THE COURT STRUCTURE OF QUEBEC AND LOWER CANADA, 1764 TO 1860
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COURT PROFILES

SUPERIOR COURT

The Superior Court was based directly on the Superior Terms of the Court of King's Bench, and probably drew its name from the latter.

Establishment and Jurisdiction

A single Superior Court was established for the province in the judicial reorganization of 1849. The Court had jurisdiction over civil matters involving sums over £50. It also had appellate jurisdiction over the Circuit Court in civil cases involving sums over £15 (over £10 (implicitly) in the District of Gaspé), or affecting future rights; and (implicitly) judgements of the Commissioners' Courts in civil cases affecting future rights. As such, it assumed part of the jurisdiction of the Superior Terms of the Courts of King's Bench. The Court also had jurisdiction over all criminal matters in the District of Gaspé.

In 1853, the appellate jurisdiction of the Court was extended to judgements of the Judges of the Court out of term in all cases. In 1855, the jurisdiction of the Court was extended to civil matters involving sums over £15 in Quebec City and Montreal, previously under the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court.

With the reorganization of the Circuit Court in 1857, the appellate jurisdiction of the Court over the Circuit Courts was implicitly revoked, and assumed by the Court of Queen's Bench, Appeal Side. At the same times, the Court's jurisdiction over civil matters involving sums over £15 in Quebec City and Montreal was revoked; this jurisdiction was assumed by the new Circuit Court.

Composition and Sessions

The Court was initially composed of a Chief Justice and nine Puisné Judges, and held by two or three Judges of the Court; in the District of Gaspé, the Court could be held by the two Circuit Judges of the district, a provision that was reaffirmed in 1853. From 1853, the Court could be held in the Districts of Ottawa and Kamouraska by the Circuit Judges of the districts. From 1853 as well, cases of the Court could be heard out of term by any Judge of the Court in all districts apart from the Districts of Quebec and Montreal, with appeal from all such cases to the next term of the Court in the same district; in 1856, this power was extended to Circuit Court judges in the Districts of Ottawa and Kamouraska. And from 1857, the Court was composed of a Chief Justice and seventeen Judges, and held by any Judge of the Court.

The Court initially had three terms annually in the Districts of Quebec, Montreal, and Trois-Rivières, two terms annually in the Districts of St. Francis, Ottawa, and Kamouraska, and one term annually in the District of Gaspé; the Court also had weekly sessions at Quebec City and Montreal for minor business. In 1853, the weekly sessions of the Court were abolished, and the Court had nine terms annually in the Districts of Quebec and Montreal. From 1855, the Court had four terms annually in the District of St. Francis. And from 1857, the Court was to have at least three terms annually in each district (two in the District of Gaspé), with the courts in the new districts being established by proclamation in 1858.

Revision

In civil matters, judgements of the Court in cases involving sums over £St20, or affecting future rights, could be appealed to the Court of Queen's Bench, Appeal Side.

In criminal matters, fines over £St100 imposed for misdemeanours could be appealed to the Queen and Council.

Legislation

12 Victoria c.38 (1849) (in force with amendments 1849-)
Establishing a Superior Court for the province.

12 Victoria c.40 (1849) (in force 1849-)
Extending the jurisdiction of the Court in the District of Gaspé to all criminal matters, and allowing it to be held by Circuit Judges.

16 Victoria c.194 (1853) (in force 1853-)
Modifying the organization and composition of the Court.

18 Victoria c.104 (1855) (in force 1855-1857)
Extending the jurisdiction of the Court to certain civil matters.

18 Victoria c.166 (1855) (in force 1855-)
Increasing the terms of the Court in the District of St. Francis.

19&20 Victoria c.55 (1856) (in force 1856-)
Allowing cases of the Court to be heard out of term by any Circuit Judge in the Districts of Ottawa and Kamouraska.

20 Victoria c.44 (1857) (in force 1857-)
Modifying the organization, composition, and jurisdiction of the Court.

Proclamation 1858-02-10 (in force 1858-)
Establishing sittings of the Court in the new districts.



Donald Fyson, with the assistance of Evelyn Kolish and Virginia Schweitzer, The Court Structure of Quebec and Lower Canada, 1764-1830 (Montreal: Montreal History Group, 1994/1997/2019). http://www.profs.hst.ulaval.ca/Dfyson/Courtstr/

Page content last updated 2012-02-20