The Latin phrase “quo warranto,” meaning “which warrant,” is often translated as “by what authority.” The term refers to a challenge to a person or entity on the grounds that authority is being abused or that there is a question as to where the person or entity's authority is derived from and whether or not it is legitimate. Such challenges are relatively unusual but there is room for them under many legal systems.
The origins of the quo warranto lie in common law, and appear to date back to the 1200s. These challenges were originally used by King Edward I, who utilized challenges to authority to attempt to disentangle some of the results of the political intrigues common in medieval England. The history of some offices and property titles had become muddied, and Edward I wanted to challenge the rights to hold these offices and properties on the grounds that they may have been improperly held.
Over time, the right to challenge in similar situations was extended to all and enshrined in the legal systems of many nations.
An individual person can make a quo warranto demand if there is a belief that an office is being abused, neglected, or improperly held. Likewise, attorneys in a case can issue a challenge to authority. This is most commonly seen in civil cases involving corporations, in which an attorney asks whether or not a corporation is acting within the scope of its powers.
This legal order is not just a demand to show the origins of someone's authority. When a quo warranto demand is made, it can put a temporary halt to activities until a person or entity has established that these activities are allowed.
Thus, for example, if there is a belief that someone is holding political office illegally, the person in that office could not undertake any activities such as issuing orders until his or her right to authority had been established.
Not all nations permit people to issue quo warranto challenges. Globally, legal systems are quite varied and many are in a state of flux as new laws are passed and precedents are established. Usually a lawyer will know if a quo warranto challenge is legally allowable in a given jurisdiction and can provide a client with advice about how and when to use it, in addition to advising clients about whether or not it would be an effective tactic.
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How We Lost Our Common Law Heritage
by Richard J. Maybury
Two Kinds of Law
As a public school teacher and economic textbook writer, I saw that government control of the school system causes a "chilling" effect. Teachers and textbook publishers are reluctant to teach anything that might raise the eyebrows of the bureaucrats.
Any serious criticism of government is omitted from the student's lessons. Huge amounts of vitally important information about law and political power are not passed on to the next generation.
Because of this chilling effect, Americans are no longer taught that there are two kinds of legal systems, political and scientific.
Many of America's "Founding Fathers" in 1776 were lawyers, and they took care to insure that their new country would be founded on the principles of scientific law. But these principles have now been swept from the legal system, and from the schools and colleges. What we are taught today is political law.
To understand the differences between a scientific legal system and a political one, it is necessary to know how scientific law developed.
A British general trying to govern America in the 1700s complained that Americans were impossible to buffalo; they were all lawyers.
Political law is the opposite of common law. Based on political power -- brute force -- not on the two fundamental laws. It is crude and primitive. It has no requirement for logic or morality. It changes whenever the political wind changes. Fickle and tangled; no one can completely understand it.
Democracy or dictatorship, it doesn't matter; political law is arbitrary. You do whatever the powerholders say, or else. Right or wrong.
This is why majority rule is mob rule. The majority is as human as any dictator. Like the dictator, they do not necessarily vote for what is right; they vote for what they want.
Their wants change constantly, so political power destroys businessmen's ability to plan ahead. James Madison asked in the `Federalist Papers', "What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed?"
The American Revolution was fought over the difference between scientific law and political law. Government officials had encroached into the private business, lives, and property of the colonists, and the colonists resented this.
"All men are created equal". God has given no one special permission to encroach on others, government included.
The leaders of the American revolution believed common law was superior to political law. After the revolution, they created the Bill of Rights and other documents based on common law principles. The goal was to make the superiority of these principles permanent, and to restrain government's efforts otherwise.
Business Week' says that each year in the U.S. there are more than 100,000 new laws, rules and regulations enacted. This is a primary reason the economy is a shambles. Tax rates, money supply, trade restrictions, licensing laws, and thousands of other factors are stirred around in a witch's brew of regulation.
Liberty vs. Permission
We free-market advocates should bear in mind that under political law people have no genuine liberties; only “permissions”.
We do not have freedom of speech -- we have permission to speak. We do not have freedom to trade -- we have licensed permission to trade. These permissions can be restricted or revoked at the whim of the powerholders. Indeed, under political law we really have no more political liberty than do the Soviets; just more permissions at the moment.
Our attempt to rescue civilization will fail if we continue living under political law. Even if hundreds of reforms are enacted, the next group of politicians can easily use political law to overturn them.