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Statutes Passed Under William Penn's
May 22, 1722, the General Assembly passed a law entitled "An Act for Establishing Courts of Judicature in this Province.” See Duke of Yorke, page 387. This law among other provisions provides as follows: (See Duke of Yorke, page 390.)
“And be it further Enacted by the authority aforesaid, That there shall be holden and kept at Philadelphia, a Court of Record twice in every Year, That is to say, On the Twenty fourth day of September, and the Tenth Day of April, if the same Days, or either, do not happen to be on the First Day of the week, and in such Case the said Court shall be held on the next Day following; Which said Court shall be called and stiled The Supream Court of Pensilvania, And that there shall be Three persons of known Integrity and Ability, commissionated by the Governor or his Lieutenant for the Time being, by several distinct patents or Commissions under the Great Seal of this province, to be Judges of the Said Court; one of whom shall be distinguished in his Commission by the Name of Chief Justice, And every of the said Justices shall have full power and Authority, by Virtue of this Act, when and as often as there may be Occasion, to Issue forth Writs of Habeas Corpus, Certiorari and Writs of Error, and all Remedial and other Writs and process, returnable to the said Court, and grantable by the said Judges by Vertue of their Office, in pursuance of the powers and Authorities hereby given them.
"Provided always, That upon any Issue joined in the said Supream Court, such Issue shall be tryed in the County whence the Cause was removed, before the Judges aforesaid, or any Two of them, who are hereby impowered and required, if Occasion require, to go the Circuit Twice in every Year into the respective counties of Chester and Bucks, To try such issues in Fact as shall be depending in the said Supream Court, and removed out of either of the Counties aforesaid, That is to say, in the County of Bucks on the Fourteenth Day of April, and the Twenty-eighth Day of September; and in the County of Chester on the eighteenth day of April, and the Second Day of October, in every Year; When and where they may trye all Issues, joined or to be joined, in the same Supream Court, and to do generally all these Things that shall be necessary for the Tryal of any Issue, as fully as Justices of Nisi Prius in England may or can do.
"And that the said Judges or any Two of them, shall have full Power to hold the said Court, and therein to hear and determine all Causes, Matters, and things cognizable in the said Court; and also to hear and determine all and all manner of pleas, plaints and Causes which shall be removed or brought there from the respective General Quarter Sessions of the peace and Courts of Common Pleas, to be held for the respective Counties of Philadelphia, Chester and Bucks, as also for the City of Philadelphia, or from any other Court of this province, by Vertue of any
of the said Writs: And to examine and correct all and all Manner of Errors of the Justices and Magistrates of this province in their judgments, process and proceedings in the said Courts, as well in all pleas of the Crown, as in pleas Real, personal and mixt; and thereupon to reverse or affirm the said Judgments as the Law doth or shall direct: And also to examine, correct and punish the Contempts, Omissions and Neglects, Favours, Corruptions and Defaults of all or any of the Justices of the Peace, Sheriffs, Coroners, Clerks and other Officers within the said respective Counties.
"And Also, shall award process for Levying, as well of such Fines, Forfeitures and Amerciaments as shall be Estreated into the said Supream Court, as of the Fines, Forfeitures and Amerciaments which shall be lost, tax'd and set there, and not paid to the Uses they are or shall be appropriated.
"And generally shall minister justice to all persons and exercise the Jurisdictions and powers hereby Granted concerning all and singular the premises according to Law, as fully and amply to all Intents and purposes whatsoever as the Justices of the Court of King's Bench, Common pleas and Exchequer at Westminster, or any of them, may or can do.
“[Saving to all and every person or persons, his her or their Heirs, Executors and Administrators, their Right of Appeal from the final Sentence. Judgment or Decree of any Court within this
province, to his Majesty in Council, or to such Court or Courts, Judge or Judges, as by our Sovereign Lord the King, his heirs and Successors shall be appointed in Britain to receive, hear and judge of the Appeals from His Majesty's Plantations.)
“Provided the person Appealing shall upon entering his Appeal in the Court where the Sentence, Judgment or Decree shall be given in this province, pay all the Costs before that Time expended in the prosecution, or defending the said suit: And shall further enter into Bond, with two good and sufficient Se. curities, in the Sum of Three hundred pounds, to the Defendant in the Appeal, Conditioned to prosecute the said Appeal with Effect, within the Space of Eighteen Months after the Entry of such Appeal, And to satisfy the Judgment of the Court from which he Appeals. And further to pay all such Costs and Damages as shall be adjudged to him to pay, in Case a Sentence, Judgment or Decree pass against the said Appellant, or in case he, she or they fail to prosecute their Appeal with Effect.
"And that there shall be a fit person nominated by the Judges, and Commissionated by the Governor, to be prothonotary or Clerk of the said Supream Court, Who shall keep and duly attend his Office at some convenient Place in the City of Philadelphia, and may be suspended, punished or amoved by the said Court for Misdemeanors in his Office.
"And be it further Enacted, That all the said Writs shall be granted of course, and made in the Name and Stile of the King, his Heirs and Successors, and shall bear Test in the Name of the chief Justice for the Time being; But if he be plaintiff or Defendant, in the Name of one of the other, justices, and shall be sealed with the Judicial Seal of the said Court, and made returnable to the next Court after the Date of such writs.
"Provided Always, That none of the Judges of the said Supream or provincial Court shall sit Judicially in any of the said Courts of Common pleas, Quarter Sessions, or any other inferior Court in this province.
"And be it further Enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That the said Judges of the Supream Court shall have power, and are hereby authorized and Impowered from Time to Time to deliver the Gaols of all persons which now are or hereafter shall be committed for Treasons, Murthers, and other Crimes as (by the Laws of this province) now are or hereafter shall be made Capital or Fellonies of Death as aforesaid: And for that End from time to time to issue forth such necessary precepts and process, and force Obedience thereto as Justices of Assize, Justices of Oyer and Terminer and Gaol Delivery may or can do in the Realm of Great Britain.
"And also, That all manner of Offences already made or declared, or hereafter to be made or declared to be Capital or Fellonies of Death by any Law or Act of Assembly of this province, and done, perpetrated or committed, or hereafter to be done perpetrated or committed by any person or persons within the Bounds and Limits of the same province, and without the certain and known Bounds and Limits of any of the Counties now or hereafter erected in the said province, shall be from henceforth enquired of, heard and determined before the said Judges, by good and lawful Men of the City and County of Philadelphia, in like Manner and Form to all Intents and purposes as if the said Offences and Fellonies of Death, had been done, perpetrated and committed within the said City or County of Philadelphia.
"Provided Always, That the Fees due to the Judges and Offcers of the said Court for Hearing and Determining any of the said capital Offences for any thing done there shall be double the Fees usually taken in the General Quarter Sessions held in any of the said Counties in this province; anything herein, or in any other Law to the contrary notwithstanding.
"And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That a competent Number of Persons shall be commissionated by the Governor or his Lieutenant under the Broad Seal of this province, who shall hold and keep a Court of Record in every County, which shall be stiled and called the County Court of Common Pleas, and shall be holden four Times in every Year, at the places where the General Quarter Sessions shall be respectively kept, vizt, at Philadelphia, for the County and City of Philadelphia, on the Day called the first Wednesday after the Day appointed for the Quarter Sessions to begin on there, in the Months called March June September and December; at Bristol for the County of Bucks, on the eleventh Day following, (inclusive); And at Chester, for the County of Chester, on the Day called the last Tuesday in the Months called May, August, November, and February. Which said Justices, or any Three of them (according to the Tenor and Direction of their Commissions) shall hold pleas of Assizes, Scire Facias, Replevins, and hear and determine all and all Manner of pleas, Actions, Suits and Causes, civil, personal, Real and mixt, according to the Laws and Constitutions of this province.
"And be it further Enacted by the authority aforesd, That every of the said Justices shall and are hereby Impowered to Grant, under the seal of the respective Counties, Replevins, Writs of partition, Writs of View, and all other Writts and process, upon the said pleas and actions Cognizable in the said respective Courts, as Occasion may require.
“And be it further Enacted, That the said Judges of said respective Courts shall and are hereby Impowered to issue forth subpoena's under their respective Hands and Seal of the Counties, into any County or place of this province, for summoning or bringing any person or persons to give evidence in or upon the Tryal of any Matter or Cause whatsoever depending before them or any of them, under such pains and penalties as by the rules of the Common Law and Course of practice of the King's Courts at Westminster are usually appointed.
“And be it further Enacted, That upon any Judgment obtained in any of the said Courts of this province, and Execution returned by the Sheriff or Coroner of the proper County where such Judgment was obtained, That the party is not to be found or hath no Lands or Tenements, Goods or Chattels in that County, and thereupon it is testified that the party skulks, or lies hid, or hath Lands, Tenements, Goods or Chattels in another County of this province, it shall and may be lawful to and for the Court that issued out such Execution to Grant, and they are hereby required to Grant, an Alias Execution, with a Testatum, directed to the Sheriff or Coroner of the County or place where such person lies hid, or where his Lands or Effects are, commanding him to execute the same according to the Tenor of such Writ or Writs, and make Return thereof to the Court of Common pleas where such Recovery is had or Judgment given. And if the Sheriff or Coroner (to whom such Writ or Writs shall be directed) shall refuse or neglect to execute and return the same accordingly, he shall be amerced in the Court where he ought to return it, and be liable to the action of the party grieved: And the said amerciaments shall be truly and duly set, according to the Quality of the Offence, and estreated by the prothonotaries of