September 9, 2012
Court History and Purpose
When thinking about the history of court systems one typically does not think past the time of when the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights were established. History shows that varying forms of court systems date back as far as 1750 B.C. when King Hammurabi ruled. During King Hammurabi’s reign he established seven codes of law; one code is the “eye for an eye” code, which is a form of retributive justice (Halsall, 1998). After Hammurabi, came the Roman Empire in 450 B.C. with their 12 tables of laws, which was the first of non-religious based legal codes. King William of England was the first to have judges that issued decisions that were written and shared with other judges (Siegal, Schmalleger, & Worrall, 2011, p. 8). England titled this procedure as being laws that are in common. When the British came to the United States they brought this form of law with them and this is what the United States refers to as common law. The practice of judges making common law or precedents no longer happens in today’s society. Hammurabi, the Roman Empire and King William of England paved the way for the court systems, laws, and the procedures that the United States has and makes good use of today. These early legal codes were the beginning of formalized law (Siegal, Schmalleger, & Worrall, 2011, p. 8). The role they played in the development of court systems started with common law and civil law. Common law originated from court judges of that era writing down how they sentenced a case so that judges in the future who had similar cases had a guideline for what the consequences would be to the offender or person present in court. These written sentences or procedures are called precedents and are not coded laws. Adhering to these set precedents is called stare decisis. As laws and courts started to develop and were...