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Insolvency Law

Expert guidance on all aspects of corporate and personal insolvency

08 AUG 2011

A Class Apart? Civilian Doctors and Imprisonment for Debt

We have touched on imprisonment for debt on many occasions on this blog over the past three years. A new Selden Society publication brings the subject to our attention again. The Society has just published Professor Helmholz's "Three Civilian Notebooks: 1580 -1640" (Selden Society, London, 2011). It is at page 79 of the volume that the learned editor has transcribed a portion of Dr Thomas Eden's notebook (Borthwick Institute, York,  Prec.Bk II) which states:

"...Moreover, Turner says that the statute is to be understood of imprisonment upon arrest in an action for debt, as in other cases, for in these matters doctors are not as other men, and you must proceed against their goods only."

Doctors in this context mens Doctors of Law, i.e. advocates practicing in the Ecclesiastical and Maritime courts. This civilian species of lawyer was a specialist in civil law, as opposed to the common law, where Serjeants and Barristers were dominant. This is an interesting note from Dr Eden's notebook as it shows how one species of lawyer was apparently able to avoid imprisonment for debt. It is not clear if that meant they fell within the bankruptcy jurisdiction. The relevant statute appears to be Stat Eliz I, cc42, 45.

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