Amendment IV

Document 3

Huckle v. Money

95 Eng. Rep. 768 C.P. 1763

Lord Chief Justice.--In all motions for new trials, it is as absolutely necessary for the Court to enter into the nature of the cause, the evidence, facts, and circumstances of the case, as for a jury; the law has not laid down what shall be the measure of damages in actions of tort; the measure is vague and uncertain, depending upon a vast variety of causes, facts, and circumstances; torts or injuries which may be done by one man to another are infinite; in cases of criminal conversation, battery, imprisonment, slander, malicious prosecutions, &c. the state, degree, quality, trade or profession of the party injured, as well as of the person who did the injury, must be, and generally are, considered by a jury in giving damages. The few cases to be found in the books of new trials for torts, shews that Courts of Justice have most commonly set their faces against them; and the Courts interfering in these cases would be laying aside juries. Before the time of granting new trials, there is no instance that the Judges ever intermeddled with the damages.

I shall now state the nature of this case, as it appeared upon the evidence at the trial: a warrant was granted by Lord Halifax, Secretary of State, directed to four messengers, to apprehend and seize the printers and publishers of a paper called the North Briton, Number 45, without any information or charge laid before the Secretary of State, previous to the granting thereof, and without naming any person whatsoever in the warrant; Carrington, the first of the messengers to whom the warrant was directed, from some private intelligence he had got that Leech was the printer of the North Briton, Number 45, directed the defendant to execute the warrant upon the plaintiff, (one of Leech's journeymen,) and took him into custody for about six hours, and during that time treated him well; the personal injury done to him was very small, so that if the jury had been confined by their oath to consider the mere personal injury only, perhaps 20 l. damages would have been thought damages sufficient; but the small injury done to the plaintiff, or the inconsiderableness of his station and rank in life did not appear to the jury in that striking light in which the great point of law touching the liberty of the subject appeared to them at the trial; they saw a magistrate over all the King's subjects, exercising arbitrary power, violating Magna Charta, and attempting to destroy the liberty of the kingdom, by insisting upon the legality of this general warrant before them; they heard the King's Counsel, and saw the solicitor of the Treasury endeavouring to support and maintain the legality of the warrant in a tyrannical and severe manner. These are the ideas which struck the jury on the trial; and I think they have done right in giving exemplary damages. To enter a man's house by virtue of a nameless warrant, in order to procure evidence, is worse than the Spanish Inquisition; a law under which no Englishman would wish to live an hour; it was a most daring public attack made upon the liberty of the subject. I thought that the 29th chapter of Magna Charta, Nullus liber homo capiatur vel imprisonetur, &c. nec super eum ibimus, &c. nisi per legale judicium parium suorum vel per legem terrae, &c. which is pointed against arbitrary power, was violated. I cannot say what damages I should have given if I had been upon the jury; but I directed and told them they were not bound to any certain damages against the Solicitor-General's argument. Upon the whole, I am of opinion the damages are not excessive; and that it is very dangerous for the Judges to intermeddle in damages for torts; it must be a glaring case indeed of outrageous damages in a tort, and which all mankind at first blush must think so, to induce a Court to grant a new trial for excessive damages.

Bathurst J.--I am of my Lord's opinion, and particularly in the matter of damages, wherein he directed the jury that they were not bound to certain damages. This is a motion to set aside 15 verdicts in effect; for all the other persons who have brought actions against these messengers have had verdicts for 200 l. in each cause by consent, after two of the actions were fully heard and tried. Clive J. absent.

Per Curiam.--New trial refused.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 5, Amendment IV, Document 3
The University of Chicago Press

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