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Judicial Organization and Decision Making in Old Hungary

Rady, MC; (2012) Judicial Organization and Decision Making in Old Hungary. Slavonic and East European Review , 90 (3) 450 - 481. 10.5699/slaveasteurorev2.90.3.0450. Green open access

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Abstract

Some older accounts of Hungarian judicial organization in the period before 1848 have emphasized the conservatism of the judges, their interest in maintaining noble hegemony and their participation in the peasantry's oppression. Most studies have, however, neglected the role of the kingdom's judges, seeing them as ‘expert clerks’, whose task it was to fit the case to the law in syllogistic fashion. This article shows that Hungary's judicial organization was more participatory than is usually maintained, particularly at the level of the village, county and seigneurial lordship. Decisions and punishments were often made there by way of popular consultation, with reference to customary observance. In their composition, the central courts of the curia also drew upon a wide membership. The verdicts that they pronounced, although seldom explained, rested on written sources and on a specific approach to the law that constituted a stylus curiae. Although aware of precedent, case law did not develop in Hungary. Nevertheless, decision making in the central courts was relatively free of political interference and judges were often imaginative in their interpretation of the law, even to the extent of introducing new approaches in respect of the kingdom's commercial law. Hungary's judges were thus neither cruel representatives of noble privilege nor colourless functionaries but, as elsewhere, ‘limited human intellects navigating seas of uncertainty’.

Type: Article
Title: Judicial Organization and Decision Making in Old Hungary
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.5699/slaveasteurorev2.90.3.0450
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.5699/slaveasteurorev2.90.3.04...
Language: English
Keywords: Hungary, Law, Legal History
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > SSEES
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1354882
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