REFEREE, a person to whom anything is referred; an arbitrator. The court of referees in England was a court to which the House of Commons committed the decision of all questions as to the right of petitioners to be heard in opposition to private bills. As originally constituted the referees consisted of the chairman of ways and means, and other members, the Speaker's counsel and several official referees not members of the House of Commons. In 1903 the appointment of official referees was discontinued. The court now consists of the chairman of ways and means, the deputy chairman and not less than seven other members of the House appointed by the Speaker, and its duty, as defined by a standing order, is to decide upon all petitions against private bills, or against provisional orders or provisional certificates, as to the rights of the petitioners to be heard upon such petitions. In the high court of justice, under the Judicature Act 1873, cases may be submitted to three official referees, for trial, inquiry and report, or assessment of damages. Inquiry and report may be directed in any case, trial only by consent of the parties, or in any matter requiring any prolonged examination of documents or accounts, or any scientific or local investigation which cannot be tried in the ordinary way.
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