criminal conversation

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Criminal Conversation

A tort under Common Law that involves the seduction of another person's spouse.

A few states still permit a lawsuit for damages by the injured spouse against the wrongdoer. Many states have abolished this action.

Criminal conversation is not the same as alienation of affection, which does not necessarily involve the commission of Adultery.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

criminal conversation

formerly, a common law action brought by a husband by which he claimed damages against an adulterer.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

CRIMINAL CONVERSATION, crim. law. This phrase is usually employed to denote the crime of adultery. It is abbreviated crim. con. Bac. Ab. Marriage, E 2; 4 Blackf. R. 157.
     2. The remedy for criminal conversation is, by an action on the case for damages. That the plaintiff connived, or assented to, his wife's infidelity, or that he prostituted her for gain, is a complete answer to the action. See Connivance. But the facts that the wife's character for chastity was bad before the plaintiff married her; that he lived with her after he knew of the criminal intimacy with the defendant; that he had connived at her intimacy with other men;, or that the plaintiff had been false to his wife, only go in mitigation of damages. 4 N. Hamp. R. 501.
     3. The wife cannot maintain an action for criminal conversation with her husband; and for this, among other reasons, because her husband, who is particeps criminis, must be joined with her as plaintiff.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
(14) Thus, affirming compensatory damages for criminal conversation implicitly validates the notion that one has a compensable property interest in one's spouse that is violated even if the adulterous spouse consents.
(18) In one case, the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed damages for alienation of affection and criminal conversation "awarding] $1.00 in compensatory damages for alienation of affection and criminal conversation and $85,000.00 in punitive damages for criminal conversation." (19) The problems of excessive or disproportionate damages in these cases have plagued common-law courts for centuries.
(21) Disclaiming exaggeration for the purposes of effect, Erskine nonetheless encouraged the jurors to imagine Lady Elizabeth "stretched upon" the marriage bed "as upon a rack, as a legal victim to the shrine of heraldry," weeping in the arms of her attendant "as a criminal preparing for execution." (22) Both Erskine and Kenyon were able to amplify the meanings of adultery partly because of the nature of the criminal conversation trial itself.
While concurring with Binhammer's analysis in the main, I would qualify it in two ways: first, the regulatory effects of the discourses at work in the criminal conversation trial, especially under Kenyon and Erskine, were perhaps not as coherent as she suggests.
The third section of Criminal Conversations is devoted to the revision of adultery cases, and focuses on instances in which women have sued for criminal conversation.
I found Criminal Conversations enlightening and easy to read.
Korobkin devotes the final section of her book, "Female-Plaintiff Criminal Conversation Cases: Rewriting the Law's Story of Marriage," to a discussion of the process by which one legal fiction evolves into another.
In Criminal Conversations, Korobkin sets out to demonstrate her general claim with respect to the particular subject matter of civil suits brought for adultery before American courts during the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Criminal Conversations: Sentimentality and Nineteenth-Century Legal Stories of Adultery (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).
If these stories do not always seem to congeal in this book, they do succeed in eloquently linking gender and the sentimental to the law of criminal conversation.
Though found guilty of "criminal conversation" with Emma Stothard, he was required by the court to pay only a nominal penalty.
For a woman, the figurative charge of criminal conversation was whatever would single her out for publicized attack, whether in the law court, the press, or political cartoons, tarnishing her forever.