Only Eleven Shillings: Abusing Public Justice in England in the Late Eighteenth Century

24 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2011

See all articles by James C. Oldham

James C. Oldham

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: 2012


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?

Keywords: england, legal history, public justice, jury verdict, Hurry v. Watson

JEL Classification: K00, K33, K39

Suggested Citation

Oldham, James C., Only Eleven Shillings: Abusing Public Justice in England in the Late Eighteenth Century (2012). The Green Bag, 2012, Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 11-138, Available at SSRN:

James C. Oldham (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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