Vanderbilt Law Review

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This Note will attempt to provide the framework for a more extended institutional examination of the post-revolutionary courts that functioned in the counties of western-most North Carolina and,beginning in 1790, the Territory South of the River Ohio before their organization into the new state of Tennessee in June 1796. The Note initially will set forth the jurisdiction and the regulatory authority of the county courts of pleas and quarter sessions under the North Carolina and territorial governments, will describe the jurisdiction and authority of the courts' individual justices, and will examine the role of the petit jury in exercising a check upon the courts' power. With that background, data extracted from the records that survive for one of the county courts for the period will be presented and analyzed. In particular, the Note will focus upon that court's judicial business. Attention will be directed to the characteristics of the court's litigation, to the sources of law relied upon by the court, and to the characteristics of its own justices and of the attorneys who practiced at its bar. This Note uses as a case study the court that functioned in Davidson County between its organization in October 1783 and April 1796, when the court convened for its final term before state-hood. The author's justification for using the Davidson county court as the subject of the case study is that, with the possible exception of those that survive for Knox and Sumner counties, more extensive and, for the most part, more complete records are available for that court than for any other of the western county courts that functioned before 1796. The author in no way claims that the Davidson county court is representative of those courts. The Davidson county court merely is the first to be examined.