Monday, December 12, 2011

Oldham on Abusing Justice in 18th-Century England

James C. Oldham, Georgetown University Law Center, has posted Only Eleven Shillings: Abusing Public Justice in England in the Late Eighteenth Century, a paper he presented at this year’s annual meeting of the Americn Society for Legal History.  It will appear in the Green Bag in 2012.  Here is the abstract:
This eleven-shilling tempest started in 1786 in a local Court of Requests in Yarmouth, then generated, sequentially, a perjury indictment, three jury trials at the assizes (all before special juries), a jury verdict for £3,000 with costs of £800, an indictment for libeling the public justice of England, and a fourth jury trial (also before a special jury). Among the questions that the proceedings invite are: Why did the parties risk being bankrupted by this seemingly trivial dispute? How open to challenge were jury verdicts? When could a jury verdict be overturned because the damages assessed by the jury were considered by the reviewing court to be excessive? Could a jury verdict be thrown out based on a post-trial affidavit of one or more of the jurors claiming that the verdict had been reached by an improper method? How impressionable were the jurors, even special jurors, in response to the eloquence and forensic skills of the barristers? Who ultimately paid for the preparation and conduct of this pile of proceedings?