Before the Judicature Act the king's bench and the common pleas were each presided over by a lord chief justice, and the lord chief justice of the king's bench was nominal head of all the three courts, and held the title of lord chief justice of England.
Though the authority of the courts had been strengthened by the Petition of Right and the act of 1640, it was still rendered insufficient by reason of the insecurity of judicial tenure, the fact that only the chancellor (a political as well as a legal officer) and the court of king's bench had undoubted right to issue the writ, and the inability or hesitation of the competent judges to issue the writ except during the legal term, which did not cover more than half the year.
He had been committed to the king's bench prison on the ridiculous charge of libelling the Church in his Paraphrase on the New Testament, and was tried before Jeffreys on this accusation.
In the case of imprisonment on accusation of crime the writ issued from the court of king's bench (or from the chancery), and on its return the court judged of the legality of the imprisonment, and discharged the prisoner or admitted him to bail or remanded him to his former custody according to the result of the examination.
Chicheley now became the subject of a leading case, the court of king's bench deciding, of ter arguments reheard in three successive terms, that he could not hold his previous benefices with the bishopric, and that, spite of the maxim Papa potest omnia, a papal bull could not supersede the law of the land (Year-book ii.
His brother, Sir John Lenthall, who, it was said, had too much influence with him, was notorious for his extortions as keeper of the King's Bench prison.
C. 56) provision is made for bringing before the court of session persons and proceedings before inferior courts and public officers - which is analogous to the powers to issue habeas corpus in such cases out of the English court of exchequer (now the revenue side of the king's bench division).
For a time he was confined as a debtor in the king's bench prison.
Justice.-The Supreme Court of Judicature is constituted as follows: the court of appeal, which consists of the lord chancellor, the lord chief justice, and the master of the rolls and the chief baron of the exchequer as ex-officio members, and two lords justices of appeal; and the high court of justice which includes (1) the chancery division, composed of the lord chancellor, the master of the rolls and two justices, (2) the king's bench division composed of the lord chief justice, the chief baron of the exchequer and eight justices, and (3) the land commissions with two judicial commissioners.
He gives several reasons for this in his letter to the king, but in all probability his chief motive was that pointed out by Spedding, that in the court of king's bench there would be less danger of Coke coming into collision with the king on questions of prerogative, in handling which Bacon was always very circumspect and tender.