The Crown Tribunal 1578–1649
In the history of Poland, the year 1578 was market by a major event: the establishment of the highes tinstance Court, called the Crown Tribunal - Iudicium Ordinarium Generale Tribunalis Regni. It was a court of appeal against all gentry courts, the parliamentary court and the royal court.
1578 – establishment of the Crown Tribunal
1581 – establishment of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Tribunal, with the seat in
1589 – jurisdiction of the Crown Tribunal extended onto
Lublin in the Nobles’ Republic
The "tribunal" Lublin
The Tribunal was a court consisting of deputies elected at regional diets of the gentry. The seats of tribunal courts were Piotrków and Lublin. The tribunal in Piotrków adjudicated in matters from the regions of Wielkopolska and Mazowsze, that is from the voivodeships: Poznańskie, Kaliskie, Sieradzkie, Łęczyckie, Brzeskie, Inowrocławskie, Mazowieckie, Płockie, Rawskie and from Wieluńska and Dobrzyńska lands. In Lublin, the Tribunal adjudicated in matters from the Małopolska voivodeships: Krakowskie, Sandomierskie, Ruskie, Podolskie, Podlaskie, Wołyńskie, Bełskie, Lubelskie, and in the following years from the voivodeships: Kijowskie, Bracławskie and Czernichowskie.
The Tribunal operated all year round, starting the term in autumn in Piotrków and finishing in Lublin. In 1581 the Tribunal for Lithuania was established, called the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Tribunal, with the seat in Vilnius. The Tribunal adjudicated in civil law matters heard in district courts, borough courts, chamberlain courts, commissioner courts and assembly courts, criminalsuits from the jurisdiction of borough courts, as well as matters of aldermenand borough officials guilty of infringing law at administering justice. The jurisdiction of royal courts, i.e. the chancery court and the parliamentary court, covered the matters of royal estates, royal towns and the treasury.
The session of the Tribunalin Lublin started just after Easter. It was attended by all deputies and lasted until all the cases on the list for a given year were settled. In the course of time, then umber of cases grew and the Tribunal in Lublin deliberated increasingly longer. Since 1669, the judges stayed in Lublin from Easter to Christmas.
The Tribunal had its seat in the Town Hall, because it was the most impressive building in the town and very suitable owing to its location in the Market Square. For the time of theTribunal sittings, town councillors moved to a tenement house, and next to theso-called "small Town Hall” in Archidiakońska 5 Street.
Organization of the Tribunal
In the Tribunal, justice was administered by judges who were elected every year at diets of the gentry. Sittings of the Tribunal were chaired by the Speaker chosen among the judges – deputies, usually from the nobility. Openings of the sessions were splendidly celebrated, with ceremonial entries of judges and noblemen, receptions and balls.
Office work was done by land officials of Lublin. Copies of judgements from the Tribunal records were certified with the seals of the Lubelskie voivodeship. In the first years of the Tribunal’s operation it was the seal with the inscription “Sigillum terrae Lublinensis”, but soon theTribunal had its own seal. Its emblem was still a deer ready to jump, but it had a different inscription around the rim, that is: “Sigillum Indiciorum Generalium Tribunalis Regni Lublinensis.” The seal was changed again in the second half of the 18th c.: the national emblem (an eagle) was placed in the centre instead of the deer.
The last sitting of theTribunal took place in 1794. The Lublincourt was in operation for more than two centuries and greatly contributed to the development of the town.
Tribunal and the town
Nevertheless, there werenalso some inconveniences connected with the Tribunal’s operation. Its sessionsin the Town Hall paralysed the normal work of the town authorities who were frequently forced to moved into private apartments of the mayor or the borough leader for the period of the court’s sittings. Another problem was a ccommodation for deputies. As there were about 40 of them, each accompanied by numerous attendants and servants, this was a large group of visitors who had tobe accommodated in the town for a half a year annually. Houses in the Market Square werein danger of being almost forcefully taken by deputies for accommodation.
Advantages and disadvantages of the Tribunal’s location in Lublin became so inseparably linked with the town that nowadays, even though the court has not operated for 163 years, connected with the Tribunal still live on. According to the most popular one, a devil’s court took place as a result of an unfair verdict of biased judges, and it is still possible to see the shape of a devil’s paw burned into the court table as a seal. Even the building is not viewed as the town hall by Lublin citizens (although it used to be the town hall since 1389), but it is still called the Tribunal.