Legal proceedings

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Legal proceedings or judicial proceedings are an activity that seeks to invoke the power of a tribunal in order to enforce a law.


  • INADMISSIBLE, adj. Not competent to be considered. Said of certain kinds of testimony which juries are supposed to be unfit to be entrusted with, and which judges, therefore, rule out, even of proceedings before themselves alone. Hearsay evidence is inadmissible because the person quoted was unsworn and is not before the court for examination; yet most momentous actions, military, political, commercial and of every other kind, are daily undertaken on hearsay evidence. There is no religion in the world that has any other basis than hearsay evidence. Revelation is hearsay evidence; that the Scriptures are the word of God we have only the testimony of men long dead whose identity is not clearly established and who are not known to have been sworn in any sense. Under the rules of evidence as they now exist in this country, no single assertion in the Bible has in its support any evidence admissible in a court of law. It cannot be proved that the battle of Blenheim ever was fought, that there was such as person as Julius Caesar, such an empire as Assyria.

    But as records of courts of justice are admissible, it can easily be proved that powerful and malevolent magicians once existed and were a scourge to mankind. The evidence (including confession) upon which certain women were convicted of witchcraft and executed was without a flaw; it is still unimpeachable. The judges' decisions based on it were sound in logic and in law. Nothing in any existing court was ever more thoroughly proved than the charges of witchcraft and sorcery for which so many suffered death. If there were no witches, human testimony and human reason are alike destitute of value.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).

The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)[edit]

Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 131-137.
  • It is upon the ground that Courts of justice are open to the public, that what passes there is public at the time, and that it is important that all persons should be able to scrutinise what is there done, that the publication of everything which there passes has been thought to be lawful.
    • Littledale, J., Stockdale v. Hansard (1840), 3 St. Tr. 923.
  • It is of great consequence that the public should know what takes place in Court; and the proceedings are under the control of the Judges. The inconvenience, therefore, arising from the chance of injury to private character is infinitesimally small as compared to the convenience of publicity.
    • Lord Campbell, Davison v. Duncan (1857), 7 E. & B. 231; 26 L.J.Q.B. 106.
  • The superior benefit of the publicity of judicial proceedings counterbalances the injury to individuals, though that at times may be great.
    • Wightman, J., Davison v. Duncan, supra.
  • Public policy requires that some hardship should be suffered by individuals rather than that judicial proceedings should be held in secret.
  • The general rule is an excellent one, that legal proceedings should be in public.
    • North, J., In re Martindale (1894), L. R. C. D. [1894], p. 200.
  • It is one of the essential qualities of a Court of justice, that its proceedings should be public, and that all parties who may be desirous of hearing what is going on, if there be room in the place for that purpose,—provided they do not interrupt the proceedings, and provided there is no specific reason why they should be removed,—have a right to be present for the purpose of hearing what is going on.
  • Private interest must give place to a common good; the private prejudice that any man hath, is very well repaired by the public utility that comes to the kingdom.
    • Sir Ed. Littleton, Hampden's Case (1637), 3 How. St. Tr. 927.
  • Jam tun ret agttur paries cvm proximus ardet: The private must suffer for the public cause.
    • 22 Ed. IV. f. 2 b.; 26 Ed. I. f. 45.
  • It is of vast importance to the public that the proceedings of Courts of justice should be universally known. The general advantage to the country in having these proceedings made public more than counterbalances the inconveniences to the private persons whose conduct may be the subject of such proceedings. The same reasons also apply to the proceedings in Parliament: it is of advantage to the public, and even to the legislative bodies, that true accounts of their proceedings should be generally circulated.
    • Lawrence, J., The King v. Wright (1799), 8 T. R. 298.
  • The privilege which attaches to the publication of the proceedings of the Courts of justice rests on the foundation that the law of this land is administered publicly and openly, and its administration is at once subjected to, and protected by, the full and searching light of public opinion and public criticism. The openness and publicity of our Courts forms one of the excellences of our practice of the law, and admits of exception only in rare cases of such a character that public morality requires that the proceedings should be in camerd wholly or in part. This openness and publicity was at one time peculiar to the law of England. Barrington, in his observations on the statutes, and speaking of our open Courts, says : "I do not recollect to have met in any of the European laws with an injunction that all causes should be heard 'ostiis apertis,' except in those of the republic of Lucca. In Scotland, by a statute of William and Mary, all causes must be tried with open doors, rape and the like being excepted." And Mr. Emlyn, in his preface to his edition of State Trials, says : " In other countries the Courts of justice are held in secret; with us publickly and in open view; there the witnesses are examined in private, and in the prisoner's absence; with us face to face, and in the prisoner's presence."
    • Lord FitzGerald, Macdougall v. Knight (1889), L. R. 14 Ap. Ca. 206.
  • As to proceedings in Courts of justice, it is for the interest of all the public to hear what takes place in Court.
  • The proceedings in our Courts are founded upon the law of England, and that law is again founded upon the law of nature and the revealed law of God.
    • Best, J., Forbes v. Cochrane and another (1824), 2 St. Tr. (N. S.) 167.
  • It is the excellence of our law that its Judges are illuminated and fortified by the concurrent justice and support of all other arts and sciences, and its honour that these great Courts where it is administered are public, and interfere not with immodesty or indecent subjects, as divorces and other evils of matrimony, which are more easily allayed by private conference, than healed by public discussion.
    • Per Cur., Manby v. Scott (1672), 1 Levinz, 4; 2 Sm. L. C. (8th ed.) 460.
  • Nothing can be of greater importance to the welfare of the public than to put a stop to the animadversions and censures which are so frequently made on Courts of justice in this country. They can be of no service, and may be attended with the most mischievous consequences. Cases may happen in which the Judge and the jury maybe mistaken: when they are, the law has afforded a remedy; and the party injured is entitled to pursue every method which the law allows to correct the mistake. But when a person has recourse either by a writing like the present, by publications in print, or by any other means, to calumniate the proceedings of a Court of justice, the obvious tendency of it is to weaken the administration of justice, and in consequence to sap the very foundation of the Constitution itself.
    • Buller, J., King v. Watson and others (1788), 1 T. R. 205.
  • Public notoriety is nothing here; we can only be informed of the facts relevant to the matter before us.
    • Abbott, C.J., R. v. Edmonds and others (1821), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 925.
  • Words used in the course of legal or judicial proceedings, however hard they might bear on the party of whom they were used, were not such as would support an action for slander.
    • Lord Eldon, C.J., Johnson v. Evans (1800), 3 Esp. Rep. 33.
  • Fama, qua suspicionem inducit, oriri debet apud bonus et graves, non quidem malevolos etmaledicos, ted providas et fide digIms pertonas, non semel sed scepius, quia clamor minuit et defamatio manifestat: Report, which induces suspicion, ought to arise from good and grave men, who indeed from malevolent and malicious men, but from cautious and credible persons, not only once, but frequently; for clamour diminishes and defamation manifests.
    • 2 Inst. 52.

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