Dalhousie Law Journal


Sandra E. Oxner


Nova Scotia, Evolution, Lower Court, Supreme Court, colonial period, civil, criminal


The evolution of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia has been well described elsewhere.' This paper will describe the evolution during the colonial period of the main civil and criminal lower courts of Nova Scotia. Omitted are such courts as the Vice Admiralty and Probate Courts. These require separate examination. This paper traces the development of the courts of General Sessions of the Peace and the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, the main criminal and civil lower courts of the period, from the time of their inception shortly after the founding of Halifax in 1749. The examination of these courts ends in 1841 when the Inferior Court of Common Pleas was dissolved and its functions were assumed by an enlarged Supreme Court. At the same time the Supreme Court assumed the major criminal jurisdiction of the Court of General Sessions of the Peace, leaving the latter as a non-jury2 court (outside of Halifax County) with jurisdiction only in minor criminal matters and small civil actions.

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