A 'Second Magna Carta': The English Habeas Corpus Act and the Statutory Origins of the Habeas Privilege
48 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2016
Date Written: 2016
This Article tells the story of the English Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, which came in direct response to perceived failings by the royal courts and the common law writ to do enough to check executive excess at the expense of individual rights. Unearthing the story of the backdrop against which the Act was passed and tracing its role in English law going forward reveals that the Act was enormously significant in the development of English law’s habeas jurisprudence — far more so than most jurists and scholars recognize today. Further, extensive evidence of the Act’s influence across the Atlantic dating from well before, during, and after the Revolutionary War demonstrates that much of early American habeas law was premised upon efforts to incorporate the Act’s key protections rather than developed through judicial innovation. Further, there is every reason to believe that the Act, along with its suspension by Parliament on several occasions in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, established the suspension model that the Founding generation imported into the United States Constitution’s Suspension Clause. Accordingly, in tracing the Anglo-American development of habeas corpus jurisprudence, it is important to account for the statutory roots of the habeas privilege, particularly because statutory developments were designed in important respects to alter and constrain the common law courts’ approach to habeas corpus and harness the common law writ toward specific ends.
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