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350 pages – a historical precedent


It is my duty as a lawyer to disclose the existence of material which may aid the other side or may harm my own case. So even as an active opponent of Practice Direction 27’s descent into “Micromanaging whilst Rome burns”,  when I come across a historical precedent that not only aids the President but provides a terrifying punishment, I’m afraid that I have to share it.


This comes courtesy of Lowering the Bar

The chancellors of those days were busy administrators who would stand no academic nonsense: Lord Chancellor Ellesmere in the reign of James I ordered that the Warden of the Fleet should lay hold on an equity pleader who had drawn a replication of 120 pages where 16 would have done, “and shall bring him unto Westminister Hall … and there and then shall cut a hole in the middle of the same engrossed replication … and put the said Richard’s head through the same hole … and shall show him at the bar of every of the three courts within the Hall.”

Alan Harding, A Social History of English Law (1966)


Doing a quick search, the case referred to is Mylward v Weldon 1596 and is actually true, not made up.

In a reported case, Mylward v Weldon (1596) Tothill 102, 21 ER 136; [1595] EWHC Ch 1, it is stated that in 1595 the son of a litigant (the report does not say whether the miscreant was a barrister) produced a pleading (a replication, ie reply) of “six score sheets of paper” which the Lord Keeper deemed could have been “well contrived” in 16 sheets. The Lord Keeper (Egerton) ordered that the miscreant be imprisoned in the Fleet until he paid a fine of £10 (a huge sum) to Her Majesty and 20 nobles to the defendant. In addition the Lord Keeper ordered: “…that the Warden of the Fleet shall take the said Richard Mylward… and shall bring him into Westminster Hall on Saturday next, about ten of the clock in the forenoon and then and there shall cut a hole in the myddest of the same engrossed replication…and put the said Richard’s head through the same hole and so let the same replication hang about his shoulders with the written side outward; and then, the same so hanging, shall lead the same Richard, bare headed and bare faced, round about Westminster Hall, whilst the Courts are sitting and shall shew him at the bar of every of the three Courts within the Hall and shall then take him back to the Fleet…”


So perhaps we will find the streets of London choked with local authority lawyers walking around with their heads through ruffs/sandwich boards of their own bundles.

In the case being dealt with by Lowering the Bar

Here are some words & phrases that you really don’t want a judge to apply to anything you file:

  • sprawling
  • behemoth
  • surplusage
  • larded with
  • brims with
  • masquerading as
  • voluminous
  • breathtaking
  • madness
  • chokes the docket
  • intended to overwhelm
  • labyrinthian prolixity of unrelated and vituperative charges that defy comprehension
  • sanctions

U.S. District Judge William Pauley used all of those on March 24 in this order, although that list combines objections he directed at both parties. Saying the case exemplified a “troubling trend toward prolixity in pleading,” he did rule on the motion to dismiss that was before him but made it clear he wasn’t putting up with any more of this.



[I must confess that most of these I’ve never heard of, though I got the sense of it from ‘masquerading as’ ]


About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

2 responses

  1. Jerry Lonsdale

    “Voluminous pleading is self defeating, it chokes the docket and obscures otherwise meritorious claims and defenses, it can also unnecessarily highlight fatal weaknesses in a party’s case,”

    I don’t think I have come across where that has NOT been the case, even a simple single point appeal I have filed I have seen SKA’s from the respondents being 30-40 pages long,

    Mind you, saying that I can rattle on till the cows come home!

  2. Pingback: 350 pages – a historical precedent | Chil...

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