Define: Writ Of Association

Writ Of Association
Writ Of Association
Quick Summary of Writ Of Association

The writ of association was a legal document employed in English law to instruct specific individuals, typically the clerk of assize and other officers, to collaborate with the justices and serjeants in order to ensure an adequate number of commissioners for the assizes.

What is the dictionary definition of Writ Of Association?
Dictionary Definition of Writ Of Association

The writ of association was a legal document used in English law to ensure sufficient commissioners for the assizes. It directed specific individuals, typically the clerks of assize and subordinate officers, to join the justices and serjeants. If there were an insufficient number of justices and serjeants available to preside over the assizes, the writ of association would be employed to summon other qualified individuals. This guaranteed that the assizes could proceed as scheduled and justice could be administered. Although the writ of association is no longer employed in English law today, the practice of enlisting additional qualified individuals to aid in legal proceedings persists in certain jurisdictions. These examples demonstrate how the writ of association was utilised to ensure an adequate number of qualified individuals to preside over legal proceedings, thereby ensuring the delivery of justice and the smooth progression of legal proceedings.

Full Definition Of Writ Of Association

A Writ of Association, in legal parlance, is a historical legal instrument primarily used within the context of British law. This document served various purposes over centuries, especially in administrative and judicial contexts. The concept has evolved, but its foundational principles provide critical insights into the development of legal and administrative processes in the UK. This overview aims to elucidate the historical context, legal significance, procedural aspects, and modern relevance of the Writ of Association.

Historical Context

Origins and Development

The Writ of Association traces its roots back to mediaeval England. Initially, writs were royal commands issued to local officials or courts, instructing them to take specific actions. The Writ of Association emerged as a specific type of writ, used to associate certain individuals with judicial or administrative duties, effectively granting them authority to act within particular matters.

During the reign of Henry II (1154–1189), the development of common law saw the proliferation of various writs, including the Writ of Association. These writs were instrumental in consolidating royal authority and ensuring uniform administration across the kingdom. They allowed the Crown to appoint commissioners or justices to oversee legal disputes, especially in complex cases requiring additional expertise or oversight.

Role in Judicial Administration

By the 13th century, the Writ of Association had become a vital tool in judicial administration. It was commonly used to add judges or commissioners to ongoing cases, ensuring that adequate expertise and resources were available to resolve disputes. This practice was particularly prevalent in the assizes—periodic courts held in each county to handle both civil and criminal cases.

The Writ of Association thus played a crucial role in the development of the English legal system, promoting the efficient administration of justice and reinforcing the authority of the Crown. It facilitated the delegation of judicial responsibilities and helped manage the increasing complexity of legal proceedings.

Legal Significance

Authority and Delegation

The primary legal significance of the Writ of Association lies in its function as a mechanism for delegating authority. By issuing such a writ, the Crown could formally appoint individuals to assist or substitute existing judicial or administrative officials. This delegation was essential in maintaining the integrity and efficiency of the legal system, especially in times of political instability or regional unrest.

Ensuring Fairness and Competence

The Writ of Association also aimed to ensure fairness and competence in judicial proceedings. By associating additional judges or commissioners with a case, the writ helped to bring diverse perspectives and expertise to bear on legal issues. This practice mitigated the risk of bias and enhanced the quality of judicial decisions, thereby bolstering public confidence in the legal system.

Flexibility in Legal Proceedings

Moreover, the writ provided flexibility in legal proceedings. It allowed for the temporary appointment of officials to handle specific cases or duties, thereby addressing the fluctuating demands of the judicial system. This flexibility was particularly valuable in dealing with complex or high-profile cases that required additional oversight or specialised knowledge.

Procedural Aspects

Issuance and Content

The issuance of a Writ of Association followed a formal procedure. Typically, the writ was issued by the Crown or a high-ranking judicial authority, such as the Lord Chancellor. It contained specific details about the individuals being associated, the nature of their duties, and the scope of their authority. The writ was then delivered to the relevant officials or courts, who were required to implement its instructions.

Implementation and Compliance

Upon receipt of a Writ of Association, the designated officials were obligated to comply with its terms. This involved integrating the associated individuals into the relevant judicial or administrative processes and ensuring their active participation in the designated matters. Non-compliance with the writ could result in legal consequences, including penalties or removal from office.

Examples of Use

  • Judicial Commissions: One common use of the Writ of Association was in the appointment of judicial commissions. For example, in complex property disputes or significant criminal cases, additional judges or commissioners could be associated with the primary judges to provide expert opinions and ensure a thorough examination of evidence.
  • Assizes: During the assizes, which were critical to maintaining law and order in mediaeval England, the Writ of Association was often used to appoint additional justices of the peace. This ensured that each assize had sufficient judicial personnel to handle the volume of cases, thereby expediting the delivery of justice.
  • Administrative Duties: The writ was also used to associate individuals with specific administrative duties, such as overseeing local governance or managing royal estates. This delegation helped in the efficient administration of the kingdom’s affairs, particularly in regions where direct royal oversight was challenging.

Modern Relevance

Evolution and Adaptation

The concept of the Writ of Association has evolved significantly over the centuries. While the original form of the writ is largely obsolete in contemporary British law, its principles continue to influence modern legal and administrative practices. The delegation of authority, the inclusion of expert opinions, and the flexibility in judicial and administrative proceedings remain central to the functioning of the legal system.

Contemporary Equivalents

In modern times, the functions previously served by the Writ of Association are fulfilled by various statutory provisions and administrative procedures. For example:

  • Judicial Appointments: The appointment of additional judges or commissioners to assist in complex cases is now governed by statutory frameworks, such as the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990. These frameworks provide detailed guidelines for the appointment, roles, and responsibilities of judicial officers.
  • Tribunals and Commissions: Modern tribunals and commissions often incorporate experts and additional members to ensure a comprehensive examination of cases. This practice mirrors the historical use of the Writ of Association in bringing diverse expertise to judicial and administrative matters.
  • Administrative Delegation: The delegation of administrative duties is now regulated by various statutory instruments and administrative guidelines. These provisions ensure that administrative responsibilities are effectively managed and that appropriate oversight is maintained.

Importance in Legal Education

The historical significance of the Writ of Association makes it an important topic in legal education. Understanding its origins and development provides valuable insights into the evolution of the British legal system and the foundational principles of judicial administration. It also highlights the enduring importance of flexibility, expertise, and fairness in legal processes.


The Writ of Association represents a fascinating aspect of British legal history, illustrating the evolution of judicial and administrative practices over centuries. Its role in delegating authority, ensuring fairness and competence, and providing flexibility in legal proceedings underscores its significance in the development of the English legal system. While the original form of the writ is no longer in use, its principles continue to shape contemporary legal and administrative practices. Understanding the Writ of Association offers valuable lessons in the importance of adaptability, expertise, and fairness in the administration of justice.


  1. Baker, J. H. (2002). An Introduction to English Legal History. Oxford University Press.
  2. Holdsworth, W. S. (1922). A History of English Law. Methuen & Co.
  3. Milsom, S. F. C. (1981). Historical Foundations of the Common Law. Butterworth-Heinemann.
  4. Plucknett, T. F. T. (1956). A Concise History of the Common Law. Little, Brown and Company.
Writ Of Association FAQ'S

A Writ of Association is a legal document that authorizes a company to be incorporated and outlines its purpose, structure, and regulations.

To obtain a Writ of Association, you need to submit an application to the relevant government authority or registrar of companies, along with the necessary documents and fees.

A Writ of Association should include the company’s name, registered office address, objectives, share capital, details of shareholders and directors, and any specific regulations or restrictions.

Yes, the contents of a Writ of Association can be modified through a special resolution passed by the company’s shareholders. However, certain provisions may require approval from regulatory authorities.

Yes, a Writ of Association is a public document and can be accessed by anyone who wishes to obtain information about the company.

Yes, a Writ of Association can be challenged in court if it is found to be in violation of any laws or if there are disputes regarding its interpretation or implementation.

Operating without a Writ of Association is illegal in most jurisdictions. The company may face penalties, fines, or even dissolution if it fails to comply with the legal requirement.

Yes, a Writ of Association can be amended after incorporation through a special resolution passed by the company’s shareholders. The amended version must be filed with the relevant authorities.

No, a Writ of Association cannot be transferred to another company. Each company must have its own unique Writ of Association.

A Writ of Association is the original document that establishes a company, while Articles of Association are the rules and regulations that govern the internal management and operations of the company. Both documents are important for a company’s legal framework.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 9th June 2024.

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