Legal Practice - England From Henry II - Common Law Forms of Pleading: Writs

Common Law Forms of Pleading: Writs

In the legal practice that emerged in royal courts under Henry II any case had to fit into a narrowly defined form of pleading usually called a "writ". By the time of Henry III the number of such writs had grown to over 500, but even that many did not cover all the possible claims that people sought to make.

The Provisions of Oxford in 1258 forbade the royal clerks to create any new writs. The result of this was that the courts began to adopt "fictions" such as imaginary parties or actors so that the facts of a case could be fit within one of the established forms, and the Writ of Trespass came to become the catchall form for most claims.

It is important to understand that, unlike much current practice, the writs of pleading were not court orders granting relief but the summons, prepared by the plaintiff, filed with the court, and served on the respondent.

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