Bracton (“De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliæ”)
Extract from De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliæ (c. 1235), folios 187b–189, by Henry de Bracton .
The original Latin text is in the left column, with the English translation in the right column.
Latin (original text)
Exceptio contra breve sive contra iurisdictionem.
DICTUM est supra quid iuris si tenens nihil velit vel sciat dicere contra assisam, vel excipere quare remaneat imperpetuum vel ad tempus. Nunc autem dicendum si velit dicere et excipere, sive contra breve sive contra personam querentis sive contra assisam. Sunt enim exceptiones quæ competunt contra breve et assisam differunt sed non perimunt. Sunt etiam quædam exceptiones contra personam querentis quæ assisam omnino perimunt. Est enim peremptoria brevis et dilatoria iudicii. Est quædam peremptoria quantum ad personam unius et dilatoria iudicii et non peremptoria quantum ad personam alterius, ut si querens actionem non habeat sed alius, et competat alteri actio et non sibi. Item sicut competit contra personam ita competit contra assisam. Si autem breve non valeat ab initio, non erit ulterius procedendum. Si autem breve valeat, tunc recurrendum est ad personam et videndum si ei competat querela vel non: postea vero ad [fo. 188] assisam si tenens iniuste et sine iudicio disseisiverit ipsum querentem, ut dicit, de libero tenemento suo in tali villa et post talem terminum. Imprimis autem oportet confirmare breve confirmata iurisdictione sic ut si iustitiarii habeant potestatem iudicandi et auctoritatem superioris, ut per breve speciale vel per generalem summonitionem, ut supra in principio videre poterit manifeste. Cum autem confirmata fuerit persona iustitiarii oportet quod breve competens sit actioni. Item quod querens habeat actionem et tenens habeat exceptionem, et quod certa res in iudicium deducatur, ut supra. Confirmata igitur persona iustitiarii et audito brevi, excipiat tenens imprimis contra breve si videat sibi exceptionem competere. Multipliciter enim excipi poterit contra breve, ut si in se vitiosum sit, si appensum fuerit sigillum adulterinum, vel etiam si rasura sit in loco suspecto, ubi nomina scribuntur et non iura. Item ut si in se aliam contineat falsitatem, quod non habeat verbis cancellariæ ordinatam dispositionem nec verborum ordinem nec stilum calami, ita quod concordet manibus notariorum. Suspicio etiam esse poterit in nominibus tenementorum, locorum et aliorum quæ sunt iudicii principalia, et quæ certa sunt et varietatem non admittunt. In aliis vero quæ iuris sunt non est multum curandum de rasura, quia rasura in illis quæ iuris sunt non multum inducit suspicionis. Jura enim et constitutiones et alia quæ communia sunt omnibus ubique scribi possunt, nisi huiusmodi suspicionem inducant calami diversitas vel atramenti. Et si in loco suspecto inveniatur rasura, videndum erit et distinguendum utrum brevia sint quæ diriguntur vicecomitibus, clausa vel aperta. Item utrum id quod suspectum est in cancellaria sit emendatum, vel ab alio sicut a clerico vicecomitis, si clausum fuerit vel apertum, sit nomen alicuius vel aliud quid prius scriptum inconsulte deletum, quod ex hoc præsumi possit vehementer, ut si breve illud aliquo tempore sub alio nomine recitatum fuerit et auditum et qui hoc veraciter protestentur, ille qui super hoc conventus fuerit et convictus, dum querela tamen prius in iudicium deducatur et facta inquisitione culpabilis inveniatur, tamquam falsarius puniatur. Item videndum erit si tempore datæ aliqua fuerit causa impetrandi vel nulla. Et ideo respicienda erit data, si forte deleta fuerit vel in aliquo mutata, et per hoc erit suspicio de data. Et quod non valet impetratio, quæ nulla est nisi subsit causa vera impetrandi, et quod cadere debeat breve, probatur in itinere Willelmi de Ralegha in comitatu Warrewickiæ, assisa novæ disseisinæ, si Geradus filius Willelmi. Item si de consimili brevi et etiam assisa omnino se retraxerit, et non tamen si propter vitium et errorem. Item si prius incepit agere de seisina aliena quam propria, per assisam mortis antecessoris, per breve de ingressu vel per breve de recto vel per aliud, qualicumque ordine brevium non observato. Item si aliquod consimile impetraverit coram eodem iudice vel diverso a cuius prosecutione per licentiam vel alio modo non recessit. Item si impetratum fuerit contra ius commune quod plures querentes in uno brevi contineantur, ubi diversæ sunt querelæ, diversæ personæ et diversæ disseisinæ, nisi ibi unicum fuerit ius et diversæ personæ sicut unus heres, sicut sunt illi qui coheredes sunt et participes et tenuerunt in communi.
An exception against the writ or against the jurisdiction.
We have explained above what is the right, if the defendant does not wish or know to say anything against the assise [by “assise” Bracton (in the same way as Glanville ) means the proceedings in a real action, under which a recognition by twelve jurors was had recourse to in the place of the duel], or object why it ought to remain, forever or for a time. Now we must consider if he wishes to object either against the writ , or against the person of the plaintiff, or against the assise. For there are exceptions which may be taken against the writ, and which delay, but are not fatal to it. There are also exceptions against the person of the plaintiff, which are altogether fatal to the amiss. For there is a peremptory exception to the writ and which defers the trial, there is also an exception, which is peremptory as regards the person of one and defers the trial, and not peremptory as regards the person of another, as if the plaintiff has no right of action, but another person has, and another person and not he himself is entitled to bring an action. Likewise as an exception may be taken to the person, so it may be taken to the assise. But if the writ is not valid from the commencement, then no further proceedings are to be taken. But if the writ is valid, then recourse must be had to the person, and it is to be seen if he is entitled to a plaint or not; but afterwards recourse may be had to the [fo. 188] assise, if the defendant has unjustly and without a judgment disseysed the plaintiff, as he says, from his free tenement in such a vill and after such a term. In the first place he ought to confirm the writ by confirming the jurisdiction, so that the justices should have the power of judging and the authority of a superior, as by a special writ or by a general summons, as may be seen clearly in the beginning. But when the person of the judge has been confirmed, it is requisite that the writ should be applicable to the action. Likewise that the plaintiff should have a right of action, and the defendant a right of exception, and that a thing certain should be brought into judgment as above. The person of the judge having been confirmed and the writ having been read aloud, let the defendant in the first place except against the writ, if he sees that he is entitled to except. For manifold exceptions can be taken to the writ, as if it be faulty in itself, if it has an adulterine seal appended to it, or if there be an erasure in a suspected place, where the names and not the rights are written. Likewise if it contains in itself some falseness, that it has not in the words of the chancery the ordinary arrangement, nor an order of words, nor a style of the pen, such as would agree with the hands of notaries. There may be also suspicion in the names of the tenements, of the places, and other things which are the principal matters of a judgment, and which are certain, and which do not admit of variation. But in other things which are concerned with the right there is not much regard to be paid to an erasure, for an erasure in those things which are concerned with the right does not cause much suspicion. For rights and customs and other things, which are common to all, may be written anywhere, unless the difference of the pen or of the ink induce suspicion; and if the erasure is found in a suspected place, it is to be seen and to be distinguished, whether they are writs which are directed to the sheriffs close or open; likewise whether that which is suspected has been amended in the chancery, or by another person, such as the clerk of the sheriff, if it was a close writ or an open writ, if the name of any person or something else, which was written first carelessly, has been obliterated, which may be strongly presumed, so that, if that writ has been at some time read and heard under another name, and there are some who bear witness to the truth of this, he who has been convened and convicted for this, provided, however, the complaint be first brought into judgment and an inquest having been held he is found guilty, should be punished like a forger. Likewise it is to be seen if at the time of the date there was any cause for suing out a writ or none, and therefore the date is to be regarded, if by chance it has been obliterated, or changed in any respect, and through this there be suspicion as to the date, and that the suing it out is invalid, since it is null unless there was a true cause for suing it out. And that the writ ought to fail is proved in the eyre of William de Ralegh in the county of Warwick in an assise of novel disseisin , if Gerard the son of William. Likewise if he has withdrawn himself from a similar writ and likewise altogether from the assise, and yet not from any fault or error. Likewise if he has commenced proceedings concerning the seisin of another prior to his own, by an assise of mort d’ancestor , by a writ of entry, or by a writ of right, or by something else, the order of the writs not having been observed. Likewise if he has sued out a similar writ before the same judge or a different one, from the prosecution of which he has not withdrawn by license or in some other way. Likewise if it has been sued out against the common law, that several plaintiffs are comprised in one writ, where there are different complaints and different persons, and different disseisins, unless where there is a single right and different persons as one heir, such as those who are coheirs and parceners and tenants in common.
Quod error multiplex est.
[fo. 188b] ITEM error perimit breve sed non iudicium neque assisam. Error autem multiplex esse poterit in persona querentis, ut si erraverit impetrando contra personam eius qui nomine possidet alieno et non proprio, ut firmarius vel prior vel canonicus amotibilis, ut prædictum est et inferius dicetur, nec talibus competit exceptio nec querela. Item procedere non debet assisa propter errorem nominis, ut si pro Henrico ponatur in brevi Willelmus vel e converso. Idem erit si erratum fuerit in cognomine, ut si dicatur Hubertus Roberti ubi dici deberet Hubertus Walteri. Item idem erit si erratum fuerit de nomine villæ de qua quis inducit originem, ut si pro Londonia nominet quis in brevi Wintonia. Item si erratum sit in syllaba, ut si quis alium nominet Henricum de Brothtona ubi nominari deberet eum de Brattona. Item idem erit in littera, ut si quis erraverit sic nominando Henricum de Brettona ubi nominare eum deberet Henricum de Brattona. Et omnia ista probari possent per exempla. Item adhuc idem erit si de corpore constiterit et cognomine, erratum tamen sit in nomine dignitatis, ut si dicatur in brevi, Questus est nobis Henricus de Brattona præcentor, cum sit decanus, et sic cadit breve. Item si erratum sit in persona et non in nomine neque in cognomine, scilicet cum pater et filius vocentur eodem nomine et cognomine et patri facta fuerit disseisina, si filius impetraverit sub eodem nomine patris de disseisina patris non recuperabit, quia non ei facta fuit iniuria sed patri, et sic ipse non habebit querelam, sed pater si viveret, et licet habeat idem nomen et cognomen, persona tamen diversa est et non eadem cui facta est iniuria. Idem autem erit si filius de disseisina patris et de facto patris eodem nomine nuncupatus, post mortem patris, si velit sibi perquirere per breve de ingressu de disseisina facta a patre. Item error in actione ubi quis credidit actionem competere quæ non competiit.
That error is manifold.
[fo. 188b] Likewise an error is fatal to a writ , but not to a judgment, nor to an assise. But an error may be manifold in the person of the plaintiff, if he has erred in suing it out against the person of him, who possesses in another’s name and not in his own, as a fanner or a prior or a removable canon, as aforesaid, and it will be explained below, nor are such persons entitled to an exception nor to a complaint. Likewise an assise ought not to proceed on account of an error in the name, as if for “Henry” there is inserted in the writ “William”, and the converse. Likewise if there has been an error in the surname, as if it is written Hughbert Robertson, when it ought to be written Hughbert Walterson. Likewise it will be the same if there be an error in the name of the vill , whence a person has his origin, as if instead “of London” a person is described in the writ as “of Winchester.” Likewise if there be an error in a syllable, as if one should name another Henry de Brochetone, when he ought to be named Henry de Bracton. Likewise the same will apply to a letter, as if a person has erred in naming a person Henry de Bracthon, when he ought to name him Henry de Bracton, and all these things can be proved by examples. Likewise the same will be, if the name and surname are correct, but there is an error in the description of the dignity, as if it be said in the writ Henry de Bracton, the precentor , has made complaint, instead of Henry de Bracton, the dean , and so the writ fails. Likewise if there be an error in the person, and not in the name or in the surname, as when a father and a son are called by the same names and surnames, and the disseisin has been made against the father, if the son has sued out a writ under the same name of the father concerning the disseisin of the father, he shall not recover, because the injury has not been done to him, but to his father, and so he himself shall not have a plaint, but his father, if he be living, and although he has the same name and surname, the person however is different to whom the injury is done, and not the same. But the same thing will occur, if the son bearing the same name as his father sues concerning the disseisin of his father and the act of his father after the death of his father, if he should wish to claim for himself by a writ of entry concerning the disseisin done to his father. Likewise there is an error in the action, when a person has believed that he is entitled to an action, to which he is not entitled.
De errore circa personam sive circa corpus sive circa officium.
UT autem plenius habeatur notitia circa quæ versetur error, sciendum quod versatur aliquando error circa personam sive circa corpus sive circa officium sive circa rem sive circa causam. Circa personam vero contingit errare dupliciter, quandoque ex imperitia sive negligentia impetrantis, quandoque ex dolo adversarii. Ex imperitia vero impetrantis, ut si quis nominaverit Petrum ubi nominasse debuit Rogerum, et propter talem errorem cadit breve multis rationibus. Item si quis binominis sit sive in nomine proprio vel cognomine, illud nomen tenendum erit quo solet frequentius appellari: quia ideo imposita sunt ut demonstrent voluntatem dicentis, et utimur vocis ministerio. Idem est si in prænomine, agnomine, cognomine. Idem erit si erratum sit in nomine appellativo, ut si quis vestem nominaverit ubi nominare deberet pecuniam. Item provenit error ex dolo adversarii, scilicet quando adversarius dolose in absentia impetrantis commutat possessionem, ut adversarius rediens et novum possessorem inveniens, ipsum tamquam eum de quo in brevi nulla fit mentio convenire non possit neque implacitare: et videtur quod non quia in brevi non comprehenditur, et multis aliis rationibus. Verius tamen est quod possit et debeat respondere, alioquin posset ille qui possessionem mutavit ne cum eo ageretur de dolo suo commodum reportare, et multis aliis rationibus. [fo. 189] Et ideo poterit uterque conveniri simul vel per se, et hoc licet translatio fiat antequam litteræ pervenerint ad iustitiarios vel vicecomitem, dum tamen diligens extiterit prosecutio. Eodem modo fieri poterit si res post iudicium ad alium transferatur.
Of error about the person, or the body, or the office.
That, however, fuller knowledge may be had concerning what things error is conversant, it is to be known that error is concerned sometimes about the person or about the body, or about the office, or about the thing, or about the cause. About the person, error occurs in two ways, sometimes from the unskilfulness or negligence of the party suing out the writ, sometimes from the deceit of an adversary. From the unskilfulness of the person suing out, as where a person has mentioned “Peter” when he ought to have mentioned “Roger”, and on account of such an error the writ fails for many reasons. And so if a person has two names, whether in his name or in his surname, that name is to be adopted by which he is more frequently accustomed to be called: because they are imposed for that reason, that they may show the intention of the speaker, and we make use of speech as a servant. And so if there be an error in the forename [“prænomine”], the nickname [“agnomine”], or the surname [“cognomine”]. So if there be an error in the name of the species, as if a person should have mentioned clothing, when he ought to have mentioned money. Likewise error arises from the deceit of the adversary, to wit, when the adversary deceitfully, in the absence of the suitor, changes the possession, so that the adversary, returning and finding a new possessor, cannot convene or implead him, as being a person concerning whom no mention is made in the writ, and it seems that he cannot, because he is not comprised in the writ, and for many other reasons; it is more true, however, that he can, and that he ought to respond, otherwise he might, who has changed the possession, derive advantage from his deceit, so that no action could be brought against him, [fo. 189] and in many other ways, and for that reason each may be convened together or by himself, and this although the transfer has been made before the writ has come to the justices or the sheriff, provided there has been a diligent prosecution of it. In the same way it may be done, if the thing has after the judgment been transferred to another.
De errore circa nomen et dignitatem.
ITEM poterit esse error circa officium sive dignitatem, ut si quis præcentorem nominaverit pro decano vel e converso: circa officium, ut si quis nominaverit coronatorem pro vicecomite vel e converso. Nomen vero dignitatis vel officii non mutatur nec etiam nomen proprium. Errari tamen poterit circa ea, unde et si exprimatur verum nomen et fiat error circa dignitatem vel officium tenet breve. Si autem fiat error circa nomen, et de dignitate vel officio non erretur, tenet breve: aliquando vero nomen proprium non exprimitur, et tunc tenet nomen dignitatis vel officii si circa ea non erretur, et tenet breve quantum ad eorum successores in causa civili ubi nulla sequitur pœna. Si autem actio fuerit pœnalis ex delicto, extenditur etiam ad successores non expresso proprio nomine, sed non ad pœnam sed quoad restitutionem si possit restituere. Si autem nomen proprium exprimeretur non esset ita. Officium vero et dignitas fere se habent ad idem. Sed quælibet dignitas est aliquod officium, sed omne officium non est dignitas. Officium vero bene potest esse sine dignitate ut officium vicecomitis et coronatoris. Item si diaconus nominetur pro sacerdote non expresso proprio nomine, vel e converso, cum sacerdos utramque contineat dignitatem.
Of error about the name or dignity
Likewise there may be error about the office or dignity, as if a person has named a precentor instead of a dean, or on the contrary; concerning the office, as if a person has named a coroner instead of a sheriff, or the converse. For the name of dignity or of office is not changed any more than the proper name of a person. There may, however, be an error concerning those things, whence if the true name be expressed and there be an error about the dignity or the office, the writ holds good. But if there be an error in the name and there be no error in the dignity or in the office, the writ holds good, but sometimes the proper name is not expressed, and then the name of dignity or of office holds good, and if there be no error in them the writ also shall hold good as far as regards their successors in a civil cause, where no penalty follows. But if the action has been a penal action from an offence, it is extended to the successors, no proper name having been expressed, but not as regards the penalty, but as regards restitution, if he can restore. But if the proper name had been expressed, it would not be so. But office and dignity have for the most part reference to the same thing, but every dignity is an office, although not every office is a dignity. But an office may well be without a dignity, as the office of sheriff or of coroner. Likewise if a deacon be named instead of a priest, no proper name having been expressed, or on the contrary since a priest comprises both dignities.