Harvard Law School Library

Bracton Online -- English

Previous   Volume 2, Page 307  Next    

Go to Volume:      Page:    

[001] doubtful questions and complaints of wrongdoing; men who will not stray either
[002] to the left or the right from the straight path of justice1 for material prosperity or
[003] fear of adversity, but who will judge the people of God equitably,2 so that one may
[004] say of them, with the psalmist, that from their countenance came forth the judgment
[005] of equity.3 And let them consider effectually what is required by necessity,
[006] what desirable by expediency, what allowable by license and what becoming to
[007] honesty. Such a judgment delights the honour of the king,4 whose person they
[008] represent as they sit in justice. Let them deny to none the benefit of the law, [nor
[009] seek or accept reward from anyone, as was said above,]5 that each may freely
[010] pursue his right, 6that the cause of the widow proceed freely before them, they be
[011] counsellors to the orphan and the ward,7 they permit false actions to be brought
[012] against no one, and that their ordinances and edicts be in accordance with the law
[013] and the approved customs and with the common welfare. 8Before them let no one
[014] be oppressed by the power of his adversaries9 but each proceed as his cause requires,
[015] and let them refrain10 from unlawfulness, nor let hatred, 11partiality or favour turn
[016] them from the threshold of just judgments,12 that it may be said of them, ‘Thou
[017] art just, O Lord, and thy judgment is right etc.’13 Those who judge must also be
[018] wise, that they need not beg soundness in judgment from others. 14If any man
[019] witless and unlearned [presumes] to ascend the judgment seat, taking his ability
[020] to do justice for granted, he shall fall from on high, as venturing to fly before he
[021] has wings; to give such a one the power of judgment is in no way different from
[022] putting a sword in the hand of a madman.15 And a judge ought not only to be
[023] wise but strong, according to the saying of Solomon, ‘Seek not to be made a
[024] judge unless thou art strong in virtue, with the strength to break down iniquities,
[025] lest thou quail before the face of the mighty and lay a stumbling block in the way
[026] of thy activity.’16 17[and see what kinds of justices delegate there are, what their
[027] power is, and how their power or jurisdiction may be determined].18

Of the kinds of justices.

[029] Some justices are major, general, permanent and of greater importance, who
[030] remain at the side of the king and whose duty it is to correct the wrongs and errors of
[031] all others. There are also other permanent judges, sitting in a place certain, that
[032] is,19 in the bench, who determine all pleas for which they have a warrant,
[033] all of whom begin to have jurisdiction after having taken an oath. There are other
[034] justices, travelling from place to place, as from county to county, sometimes for
[035] all pleas, sometimes for certain special pleas, as for assises only and [the delivery
[036] of] gaols, who begin to have authority without an oath, when they have received
[037] the lord king's writ of warrant. There are also justices appointed for certain [named]
[038] assises, two or three or several, who are not permanent, and who lose their jurisdiction
[039] once they have discharged their office.20


1. Glanvill, Prol.: ‘a iustitiae tramite aliquatenus declinare’

2. Psl. 9:9

3. Psl. 16:2: ‘De vultu tuo iudicium meum prodeat, oculi tui videant aequitates;’ Policraticus, iv, 3 (515b)

4. Psl. 98:4; Policraticus iv, 8 (530d): ‘Honor etenim regis iudicium diligit’

5. Supra 302

6-7. Policraticus v, 16 (580a): ‘[corrupt judges] diligunt munera et sequntur retributiones, nec liberant pauperum a potente, advenae et pupillo non iudicant, et causae viduae non ingreditur ad eos.’

8-9. Glanvill, prol.: ‘Ibi [in curia regis] pauperem non opprimit adversarii potentia’

10. ‘obtemperent’

11-12. Glanvill, Prol.: ‘nec a limitatibus iudicorum propellit favor vel gratia’

13. Psl. 118: 137

14-15. Supra 19, 21

16. Eccl. 7:6; Policraticus, v, 11 (568a)

17. Continued from 306, n. 26

18. As Tancred, 95: ‘qui sint iudices delegati, et quae sit eorum potestas sive iurisdictio, et qualiter eorum iurisdictio finiatur.’

19. ‘scilicet’

20. Infra iii, 64

Contact: specialc@law.harvard.edu
Page last reviewed April 2003.
© 2003 The President and Fellows of Harvard College