BANK, in barbarous Latin fiances, literally signifies a bench or high seat; but as a legal term it denotes a seat of judgment, or tribunal for the administra tion of justice. In a rade state of society, justice is usually administered in the open air, and the judges are placed in an elevated situation both for convenience and dignity. Thus it appears that the ancient Britons were accustomed to con struct mounds or benches of turf for the accommodation of their superiof judges. (Spelman, ad oerbunt.) It is clear, how ever, that in very early times in this country there was a distinction between those superior judicial officers who, for the sake of eminence, sat upon a bench or tribunal, and the judges of inferior courts, such as hundred courts and courts baron, the latter being analogous to the judices pedanei of the Roman law—a kind of inferior judges, whose duties are not very clearly defined, but who are sup posed to have derived their denomination a pedibus, because they decided on infe rior matters, on the level ground, and not on a raised seat.
In consequence of this distinction, the king's judges, or those who were imme diately appointed by the crown to ad minister justice in the superior courts of common law, were in process of time called justices of the bench, or, as they are always styled in records, justiciarii de banco. This term, in former times, denoted the judges of a peculiar court held at Westminster, which is mentioned in records of the reign of Richard I., and must therefore have made its appearance, under the name of bancus or bench, not long after the Conquest. This court no doubt derived its name from its stationary character, being permanently held at Westminster, whereas the curia or aula ray is followed the person of the king.
(Maddox, History of the Exchequer, p. 539.) This institution was the origin of the modern Court of Common Pleas, and the judges of that court retain the techni cal title of " Justices of the Bench at Westminster" to the present day ; whereas the formal title of the King's Bench judges is " the justices assigned to hold pleas in the court of the king before the king himself?' For many centuries, how ever, the latter court has been popularly called the Court of King's Bench, and the judges of both these courts have been described in acts of parliament and records in general terms as " the judges of either bench" ( judges utriusque band) ; but the barons of the Court of Exchequer have never been denominated judges of the bench, though, in popular languam a new baron, on his creation, is, like the other judges, said to be raised to the bench.
The phrase of sitting is banco, or in bank, merely denotes the sessions during the law terms, when the judges of each court sit together upon their several benches. In this sense it is used by Glanville, who wrote in the reign of Henry II., and who enumerates certain acts to be done by justices in banco seden tibus. Days in bank are days particu larly appointed by the courts, or imposed upon them by various statutes, when pro cess must be returned, or when parties served with writs are to make their ap pearance in full court. The day in bank is so called in opposition to the day at Nisi Prins, when a trial by a jury takes place according to the provisions of the statute of Nisi Prins. [Assann.]