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COURT OF QUARTER SESSIONS

On March 6, 1861, an act was passed to establish “Inferior Courts of Record and Law.1 These courts, known as the Courts of Quarter Sessions for New Castle County, for Kent County, and for Sussex County, were presided over by the Associate Judge of each county’s Superior Court. The courts met quarterly, as the name suggests. The county Clerk of the Peace served as the court’s clerk. Mode of trials were by Petit Juries made up of six or twelve persons. The courts had the same cognizable powers as the Courts of General Sessions, and appeals from these courts were heard by the Courts of General Sessions.

Jurisdiction for assaults and batteries, tavern and liquor sales licenses violations, disturbances of the peace at religious meetings, nuisances, and horse racing was removed from the Courts of General Sessions and given to the new Courts of Quarter Sessions. Additionally, jurisdiction for offenses involving negroes and mulattoes, such as the offence of knowingly buying, receiving or concealing of stolen goods and things by free negroes and mulattoes and on the subject of larceny offenses by any free negro or mulatto such as being an accessory to any larceny committed within the limits of their respective counties.

On February 17, 1863, an act was passed to repeal the legislation that created the Courts of Quarter Sessions. “Any cause or causes remaining on the docket of the Inferior Court hereby abolished, . . shall be sent up before the Grand Jury of the County where such cause or causes may be, and there heard and determined as if no proceedings had ever been before had on the same or as if the said Inferior Courts had never existed.”2

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COURT OF QUARTER SESSIONS

1 12 D.L., ch. 103.

2 12 D.L., ch. 268.

jam/June 4, 1991