COURT OF SESSION. The highest civil tribunal in Scotland, instituted in the reign of King James V., by statute dating May 17, 1532. The object of its institution was to discharge the judicial functions which originally belonged to the King and his council, and which, since 1425, had in a great measure devolved on a committee of Parliament, as the great council of the nation. The Court of Session consisted at first of fourteen ordinary judges and a president. One-half of these judges and the president were Churchmen, and the practice of appointing ecclesiastics to the bench did not cease for some time even after the Reformation. The King had the privilege of ap pointing, in addition to the ordinary judges, three or four peers or members of his great coun cil, to sit and vote with the lords of session. The Lord Chancellor was president of the ses sion. Ilis office was abolished at the union, and the habit of appointing peers gradually fell into disuse.
From its foundation, till HOS, the court of session consisted of one court; in that year it was divided into what are known as the first and second divisions, two separate courts pos sessing, coordinate jurisdiction. The lord presi dent is still president of the whole court when called togeiher for consultation, and enjoys other privileges in that capacity; but on ordinary occa sions he officiates simply as president of the first division. In 1S30 the number of judges in the Court of Session was reduced to thirteen; and that is still the full number, though since 1S77 there have actually been but twelve judges. Of
the five lords ordinary, only four sit daily. The judgments of the outer house, with a few statu tory exceptions, are appealable to the inner house. The youngest judge, or junior lord ordinary, officiates in a separate department of the outer house, called the bill chamber, where summary petitions and other branches of busi ness peculiarly requiring dispatch are disposed of. This department alone is open during the vacations of the court, the judges, with the ex ception of the lord president and lord justice clerk. officiating in it in rotation. Either divi sion of the Court of Session may call in the aid of three judges of the other, when equally di vided in opinion. In cases of still greater diffi culty, the lords ordinary are'also called in, and a hearing before the whole court, or in presence, as it is called, takes place.
Since the 31st and the 32d Viet.. cap. 100, no hearings before the whole court have taken place; the cases being decided on written arguments submitted to the judges. The judges of the Court of Session are appointed by the Crown, and hold their offices for life. No one is eligible to the office unless he has served as an advocate or principal clerk of session for five years or as a writer to the signet for ten years. See COITRT.