Legal Dictionary

scire facias

Definition of scire facias

Further reading

In English law, a writ of scire facias (from the Latin meaning "to know the causes") was a writ founded upon some judicial record directing the sheriff to make the record known (scire facias) to a specified party, and requiring that defendant to show cause why the party bringing the writ should not be able to cite that record in his own interest, or why, in the case of letters patent and grants, the record should not be annulled and vacated. In the United States, the writ has been abolished under federal law but may still be available in some state legal systems.


The Writ of Scire Facias was created in 1285 during the 13th year of the reign of Edward I by the English Parliament in the Second Statute of Westminster. 1 Statutes of England, p.109. Robert Burnell (?-1292) was Lord Chancellor. The Writ of Quo Warranto was created during this same period. The Writ of Scire Facias "is in nature a bill in Chancery." M. Bacon, Abridgement of the Law, Vol. 8, Scire Facias, at 620 (rev.ed. 1852); W. Blackstone, Commentaries, Vol.III, at *260 ("When the Crown hath unadvisedly granted any thing by letters patent, which ought not to be granted, or where the patentee hath done an act that amounts to a forfeiture of the grant, the remedy to repeal the patent is by writ of scire facias in chancery").


Proceedings in scire facias were regarded as a form of action, and the defendant could plead his defense as in an action.[1] They were analogous to quo warranto proceedings.[2]

In 1684, the royal charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was rescinded by a writ of scire facias for the Colony's interference with the royal prerogative in founding Harvard College and other matters.[2][3]

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the writ was of little practical importance. Its principal uses were to compel the appearance of corporations aggregate in revenue suits, and to enforce judgments against shareholders in companies regulated by the Companies Clauses Act 1845, or similar private acts, and against garnishees in proceedings in foreign attachment in the Lord Mayor's Court.[1][4] It was not used in Scottish law.[1]

Proceedings by scire facias to repeal letters patent for inventions were abolished by the Patents, Designs and Trademarks Act 1883, and a petition to the court substituted.[1]

The writ was abolished on 1 January 1948 by the Crown Proceedings Act 1947.[5]


  1. [Anon.] (1911) "Scire facias", Encyclopaedia Britannica
  2. Baker, J. H. (2002). An Introduction to English Legal History (4th ed.). London: Butterworths. p. p.145. ISBN 0-406-93053-8.
  3. Adams, J. T. (1921). The Founding of New England. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press. p. Ch.15 "Loss of the Massachusetts Charter".
  4. Brandon, W. (1861). A Treatise upon the Customary Law of Foreign Attachment: And the Practice of the Mayor's Court of the City of London. London: Butterworths. pp. pp73-103. (Google Books)
  5. Crown Proceedings Act 1947, s.23/ Sch.1(3)
  6. Saikrishna Prakash & Steven D. Smith (2006). "How to remove a Federal Judge". Yale Law Journal 116: 72.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     landed property
2.     common stock
3.     lex situs
4.     lex causae
5.     lex fori
6.     status quo
7.     buggery
8.     conclusive presumption
9.     interlocutory
10.     writ of seizure and sale