Examination of the Substance of Cases in Samogitian Courts of the Early Seventeenth Century

  • Darius Vilimas
Keywords: legal culture, courts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, early seventeenth century, Samogitia, land and castle court books, structure of court books, ways of keep­ing court books, litigation, Third Statute of Lithuania, nobility of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, history of Samogitia


Based on the manuscripts of the early-seventeenth-century books of Samogitian land and castle courts, the article shows that the examination of the cases was based on the verification of the submitted written evidence, testimonies of witnesses, or investigation of the circumstances of cases at the scenes of incidents. Reliability was the most important aspect in the study of written evidence. The main focus was placed on proving the authenticity of the document. A slightest suspicion that the document had been corrected or supplemented immediately provoked protests from the opponents. The origin of the witnesses and their property status were the main reliability criteria. In courts, testimonies given by local nobility were considered more valuable than the testimonies of peasants, and testimonies of non-native nobles (mostly arrivals from Poland) or even their origin were often questioned. Scrutiny, or the examination of the circumstances of the case at the scene of the incident, was not frequent, although this action was sometimes performed without including the term ‘scrutiny’ as such in court books.