Civil Courts Structure

Civil Courts Structure in United Kingdom

The Structure of the courts: Civil Matters

Introduction to Civil Courts Structure

Other than the limited jurisdiction of the magistrates’ court, mostly concerned with family matters, most unexceptional civil disputes come to the county court. This was created by an Act of Parliament, but it has concurrent jurisdiction with the High Court, which means that in most areas the litigant has a choice of which court to use.

Most claims of less than 3,000 pounds ($1830) are heard in arbitration as small claims. The formal rules of court and evidence do not apply, and the successful party does not get his or her costs of bringing the case from the other side. District judges, who also deal with preliminary arguments about most of the higher-value claims before they come to trial, hear these. District judges conduct some trials, although circuit judges generally hear trials.

County courts existed before 1970, but their major importance dates from then, when the system of circuit judges was introduced. Since the late 1980s an increase in the financial limits to the cases it can try has made it a real, and often cheaper, alternative to the High Court.

The High Court is the ancient civil court of England. It reached its present form with the Judicature Act of 1873. The new High Court was divided into three divisions: Queen’s Bench; Chancery; and Probate, Divorce and Admiralty (PDA). A subsequent rearrangement changed the PDA into the Family Division. Usually, one judge sits in a High Court case, except when a divisional court is convened. That consists of usually one High Court judge and a Lord Justice of Appeal, and usually tries disputes about government decisions.

Appeals from the (single) county court and the High Court are to the Court of Appeal, Civil Division. In most cases, each court contains three Lord Justices of Appeal. The president of the Civil Division is the Master of the Rolls, who regularly sits in the Court of Appeal, as does the President of the Family Division and the vice chancellor, the head of the Chancery Division. Appeal from the Court of Appeal lies to the House of Lords, with the leave of the court or the House of Lords.” (1)


See Also

List of Courts
List of Scotch Courts
List of Irish Courts
Scottish Courts
High Court of Justice
History of English Court System
List of English Courts
List of County Courts
Circuit Judge
Law Lords
Civil Law

Notes and References


Guide to Civil Courts Structure

In this Section

Courts in the United Kingdom, Court of Common Pleas, Court of High Commission, Court of Star Chamber, English Court System Developments, Criminal Courts Structure and Civil Courts Structure.



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