Court of Requests - Encyclopedia

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COURT OF REQUESTS, a minor court of the king's council in England, under the presidency of the lord keeper of the privy seal. Its possible origin has been assigned to an order in council of 1390 directing the lords of the council to form a committee to examine the petitions of the humble people. Its jurisdiction was chiefly equitable, and owing to the small expenses of procedure it grew in popularity, especially for cases not of sufficient importance to bring into the court of chancery itself. Under Wolsey the court was fixed permanently at Whitehall. The judges of the court were styled masters of requests. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth there were two masters ordinary and two masters extraordinary. In James I.'s reign there were four masters ordinary. In Henry VIII.'s reign the judges of the court had ceased to be privy councillors, and towards the end of Elizabeth's reign the court incurred the hostility of the common law courts, as having neither a statutory nor prescriptive title to jurisdiction. Notwithstanding a decision in 15 9 8 as to the illegality of its jurisdiction, and subsequent decisions to the same effect in the reigns of James I. and Charles I., it continued to flourish until the suppression of the Star Chamber in 1640 virtually put an end to it. Although it sat until 1642, and masters of requests were appointed even after the Restoration, it ceased to exercise judicial functions. There were also courts of requests or, as they were sometimes called, courts of conscience, established in London in the reign of Henry VIII. with jurisdiction in matters of debt under forty shillings. These courts were extended in the reigns of George I. and George II. to various places in England, but they were abolished by an act of 1846 (County Courts Act), which established in their place the tribunal of the county court.

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