Records of the House of Lords: Parliament Office: Judicial Office
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- Held At: Parliamentary Archives: GB-061
- Catalogue Reference: HL/PO/JU
- Date: 1680-2009
- Level: Sub sub fonds
- Extent: 43 series
- Creator Name: House of Lords; Judicial Office; 1854-2009
- Administrative or Biographical History: The House of Lords performed a judicial function as the highest court in the land ? the supreme court of appeal - up until 2009. It acted as the final court of appeal on points of law for the whole of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland) in civil cases but only for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in criminal cases. Its decisions bound all courts below.
The Judicial Office was created in 1854 along with the other administrative offices of the House. Previously the work had been carried out within the Parliament Office. The Judicial Office administered the judicial business of the House and provided administrative support for the Law Lords. It supervised the preparation and arrangement for the hearing of appeals and the taxation of judicial costs. It was also responsible for peerage claims which were referred to the Committee for Privileges. The Principal Clerk of the Judicial Office sat as the Fourth Clerk at the Table of the House and, when the Register of Lords? Interests was established in 1995, was appointed as its Registrar by the Clerk of the Parliaments.
The judicial role of the House of Lords evolved over more than 600 years: originally from the work of the royal court, the ?Curia Regis?, which advised the sovereign, passed laws and dispensed justice at the highest level. The inclusion of a supreme court within a country?s legislative body was highly unusual. Jurisdiction existed in the House of Lords due to precedent dating from the 13th century. Until 1399, both Houses of Parliament heard petitions for the judgments of lower courts to be reversed. After this date the House of Commons stopped considering such cases, leaving the House of Lords as the highest court of appeal. (By custom, the whole House of Lords could sit as a court on special occasions, such as the trial of one of their own members).
In 1876 the Appellate Jurisdiction Act (36 & 37 Vic c66) was passed to regulate how appeals were heard. It also appointed Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (known as Law Lords): highly qualified professional judges working full time on the judicial business of the House. As life peers holding Letters Patent from the Crown, the Law Lords were able to vote on legislation as full Members of the House of Lords, but in practice rarely did so.
Before the second world war, the Law Lords heard appeals each day in the Chamber of the House of Lords. After the House of Commons was bombed, the Law Lords moved their hearings to a nearby committee room to escape the noise of the building repairs, constituting themselves as an Appellate Committee for the purpose. This temporary arrangement proved so successful that it became permanent and continued for the remainder of the Appellate Committee?s life.
In 2005 Parliament passed the Constitutional Reform Act which, for the first time in constitutional history, provided for the separation of the Appellate Committee (supreme court) from the legislature (Parliament) and the executive (Government). The Supreme Court was established by Part 3 of this Act as part of the Ministry of Justice and assumed responsibility for the judicial functions of the House. The judicial role of the House of Lords as the highest appeal court ended on 30 July 2009, when the last hearings and judgments in the House of Lords took place. The new Supreme Court opened on 1 October (the start of the legal year) 2009, based at Middlesex Guildhall, Westminster, London. On the commencement of the Supreme Court all current Law Lords became its first Justices. The first Justices remained Members of the House of Lords but were unable to sit and vote in the House. All new Justices appointed after October 2009 have been directly appointed to the Supreme Court on the recommendation of a selection commission.
- Acquisition: Transferred from the House of Lords Judicial Office in series of accessions.
- Description: The records represent the work of the Judicial Office and that of the Law Lords which it supports.
Appeal Committee Memoranda may be found in HL/PO/JU/1. Appeal Committee Draft Reports may be found in HL/PO/JU/2. Registers of Appearances may be found in HL/PO/JU/3. HL/PO/JU/4 contains Appeal Cases, of particular interest being HL/PO/JU/4/3 which is fully indexed by case name from 1702 to 2001. Bills of Costs (case expenses) and accompanying papers may be found in HL/PO/JU/5. Judicial Clerks' notebooks may be found in HL/PO/JU/6. Registers and Indexes of Causes set down for hearing may be found in HL/PO/JU/7. Causes set down for hearing may be found in HL/PO/JU/8. HL/PO/JU/9 contains Recognisance Registers of the sums of money pledged by the appellant as surety against losing the case. Administrative records tracking the Progress of Appeals may be found in HL/PO/JU/10. Printed Appeal Cases based on Writs of Error may be found in HL/PO/JU/11. Registers of Proceedings in Appeals and Causes in Error may be found in HL/PO/JU/12. Judicial Minutes giving a brief note of the days business may be found in HL/PO/JU/13. Proceedings of the Appellate Committees, with a description of how the Appeal system functions may be found in HL/PO/JU/14. Appeal Case Record Books may be found in HL/PO/JU/15. Registers of Draft Judgments may be found in HL/PO/JU/16. Appeal Committee Minutes may be found in HL/PO/JU/17. Manuscript and Printed Opinions and Judgments which give the full opinions of the Law Lords may be found in HL/PO/JU/18. Printed Judgments in Causes which give a useful and concise summary of the outcome of a case may be found in HL/PO/JU/19. Manuscript Judgments in Causes for the 18th and early 19th century may also be found in HL/PO/JU/20. HL/PO/JU/21 contains Reference Material and additional papers. Registers of Costs in Appeals may be found in HL/PO/JU/22.
Appeal cases [HL/PO/JU/4/3] contain the evidence offered by the appellant along with the argument and interpretation put by their legal defence. As a general rule, the cases do not contain the original petition, which may be found amongst the House of Lords Main Papers as the documents were laid on the table [HL/PO/JO/10]. Similarly, the Appeal Cases do not contain the Judgment or the Opinion on a case. The Judgment is a brief statement giving the Law Lords' verdict and modern cases may be found at HL/PO/JU/18. The Opinion is a much more detailed explanation of the Law Lords' ruling, and comprises a full statement written by each Law Lord who heard the case, explaining their findings and so gives a comprehensive argument supporting the ruling. Modern opinions may be found via www.parliament.uk from 14 November 1996.
See HL/PO/JU/14 for a description of how the Appeal system functions. These volumes may be consulted in conjunction with HL/PO/JU/18 which contains opinions and Judgments arranged chronologically from 1839 to the late 1970s. Although HL/PO/JU/4/3 does not contain the printed outcome of the case, many of the 18th and 19th century cases have the judgment endorsed in manuscript upon the final page of the Appeal. For Opinions and Judgments from 1640-1693 see the Parchment Collection and for Judgments from 1759-1844 see HL/PO/JU/20. HL/PO/JU/18 gives the full opinions of the Law Lords.
HL/PO/JU/38 contains Petition for Leave index cards which were a Judicial tracking/finding aid and relate to the petitions in the Main Papers Series (HL/PO/JO/10/). HL/PO/JU/41 contains the Judicial Office's precedent papers. These are documents which were collated by the office to document precedent and referred to by the office staff and Law Lords when necessary. HL/PO/JU/42 contains the office's administrative records and includes records about the transition to the Supreme Court in 2009.
c1854-1874 Edward Meredith Parratt
1874-1895 Augustus William Dubourg
1895-1902 Edward Fairfax Taylor
1902-1908 Felix James Harvey Skene
1908-1919 Henry Percy St John
1920-1941 Henry John Fanshawe Badeley
1941-1945 Granville Proby
1946-1953 Victor Martin Reeves Goodman
1953-1958 Geoffrey Hugh Eastwood
1959-1977 Richard Philip Cave
1978-1983 JVD Webb
1984-2002 James Vallance White
2002-2009 Brendan Keith
- Accruals: Judicial functions moved to the Supreme Court in 2009. Therefore no further accurals are expected.
- Language: English and Latin
- System of Arrangement: Original office order has been retained.
- Related Material: Some early administrative material may also be found in HL/PO/1. Opinions and Judgments from the 17th century (fore-runners of series HL/PO/JU/18-20) may be found in the Parchment Collection. Petitions for leave to appeal, opinions and other papers related to Appeal Cases, as reported to the House, may be found with the House of Lords Main Papers in HL/PO/JO/10. GUR/45 contained a copy of the Appeallate Jurisdiction Act 1876. HL/PO/PB/18/2/5 contains the Papers of Parliamentary Agents, including blank recognisances. Records of the Court of Appeal and other lower courts are held by the National Archives at Kew.
- Related Record:
- Access Status: Open
- Access Conditions: Records are closed for thirty years unless otherwise stated. From 2005, requests for access under Freedom of Information will be considered.
- Copies Exist: HL/PO/JU/4/3, HL/PO/JU/8 and HL/PO/JU/18 are also available online from 1996 onwards via www.parliament.uk under Judicial work.
- Publication Notes: "Erskine May's Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament" ed Sir Donald Limon and W R McKay (London, 1997, 22nd edition) pp60-63; p201. M F Bond, "Guide to the Records of Parliament" (London, 1971), pp106-126. Judicial Office Information Sheets. AS Turburville, "The House of Lords as a Court of Law, 1784-1837", Law Quarterly Review, Apr 1936, pp189-219.