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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Common Pleas, Court of

COMMON PLEAS, COURT OF, formerly one of the three English common law courts at Westminster—the other two being the king’s bench and exchequer. The court of common pleas was an offshoot of the Curia Regis or king’s council. Previous to Magna Carta, the king’s council, especially that portion of it which was charged with the management of judicial and revenue business, followed the king’s person. This, as far as private litigation was concerned, caused great inconvenience to the unfortunate suitors whose plaints awaited the attention of the court, for they had, of necessity, also to follow the king from place to place, or lose the opportunity of having their causes tried. Accordingly, Magna Carta enacted that common pleas (communia placita) or causes between subject and subject, should be held in some fixed place and not follow the court. This place was fixed at Westminster. The court was presided over by a chief (capitalis justiciarius de communi banco) and four puisne judges. The jurisdiction of the common pleas was, by the Judicature Act 1873, vested in the king’s bench division of the High Court of Justice.