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Proceedings of the Provincial Court, 1678-1679
Volume 68, Preface 14   View pdf image (33K)
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xiv Introduction.

which they were members. In October 1678, "came Benjamin Rozer Esqr the
Attorney of the said Dominick Bodkin & one of his Lordpps Justices of this
Court here prsent in Court in his proper person ..... And saith nothing in barr
of the action" (post, 32) of the plaintiff. A plea of nothing in bar is a perpetual
destruction of the defendant's case, and is, in effect, a confession of guilt.
So the justice-attorney was defending a guilty client.

The sheriff continued to be as important as he had been, much more important
than he is today. Three members of the Court were sheriffs in their counties,
and other sheriffs were well-paid and important. Benjamin Rozer, sheriff of
Charles County from 1675 to 1678, was a member of the Council and hence a
justice from 1671 for ten years. Henry Darnall was sheriff of Calvert County
from 1674 to 1676 and again from 1677 to ID79: he was councillor and justice
from 1679 for ten years. Vincent Lowe was sheriff of Talbot, councillor and
justice and surveyor-general. Some of the sheriffs were also attorneys before
the Court, though they were barred from taking cases that arose in their own
counties (Archives II, 322-323). By 1678 complaints from all parts of the
Province "of the great absurdities and abuses Comitted by severall Sheriffes"
upon the inhabitants were so frequent and so frequent that the Assembly took
action. By an act "for the elleccon of Sherriffe" it was declared that "no
Sheriffe or vndersheriffe of any County ..... shall Continue ... in ...
office ..... for any longer or greater time than one whole yeare from the first
time of his Entrance into such office ..... vnless that such sheriffe ..... shall
procure from their respective County Courts a Certificate of his ..... lust
ExecucOn of their offices the preceeding heare" {Archives VII, 68-69). When
the sheriff was party to a suit, either personally or officially, the coroner took
the action normally taken by the sheriff. When Sheriff Vincent Lowe of Talbot
sued Thomas Vaughan, Coroner George Robins was ordered to arrest Vaughan,
and to the writ he returned a cepi. "And the Defendt not appearing this Court,
the said George is amerced forty shillings and ordered y* he have the body of
the Defendt here att the next Provinciall Court" (post, 30, 218, 226). This is
exactly the treatment given a sheriff when the parties were private persons
(post, 190). The sheriff was the custodian of persons, although he did not
always have to keep them in prison. A few years back a prisoner in the custody
of the sheriff of St. Mary's County petitioned the Court to transfer him to the
custody of the Calvert County sheriff "he being there neere his businesse and
that he may thereby Sell his goods to the best advantage", and another prisoner
asked leave to remain in the custody of the Calvert County sheriff "by which
means he may the Sooner be capable of Satisfieing the debt due" (Archives
LXV, 471, 548). Generally the residence of the sheriff served as the County jail
(post, 192-193). John Sanders was remanded to the sheriff of Charles County
to be kept in safe custody, and Sheriff Chandler "had held and detained"
Sanders at his dwelling (ibid.).

No grand juries were summoned at this time, for there were no criminal
cases to be heard. Of civil cases, almost thirty were tried by petit juries.
Sometimes the parties to a civil suit chose to be tried by the judges alone. The
defendant put himself upon the judgment of the Court and the plaintiff also


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Proceedings of the Provincial Court, 1678-1679
Volume 68, Preface 14   View pdf image (33K)
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