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In Criminal Law, the frequent incitement of lawsuits and quarrels that is a punishable offense.
Barratry is most commonly applied to an attorney who attempts to bring about a lawsuit that will be profitable to her or him. Barratry is an offense both at Common Law and under some state statutes. The broader common-law crime has been limited by certain statutes. An attorney who is overly officious in instigating or encouraging prosecution of groundless litigation might be guilty of common barratry under a particular statute. The requirement for the crime of barratry is that repeated or persistent acts of litigation are performed by the accused. Barratry is generally a misdemeanor punishable by fine or imprisonment. In the case of an attorney, disbarment is the usual punishment. Since few cases have been prosecuted, barratry is considered by the legal community at large to be an archaic crime. This is particularly true today due to a highly litigious atmosphere.
In maritime law, barratry is the commission of an act by the master or mariners of a vessel for an unlawful or fraudulent purpose that is contrary to the duty owed to the owners, by which act the owners sustain injury.
A form of barratry is misconduct of the master of a ship in taking commodities on board that subject the ship to seizure for Smuggling. It is essential in barratry that a criminal act or intent exist on the part of the master or mariners which inures to their own benefit and causes injury to the owners of the ship.
n. creating legal business by stirring up disputes and quarrels, generally for the benefit of the lawyer who sees fees in the matter. Barratry is illegal in all states and subject to criminal punishment and/or discipline by the state bar, but there must be a showing that the resulting lawsuit was totally groundless. There is a lot of border-line barratry in which attorneys, in the name of being tough or protecting the client, fail to seek avenues for settlement of disputes or will not tell the client he/she has no legitimate claim.
BARRATRY, crimes. In old law French barat, baraterie, signifying robbery,
deceit, fraud. In modern usage it may be defined as the habitual moving,
exciting, and maintaining suits and quarrels, either at law or otherwise. 1
Inst. 368; 1 Hawk. 243.
2. A man cannot be indicted as a common barrator in respect of any number of false and groundless actions brought in his own right, nor for a single act in right of another; for that would not make him a common barrator.
3. Barratry, in this sense, is different from maintenance (q. v.) and champerty. (q. v.)
4. An attorney cannot be indicted for this crime, merely for maintaining another in a groundless action. Vide 15 Mass. R. 229 1 Bailey's R. 379; 11 Pick. R. 432; 13 Pick. R. 362; 9 Cowen, R. 587; Bac. Ab. h. t.; Hawk. P. C. B. 1, c. 21; Roll. Ab. 335; Co. Litt. 368; 3 Inst. 175.
BARRATRY, maritime law, crimes. A fraudulent act of the master or mariners,
committed contrary to their duty as such, to the prejudice of the owners of
the ship. Emer. tom. 1, p. 366; Merlin, Repert. h. t.; Roccus, h. t.; 2
Marsh. Insur. 515; 8 East, R. 138, 139. As to what will amount to barratry,
see Abbott on Shipp. 167, n. 1; 2 Wash. C. C. R. 61; 9 East, R. 126; 1 Str.
581; 2 Ld. Raym. 1349; 1 Term R. 127; 6 Id. 379; 8 Id. 320; 2 Cain. R. 67,
222; 3 Cain. R. 1; 1 John. R. 229; 8 John. R. 209, n. 2d edit.; 5 Day. R. 1;
11 John. R. 40; 13 John. R, 451; 2 Binn. R. 274; 2 Dall. R. 137; 8 Cran. R.
39; 3 Wheat. R. 168; 4 Dall. R. 294; 1 Yeates, 114.
2. The act of Congress of April, 30, 1790, s. 8, 1 Story's Laws U. S. 84, punishes with death as piracy, "any captain or mariner of any ship or other vessel who shall piratically and feloniously run away with such ship or vessel, or any goods or merchandize to the value of fifty dollars; or yield up such ship or vessel to any pirate or if any such seamen shall lay violent hands upon his commander, thereby to binder or prevent his fighting in defence of his ship, or goods, committed to his trust, or shall make a revolt in the said ship."