Court Leet

  Court-Leet; or Leet. The word Leet is found in Conqueror's charter for the foundation of Battle Abbey, and not unfrequently in Domesday-book. ... The Leet, which required the attendance of all the resiants, within the particular hundred, lordship, or manor, and concerned the administration of public justice, was usually held in the open air. According to Hawkings, a Court-Leet is a Court of Record, having the same jurisdiction within some particular precinct, which the sheriff's tourn hath in the county.

   ... Leet is also a word used for a Law day in several of our antient statutes.

  The Leet is a Court of Record for the cognisance of criminal matters, or pleas of the crown, and necessarily belongs to the king; though a subject, usually the lord of a manor, may be and is entitled to the profits, consisting of the essoign-pence‡, fines and amerciaments†.

  ... This court is held sometimes once sometimes thrice, but most commonly twice in the year; that is, within a month after Easter, and a month after Michaelmas. As to the place in which it is held, that it has been said, may be any where within the precinct.

  The general jurisdiction of the court extends to all crimes, offences, and misdemeanors at the common law, as well as to several others which have been subjected to it by act of parliament. If the offence be treason or felony, the presentment, (in these cases called an indictment,) must be returned to the king's justices of oyer and terminer, and gaol-delivery.

Essoign is an excuse for him that is summoned to appear and answer to an action, or to perform suit to a court baron, &c. by reason of sickness and infirmity, or other just cause of absence. It is a kind of imparlance, or craving of a longer time, that lies in real, personal, and mixed actions: and the plaintiff as well as the defendant shall be essoigned to save his default.
... Note: Thus,
essoign-pence referred to the custom of sending a penny in to the court when one, who was summoned, could not attend.

† the pecuniary punishment of an offender against the king or other lord in his court. ... The difference between amerciaments and fines, is this; fines are said to be punishments certain, and grow expressly from some statutes; but amerciaments are such as are arbitrarily imposed. ... Also fines are imposed and assessed by the court; amerciaments by the country; and no court can impose a fine, but a court of record: other courts can only amerce.

Source: Tomlins, Thomas Edlyne. The Law-Dictionary: defining and interpreting the Terms or Words of Art, and explaining the Rise, Progress, and Present State, of the English Law, &c. London: C. and R. Baldwin, et al, 1810.

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"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

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