This section is from the book "Popular Law Library Vol1 Introduction To The Study Of Law Legal History", by Albert H. Putney. Also see: Popular Law-Dictionary.
The reign of Richard II. witnessed an attack upon the growing equitable jurisprudence by the House of Commons. The various grounds of complaint set forth by this body were: (1) That persons were called into the Court of Chancery, not upon any specific complaint, but quibusdam certis de causis; (2) that persons were unlawfully compelled to answer in this new court as to their franc tenement (something almost sacred in the minds of landowners) and to disclose the titles under which such franc tenements were held; and (3) that the course of proceeding was not according to the common law but to that of the Holy Church (i. e., the canon law) and that this extraordinary jurisdiction was employed as a means of extortion. This whole remonstrance is directed against the increasing jurisdiction of the Court and not against its existence. The failure of the House of Commons to secure the reforms above mentioned was followed by the passage of the statute of 17 Richard II., C. 6, providing that where persons were compelled to appear before the Court of Chancery on charges found to be untrue, the Chancellor should have the power to award damages. Damages to defendants in cases where the charges, although true, did not constitute a cause of action were allowed by a statute of the reign of Henry V. By the statute of 15 Henry VI., C. 4, sureties were required for the payment of such damages before the writ of subpoena was allowed to issue. Sureties, however, were required as a matter of fact from the reign of Richard II.
It was also in the reign of Richard II. that the writ of subpoena began to be employed regularly in the Court of Chancery. The invention of this writ is popularly ascribed to John de Waltham, who was Master of the Rolls from 1381 to 1387. This reputation rests for its support upon the petition of House of Commons in reign of Henry IV. praying for the abolition of this new and obnoxious writ and charging its invention to the "craft" of the above mentioned official. This view of the origin of the writ is certainly erroneous. There are authenticated instances of the use of the writ as early as the reign of Edward III. to bring cases before Parliament. This writ, in fact, differed little from the older writ of "quibusdam certis de causis" already much used by the Court of Chancery. The work of John de Waltham was merely the adoption of the writ of subpoena as the ordinary method of bringing defendant before this court. The increased activity of the Court of Chancery (due to other causes) immediately after the adoption of this writ, caused both contemporaneous and future writers to attach an undue importance to the event.
The principle that equity was only a supplemental system of law, controlled in many respects by the common law, appears to have been clearly recognized by both law and equity judges during the early centuries of equity jurisprudence. We find Chief Justice Coke writing: "He who knew not the common law could never judge well in equity, which is a correction of law in some cases." Common law judges often sat in equity cases. For example in Broderip vs. Gyfford it is recorded that: "The matter being somewhat doubtful" a further hearing was ordered, at which two common law judges were called in.