Star Chamber

Star Chamber

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The Star Chamber was an English
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

 court of law that sat at the royal Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the House of Lords and the House of Commons...

 until 1641. It was made up of Privy Counsellors
Privy Council of England
The Privy Council of England, also known as His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, was a body of advisers to the sovereign of the Kingdom of England...

, as well as common-law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 judges and supplemented the activities of the common-law and equity courts
Court of equity
A chancery court, equity court or court of equity is a court that is authorized to apply principles of equity, as opposed to law, to cases brought before it.These courts began with petitions to the Lord Chancellor of England...

 in both civil and criminal matters. The court was set up to ensure the fair enforcement of laws against prominent people, those so powerful that ordinary courts could never convict them of their crimes. Court sessions were held in secret
Secret trial
A secret trial is a trial that is not open to the public, nor generally reported in the news, especially any in-trial proceedings. Generally no official record of the case or the judge's verdict is made available. Often there is no indictment...

, with no indictments, no right of appeal
Appeal
An appeal is a petition for review of a case that has been decided by a court of law. The petition is made to a higher court for the purpose of overturning the lower court's decision....

, no juries
Jury
A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to ascertain the guilt, or lack thereof, in a crime. In Anglophone jurisdictions, the verdict may be guilty,...

, and no witness
Witness
A witness is someone who has firsthand knowledge about an event, or in the criminal justice systems usually a crime, through his or her senses and can help certify important considerations about the crime or event. A witness who has seen the event first hand is known as an eyewitness...

es. Evidence was presented in writing. Over time it evolved into a political weapon, a symbol of the misuse and abuse of power by the English monarchy and courts.

It was mistakenly thought that in 1487 an act was passed which established a special "Court of Star Chamber" to deal with the nobles; however, the only legislation passed in that year in this context was to set up a tribunal to prevent the intimidation of juries and to stop retaining
Bastard feudalism
Bastard feudalism is a term that has been used to describe feudalism in the Late Middle Ages, primarily in England. Its main characteristic is military, political, legal, or domestic service in return for money, office, and/or influence...

 the keeping of private armies by persons of rank. It seems to have gone out of use by 1509 and it had no connection with the later Court of Star Chamber whose primary purpose was to hear political libel
Political libel
The criminal statutes protecting nobility from criticism in 16th and 17th century England eventually evolved into various categories of political libel . Cases of political libel and eventually damages actions were handled by the infamous Star Chamber until its abolition in 1641...

 and treason
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

 cases.

In modern usage, legal or administrative bodies with strict, arbitrary rulings and secretive proceedings are sometimes called, metaphorically or poetically, star chambers. This is a pejorative term and intended to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the proceedings. The inherent lack of objectivity of any politically motivated charges has led to substantial reforms in English law in most jurisdictions since that time.

Name origins


The court took its name from the "Star Chamber" or "Starred Chamber" which was built in the reign of King Edward II
Edward II of England
Edward II , called Edward of Caernarfon, was King of England from 1307 until he was deposed by his wife Isabella in January 1327. He was the sixth Plantagenet king, in a line that began with the reign of Henry II...

 specifically for the meetings of the King's Council, though the origins of the name of the room itself are unclear.

The first reference to the chamber is in 1398, as the Sterred chambre; the more common form of the name appears in 1422 as le Sterne-chamere. Both forms recur throughout the fifteenth century, with Sterred Chambre last attested as appearing in the Supremacy of the Crown Act 1534. No clear etymology can be found for the name of the chamber; the most common explanation, dating to the later 16th century, is 'because at the first all the roofe thereof was decked with images of starres gilted'. The ceiling of the chamber in which the court convened was supposedly painted with a representation of the night sky, including stars, so that the accused could gaze upon the decorated ceiling and contemplate his place in the universe. Historian John Stow
John Stow
John Stow was an English historian and antiquarian.-Early life:The son of Thomas Stow, a tallow-chandler, he was born about 1525 in London, in the parish of St Michael, Cornhill. His father's whole rent for his house and garden was only 6s. 6d. a year, and Stow in his youth fetched milk every...

, writing in his Survey of London (1598), noted 'this place is called the Star Chamber, because the roof thereof is decked with the likeness of stars gilt ...' The chamber's description is regarded as the most likely explanation for its name by the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

.

William Blackstone
William Blackstone
Sir William Blackstone KC SL was an English jurist, judge and Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Born into a middle class family in London, Blackstone was educated at Charterhouse School before matriculating at Pembroke...

, a notable English jurist
Jurist
A jurist or jurisconsult is a professional who studies, develops, applies, or otherwise deals with the law. The term is widely used in American English, but in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries it has only historical and specialist usage...

 writing in 1769, speculated that the name may have derived from the legal word "starr
Starr (law)
Starr, or starra, was a term used in pre-14th-century England for the contract or obligation of a Jew. It derives from the Hebrew shetar, document....

" meaning the contract or obligation to a Jew (from the Hebrew שטר (shetar) meaning 'document'). This term was in use until 1290 when Edward I
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

 had all Jews expelled
Edict of Expulsion
In 1290, King Edward I issued an edict expelling all Jews from England. Lasting for the rest of the Middle Ages, it would be over 350 years until it was formally overturned in 1656...

 from England. Blackstone thought the 'Starr Chamber' might originally have been used for the deposition and storage of such contracts. However the Oxford English Dictionary gives this etymology "no claim to consideration". Other etymological theories mentioned by Blackstone on the use of star, include the derivation from steoran (steer) meaning "to govern", it was a court used to punish (crimen stellionatus) (cozenage) or the chamber was full of windows.

History


The Court evolved from meetings of the King's
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

 Council, with its roots going back to the medieval period. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called "Star Chamber Act" of King Henry VII's
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

 second Parliament (1487) did not actually empower the Star Chamber, but rather created a separate tribunal distinct from the King's general Council.

Initially well regarded because of its speed and flexibility, it was made up of Privy Counsellors
Privy Council of England
The Privy Council of England, also known as His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, was a body of advisers to the sovereign of the Kingdom of England...

, as well as common-law judges, and supplemented the activities of the common-law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 and equity
Court of equity
A chancery court, equity court or court of equity is a court that is authorized to apply principles of equity, as opposed to law, to cases brought before it.These courts began with petitions to the Lord Chancellor of England...

 courts in both civil and criminal matters
Criminal justice
Criminal Justice is the system of practices and institutions of governments directed at upholding social control, deterring and mitigating crime, or sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties and rehabilitation efforts...

. In a sense, the court was a supervisory body, overseeing the operations of lower courts, though its members could hear cases by direct appeal
Appellate court
An appellate court, commonly called an appeals court or court of appeals or appeal court , is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court or other lower tribunal...

 as well. The court was set up to ensure the fair enforcement of laws against prominent people
Elite
Elite refers to an exceptional or privileged group that wields considerable power within its sphere of influence...

, those so powerful that ordinary courts could never convict them of their crimes.

Another function of the Court of Star Chamber was to act like a court of equity, which could impose punishment for actions which were deemed to be morally reprehensible, but not in violation of the letter of the law. This gave the Star Chamber great flexibility as it could punish offenders for any action which the court felt should be illegal even when in fact it was technically legal; however, it also meant that the justice imposed by the Star Chamber could be very arbitrary and subjective, and allowed the court to be used later on in its history as an instrument of oppression
Oppression
Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. It can also be defined as an act or instance of oppressing, the state of being oppressed, and the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, and...

 rather than for the purpose of justice
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

 for which it was intended. Many crimes which are now commonly prosecuted such as attempt
Attempt
Attempt was originally an offence under the common law of England.Attempt crimes are crimes where the defendant's actions have the form of the actual enaction of the crime itself: the actions must go beyond mere preparation....

, conspiracy
Conspiracy (crime)
In the criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future, and, in some cases, with at least one overt act in furtherance of that agreement...

, libel and perjury
Perjury
Perjury, also known as forswearing, is the willful act of swearing a false oath or affirmation to tell the truth, whether spoken or in writing, concerning matters material to a judicial proceeding. That is, the witness falsely promises to tell the truth about matters which affect the outcome of the...

 were originally developed by the Court of Star Chamber, along with its more common role of dealing with riot
Riot
A riot is a form of civil disorder characterized often by what is thought of as disorganized groups lashing out in a sudden and intense rash of violence against authority, property or people. While individuals may attempt to lead or control a riot, riots are thought to be typically chaotic and...

s and sedition
Sedition
In law, sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent to lawful authority. Sedition may include any...

.

Star Chamber sessions were closed to the public. King Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

 used the power of Star Chamber to break the power of the landed gentry which had been such a cause of problems in the Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

. When local courts were often clogged or mismanaged, the Court of Star Chamber became a site of remittance for common people against the excesses of the nobility
Nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

.

Under the leadership of Cardinal Wolsey (the Archbishop of York
Archbishop of York
The Archbishop of York is a high-ranking cleric in the Church of England, second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of York and metropolitan of the Province of York, which covers the northern portion of England as well as the Isle of Man...

 and Lord Chancellor
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

) and Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from...

 (the Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

) (1515-1529), the Court of Star Chamber became a political weapon for bringing actions against opponents to the policies of King Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

, his Ministers
Minister (government)
A minister is a politician who holds significant public office in a national or regional government. Senior ministers are members of the cabinet....

 and his Parliament
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

.

Although it was initially a court of appeal
Appellate jurisdiction
Appellate jurisdiction is the power of the Supreme Court to review decisions and change outcomes of decisions of lower courts. Most appellate jurisdiction is legislatively created, and may consist of appeals by leave of the appellate court or by right...

, King Henry, Wolsey and Cranmer encouraged plaintiff
Plaintiff
A plaintiff , also known as a claimant or complainant, is the term used in some jurisdictions for the party who initiates a lawsuit before a court...

s to bring their cases directly to the Star Chamber
Original jurisdiction
The original jurisdiction of a court is the power to hear a case for the first time, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, when a court has the power to review a lower court's decision.-France:...

, bypassing the lower courts entirely.

The Court was used extensively to control Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, after the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542 (sometimes referred to as the "Acts of Union"). The Tudor-era gentry in Wales turned to the Chamber to evict Welsh landowners and protect themselves, and in general protect the English advantages of the Laws in Wales Acts.

Court sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, no right of appeal, no juries, and no witnesses. Evidence was presented in writing.

Under the Stuarts


The power of the Court of Star Chamber grew considerably under the House of Stuart
House of Stuart
The House of Stuart is a European royal house. Founded by Robert II of Scotland, the Stewarts first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland during the late 14th century, and subsequently held the position of the Kings of Great Britain and Ireland...

, and by the time of King Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, it had become synonymous with misuse and abuse of power by the King and his circle. King James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 and his son Charles used the court to examine cases of sedition, which meant that the court could be used to suppress opposition to royal policies. It came to be used to try nobles too powerful to be brought to trial in the lower court.

King Charles I used the Court of Star Chamber as Parliamentary substitute during the eleven years of Personal Rule
Personal Rule
The Personal Rule was the period from 1629 to 1640, when King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland ruled without recourse to Parliament...

, when he ruled without a Parliament. King Charles made extensive use of the Court of Star Chamber to prosecute dissenters, including the Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

s who fled to New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

.

On 17 October 1632, the Court of Star Chamber banned all "news books" because of complaints from Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n diplomat
Diplomat
A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and...

s that coverage of the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

 in England was unfair. As a result, newsbooks pertaining to this matter were often printed in Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

 and then smuggled into the country, until the ban was lifted six years later.

Abolition and aftermath


In 1641, the Long Parliament
Long Parliament
The Long Parliament was made on 3 November 1640, following the Bishops' Wars. It received its name from the fact that through an Act of Parliament, it could only be dissolved with the agreement of the members, and those members did not agree to its dissolution until after the English Civil War and...

, led by John Pym
John Pym
John Pym was an English parliamentarian, leader of the Long Parliament and a prominent critic of James I and then Charles I.- Early life and education :...

 and inflamed by the severe treatment of John Lilburne
John Lilburne
John Lilburne , also known as Freeborn John, was an English political Leveller before, during and after English Civil Wars 1642-1650. He coined the term "freeborn rights", defining them as rights with which every human being is born, as opposed to rights bestowed by government or human law...

, as well as that of other religious dissenters such as William Prynne
William Prynne
William Prynne was an English lawyer, author, polemicist, and political figure. He was a prominent Puritan opponent of the church policy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. Although his views on church polity were presbyterian, he became known in the 1640s as an Erastian, arguing for...

, Alexander Leighton
Alexander Leighton
Alexander Leighton was a Scottish medical doctor and puritan preacher and pamphleteer best known for his 1630 pamphlet that attacked the Anglican church and which led to his torture by King Charles I.-Early life:...

, John Bastwick
John Bastwick
John Bastwick was an English Puritan physician and controversial writer.-Life:He was born at Writtle, Essex. He entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on 19 May 1614, but remained there only a very short time, and left the university without a degree. He travelled and served for a time as a soldier,...

 and Henry Burton
Henry Burton (Puritan)
Henry Burton , was an English puritan. Along with John Bastwick and William Prynne, Burton's ears were cut off in 1637 for writing pamphlets attacking the views of Archbishop Laud.-Early life:...

, abolished the Star Chamber with an Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

, the Habeas Corpus Act 1640
Habeas Corpus Act 1640
The Habeas Corpus Act 1640 is an Act of the Parliament of England with the long title "An Act for the Regulating the Privie Councell and for taking away the Court commonly called the Star Chamber." The Act was passed by the Long Parliament shortly after the impeachment and execution of Thomas...

. The Chamber itself stood until demolished in 1806, when its materials were salvaged. The door now hangs in the nearby Westminster School
Westminster School
The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

. and the historic Star Chamber ceiling, with bright gold stars was brought to Leasowe Castle from the Court of Westminster along with four beautiful tapestries depicting the four seasons.

In the early 1900s, American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

, biographer and dramatist Edgar Lee Masters
Edgar Lee Masters
Edgar Lee Masters was an American poet, biographer, and dramatist...

, 1868-1950, commented:
In the Star Chamber the council could inflict any punishment short of death, and frequently sentenced objects of its wrath to the pillory
Pillory
The pillory was a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands, formerly used for punishment by public humiliation and often further physical abuse, sometimes lethal...

, to whipping
Flagellation
Flagellation or flogging is the act of methodically beating or whipping the human body. Specialised implements for it include rods, switches, the cat o' nine tails and the sjambok...

 and to the cutting off of ears
Mutilation
Mutilation or maiming is an act of physical injury that degrades the appearance or function of any living body, usually without causing death.- Usage :...

. ... With each embarrassment to arbitrary power the Star Chamber became emboldened to undertake further usurpation. ... The Star Chamber finally summoned juries
Jury
A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to ascertain the guilt, or lack thereof, in a crime. In Anglophone jurisdictions, the verdict may be guilty,...

 before it for verdicts disagreeable to the government, and fined and imprisoned them. It spread terrorism
Fear
Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger...

 among those who were called to do constitutional acts. It imposed ruinous fines. It became the chief defense of Charles against assaults upon those usurpations which cost him his life. . . .


The Star Chamber became notorious under Charles I for judgements favourable to the king and to Archbishop Laud (for example, the branding on both cheeks of William Prynne
William Prynne
William Prynne was an English lawyer, author, polemicist, and political figure. He was a prominent Puritan opponent of the church policy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. Although his views on church polity were presbyterian, he became known in the 1640s as an Erastian, arguing for...

 in 1637 for seditious libel
Seditious libel
Seditious libel was a criminal offence under English common law. Sedition is the offence of speaking seditious words with seditious intent: if the statement is in writing or some other permanent form it is seditious libel...

).

Under the Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 government 1979–90 the term was revived for private ministerial meetings at which disputes between the Treasury and high-spending departments were resolved. The term was again revived by the popular press to describe a panel set up by the Labour party's National Executive Committee to review expenses claims by Labour MPs in May 2009. In 2010, the term was revived for a committee established by the Cameron ministry
Cameron Ministry
David Cameron is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, after being invited by Queen Elizabeth II to form a new government after the resignation as Prime Minister of Gordon Brown on 11 May 2010. Leading a coalition government formed by the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, the coalition...

 to plan spending cuts to reduce public debt.

Influence on the U.S. Constitution


The historical abuses of the Star Chamber are considered a primary motivating force behind the protections against compelled self-incrimination embodied in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, protects against abuse of government authority in a legal procedure. Its guarantees stem from English common law which traces back to the Magna Carta in 1215...

. The meaning of "compelled testimony" under the Fifth Amendment—i.e., the conditions under which a defendant is allowed to "take the Fifth"—is thus often interpreted via reference to the inquisitorial methods of the Star Chamber.

As the U.S. Supreme Court described it, "the Star Chamber has, for centuries, symbolized disregard of basic individual rights. The Star Chamber not merely allowed, but required, defendants to have counsel. The defendant's answer to an indictment was not accepted unless it was signed by counsel. When counsel refused to sign the answer, for whatever reason, the defendant was considered to have confessed." Faretta v. California
Faretta v. California
Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 , was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to refuse counsel and represent themselves in state criminal proceedings.-Facts of the case:...

, 422 U.S. 806, 821-22 (1975).

In popular culture


In Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson
Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer known for his works of speculative fiction.Difficult to categorize, his novels have been variously referred to as science fiction, historical fiction, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk...

's historical novel Quicksilver
Quicksilver (novel)
Quicksilver is a historical novel by Neal Stephenson, published in 2003. It is the first volume of The Baroque Cycle, his late Baroque historical fiction series, succeeded by The Confusion and The System of the World . Quicksilver won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and was nominated for the Locus...

one of the book's chief figures, Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 Daniel Waterhouse, appears before an illegally reconstituted Star Chamber tribunal.

In the 1983 movie The Star Chamber
The Star Chamber
The Star Chamber is a 1983 American thriller film written by Roderick Taylor and directed by Peter Hyams. It stars Michael Douglas and Hal Holbrook...

, Michael Douglas
Michael Douglas
Michael Kirk Douglas is an American actor and producer, primarily in movies and television. He has won three Golden Globes and two Academy Awards; first as producer of 1975's Best Picture, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and as Best Actor in 1987 for his role in Wall Street. Douglas received the...

, playing an idealistic Los Angeles Superior Court judge frustrated about having to free obviously guilty criminals merely because of legal technicalities, learns from his mentor about a secret cabal of judges—a Star Chamber—that metes out its own brand of justice against those it determines have wrongly been set free.

In the Discworld
Discworld
Discworld is a comic fantasy book series by English author Sir Terry Pratchett, set on the Discworld, a flat world balanced on the backs of four elephants which, in turn, stand on the back of a giant turtle, Great A'Tuin. The books frequently parody, or at least take inspiration from, J. R. R....

 books by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett
Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE is an English novelist, known for his frequently comical work in the fantasy genre. He is best known for his popular and long-running Discworld series of comic fantasy novels...

, the Patrician's Palace contains the Rats Chamber, an anagrammatical equivalent to the actual Star Chamber. One of the differences is that the room is decorated with a unique fresco of dancing rats on the ceiling, rat wall paper, rat carpet, and so on, which is stated to have the effect of making people "feel as if they need a wash" after a few minutes.

In the 2006 Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica (2004 TV series)
Battlestar Galactica is an American military science fiction television series, and part of the Battlestar Galactica franchise. The show was developed by Ronald D. Moore as a re-imagining of the 1978 Battlestar Galactica television series created by Glen A. Larson...

episode Collaborators
Collaborators (Battlestar Galactica)
"Collaborators" is the fifth episode of the third season from the science fiction television series Battlestar Galactica.- Plot :In the absence of Gaius Baltar, Tom Zarek has become President of the Colonies. Knowing that the military will never support him as President, he agrees to stand down in...

, the acting president of the Twelve Colonies authorized a Star Chamber which was known as 'The Circle'. They secretly tried and convicted collaborators during the Cylon Occupation and executed them.

See also

  • United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
    United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
    The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is a U.S. federal court authorized under , . It was established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 . The FISC oversees requests for surveillance warrants against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the United...

  • Islamic Revolutionary Court
    Islamic Revolutionary Court
    Islamic Revolutionary Court is a special court in the Islamic Republic of Iran designed to try those suspected of smuggling, blaspheming, inticing violence or trying to overthrow the Iranian government...

  • Kangaroo court
    Kangaroo court
    A kangaroo court is "a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted".The outcome of a trial by kangaroo court is essentially determined in advance, usually for the purpose of ensuring conviction, either by going through the motions of manipulated procedure or...

  • Drumhead court-martial
    Drumhead court-martial
    A drumhead court-martial is a court-martial held in the field to hear urgent charges of offences committed in action. The term is said to originate from the use of a drumhead as an improvised writing table, altar for religious services, and a traditional gathering point for a regiment for orders...

  • Ex officio oath
    Ex officio oath
    The ex-officio oath was an English judicial and ecclesiastical weapon developed in the first half of the seventeenth century, and used as a form of coercion, persecution, and forcible self-incrimination in the religious trials of that era...

     - the "cruel trilemma" used in Star Chamber inquisitions.
  • public trial
    Public trial
    Public trial or open trial is a trial open to public, as opposed to the secret trial. The term should not be confused with show trial.-United States:...