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Insolvency Law

Expert guidance on all aspects of corporate and personal insolvency

11 APR 2012

Legal History in the Chancery Division - the Coleridge Collar - an interesting case on judicial apparel

His Honour Judge Pelling QC has recently handed down a judgment in a very interesting case which touches on some fascinating areas of legal history. The case involves no insolvency issues whatsoever, but for a riveting read see here: Coleridge v Sotheby's [2012] EWHC 370 (Ch) (01 March 2012). Here is an early snippet: 

"Prior to the Judicature Acts 1873 and 1875, the principal courts of common law were the courts of (a) Kings Bench, (b) Common Pleas and (c) Exchequer. The Courts of Queens Bench and Common Pleas were each presided over by a Chief Justice and the Court of Exchequer was presided over by the Chief Baron. Originally each court exercised different jurisdictions. The Court of Common Pleas was concerned with actions between subjects particularly concerning Land and debt issues. The Court of Kings Bench was concerned with matters in which the Crown was interested and the Court of Exchequer was concerned at any rate initially with fiscal issues between the Crown and its subjects. However by the end of the 17th Century all these courts had similar jurisdictions with broadly similar processes.

By the middle of the 19th Century it was recognised that these arrangements could no longer be justified and the Judicature Act 1873 was passed. Its effect was to create a single post of Lord Chief Justice (which in the event was filled by the then Chief Justice Queens Bench) and one High Court of Justice with a number of divisions which, initially, included Kings Bench, Common Pleas and Exchequer Divisions. The creation of three common law divisions was necessary only because it was by then regarded as constitutionally unacceptable to force retirement or demotion on those Chiefs then in post who did not become Lord Chief Justice.

John Duke 1st Baron Coleridge ("Lord Coleridge CJ") was the last Chief Justice Common Pleas. He held office from 1873 until 1880. In 1880 Sir Alexander Cockburn CJ (formerly the Chief Justice Queens Bench and from 1875 the first Lord Chief Justice) and Sir Fitzroy Kelly (then the Chief Baron) both died in office. Following these events, by an Order in Council made on 16th December 1880, the three common law divisions were merged into one Queens Bench Division, which thereafter assumed the work of all three former divisions. The then Chief Justice Common Pleas (Lord Coleridge CJ) was appointed Lord Chief Justice. He held that office until his death in 1894.

Part of the regalia of the Chief Justices and Chief Baron was a gold livery collar known as a Collar of Ss or "esses". This nomenclature derives from the form of the links in the chains which appears as, or similar to, the letter "S". The Coleridge Collar was the Collar worn by Lord Coleridge CJ while he was Chief Justice Common Pleas."

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