A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law. In both common law and civil law legal systems, courts are the central means for dispute resolution, and it is generally understood that all persons have an ability to bring their claims before a court. Similarly, the rights of those accused of a crime include the right to present a defense before a court.
The system of courts that interpret and apply the law are collectively known as the judiciary. The place where a court sits is known as a venue. The room where court proceedings occur is known as a courtroom, and the building as a courthouse; court facilities range from simple and very small facilities in rural communities to huge buildings in large cities.
- Whenever it has been my ill fortune to be present in court during the hearing of a case about which I had some first-hand knowledge, I have been struck by the fact that no crude truth is allowed to penetrate within those august portals. The truth that gets into a law court is not the naked truth but the truth in court dress, with all its less decent portions concealed. I do not say that this applies to the trial of straightforward crimes, such as murder or theft, but it applies to all those into which an element of prejudice enters, such as political trials, or trials for obscenity. I believe that in this respect England is worse than America, for England has brought to perfection the almost invisible and half-conscious control of everything unpleasant by means of feelings of decency. If you wish to mention in a law court any unassimilable fact, you will find that it is contrary to the laws of evidence to do so, and that not only the judge and the opposing counsel but also counsel on your side will prevent the said fact from coming out.
- Bertrand Russell, Nice People (1931).
The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)
- Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 55-58.
- It was said by a very learned Judge, Lord Macclesfield, towards the beginning of this century that the most effectual way of removing land marks would be by innovating on the rules of evidence; and so I say. I have been in this profession more than forty years, and have practised both in Courts of law and equity; and if it had fallen to my lot to form a system of jurisprudence, whether or not I should have thought it advisable to establish two different Courts with different jurisdictions, and governed by different rules, it is not necessary to say. But, influenced as I am by certain prejudices that have become inveterate with those who comply with the systems they found established, I find that in these Courts proceeding by different rules a certain combined system of jurisprudence has been framed most beneficial to the people of this country, and which I hope I may be indulged in supposing has never yet been equalled in any other country on earth. Our Courts of law only consider legal rights: our Courts of equity have other rules, by which they sometimes supersede those legal rules, and in so doing they act most beneficially for the subject. We all know that, if the Courts of law were to take into their consideration all the jurisdiction belonging to Courts of equity, many bad consequences would ensue. To mention only the single instance of legacies being left to women who may have married inadvertently: if a Court of law could entertain an action for a legacy, the husband would recover it, and the wife might be left destitute: but if it be necessary in such a case to go into equity, that Court will not suffer the husband alone to reap the fruits of the legacy given to the wife; for one of its rules is that he who asks equity must do equity, and in such a case they will compel the husband to make a provision for the wife before they will suffer him to get the money. I exemplify the propriety of keeping the jurisdictions and rules of the different Courts distinct by one out of a multitude of cases that might be adduced. . . . One of the rules of a Court of equity is that they cannot decree against the oath of the party himself on the evidence of one witness alone without other circumstances: but when the point is doubtful, they send it to be tried at law, directing that the answer of the party shall be read on the trial; so they may order that a party shall not set up a legal term on the trial, or that the plaintiff himself shall be examined; and when the issue comes from a Court of equity with any of these directions the Courts of law comply with the terms on which it is so directed to be tried. By these means the ends of justice are attained, without making any of the stubborn rules of law stoop to what is supposed to be the substantial justice of each particular case; and it is wiser so to act than to leave it to the Judges of the law to relax from those certain and established rules by which they are sworn to decide.
- Lord Kenyon, C.J., Bauerman v. Eadenius (1798), 7 T. R. 667.
- It is unnecessary to show what passes in England, a country as famed for justice, and other great qualifications, as any other country: justice is there administered in such a manner as to exalt it above the other countries of the earth. It is our duty to administer justice in such a way as to give satisfaction to all parties.
- Earl of Clunwell, C.J., Jackson's Case (1795), 25 How. St. Tr. 798.
- It will make a greater heat in the city not to grant this (writ) than otherwise.
- Powis, J., R. v. Sir Gilbert Heathcot (1711), Fortesc. 293.
- So long as Courts of justice remain Courts of justice there must be decency maintained.
- Bayley, J., Trial of Hunt and others (1820), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 382.
- Let us have no breaking of the peace in Court.
- Pemberton, L.C.J., Trial of Lord Grey and others (1682), 9 How. St. Tr. 186.
- An English Court cannot judge by the light of nature.
- Bowen, L.J., Hyman v. Helm (1883), L. R. 24 C. D. 544.
- Courts do not exist for the sake of discipline, but for the sake of deciding matters in controversy.
- Bowen, L.J., Cropper v. Smith (1884), L. R. 26 C. D. 710.
- I hope we are now past that time of day that humming and hissing shall be used in Courts of justice; but I would fain know that fellow that dare to hum or hiss while I sit here; I will assure him, be he who he will, I will lay him by the heels and make an example of him. Indeed, I knew the time when causes were to be carried according as the mobile hissed or hummed; and I do not question but they have as good a will to it now. Come, Mr. Ward, pray let us have none of your fragrancies, and fine rhetorical flowers, to take the people with.
- Jefferies, L.C.J., Pritchard r. Papillon (1684), 10 How. St. Tr. 337.
- Pray let us have no laughing, it is not decent.
- Wright, L.C.J., Trial of the Seven Bishops (1688), 12 How. St. Tr. 344.
- The criminal suit is open to every one, the civil suit to every one showing an interest.
- Sir William Scott, Turner v. Meyers (1804), 1 Hagg. Con. 415, n.
- The Court is to be guided by equity and good conscience, and the best evidence.
- Lord Hobhouse, Moses v. Parker (1896), L. R. Ap. Ca. , p. 248.
- It is not necessary in a Court of law to inquire into the modes of proceeding by which Courts of equity are guided.
- Lord Loughborough, Rondeau v. Wyatt (1792), 2 Hen. Black. 68.
- The Courts can take no notice of anything but what comes judicially before them.
- Joseph Yates, J., Rex v. Wilkes (1769), 4 Burr. Part IV., 2533.
- The Courts of law are not provided at the public expense, and were not intended by those who so provided them, for the settlement of any but differences which do arise in the ordinary course of business.
- Edward Hall Alderson, B., Brownlow v. Egerton (1854) (H. of L.), 23 L. J. Rep. Part 5 (N. S.), Chan. 365.
- I think Courts of justice must always act upon the theory of very great probability being sufficient.
- Sir G. Jessel, M.R., Pattisson v. Gilford (1874), L. R. 18 Eq. Ca. 264.
- Every Court is the guardian of its own records, and master of its own practice.
- Tindal, C.J., Scales v. Cheese (1844) 12 M. & W. 687.
- By common courtesy, credit is given to Courts which have pronounced the law, that they have proceeded legally.
- Williams, J., In re Carus Wilson (1845), 6 St. Tr. (N. S.) 192.
- These Courts were very properly adapted to the customs, manners, genius and policy of a people upon their first settlement: but, like all other human jurisdictions, vary in the course and progress of time, as the Government and manners of a people take a different turn, and fall under different circumstances.