Lava courts

Lava courts (literally, bench courts). Courts introduced in the 17th century in cities of Poland and Ukraine that enjoyed the rights of Magdeburg law. They consisted usually of three to seven assessors (lavnyky) and were headed by the mayor (viit). According to the law, the members were elected by the free residents, but in practice new members were often appointed by sitting members. The courts had jurisdiction over the residents of the city and the suburban villages in civil and criminal matters. In the 18th century their authority was restricted to petty disputes over property. They were abolished in the mid-19th century after the abolition of Magdeburg law. Later, the name was applied to jury courts in Ukrainian territories under Austrian rule.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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