Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Case Notes of Sir Soulden Lawrence, 1787-1800

Just out from the Selden Society is Volume 128, Case Notes of Sir Soulden Lawrence, 1787-1800, edited by my Georgetown Law colleague James Oldham.  As the Society’s website explains:
Credit: NPG
Lawrence, a Common Pleas and King’s Bench judge 1794-1812, left extensive manuscript notes of his cases. These were for his own use, necessary because of the non-reporting or very-delayed reporting of cases in the central courts during most of the 18th century.  In the introduction the editor chronicles this lack of regular and timely reporting, especially in the courts of Exchequer and Common Pleas.  Hence the importance of materials such as these, drawn from the extensive collection of Lawrence manuscripts in the Middle Temple and Lincoln’s Inn libraries.  The first part has notes of cases by Lawrence when still at the bar.  But the main content is his notes as a judge, from 1794.  These contain not only many unreported cases, but also supply the printed reports with much fuller detail; and include the unreported intermediate stages of litigation.  In the last section of the volume, the editor has selected examples from seven out of the many Paper Books among Lawrence’s manuscripts.  More information about the volume is found here.
One of those cases seen more fully through the Paper Books is Marshall v. Rutton (1800), in which the twelve judges held the line on coverture by (as Professor Oldham wrote here) “overruling earlier King’s Bench decisions by Lord Mansfield that had allowed creditors to prevail in suits against married women in an expanding set of factual circumstances.”  Professor Oldham tells me that he believes the papers in this important decision appear in print for the first time in this volume.