Jersey historian Philip Falle's account of the origins of Jurats

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Jersey historian
Philippe Falle's account
of the origins of Jurats

Extract from Philip Falle's 1734 book
An account of the island of Jersey

Division of power

As the Power of Arms and Military Command is in the Governor, or Lieutenant-Governor, so the sacred Trust of administring Justice, and protecting Men in their Civil Rights, is in the Bailly and Twelve Jurats. These constitute our Magistracy, of which the Bailly is the Head. He holds immediately from the King, whom he represents in Court ; and there, in token of his independance, has his Seat raised above that of the Governor.

The Jurats are his Assessors, not made like him by the King, but elected by the People. They are of King John's Institution, who seeing Justice dispensed here summarily and arbitrarily, by one who had the two Swords in his Hand, assisted only by the Franes Tenans, or principal Freeholders, following their opinions no farther than he listed, and holding Pleas no oftener than thrice a year, found it necessary, in lieu of Assistants of so little weight and significancy, to establish Twelve stated and permanent Judges, to sit with the Governor, and have such check upon him as that without their Consent and Concurrence he should be able to do no Judicial Act of any force.

And when he, the said Governor, withdrew from meddling in matters of Contentious Jurisdiction, and turned those over, with the name of Bailly to another, the same Trust with respect to the Bailly, remained in the Jurats, and so continues to this time.

Coronatores jurati

These Twelve it pleased the King, in the Charter of their Election, to dignify with the Title of Coronatores Jurati; meaning thereby to have them partake of the power of two sorts of Officers, viz the Coroners in England and the Jurats in Gascony, for here I take Coronatores Jurati to be a Compound of two Substantives, which is not unusual. The Coroner is an Officer unknown in France but as for the name of Jurats, its Original is from Gascony, that part of France which King John affectioned most, and where he maintained himself longest.

And this is the name that adheres to our Magistrates, that of Coroners being dropt, and no longer mentioned. For thus all Orders from the Sovereign run at present, To our trusty and well beloved, the Bailly and Jurats of our Island of Jersey. In the Language of the Country 'tis Jur├Ęz, but among the People they are more commonly stiled Justiciers.

Obedience of laws

Their business being not only to give hearing to Litigants, and decide Controversies of meum and tuum, as in most other Judicatories, but also to enforce on all Persons a general obedience to the Laws, to watch over the Public Tranquillity; in a word, to extend their Care to everything whatsoever conducing to good Order and Polity, they seem not unlike those Twelve Nomophulaces, in some Grecian Commonwealths, of whom we read in ancient Authors. Nor has any other Magistracy, that I know, so enlarged a Jurisdiction; those manifold Powers being united in them, which elsewhere are divided and parcelled out among Judges and Officers of various Denominations.

No salary

And be it noted, that 'tis not for the sake of a Salary that this Office is ambitioned, for there is none at all belonging to it. What is chiefly sought in it, is Rank and Distinction, with the privilege it gives Gentlemen of having their own private Suits in Court more readily dispatched.

One sort of Business may be done by a less, whilst another requires the Presence of a greater Number; and a Cause heard by a few, may be brought on again before a Corps de Cour, that is, before Seven, presumed equipollent to a full Body.

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