History of the Chancery Court

Development of the Court's Jurisprudence

The jurisprudence and procedure of the Chancery Court constituted a part of the law our ancestors brought with them from England, when they founded the Colony of North Carolina. When that colony became a state, this jurisprudence was reorganized, and its administration provided for in its constitution; and in 1782, its legislature conferred this jurisdiction upon the courts.

Since Tennessee was part of North Carolina at that time, that jurisprudence became a part of its law. Later, when Tennessee became a state, both the Deed of Cession and the Act of Admission by Congress made the laws of North Carolina our laws, until we saw fit to change them.

Official Constitutional Jurisdiction

“The judicial power of this state shall be vested in one supreme court and in such Circuit, Chancery, and other inferior courts as the Legislature shall from time to time ordain and establish.” -Tennessee Constitution, article VI, 1

Origin of the Chancellor Name

In ancient England, the king was regarded as the “fountain of justice”; and when any person conceived that he had been wronged either in court or out of court they had the privilege of petitioning the king for redress. The king being unable to hear all of these complaints because of the number and complexity generally referred them to his chief secretary, who was called his chancellor. This officer was an ecclesiastic, trained in the law and theology of Rome, and was sometimes called “the keeper of the kings’ conscience.” ("Gibson’s Suits in Chancery, 5th Edition," Crownover 1955, part 1, section 2)

From this, the Chancery Court was formed and brought to this country through the North Carolina settlers.