What does the word bar have to do with the law?
July 12, 2004 6:28 PM   Subscribe

What is the significance of the word "bar" in the American Bar Association? What does "bar" have to do with the law?
posted by rorycberger to Law & Government (5 answers total)
 
1559, a sense which derives ultimately from the railing that separated benchers from the hall in the Inns of Court. Students who had attained a certain standing were "called" to it to take part in the important exercises of the house. After c.1600, however, this was popularly assumed to mean the bar in a courtroom, which was the wooden railing marking off the area around the judge's seat, where prisoners stood for arraignment and where barristers (q.v.) stood to plead. As the place where the business of court was done, bar in this sense had become synonymous with "court" by c.1330.
posted by mkultra at 6:51 PM on July 12, 2004


Yup.
posted by Aaorn at 6:52 PM on July 12, 2004


The "bar" generally refers to the place in a courtroom where the advocates stand to make their addresses to the court and jury; it is so called because formerly it was closed with a bar. My understanding of the origin has to do with the original English judicial system. When agents of the king travelled and held court to resolve disputes, local lords would come and observe--a kind of spectator sport, I guess. The lords would sit in their own area in the courtroom, separated from the peasants by, you guessed it, a bar. The king's agent would apparently often consult the lords in attendance as to their opinion on the disputes, and this system gradually became formalized as some of the lords became professional, rather than amateur advocates. I don't have a source immediately available, but this was the story we got from my very knowledgable civil procedure professor.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:04 PM on July 12, 2004


Good question, rory, and thanks for the answers, folks. I never would have thought to ask this, but it is an interesting term.
posted by msacheson at 11:49 PM on July 12, 2004


What does "bar" have to do with the law?

ever hang out with a bunch of lawyers after a long day at trial? that'll answer your question right there.
posted by taumeson at 6:28 AM on July 13, 2004


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