Edward Coke : biography

01 February 1552 - 03 September 1634

At this point the king's own position in relation to the law, and his authority to decide this matter, was brought up, in what became known as the Case of Prohibitions. James stated that "In cases where there is not express authority in law, the King may himself decide in his royal person; the Judges are but delegates of the King". Coke challenged this, saying "the King in his own person cannot adjudge any case, either criminal – as treason, felony etc, or betwixt party and party; but this ought to be determined and adjudged in some court of justice, according to the Law and Custom of England". Coke further stated that "The common law protecteth the King", to which James replied "The King protecteth the law, and not the law the King! The King maketh judges and bishops. If the judges interpret the laws themselves and suffer none else to interpret, they may easily make, of the laws, shipmen's hose!". Coke rejected this, stating that while the monarch was not subject to any individual, he was subject to the law. Until he had gained sufficient knowledge of the law, he had no right to interpret it; he pointed out that such knowledge "demanded mastery of an artificial reason ... which requires long study and experience, before that a man can attain to the cognizance of it". Coke was only saved from imprisonment by Cecil, who pleaded with the king to show leniency, which he granted. After the conclusion of this dispute, Coke freely left, and continued to issue writs of prohibition against the High Commission.

It was at about this time that Coke also was involved in the opposition to John Cowell's seminal dictionary of law, "The Interpreter", leading to its suppression, even though its content was favourable to the royal prerogative.Cowell, John. The Interpreter. 1637. May be downloaded from http://archive.org/details/interpreterorboo00cowe

Dr. Bonham's Case

Thomas Bonham v College of Physicians, commonly known as Dr. Bonham's Case was a decision of the Court of Common Pleas under Coke in which he ruled that "in many cases, the common law will controul Acts of Parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void: for when an Act of Parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will controul it, and adjudge such Act to be void". Coke's meaning has been disputed over the years; some interpret his judgement as referring to judicial review of statutes to correct misunderstandings which would render them unfair, while others argue he meant that the common law courts have the power to completely strike down those statutes they deem to be repugnant.

Whatever Coke's meaning, after an initial period of application, Bonham's Case was thrown aside in favour of the growing doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty. Initially written down by William Blackstone, this theory makes Parliament the sovereign law-maker, preventing the common law courts from not only throwing aside but also reviewing statutes in the fashion Coke suggested. Parliamentary sovereignty is now the universally-accepted judicial doctrine in England and Wales. Bonham's Case met a mixed reaction at the time, with the king and Lord Ellesmere both deeply unhappy with it. Nineteenth and twentieth century academics are scarcely more favourable, calling it "a foolish doctrine alleged to have been laid down extra-judicially", and an "abortion".

In the United States, Coke's decision met with a better reaction. During the legal and public campaigns against the writs of assistance and Stamp Act 1765, Bonham's Case was given as a justification for nullifying the legislation. Marbury v. Madison, the American case which forms the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution, uses the words "void" and "repugnant", seen as a direct reference to Coke. Some academics, such as Edward Samuel Corwin, have argued that Coke's work in Bonham's Case forms the basis of judicial review and the declaration of legislation as unconstitutional in the United States. Gary L. McDowell calls this "one of the most enduring myths of American constitutional law and theory, to say nothing of history", pointing out that at no point during the Constitutional Convention was Bonham's Case referenced.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine