*I am absolutely obsessed with Harry Potter so enjoy!
In the United States, the judicial system works on a common-law system that originated from Britain, meaning that the court must adhere to precedent from prior court rulings when making a judgement. This common-law system legitimizes the Court and makes it look like one united system that is consistent. There is no way to prohibit justices from not following Court precedent but it is usually very unlikely for them to not follow precedent. The U. S. system also has two courts, one pertaining to litigation against two individuals (Civil Court) and litigation pertaining to the state arguing against an individual (Criminal Court). How does our Court system correlate with the Wizengamot, the wizarding court system, from Harry Potter? There are commonalities between the two and major differences.
The U. S. judicial system had a rocky start at the beginning of our country because the constitution is written in such a way that the Judicial system should not have much power. Article 3 of the Constitution clearly lays out the Court’s role in government: hear cases of Original Jurisdiction, alleviate conflicts between Congress and the Presidency, hear cases that have standing (can be heard or there is an actual conflict), cases chosen per the rule of Four (four justices say that they want to hear it), Writ of certiorari, conceptual ambiguity in the Constitution (clarify). There is no mention of Judicial Review or of the number of justices to man the bench. Marbury v. Madison, 1803 was a crucial case to grant the Courts any type of power. In this case, John Adams was President of the United States, and promised Marbury a justice position right before he was kicked out of the white house (Jefferson was president-elect). Chief Justice Marshall was the Secretary of State and never gave Marshall his appointment. Jefferson decided not to approve the appointment and appointed James Madison for the position. Marbury sues Madison in his frustration. The final ruling: Marbury would receive his commission, but the supreme court did not have the authority to tell Madison to give Marbury the position. So, it ruled it did not have the authority to rule… Marbury would have had to start at District Court then go to the Appellate Court and finally plead before the Supreme Court. Justice Marshall also established Judicial Review– the supreme court’s authority to review acts of other branches of government and potentially render those acts unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court of the Wizarding World is the Wizengamot and is governed by the Wizengamot Charter of Rights. It is assumed that this body is sovereign of the Ministry of Magic, though the Ministry arraigns lawbreakers. The Wizengamot is a judicial boy that consists of over 50 witches and wizards to rule in favor of justice in the wizarding community. This Court seems to be a court of law and a court of equity. Because the judicial body is so large, the Ministry of Magic may have thought that one combined Court would be easier to manage than two courts with a substantial number of witches and wizards.
Harry Potter pleaded in front of this body in The Order of the Phoenix where he was accused by the Ministry of Magic for using magic in front of his muggle-born cousin, Dudley Dursley, without proper causation. Professor Albus Dumbledore acted as his counselor (it is not known if a wizard must possess a law degree to be a legal counselor). He pleaded that Harry be innocent and brought in witnesses to testify on behalf of Harry’s freedom by indicating that there were scary creatures that had to be compelled away with the use of magic. The Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, seemed to be one of the leaders of the body and was not shy of voicing his disdain for freeing Harry. The Wizengamot ultimately ruled in favor of Harry’s freedom.
In any country, the judicial system is full of twists and turns that never seem to be fully defined. Rulings from the Court seem to weigh heavy in the United States system, but there is no indication of common-law precedent in the Wizarding World. Both systems appear to promote justice and fairness in their own unique ways. Though the Wizengamot could essentially be its own legislative body, it still functions as a judicial body to ensure the safety of witches and wizards alike. And that’s all the judicial system wants to promote—justice and safety for everyone.