High Court

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The High Court (or more formally the 'High Court of Justice') is one of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. It is divided into three main divisions: (i) the Queen's Bench Division, (ii) the Chancery Division and (iii) the Family Division. The Senior Courts Costs Office, which deals with the quantification of legal costs pursuant to costs orders made by the courts, falls outside these divisions but is also a constituent part of the High Court. Apart from certain narrow exceptions, such as appeals to the Queen's Bench Division from Magistrate's Courts, the High Court's jurisdiction is civil only, extending to actions founded on: (i) contract or tort; (ii) commercial or property rights; (iii) matrimonial or family rights. The remedies granted by the court include damages, injunctions, declarations of rights, dissolution of marriage, and others. The High Court is headed by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

Politically, the High Court's jurisdiction covers England and Wales. Judicially, the High Court's jurisdiction is original and appellate/supervisory. The court's original jurisdiction extends to all causes of action and is unlimited in value or amount, although in certain matters it is concurrent with other courts. Exercise of this jurisdiction in particular matters is assigned to one of the court's three main divisions (see above). The Queen's Bench Division, for instance, includes an Admiralty Court and a Commercial Court. The High Court's appellate and supervisory jurisdiction is exercised, in most cases, by a single judge; however, certain kinds of proceedings, especially in the Queen's Bench Division, may sometimes be assigned to a 'Divisional Court', which consists of a bench of two or more judges. Exceptionally, the High Court may sit with a jury, although in practice this normally only occurs in defamation cases or cases against the police. Important instances of the court's appellate and supervisory jurisdiction include appeals to the Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division from inferior courts or tribunals, petitions for writs of habeas corpus, and orders of mandamus, prohibition or certiorari.

Under the doctrine of precedent, the High Court is bound by its own (earlier) decisions. Appeals from the High Court in civil matters are normally heard by the Court of Appeal and, following this, the Supreme Court. However, in some instances a 'leapfrog' appeal may be made directly to the Supreme Court. In criminal matters, appeals from the Queen's Bench Divisional Court are made directly to the Supreme Court.

See also Court system of England.

Public Law