Clergy and the Abuse of Legal Procedure in Medieval England
32 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2015
Date Written: July 4, 2015
The common law’s emergence as a mechanism for dispute resolution created the potential for individuals to misuse litigation to implement their self-interest, thereby perverting the justice system. These abuses prompted numerous complaints to the king and council, parliament, and chancery seeking a remedy. Parliament attempted to mitigate these problems with the enactment of various statutes dealing with the abuse of legal procedure. These prohibitions included those directed at conspiracy, maintenance, champerty, and embracery. These statutes produced a significant amount of litigation in medieval England. Among all these abuses and offenses, maintenance emerged as the most common subject of complaint and the word commonly used to denote these types of wrongful conduct. The clergy were involved in these abuses and actions, both as perpetrators and victims. The records of litigation in the plea rolls reveal this involvement. The objective of this essay is to study these activities as they related to members of the clergy.
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