1648 : Jo Pluckrose - a Vexatious Pauper Plaintiff

Title: Orders of the High Court of Chancery, and Statutes of the Realm relating to Chancery, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time. By George Williams Sanders, Esq., Barrister-at-Law, and Chief Secretary at the Rolls. Vol. I. - Part I. Orders - 12 Ric. II. to 16 Geo. II. , 1845, London, 218-219 b
Date: 14 January 1648
Place: London

23 CHARLES I, 14 JANUARY, 1647/48



[Reg. Lib. B. 1647, f.215.]

23 CAR. I.
14 Jan. 1647-48.

Vexatious conduct in pauper plaintiff.
Unless good cause shewn to the contrary, plaintiff to pay good costs, or be punished by whipping.

Inter Jo: Pluckrose       Quer.
Jo: Pratt et al.               Def.

UPON opening of the matter this present day unto the Right Honorable the Commissioners for &c by Mr Montague and Mr Chute being of the defendants councell And upon producing of an affidavit made by the said defendant Pratt whereby it appeareth that the plaintiff about Octr 1645 preferred his bill into this Cort and after the subpœna served the plaintiff and defendant did voluntarily submit themselves to the award of arbitrators indifferently chosen who made their award therein and the plaintiff by writing under his hand and seal dated the 31th of July 1645 did discharge the defendant of all demaunds whatsoever Yet notwithstanding the plaintiff since that time undulie and for vexacion (he being admitted in forma pauperis) hath taken out proces of contempt against the defendant for not answering and caused him to be violently apprehended at his house in Hedley in Essex by 3 persons who begged an almes of the defendant who forceably brought the defendant to the prison of the Ffleete refusing to accept of any bayle it being above xxtie yeares since the defendant had any dealing with the plaintiff And it was alleadged that the defendant the 22th of Decr last entred his appearance with the register as by certificate appeareth And thereuppon by order of the 24th of the same moneth the plaintiff uppon notice to his clarck was within 5 daies next to exhibit interrogatories uppon which the defendant might be examined to cleere himself of the said supposed contempt Howbeit the plaintiff hath not in all this time exhibited any interrogatories as by several certificates from the examiners of this Cort appeared And therefore praied the said contempts might be discharged WHICH IS ORDERED AS IS DESIRED And if the said plaintiff uppon notice to his clark shall not on the first day of the nexte terme shew unto this Cort good cause to the contrary Then the said plaintiff for such his causelesse vexacion shall pay unto the defendant good costs or receave corporall punishment by whippinge accordinge to the statute[1] in that behalfe.

[1] 23 Hen. VIIIl. c. 15. See Vol. 2 of this Work.

This is a difficult document to interpret.  My first reading led me to believe that Joseph Pluckrose was the victim - in fact he was the perpetrator of the offence.  I have prepared a brief "translation" which I hope makes the situation a little clearer.


Vexatious conduct by a pauper plaintiff.


Judgement: Unless good cause is shown to the contrary, the plaintiff must pay costs, or be punished by whipping.


Plaintiff: Jo: Pluckrose
Defendant: Jo: Pratt et al.  

The proceedings opened with the defendant, Jo. Pratt, producing evidence that he and the plaintiff, Jo. Pluckrose, had previously agreed in October 1645 to refer their dispute to independent arbitration. The arbitrators had found in favour of Pratt and subsequently Pluckrose agreed in a written document, sealed and dated 31 July 1645, to discontinue all demands on Pratt.

In spite of this, Pluckrose has persisted in harassing Pratt. He then sued Pratt for contempt of court on the grounds of not answering and caused him to be violently seized at his house in Hadleigh in Essex by three persons who, under the pretext of begging for alms, forcibly brought Pratt to the Fleet (i.e. Debtors') Prison while refusing to accept any bail in spite of it being more than twenty years since the defendant had any dealing with the plaintiff.

Evidence was produced showing that on 22 December last Pratt had responded to the charge of contempt of court. Two days later on 24 December Pluckrose was ordered to present evidence (within five days) of the alleged contempt so that Pratt could clear himself of the charge.

Pluckrose, however, had made no attempt to produce evidence to support the charge of contempt, so Pratt asked the Court to discharge him from this charge of contempt.

The judgement of the court was that Pratt should be discharged from the charge of contempt. Pluckrose was given until the first day of the next law term to produce reasons to appeal this judgement.

Pluckrose was ordered to pay costs to Pratt and to compensate him for the vexation caused. If he failed to pay costs he should receive corporal punishment by whipping according to a law passed in 1532.





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