Professor David Millon, the J.B. Stombock Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University, recently completed a project nearly thirty years in the making. What began in 1982 as dissertation for a Ph.D. in history from Cornell is now a published volume in a distinguished British legal history series published by the Selden Society.
The book, titled Select Ecclesiastical Cases from the King’s Courts 1272-1307, explores the relationship between the Catholic Church’s court system and the King’s common law courts during the reign of Edward I. In medieval times, these two fully developed court systems operated in parallel, the church court responsible for cases that involved sacraments, such as marriages, oaths, and tithes, and the King’s courts handling criminal, property, and other secular matters.
Millon says that these court systems were supposed to operate separately, but after laborious research examining case records on un-indexed latin plea rolls, concluded that many cases fell into a gray area where court jurisdiction was unclear. The period covered in the book was a time of significant church-state conflict in England and elsewhere in Europe, and scholars had assumed this would be reflected in the king’s courts’ handling of these jurisdictional controversies. However, Millon’s research shows that these high-level political conflicts did not work their way into the day-to-day operations of the court systems.
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Many congratulations to Professor Millon for this groundbreaking study into the history of our parallel court system.