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John Doe and Richard Roe
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lipkatatar
2020-03-23 10:31:29 UTC
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While scanning through 16th Century legal disputes in Cornwall. I regularly find a John Doe and Richard Roe amongst the parties to the dispute. At first I thought they were a firm of attorneys, but I have been told that they were fictional parties to a dispute. What purpose did this serve?
Ian Goddard
2020-03-23 12:09:52 UTC
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Post by lipkatatar
While scanning through 16th Century legal disputes in Cornwall. I regularly find a John Doe and Richard Roe amongst the parties to the dispute. At first I thought they were a firm of attorneys, but I have been told that they were fictional parties to a dispute. What purpose did this serve?
I suppose it would depend on the nature of the "dispute" but it sounds
as if the entire case might be fictional. Here's an example where
fictional parties might be used:

Quite frequently in the Wakefield manorial rolls one sees a case where X
has transferred property to Y without going through the court as would
be required. On the basis of this the property is seized into the
lord's hands. It is then proclaimed for rent at the next three courts
after which it's available for claim. Surprise, surprise there's only
one claimant, x or y,

The entire transfer was fictional in order to give the manor a chance to
seize and re-let (subject to paying a new entry fine), the new letting
being free of any encumbrances the property might have had in the past.
In Wakefield y always seems to be real but, as the case was a legal
fiction, there's no reason why they might not also be fictional.

Ian
lipkatatar
2020-03-23 23:34:39 UTC
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Hi Ian!

Thanks for the response. The most recent case was a Memorandum in a King's Bench dispute where Party A was claiming money from the administrator of the estate of Party B on the basis of an agreement previously entered into by A and B. If I understand you correctly, this dispute could have been a fiction to allow the administrator of B's estate to ratify the earlier agreement. This could make sense.
Michael Cayley
2020-03-24 11:10:44 UTC
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See this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Doe.
lipkatatar
2020-03-27 14:01:38 UTC
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Hi Michael, thanks for the link. I have found another link that covers this use of Doe and Roe in property disputes.

https://search.proquest.com/openview/2865747000b9b565/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=16043

Another use of John Doe and Richard Roe I have come across would appear to have been as imaginary guarantors who gave a pledge that the parties to a dispute would go ahead with the dispute when it was called to court. In Cornish disputes John Doe and Richard Roe are referred to as inhabitants of the village of St Michael Penkevil.
Vance Mead
2020-03-27 15:42:39 UTC
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Robert Palmer, of the Anglo-American Legal Tradition site, who has written extensively on Medieval legal history, has told me he has a theory that the names originated as Do or Rue.

He admits that this is probably unprovable.

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