Right to Counsel - Statute of 11 Henry VII - article
A new article explores the possibility of civil right to counsel arguments based on the incorporation of English common law that provided for a right to counsel. It's Taking the English Right to Counsel Seriously in American 'Civil Gideon' Litigation, 45 U. Mich. J.L. Reform 635 (2012), available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1753407
There is a lot in the article about the Statute of 11 Henry VII, c. 12, which also includes a right to proceed in forma pauperis. The Statute says
[E]very poor person or persons which have & hereafter shall have cause of action or actions against any person or persons within the realm shall have, by the discretion of the Chancellor of this realm, for the time being writ or writs original and writs of subpoena according to the nature of their causes, therefore nothing paying to your Highness for the seals of the same, . . . [a]nd that the said Chancellor for the same time being shall assign . . . Counsel learned by their discretions which shall give their Counsels nothing taking for the same, and in like wise the same Justices shall appoint attorney and attorneys for the same poor person or persons and all other officers requisite and necessary to be had for the speed of the said suits to be had and made which shall do their duties without any rewards for their Counsels, help, and business in the same . . .
The Statute of 11 Henry VII is incorporated into the law of Pennsylvania by virtue of Pa. C.S. § 1503(a). The Statute is cited in a number of Pennsylvania cases, including Thompson v. Garden Court, Inc., 419 A.2d 1238 (Pa. Super. 1980), where the court said
“Indulgence toward poor persons in bringing their actions has existed from an early period . . . .” 15 Stand.Pa.Prac.-Costs s 125 at 681 (1965). Under the Statute of 11 Henry VII, c. 12 (1494),
(E)very poor person or persons, which have, or hereafter shall have cause of action or actions against any person or persons within this realm, have, by the discretion of the Chancellor of this realm for the time being, writ or writs original, and writs of subpoena, according to the nature of their causes, therefore nothing paying to your Highness for the seals of the same, nor to any person for the writing of the same writ or writs to be hereafter sued; . . .“
This statute is part of the common law of Pennsylvania, Report of the Judges, 3 Binn. 593, 617 (1808); 1 Pa.C.S.A. s 1503 (1964-78 Pamphlet), and provides relief from filing fees and court costs to in-digent persons in the commencement and prosecution of civil actions. Mitek v. Ste-Mel Signs, Inc., 222 Pa.Super. 395, 294 A.2d 813 (1973); 3 Goodrich-Amram 2d s 1137:1 at 427 n. 8.
See also, Madden v. City of York, 59 Pa. D. & C. 2d 367, 369-70 (Ct. Com. Pl. 1972) and Mitek v. Ste-Mel Signs, 294 A.2d 813 (Pa. Super. 1972) (cited in Davila v. Soto, 378 A.2d 443 (Pa. Super 1977); Zerr v. Scott, 39 Pa. C & C 3d 459 (CP Berks 1985); In re Community Legal Services, 43 Pa. D & C 2d 51 (CP Phila. 1967).