The fifteen essays presented in Law, Liberty and Parliament: Selected Essays on the Writings of Sir Edward Coke examine the legal and political realms within which Coke operated, discuss how classical rhetoric underpinned his learning, and place his work in the context of Elizabethan culture.
(1602) Trinity Term, 44 Elizabeth I In the Court of King’s Bench.
First Published in the Reports, volume 4, page 92b.*
Ed.: John Slade entered a contract with Humphrey Morley. Slade sold the grains he was growing on eight acres, and Humphrey promised to pay £16. The day for payment came and went with no sign of the money from Humphrey, and Slade sued in assumpsit, a form of contract enforcement action that was then still controversial if an action in debt was available, by bringing an action on the case, which is a special form of pleading that allowed the recovery of special damages (or actual damages that included not only money directly lost by the conduct of the defendantbutalsomoney indirectly lost as a result of the defendant’s conduct). Thus Slade could seek not only compensation for the damages he suffered but the money lost on the whole debt. Humphrey was represented by Dodderidge and Bacon. Coke represented Slade. The courts were initially divided over whether the action could be maintained, but when the argument was brought before the whole bench of all the courts of England, the King’s Bench found that a person harmed by another’s breach on a contract could seek an action, and the other benches appear to have acquiesced. Assumpsit and action on the case were allowed, even though the plaintiff could have sued in debt.
Sir Edward Coke
Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634), the first judge to strike down a law, gave us modern common law by turning medieval common law inside-out. Through his resisting strong-minded kings, he bore witness for judicial independence. Coke is the earliest judge still cited routinely by practicing lawyers.