Definition of quo warranto
quo warranto (plural quo warrantos)
- (law) A writ brought before a proper tribunal, to inquire by what warrant a person or a corporation acts, or exercises certain powers.
Quo warranto (Medieval Latin for "by what warrant?") is a prerogative writ requiring the person to whom it is directed to show what authority he has for exercising some right or power (or "franchise") he claims to hold.
Quo warranto had its origins in an attempt by King Edward I of England to investigate and recover royal lands, rights, and franchises in England, in particular those lost during the reign of his father, King Henry III of England. From 1278 to 1294, Edward dispatched justices throughout the Kingdom of England to inquire "by what warrant" English lords held their lands and exercised their jurisdictions (often the right to hold a court and collect its profits). Initially, the justices demanded written proof in the form of charters, but resistance and the unrecorded nature of many grants forced Edward to accept those rights peacefully exercised since 1189. Later, quo warranto functioned as a court order (or "writ") to show proof of authority; for example, demanding that someone acting as the sheriff prove that the king had actually appointed him to that office (literally, "By whose warrant are you the sheriff?").
Quo warranto today
In the United States today, quo warranto usually arises in a civil case as a plaintiff's claim (and thus a "cause of action" instead of a writ) that some governmental or corporate official was not validly elected to that office or is wrongfully exercising powers beyond (or ultra vires) those authorized by statute or by the corporation's charter.
In some jurisdictions which have enacted judicial review statutes, such as Queensland (Australia), the prerogative writ of quo warranto has been abolished.
- Clanchy From Memory to Written Record p. 3
- Harris, Nicholas; Charles Purton Cooper (1831). Public Records. p. 74.
- Carpenter, David A. (1996). The reign of Henry III. p. 88. ISBN 9781852851378.
- Clanchy From Memory to Written Record p. 152
- Sn 42 Abolition of quo warranto, Judicial Review Act 1991, Queensland Consolidated Acts
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