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Court Records of Prince George's County, Maryland 1696-1699.
Volume 202, Preface 20   View pdf image (33K)
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offenses were handled at the Provincial Court level. The various acts of Assembly
leave ambiguous the appellate jurisdiction of the Provincial Court in criminal
matters; it was not referred to in the several commissions. Several acts of Assembly
providing for jurisdiction over certain informations or actions on penal statutes
in the county courts specifically provided that the offender was not to have any
appeal or writ of error but that the judgment of the county court was to be defini-
tive. 10 Perhaps, in acts lacking such prohibition, it was assumed that the Provincial
Court would exercise appellate jurisdiction.

Both the Provincial Court and the county courts as a matter of common practice
heard and determined complaints of masters and servants by way of petition. This
practice was legislatively sanctioned by a March 1697/8 act which authorized
appeals or writs of error in such cases from the county court to the Provincial
Court and from the latter to the Governor and Council. 11

At the third level of the judicial hierarchy were the county courts. At the time
Prince Georges County was established county courts already existed in St. Marys,
Kent, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Baltimore, Talbot, Somerset, Dorchester
and Cecil Counties. These courts had no jurisdiction in real actions; their juris-
diction, concurrent and exclusive, in personal actions, has been noted in connec-
tion with the Provincial Court. In addition, the county courts were deprived of
jurisdiction in small debt cases wherein the demand (later changed to "real debt
or damages") did not exceed 200 pounds of tobacco or 12 shillings sterling (later
raised to 16s., 8d. sterling); sole jurisdiction over such actions was vested in single
justices of the peace.12 As noted above, most of the jurisdiction of the county courts
in criminal matters was concurrent with that of the Provincial Court. However, in
some areas of law enforcement, noted below, the county courts were granted ex-
clusive jurisdiction by statute.

Several acts of Assembly refer to the county courts and "other inferior courts"
or "other inferior Courts of Record in the Province." What courts were intended
by such reference is obscure. Reference may have been intended to the Mayor's
Court authorized by charter at St. Marys or the commissioners at Annapolis.13
Manor courts and hundred courts would have been courts of record to the extent
they exercised leet jurisdiction but such courts were long extinct in the province.
Reference may also have been intended to the various special courts established
from time to time. In December 1696, a special court, comparable to a county
court, was commissioned to sit in Charles County to try certain causes involving
matter of trade before the tobacco fleet sailed for England.14 In May 1699 a
similar special court was authorized in Somerset upon the petition of the factor of
Sir John Rogers of Plymouth, "a considerable trader in this Province." 15 A special

10. See 38 MA 114; 22 id. 503.

11. 38 id. 117.

12. 38 id. 25, 93, 100; 22 id. 500. C/. the 1692 proposal that all actions under 400 pounds of
tobacco be heard before one or two justices in each county (13 id. 356) and the 1694 proposal that
"noe action be brought in any County Court within this province not Exceeding the summe of
400 pounds of Tobacco and that all Under the said Summe may be decided by any private
Justice of peace, or otherwise as it shall be thought Necessary" (19 id. 37).

13. 38 id. 44.

14. 20 id. 583. Cf. the report of the law officers on the petition requesting the commission
that it "stands very well with the Rules of Law." 20 id. 550-51. For complaint against the governor
made to the Privy Council concerning this commission see 23 id. 376. For an earlier special
commission comparable in nature see 20 id. 222-23; however, the court so authorized did not
sit. 20 id. 231, 234.

15. 25 id. 74.


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Court Records of Prince George's County, Maryland 1696-1699.
Volume 202, Preface 20   View pdf image (33K)
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