|The Court of Exchequer|
|Composition method||by appointment only|
|Authorized by||Constitutional Monarchy|
|Number of positions||5|
|Chief Baron of Exchequer|
The Barons of the Exchequer, or barones scaccarii, were the judges of the English court known as the Exchequer of Pleas. The Barons consisted of a Chief Baron of the Exchequer and several puisne (inferior) barons. When Robert Shute was appointed second baron in June 1579 the patent declared "he shall be reputed and be of the same order, rank, estimation, dignity and pre-eminence to all intents and purposes as any puisne judge of either of the two other courts."The rise of commercial trade in Elizabethan England occasioned fraudulent application of the Quo minus writ. More taxation demanded staff at the exchequer to sift an increase in the case load causing more widespread litigation cases to come to the court. From the 1580s onwards the Barons of Exchequer were no longer held in such low regard, and more likely to be Serjeants-at-law before qualification. The Inns of Courts began to exclude solicitors, and held posts for judges and barons open equally to barristers. In 1591, Regulations reflected a case in which the Lord Keeper Egerton banned solicitors from seeking cases in the Exchequer.
Together they sat as a court of common law, heard suits in the court of equity, and settled revenue disputes. A puisne baron was styled "Mr Baron X" and the chief baron as "Lord Chief Baron X".
They were originally the same judges as those of the Court of King's Bench, only becoming independent positions after the Exchequer's separation from the curia regis .In the early years of the Exchequer's existence, the Barons were the chief auditors of the accounts of England, a role passed to dedicated auditors during the reign of Edward II. With the Exchequer's expansion during the Tudor era, the Barons became more important; where previously only the Chief Baron had been appointed from the serjeants-at-law, with the other Barons mere barristers, it became practice for all Barons of the Exchequer to be Serjeants. This further increased the Exchequer's standing, since for the first time it put the Exchequer at the same level as the Court of Common Pleas and Court of King's Bench, where all judges were already required to be Serjeants. Prior to the changes of 1533, Serjeants held precedence over barons "sitting in the high court,...of great eminence". Thereafter they held the degree of coif to qualify at the Inns of Court as the senior court at Westminster.
From 1550 to 1579, there was a major distinction between the chief baron and the second, third and fourth puisne barons. The difference was in social status and education. All of the chief barons had been trained as lawyers in the inns of court. With the exception of Henry Bradshaw and Sir Clement Higham, both barristers-at-law, all of the chief barons who served Elizabeth I, had attained the highest and most prestigious rank of a lawyer, serjeant-at-law. By 1841, the equitable jurisdiction was transferred to the Court of Chancery, which deals with pecuniary cases.
By 1272, individuals were nominated to the office of Baron of the Exchequer from time to time: 24 baronial justiciers were appointed by the end of Henry III's reign. From 1278, there were three Barons, with a fourth being appointed in 1296 and a fifth in 1299. By 1308, one of the Barons was recognised as Capitalem Baronem (Chief Baron). Edward I commanded the Exchequer sessions to be held at Hilary term.By the reforms of the reign of King Richard II, barons were not necessarily qualified special pleaders or serjeants; office was in the gift of the king, and barons were not usually permitted to refuse appointment. From then until 1478, it was recognised that there should be four puisne Barons. One was frequently named as Second Baron and rarely appointments were named as Third Baron and Fourth Baron. From then until 1547, the three puisne barons were always appointed to numbered offices, but in 1549, Edward Saxleby as successor to John Darnall was merely appointed as 'one of the Barons of the Exchequer'. However, he and his successors held the office of Cursitor Baron. An additional Baron was appointed in 1604. The number of puisnes generally remained at three until the 19th century, but there was a fourth from 1708 to 1725 due to John Smith having leave of absence to attend to the office of a Baron of the Scottish Exchequer. A fourth puisne baron was appointed in 1830 and a fifth in 1868.
The Chief Baron of the Exchequer was the first "baron" of the English Exchequer of Pleas. "In the absence of both the Treasurer of the Exchequer or First Lord of the Treasury, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was he who presided in the equity court and answered the bar i.e. spoke for the court." Practically speaking, he held the most important office of the Exchequer of Pleas.
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