Star Chamber  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Star Chamber (Latin Camera stellata) was an English court of law that sat at the royal Palace of Westminster until 1641. It was made up of Privy Counsellors, as well as common-law judges, and supplemented the activities of the common-law and equity courts in both civil and criminal matters. The court was set up to ensure the fair enforcement of laws against prominent people, those so powerful that ordinary courts could never convict them of their crimes. Court sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, no right of appeal, no juries, and no witnesses. Evidence was presented in writing. Over time it evolved into a political weapon and became a symbol of the misuse and abuse of power by the English monarchy and courts.

It was mistakenly thought that in 1487 an act was passed which established a special "Court of Star Chamber" to deal with the nobles; however; the only legislation passed in that year in this context was to set up a tribunal to prevent the intimidation of juries and to stop retaining, the keeping of private armies by persons of rank. It seems to have gone out of use by 1509 and it had no connection with the later Court of Star Chamber whose primary purpose was to hear political libel and treason cases.

In modern usage, legal or administrative bodies with strict, arbitrary rulings and secretive proceedings are sometimes called, metaphorically or poetically, star chambers. This is a pejorative term and intended to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the proceedings. The inherent lack of objectivity of any politically motivated charges has led to substantial reforms in English law in most jurisdictions since that time.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Star Chamber" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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