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Legal Reagonalism and Latin Lingo Lessons: Scire Facias

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The writ of scire facias was created by the English Parliament in 1285 and it migrated to America as part of our English common law tradition.  In modern times scire facias has been mostly abolished in the United States, with a few exceptions mainly in the Old South where the love of tradition combines with a playful fondness for baffling the uninitiated. Anyone served with a writ of scrie facias knows he or she has been hit by something very important even while being hard pressed to know exactly what it is.

Roughly, the Latin ‘scrie facias’ means ‘tell them.’ Generally, the writ of scrie facias means “tell them (or serve notice) to do something, or else.” North of the Mason-Dixon Line a similar court order might be called an Order to Appear and Show Cause why something should or should not be done. Commonly, a party might be ordered to appear and show cause why he or she should not be held in contempt of court.

Some Tennessee courts call their conditional judgments in garnishment a scrie facias, at least in the legal forms published online.  The most charming and practical part of the Tennessee use of scrie facias is the fact that the person serving the writ literally reads the notice aloud to the person being served. They tell them right to their face.

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Written by Tom Fox

March 6, 2014 at 8:38 am

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