V Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law 75-98 (January 2018)
Star Chamber is steeped in myth. An arguably standard account calls it
an English court of law established by act of Parliament, possibly in the
eenth century, operating outside the common law, authorized by the
monarch’s prerogative and run by the monarch’s councilors. But neither
its origin nor its nature is certain. Historians believe it was older than
the misleadingly named Star Chamber Act of 1487.1 Some also believe
it was less a court of law, and more an all-purpose deliberative body.2
But the label that sticks the most is the most tarnishing one—that Star
Chamber worked nefariously, in complete disregard for the common
law, ignoring its defenses and processes. Star Chamber “stripped the
delinquent of his constitutional defense . . . and le him open to the ca-
pricious and tyrannical will and humor of arbitrary judges.”3 e Long
Parliament abolished the court in 1641 for exceeding its jurisdiction,
for its arbitrary proceedings, and for its cruel and excessive punish-
ments.4 And now Star Chamber is “one of modern history’s few really
dirty words;”5 “a synonym for secrecy, severity, and the wresting of jus-
Some historians have somewhat dispelled even this myth—mostly
by arguing that Star Chamber was not all that nefarious. Star Chamber
observed process to a fault;7 it punished contempt of common law
courts and abuse of procedure;8 it granted counsel and opportunities
for testimony which even the common law didn’t;9 the monarch’s
1. Infra note 88.
2. A. F. Pollard, Council, Star Chamber, and Privy Council under the Tudors: II.
e Star Chamber, 37 E. H. R. 516, 518-520 (1922).
3. Daniel L. V. Zande, Coercive Power and the Demise of the Star Chamber, 50 A.
J. L H. 326, 326 (2010).
4. Id. at 330.
5. omas G. Barnes, Star Chamber Mythology, 5 A. J. L H. 1, 1 (1961).
6. Edward P. Cheyney, e Court of Star Chamber, 18 A. H. R. 727, 727
7. Barnes, supra note 5, at 5.
8. Barnes, supra note 5, at 7.
9. Barnes, supra note 5, at 9.