QURSTIO. In Roman Law. A sort of commission (ad qucerenduin) to Inquire into some criminal matter given to a magistrate or citizen, who was called qucesitor or quces tor, who made report thereon to the senate or the people, 'as the one or the other ap pointed him. In progress of time he was empowered (with the assistance of a coun sel) to adjudge the case; and the tribunal thus constituted was called qucestio.
This special tribunal continued in use until the end of the Roman republic, although it was re sorted to, during the last times of the republic, only in extraordinary cases.
The manner in which they were constituted was this. If the matter to he inquired of was within the jurisdiction of the comitia, the senate, on the demand of the consul, or of a tribune, or of one of its members, declared by a decree that there was cause to prosecute a citizen. Then the consul ex auctoritate senatus 'asked the people in comittia (rogabat) to enact this decree into a law. The comitia adopted it, either simply or with amend ment, or they rejected it.
The increase of population and of crimes ren dered this method, which was tardy at best, oner ous, and even impracticable. In the year A. U. C., 609, or 1d9 a. c., under the consulship of Censorinus and Manillus, the tribune Calpurnius Piso procured the passage of a law establishing a questio perpet ya, to take cognizance of the crime of extortion committed by Roman magistrates against strangers de pecuniis repetundis. Cicero, Brut. 27; de off, ii. 21; in Verr. iv. 25.
Many such tribunals were afterwards established, such as Qucestiones de majestate, de ambitu, de peculatu, de vi, de sodalititis, etc. Each was com
posed of a certain number of judges taken from the senators, and presided over by a prmtor, aithough he might delegate his authority to a public officer, who was called judex qucestivnis. These tribunals continued a year only ; for the meaning of the word perpetuus is non interruptus, not interrupted dur ing the term of its appointed duration.
The establishment of these qucestiones deprived the comitia of their criminal jurisdiction, except for the crime of treason ; they were, in fact, the depos itories of the judicial power during the sixth and seventh centuries of the Roman republic, the last of which was remarkable for civil dissensions and replete with great public transactions. Without eome knowledge of the constitution of the Qucestio perpetua, it is impossible to understand the forensio speeches of Cicero, or even the political history of that age. But when Julius CEesar, ae dictator, sat for the trial of Ligarius, the ancient constitution of the republic was, in fact, destroyed, and the crime anal tribunals, which had existed in more or less vigor and purity until then, existed no longer but in name. Under Augustus, the concentration of the triple power of the consuls, pro-eonsuis, and tribunes in his person transferred to him, as of course, all judicial powers and authorities.