinal Wolsey became Bishop of Durham in 1523
     he reorganized the Chancery Court upon a rational basis. In 1536, however,
     Henry VIII put an end to the judicial supremacy of the Bishop of Durham,
     for in that year “the act of resumption” transferred to the Crown the appoint-
     ment of all judicial officers as well as the right to pardon, and provided that all
     writs and legal processes should thereafter run in the name of the King instead
     of that of the Bishop.
      The law and equity courts of Maryland during the sixteenth century seem
     to have followed the pattern of the Palatinate courts before the resumption act
     of 1536. The Governor ordinarily presided in both the Provincial Court and
     Court of Chancery, as he did in the Council. When sitting in the Court of
     Chancery he seems to have presided as “Chief Judge in Equity” and not as
     the holder of the office of Chancellor. From 1661 to 1682, when Philip Calvert
     was Chancellor, the Governor continued to preside and is always described as
     Chief Judge in Equity. In his absence the Chancellor presided, doubtless in
     his capacity as Deputy Governor.
      During the first thirty-five years following the settlement, the records of
     equity cases are found scattered throughout the proceedings of the Provincial
     Court. At this time the Governor as chief justice, sitting with the members of
     his Council as associate justices, constituted the Provincial Court, and with the
     same councillors as his associates, as chief judge in equity, heard equity cases
     in the Court of Chancery. At this period Chancery cases were few in number

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Proceedings of the Court of Chancery, 1669-1679
Volume 51, Preface 35   View pdf image (33K)
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