History of The Bucks Bar
The first courts, held in Bucks County were those established by William Penn. In March, 1683, the first Provincial Assembly divided the state into Philadelphia, Bucks and Chester counties. On
August 16, 1683, Penn, whose dwelling at Pennsbury Manor in lower Bucks County was under construction, wrote: “Courts of justice are established in every county with proper officers,
as justices, sheriffs, clerks, constables, etc., which courts are held every two months. But to prevent lawsuits, there are three peacemakers chosen by every court, in the nature of common
arbitrators, to hear and end differences betwixt man and man. And in spring and fall there is an orphans’ court in each county to inspect and regulate the affairs of orphans and widows.”
In the eleventh month of 1684, is the first record of a court of quarter sessions. Quarter sessions, orphans’ court and common pleas courts were all held by the county court, composed of Justices of the Peace, commissioned by the governor. These “JPs” were laymen who administered justice in accordance principally with their conception of what was right, unhampered by technical forms of procedure and established precedents. It was not until later that men “learned in the law” were chosen to preside in the courts.
Twenty-five years later, June 8, 1708, the first Deputy Attorney General and prosecuting officer was appointed for the county. Though there was Quaker opposition, lawyers had by now gained a secure footing in the courts of Bucks County; now there were oyers, imparlances, continuances, etc., in approved form. Thus, technicalities were resorted to and insisted upon in spite of impotent protests. In 1701, the courts had been authorized to make their own rules of practice.
Bristol was the site of the first county seat, laid out in 1697 and established as a “seat of justice” in 1705. The county seat moved to Newtown in 1725; efforts were made in 1784 to move it to Doylestown. Controversy now began as to where to place the county seat; in 1812, the first “old” courthouse was built and in 1877 the second “old” courthouse was built. See an old Bucks County map here. In 1960-62, the present courthouse was constructed on the same site and the rustic second “old” courthouse was demolished.
Space does not permit the chronicling here of the accomplishments of even a few of the most celebrated individuals and families of attorneys and judges. It is sufficient to note that the early tradition of having excellence on the bench continues to this day.
One of the Oldest Bar Associations in America
Incorporated in 1883 with 40 charter members, the Bucks County Bar Association initially and to the present has concerned itself with the welfare of the judicial system, the courts, the administration
of justice, service to the public and the betterment of the profession. Significant changes began to occur in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
The Bar Association of Bucks County has come a long way since the 40 members incorporated over 100 years ago.
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