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Proceedings of the County Court of Charles County, 1658-1666
Volume 53, Preface 13   View pdf image (33K)
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                  Early Maryland County Courts.       xiii

       or minutes, of the courts, as well as the land and testamentary records of the
       several counties established before the Revolution, will be found in a series
       of articles by Louis Dow Scisco on the Colonial Records of the several Mary
       land counties, which appeared in the Maryland Historical Magazine between
       the years 1926 and 1930.
        The proceedings, or minutes, of the four county courts under review in
       the two volumes of the Archives now published, vary widely in the form
       and the completeness with which they were kept by the several clerks. This
       depended not only upon the knowledge of legal procedure and legal form of
       the recording clerks, but also upon the knowledge of the local bench in these
       same matters, for in the case of Somerset County the court formulated a
       rule that the entries about to be made were to be examined and approved by
       the court itself before they were recorded by the clerk (Arch. Md. liv, 652).
       A side light upon the interest of the clerk, and for that matter of the bench
       itself, in the more human side of the suits and squabbles between neighbors,
       as well as in the salacious details of criminal prosecutions and slander suits
       involving sexual irresponsibility, is shown in the great variations exhibited by
       the several clerks in recording the details of the evidence. In a few instances
       the recording clerk also showed rare flashes of humor in the phraseology of
       his records. Of the four county court proceedings reproduced here, those of
       Charles County as kept by its several clerks, perhaps show a greater knowledge
       of legal procedure and legal form, both in the manner and the fullness with
       which the testimony is recorded, than is to be found in the other counties,
       making the court record of Charles an especially interesting human document.
       On the other hand, the minutes of the Kent County Court for the last decade
       or so, as presented here, make dreary reading indeed.
        Although during the late thirties and the forties of the seventeenth century,
       a period for which no county court records have been preserved, there may
       have been slight differences between the court procedure and jurisdiction in
       the two then-existing counties St. Mary's and Kent, when the records begin
       about the middle of the century the procedure in the several county courts
       seems to have been practically identical in all.
        The justices or commissioners as they are almost invariably called, were
       selected by the Governor from among the most prominent men of the several
       counties, and their powers were defined and limited in the commissions issued
       by him appointing them. They held office during his pleasure. The number
       varied, but was usually from six to ten, the commission reading that at least
       one of the first three or four named must be present in order that a court
       be held, these being designated as “of the quorum “; although court might be
       held without them if the Governor or a member of his council sat with those
       not of the quorum, who were later often called associate justices. The first
       one named was the presiding justice or “Judge “. One of the Charles County
       clerks uses the title quaesitor as synonymous with justice (p. 59). The activi
       ties of these commissioners were two-fold——judicial and administrative. In
       their judicial capacity during our period they were empowered to try criminal
       cases not involving loss of life or member, and in the second decade after the

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Proceedings of the County Court of Charles County, 1658-1666
Volume 53, Preface 13   View pdf image (33K)
 Jump to  

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