PROCTOR, an officer of the Ecclesias tical courts, whose business is that of an agent between his clients and the courts to which he is attached. It is a shortened form of the Roman term procurator. He stands in a similar situation to that of an attorney at common law or a solicitor in chancery. There are about 120 proctors now practising in the several courts of Doctors' Commons, London, which are four in number, the Court of Arches, the Prerogative Court, the Consistory or Consistorial Court of the Bishop of Lon don, and the Admiralty Court.
In commencing a suit in any of these courts, the proctor is appointed by a proxy executed by the client, by which he constitutes him his agent, and pro mises to confirm all his acts as by law required in such suit. The proctor then proceeds to collect the facts of the case, and to apply to the court in his client's behalf, to draw allegations and interro gatories, and summon witnesses, whose evidence is taken down in private by the examiners, who are proctors appointed for that purpose. This evidence is de posited in the registry of the court in which the suit is brought, and is not allowed to be seen by any party until such time RS the court may think fit to order pub lication. No vied voce evidence is re ceived in these courts. After the neces sary information has been collected and arranged, the proctor prepares his client's case, to be put into the hands of the advocates, to be by them brought before the court, if they deem it advi sable.
In the case of wills, or administrations with the will annexed, that is, where the deceased has left a will, but has not ap pointed any executor, the executors or administrators are sworn to the due ex ecution of the will of the deceased: and they make affidavit as to the amount of property, time of death, and other like matters. The proctor then makes a copy of such will or papers, and places it before the registrar of the court to be compared with the original ; the copy, when thus compared, is returned to hun with the probate under seal of the court attached. In cases of administration, he delivers in a formal account of the claims of the parties who apply for letters of administration, with an affidavit as to the value of the property and other particulars, and prays the court to decree letters of administration also under seal of the court. These instruments are then delivered to the executors or ad ministrators, and are their authority for distributing the property of the deceased according to his will, or, in the absence of a will, according to law.
It is also the business of the proctor to obtain licences for marriage, on the ap plication of either of the parties about to contract such marriage, and to draw an affidavit in which the party applying for the licence declares that he or she knows of no legal impediment to such marriage.
It is the proctor's duty to explain the nature of this affidavit to his client, who is then sworn to the truth of it before one of the advocates, who are ap pointed surrogates, or deputies of the judge. The affidavit is then lodged in the Faculty Office, or office of the vicar-general, and licence obtained under seal : this licence remains in force for three months.
The proctor in many cases has to attest the acts of his client, and for this pur pose he is appointed a notary public, but his power as such extends only to pro in his own courts, and not to the general business of a notary. The official title of a proctor is "notary public, and one of the procurators-general of the Arches Court of Canterbury and of the High Court of Admiralty." The number of the proctors is prevented from increasing very rapidly by the re strictions on taking "clerk apprentices :" only the thirty-four senior proctors, and of them only such as are of five years' standing in such seniority, are allowed to take an articled clerk, and in no case to take a second until the first has served five years, and then only by permission of the court. The term of articleship is seven years, which is legally required on account of the notarial capacity in which they have to act. Notwithstand ing these regulations, the number has materially increased. In the time of Charles II. there were only thirty-four procurators-general and ten supernu meraries. The proctors wear a gown as a badge of office in court, and in the Arches a cape trimmed with ermine in addition; and on certain occasions, such as upon admission or attending prayers on the first day of Term, a wig similar to that of a barrister. They are ex empted from serving as jurors or parish officers.
The appeal from these courts is to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, where the proctor conducts the case in the same way as in the courts of Doctors' Commons, but is obliged to call to his assistance a barrister, in ad dition to an ecclesiastical advocate. There is an appeal-court held in Doc sors' Commons, but it is only for busi ness preliminary to the cause being heard before the Privy Council.
The courts are held in the common hall of Doctors' Commons, situated in the College, in which are the official residences of the judges and advocates. The proctors have no inn, or regular locality, but are very inconveniently dis persed about the narrow streets near the college.
Attached to courts of the province of York and to the different bishops' courts are similar bodies of proctors, who differ only in trifling circumstances from those here described.