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Admiralty in United Kingdom

History of the Admiralty

The following commentary about Admiralty in the Churchill Era is produced by the Churchill College (Cambridge): Department of the Government administering the Royal Navy.

Meaning of Admiralty

The following is an old definition of Admiralty [1]: A court exercising jurisdiction over controversies arising out of the navigation of public waters; also, the system of jurisprudence which pertains to such controversies. So named because, in England, originally held before the lord high admiral. ” The judicial Power shall extend … to all cases of Admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction.” The principal. subjects of admiralty jurisdiction are maritime contracts and maritime torts, including captures jure belli, and seizures on water for municipal and revenue forfeitures. (1) Contracts, claims, or service, purely maritime, and touching rights and duties appertaining to commerce and navigation. (2) Torts and injuries of a civil nature committed on navigable rivers. Jurisdiction in the former case depends upon the nature of the contract, in the latter entirely upon the locality. The jurisdiction is not limited to tide-waters, but extends to all public navigable lakes and rivers, where commerce is carried on between different States, or with a foreign nation – wherever ships float or navigation successfully aids commerce. Courts of admiralty exist in all commercial countries, for the safety and convenience of commerce, the speedy decision of controversies where delay would often be ruin, and to administer the laws of nations in seasons of war, as to captures, prizes, etc. . . A wide range of jurisdiction was necessary for the benefit of commerce and navigation; these needed courts acting more promptly than courts of common law and not entangled with the niceties and strictness of common-law pleadings and proceedings. . . . The acts of 1789 and 1845 save a concurrent remedy at common law in any Federal or Stats’ court, and secure a trial by jury as a matter of right in the admiralty courts. Congress may modify the practice in any respect it deems conducive to the administration of i justice. By the act of September 24, 1789, § 9, the district courts have exclusive original cognizance ” of all civil causes of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction; saving to suitors in all cases the right of a common-law remedy, where the common law is competent to give it.” The saving does not authorize a proceeding in rem to enforce a maritime lien, in any common-law court. Common law remedies are not applicable to enforce such a lien, but are suits in personam, though such suits, under special statutes, may be commenced by attachment of property. The act of February 26, 1845, limits the powers granted by the act of 1789, as regards cases arising upon the ” lakes, and navigable waters connecting said lakes;” limits jurisdiction, to vessels of twenty tons burden or upward, enrolled or licensed for the coasting trade, or employed in commerce between places in different States; and grants a jury trial if either party demands it. The jurisdiction is expressly inade concurrent with such remedies as may be given by State laws. Otherwise, the jurisdiction granted by the act of 1789 is exclusive in the district courts. Jurisdiction, in “civil cases,” extends to all contracts, claims, and services essentially maritime: among which are bottomry bonds, contracts of affreightment and contracts for convej’ance of passengers, pilotage on the high seas, wharfage, agreements of consort-ship, surveys of vessels, damages by the perils of the seas, the claims of material-men and others for the repair and outfit of ships belonging to foreign nations or to other States, and the wages of mariners; and also to civil marine torts and injuries, among which are assaults and other personal injuries, collisions, spoliation and damage, illegal seizures or other depredations of property, illegal disposition or withholding possession from the owners of ships, controversies between part owners as to the employment of ships, municipal seizures of ships, cases of salvage and marine insurance. Admiralty courts are international courts. As originally constituted they are the appropriate tribunals for controversies between foreigners. They have jurisdiction of collisions on the high seas between vessels owned by foreigners of different nationalities. They may estimate damages for death by negligence, when the court has jurisdiction of the vessel ajod of the subject-matter. In England there are two courts: the “instance” and the ” prize ” court, qsee, in this resource, the term The same judge presides in both. In the United States this double jiu’isdiction is vested in the district court. A “mixed case “in admiralty is a contract which does not depend altogether upo locality as the test of jurisdiction; as, a contract for supplies, a charterparty, and the like; but not a tort begun on land and completed on navigable water, nor a policy of insurance upon a ship and its cargo against marine perils. The libelant propounds the substantive facts, prays for appropriate relief, and asks for process suited to the action, which is in rem or in personam. The respondent answers those facts by admitting, denying, or declaring his ignorance thereof, and alleges the facts of his defense to the case made by the libel. The proofs must substantially agree with the allegations. There are no common-law rules of variance or departure. The court grants relief on the case made out. The criminal jurisdiction of the Federal courts does not extend to the Great Lakes and their connecting waters; as, for example, the Detroit river. See Ska, High. See further Accident; Canal; Collision; Consort; Damages; Fidejussor; Lakes; Libel, 4; Marine; Martime; Monition; Navigable; Petitory; Res; Sea; Stipulation; Tide; Tort.


Notes and References

  1. Concept of Admiralty provided by the Anderson Dictionary of Law (1889) (Dictionary of Law consisting of Judicial Definitions and Explanations of Words, Phrases and Maxims and an Exposition of the Principles of Law: Comprising a Dictionary and Compendium of American and English Jurisprudence; William C. Anderson; T. H. Flood and Company, Law Publishers, Chicago, United States)
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  • Article Name: Admiralty
  • Author: Agnes Murphy
  • Description: History of the Admiralty The following commentary about Admiralty in the Churchill Era is produced by the Churchill College [...]

This entry was last updated: November 4, 2020


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