for "by what warrant?") is a prerogative writ
requiring the person to
whom it is directed to show what authority he has for exercising
some right or power (or "franchise
he claims to hold.
warranto had its origins in an attempt by King Edward I of England to investigate and
recover royal lands, rights, and franchises in England, in
particular those lost during the reign of his father, King Henry III of England.
From 1278 to 1294, Edward dispatched justices throughout the
Kingdom of England
to inquire “by
what warrant” English lords held their lands and exercised their
jurisdictions (often the right to hold a court and collect its
profits). Initially, the justices demanded written proof in the
form of charters, but resistance and the unrecorded nature of many
grants forced Edward to accept those rights peacefully exercised
since 1189. Later, quo warranto functioned as a court order (or
"writ") to show proof of authority; for example, demanding that
someone acting as the sheriff prove that the king
had actually appointed him to that office
(literally, "By whose warrant are you the sheriff?").
Quo warranto today
States today, quo warranto usually arises in a civil case as a plaintiff's claim (and thus a "cause of action" instead of a writ) that
some governmental or corporate official was not validly elected to
that office or is wrongfully exercising powers beyond (or
ultra vires) those authorized
by statute or by the corporation's charter.
jurisdictions which have enacted judicial review statutes, such as
Queensland (Australia), the prerogative writ of quo warranto
has been abolished.
- Michael Prestwich, Edward
I (London: Methuen, 1988, updated edition Yale University
Press, 1997 ISBN 0-300-07209-0)
- Michael Prestwich, The Three Edwards: War and State in
England 1272-1377 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1980,
reprinted Routledge 1996) ISBN 0-415-05133-9
- Donald W. Sutherland, Quo Warranto Proceedings in the Reign
of Edward I, 1278-1294 (Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1963)