Jury of Peers – a jury comprised of persons equal in status, rank, &/or character as the accused

jury of peers:

1. See peer. [1] [2]

n. (13C)

1. Someone who is of equal status, rank, or character with another. [1]

1. An equal.  A man’s equals in rank are his peers.  At common law a nobleman was entitled to be tries in a criminal case by a jury composed of his peers or equals.  Bishops, however, although lords of parliament, held their baronies by right of the church, and were not of noble blood, and hence, were not so entitled.  Peeresses did not have this right at common law, but statute 20 Henry VI, c. 9, gave it to them.  See 1 BI Comm 401. [2]

     Excerpt from William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765):

     “The commonalty, like the nobility, are divided into several degrees; and, as the lords, though different in rank, yet all of them are peers in respect of their nobility, so the commoners, though some are greatly superior to others, yet all are in law peers, in respect of their want of nobility . . . . [3]

2. A member of the British nobility (such as a duchess, marquis, earl, Viscount, or baroness). — aka lord.

     Excerpt from David M. Walker’s The Oxford Companion to Law (1980):

     “The Crown has power to create any number of peers and of any degree. In modern practice the power is exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister and the honour is most commonly a reward for political services. Peerages can be, and have been, conferred for party political reasons; 12 were created in 1712 to save the government, and 16 to help pass the Reform Bill in 1832. In 1832 and 1911 the Opposition of the House of Lords was overcome by the threat to create enough peers to secure a majority. . . . The main privilege of a peer is to sit and vote in the House of Lords. [4]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]: 1 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 391 (1765).

[4]: David M. Walker, The Oxford Companion to Law 942 (1980).


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