Dr. Bonham's Case

Dr. Bonham's Case

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Dr. Bonham's Case

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Thomas Bonham v College of Physicians, commonly known as Dr. Bonham's Case, was decided in 1610 by the Court of Common Pleas in England under Sir Edward Coke, the court's Chief Justice. Coke ruled that "in many cases, the common law will controul Acts of Parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void: for when an Act of Parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will controul it, and adjudge such Act to be void". Coke's meaning has been disputed over the years; some interpret his judgment as referring simply to judicial review of statutes to correct misunderstandings which would render them unfair, while others argue he meant that the common law courts have the power to strike down completely those statutes they deem to be repugnant.

Whatever Coke's meaning, after an initial period in which the principle was accepted (although no statutes were declared void), Bonham's Case was thrown aside in favour of the growing doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty. Initially written down by William Blackstone, this theory has Parliament as the sovereign law-maker, preventing the common law courts throwing aside or reviewing statutes in the fashion Coke suggested. Parliamentary sovereignty is now the universally accepted judicial doctrine in the legal system of England and Wales. Bonham's Case met a mixed reaction at the time, with King James I and the Lord Chancellor, Lord......
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