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Circuit court

Circuit court is the name of court systems in several common law jurisdictions.

King Henry II instituted the custom of having judges ride around the countryside ("ride circuit") each year to hear cases, rather than forcing everyone to bring their cases to London (see Assize of Clarendon). Thus, the term "circuit court" is derived from the practice of having judges ride around the countryside each year on pre-set paths − circuits − to hear cases. Especially on the United States frontier, a judge might travel on horseback along with a group of lawyers. Abraham Lincoln was one such attorney who would ride the circuit in Illinois. In more settled areas, a stagecoach would be used. Eventually the legal caseload in a county would become great enough to warrant the establishment of a local judiciary. Most of these local judicial circuits (that is, in terms of the actual routes traveled by judges) have been thus replaced by judges regularly stationed at local courthouses, but in many areas the legacy term remains in usage.

England and Wales is divided into six regions or circuits for the purposes of the administration of justice.

The system is overseen by the Lord Chancellor. The membership consists of High Court Judges, Circuit Judges, District Judges, law practitioners and academic lawyers. The Circuits also form the basis for administration of the Bar in England and Wales. The Circuit Bars are represented on the Bar Council through the Circuit Leaders.

In the Republic of Ireland the Circuit Court is part of the Courts of First Instance, senior to the District Court but junior to the High Court (Ireland). It was first established as the Circuit Court of Justice under the Courts of Justice Act 1924 and replaced the County Court on the civil side, and Quarter Sessions and Recorder's Courts on the criminal side, as well as some of the jurisdiction of the assizes. These are heard by a judge sitting alone. It also has jurisdiction to hear appeals from the District Court. Appeals from the Court lie to the High Court on the civil side and the Court of Criminal Appeal on the criminal side.