Assize, or Assise

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Assize, or Assise

A judicial procedure in early England whereby a certain number of men in a community were called together to hear and decide a dispute; a type of court. A type of writ, commanding the convening of such a tribunal in order to determine disputed rights to possess land. An edict or statute issued by an ancient assembly.

For example, the Assize of Clarendon was a statute, or ordinance, passed in the tenth year of the reign of King henry ii (1164). It proclaimed that those who were accused of a heinous crime and were unable to exonerate themselves had forty days to gather provisions from friends to provide for their sustenance before they were sent into exile.

The word assize comes from the Latin assideo, which describes the fact that the men taking action sat together. An assize could be a number of citizens, eventually settled at the number twelve, called to hear cases. They decided on the basis of information they had or could gather in the community. This group of neighbors was presumed to know the facts well enough to determine who was entitled to possession of disputed lands. A writ of assize could be issued on behalf of the king to commission this body of twelve to hear a dispute.

Eventually, the writs gave birth to Forms of Action for lawsuits concerning real property. For example, the assize of novel disseisin was a form of action for the recovery of lands after the claimant had been wrongfully dispossessed (disseised). The assize of Nuisance was proper to secure the abatement of a nuisance or for monetary damages to compensate for the harm done by the nuisance.

Cross-references

Clarendon, Constitutions of; Henry II of England.