The name of the supreme court of law in England. It is so called because formerly the king used to sit there in person, the style of the court being still coram ipso rege, before the king himself. During the reign of a queen, it is called the Queen's Bench, and during the protectorate of Cromwell it was called the Upper Bench. It consists of a chief justices and three other judges who are, by their office, the principal coroners and conservators of the peace.
This court has jurisdiction in criminal matters, in civil causes, and is a supervisory tribunal to keep other jurisdictions within their proper bounds.
Its criminal jurisdiction extends over all offenders, and not only over an capital offences but also over another misdemeanors of a public nature; it being considered the custos morum of the realm. Its jurisdiction is so universal that an act of parliament appointing that all crimes of a certain denomination shall be tried before certain judges, does not exclude the jurisdiction of this court, without negative words. It may also proceed on indictments removed into that court out of the inferior courts by certiorari.
Its civil jurisdiction is against the officers or ministers of the court entitled to its privilege, and against prisoners for trespasses. In these last cases a declaration may be filed against them in debt, covenant or account,done also upon the notion of a privilege, because the common pleas could not obtain or procure the prisoners of the king's bench to appear in their court.
Its supervisory powers extend, 1. To issuing writs of error to inferior jurisdictions, and affirming or reversing their judgments. 2. To issuing writs of mandamus to compel inferior officers and courts to perform the duties required of them by law.