In English law, a court through which the powers, privileges, and immunities reserved to the sovereign were exercised. Such courts were originally formed during the period when the sovereign's power was greater than the Parliament's. The Star Chamber, the High Commission, and the Court of Chancery all achieved importance in the 16th century. By the 17th century they were being challenged by the common law courts and competing political interests, and they were soon put out of business. Seealso Privy Council.
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In England and Wales, any of the inferior courts with primarily criminal jurisdiction covering a wide range of offenses, from minor traffic violations and public-health nuisances to somewhat more serious crimes, such as petty theft or assault. Magistrates' courts with similar jurisdictions, including jurisdiction over small civil claims, may be found in certain large U.S. municipalities.
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Special court handling problems of delinquent, neglected, or abused children. Two types of cases are processed by a juvenile court: civil matters, often concerning care of an abandoned or impoverished child, and criminal matters, arising from antisocial behaviour by the child. Most statutes provide that all persons under a given age (often 18 years) must first be processed by the juvenile court, which can then, at its discretion, assign the case to an ordinary court. Before the creation of the first juvenile court, in Chicago in 1899, and the subsequent creation of other such courts in the United States and other countries (e.g., Canada in 1908; England in 1908; France in 1912; Russia in 1918; Poland in 1919; Japan in 1922; and Germany in 1923), juveniles were tried in the same courts as adults.
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Military court for hearing charges brought against members of the armed forces or others within its jurisdiction; also, the legal proceeding of such a court. Most countries today have military codes of justice administered by military courts, often subject to civilian appellate review. Courts-martial are generally convened as ad hoc courts to try one or more cases referred by some high military authority. The convening officer chooses officers, and sometimes enlisted personnel, from his or her command to sit on the court, determine guilt or innocence, and hand down sentences. Seealso military law.
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Official assembly with judicial authority to hear and determine disputes in particular cases. In early judicial tribunals, judges sat in enclosures (courts in an architectural sense), and lawyers and the general public remained outside a bar (hence the term bar in legal contexts). Modern British courts are divided into those trying criminal cases and those trying civil cases; a second distinction is made between inferior courts, or courts of first instance, and superior courts, or courts of appeal. In the U.S. each state has its own system of courts, usually consisting of a superior (appellate) court, trial courts of general jurisdiction, and specialized courts (e.g., probate courts). The U.S. also has a system of federal courts, established to adjudicate distinctively national questions and cases not appropriately tried in state courts. At the apex of the national system is the Supreme Court of the United States. The secondary level consists of the United States Courts of Appeals. United States District Courts form the tertiary level. Crimes committed by military figures may be tried in a court-martial. In the past, ecclesiastical courts had broad jurisdiction. Seealso International Court of Justice; judiciary.
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Permanent judicial body established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998) to prosecute individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The court commenced operations on July 1, 2002, after the requisite number of countries (60) ratified the Rome Statute (some 140 countries signed the agreement). The ICC was established as a court of last resort to prosecute the most heinous offenses in cases where national courts fail to act. It is headquartered in The Hague. By 2002 China, Russia, and the U.S. had declined to participate in the ICC, and the U.S. had campaigned actively to have its citizens exempted from the court's jurisdiction.
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Principal judicial body of the United Nations, located at The Hague. Its predecessor organization was the Permanent Court of International Justice, the judicial body of the League of Nations. Its first session was held in 1946. Its jurisdiction is limited to disputes between states willing to accept its authority on matters of international law. Its decisions are binding, but it has no enforcement power; appeals must be made to the UN Security Council. Its 15-member body of judges, each of whom serves a nine-year term, is elected by countries party to the court's founding statute. No two judges may come from the same country. Seealso European Court of Justice.
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Four societies of British students and practitioners of law that have the exclusive right to admit people to practice. The four are Lincoln's Inn, Gray's Inn, Inner Temple, and Middle Temple. All are located in London and trace their origins to the Middle Ages. Until the 17th century, when the Inn of Chancery developed (for training in the framing of writs and other legal documents used in the courts of chancery, or equity courts), the Inns of Court had a monopoly over legal education. By the 19th century, modern law schools had emerged.
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Judicial branch of the European Union (EU), established in 1958 to ensure the observance of international agreements negotiated by predecessor organizations of the EU. Headquartered in Luxembourg, it reviews the legality of the acts of EU executive bodies and rules on cases of civil law between member states or private parties. It can invalidate the laws of EU members when they conflict with EU law. Its bench, which is appointed by member governments, consists of 25 judges and 8 advocates-general. Prior to 2004, the ECJ met as a full chamber for all cases, but it now may sit as a “grand chamber” of 11 judges. Seealso International Court of Justice.
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In the Roman Catholic Church, a tribunal usually refers to literally one of three instances of ecclesiastical courts: (1) a diocesan tribunal (2) a provincial tribunal, that is, of more than one diocese and commonly referred to as an appellate court (3) the Sacra Rota Romana, or Sacred Roman Rota, the highest court of appeals.
Many bodies that are titled 'tribunals' are so described to emphasize the fact that they are not courts of normal jurisdiction. For example the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is a body specially constituted under international law; in Great Britain, Employment Tribunals are bodies set up to hear specific employment disputes. Private judicial bodies are also often styled 'tribunals'. The word 'tribunal' is not conclusive of a body's function. For example, in Great Britain, the Employment Appeal Tribunal is a superior court of record.