Benefit of Clergy,
the advantage derived from the preferment of the plea "I am a clergyman." When in medieval times, a clergyman was arraigned on certain charges he was permitted to put forth the plea that with respect to the offense of which he was accused, he was not under the jurisdiction of the civil courts, but, being a clergyman, was entitled to be tried by his spiritual superiors. The cases in which the benefit of clergy might be urged were such as affected the life or limbs of the offender, high treason, however, excepted. The exemption has never been recognized in America, and is abolished in Great Britain.
Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.