A Very Brief History of Litigation
Copyright 2001 Daniel N. Steven
Litigation is as old as civilized history: evidence of trials exists in the
hieroglyphic stone tablets of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the scrolls of Rome and
Greece, and even the ideographs of the Chinese dynasties.
For instance, Pliny the Youngest (Caius Plinius Caecilius Secundus Junior)
wrote: If a citizens concubine falleth beneath the wheels of a
neighbors horse cart, the Praetor Urbanis should order that the neighbor
payeth the cost of the physicians cure, in recompense for the citizens
suffering in being deprived of the concubines services. (Thrice the cost, if the
horse cart shall not be equipped with side-view servants). Pliny also implied
that rich Romansregardless of their social classcould influence the decisions
of the Praetor through judicious offerings of tribute. Of course,
Plinys lisp makes him hard to understand.
It is also noteworthy that the ancient Romans allowed law to be practiced directly by
the citizen, without the necessity of a representativea crude practice
that was abolished, coincidentally, shortly before the Fall of the Empire.
Likewise, the third century Chinese scholar Shao Chin Tse-Tse wrote in his seminal
history of the Tang Dynasty, Ten Percent Fruit Juice, The way of Confucius
required that all disputes be brought before the Emperor by representatives of noble
lineage, where justice was invariably served in favor of the petitioner who most enriched
America, of course, derives its common law system from Olde Englande, in
contrast to the civil law system of Europe. A complete discussion of the
comparative merits of these systems is beyond the scope of this article and its author,
but can best be summarized as the judge/jury dichotomy. In the English system, the jury is
paramount; under the European model, it is the judge. Since it is easier to bribe or
intimidate one person than twelve, the jury system is clearly preferable. This very virtue
of the jury system was the genesis of American law: formulas to divert, sidetrack, and
deflect the jurors from the truth.