Star Chamber Law and Legal Definition

The Star Chamber was an English court of law at the royal Palace of Westminster, whose roots date back to medieval times. It was made up of Privy Councillors as well as common-law judges. The court only became unusually powerful during the reign of Henry VII, when in 1487 the court became a separate judicial body from the king's council was authorized to hear petitions of redress. The Star Chamber acted as a supplementary body to the common-law and equity courts in both civil and criminal matters.

The court was established to ensure fair treatment under the laws for prominent people, whose power was prevented them from being convicted of crimes in ordinary courts. They heard matters involving public disorder, rioting, property rights, public corruption, trade and government administration, and disputes arising from land enclosures. Although the court could order torture, prison, and fines, it did not have the power to impose the death sentence.

Under the reign of the Stuarts, the Star Chamber become synonomous with misuse and abuse of power by the king. Court sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, no right of appeal, no juries, and no witnesses. The Star Chamber was finally abolished in 1641 by the Long Parliament.