Barratry

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Barratry is the name of three legal concepts, one in criminal and civil law, and one in admiralty law.

Contents

Criminal and civil law

Barratry, in criminal and civil law, is the act or practice of bringing repeated legal actions solely to harass. Usually, the actions brought lack merit. This action has been declared a crime in some jurisdictions: for example, in the U.S. states of California, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, barratry is a misdemeanor;[1] in Texas, a felony.[2]

In England and Wales the offence was abolished in 1967. The term has also fallen into disuse in Australia.[3]

Barratry also refers to the act of soliciting legal business from potential clients based on a particular event not solely to harass. For example, an attorney who stops at the scene of a car accident or follows an ambulance to an emergency room in hopes of finding and soliciting business from an injured and aggrieved person might be accused of barratry. The lawyer who practices this sort of barratry is called, pejoratively, an ambulance chaser.

Admiralty law

In admiralty law, barratry is an act of gross misconduct committed by a master or crew of a vessel which damages the vessel or its cargo. These activities may include desertion, illegal scuttling, theft of the ship or cargo, and/or committing any actions which may not be in the shipowner's best interests by the master or crew.

Other

Barratry, when used elsewhere, may refer to the buying and selling of positions (which are expected to bring greater income in time) within civil authority. This venality is the secular counterpart of simony, which is the buying and selling of positions (notably benefices) within the church.

In his Inferno, Canto XXI, Dante places barrators in the Eighth Circle, fifth bolgia of Hell.

See also

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