Writ Of Mesne Process

Writ Of Mesne Process
Writ Of Mesne Process
Quick Summary of Writ Of Mesne Process

A writ of mesne process is a legal document that enables a plaintiff to proceed with legal proceedings against a defendant who has not yet been served with a summons or has not appeared in court. It is also referred to as a writ of mesne. For instance, if a plaintiff initiates a lawsuit against a defendant but is unable to serve them with a summons, they can request a writ of mesne process to carry on with the legal action. This writ grants the plaintiff the ability to serve the defendant through alternative methods, such as publishing the summons in a newspaper or affixing it to the defendant’s door. This example demonstrates how a writ of mesne process can assist a plaintiff in continuing legal action even when the defendant is challenging to locate or refuses to appear in court.

What is the dictionary definition of Writ Of Mesne Process?
Dictionary Definition of Writ Of Mesne Process

The writ of mesne process is a crucial legal document used during a lawsuit to order an individual to appear in court or provide evidence. This type of writ is issued by a court when there is a disagreement between two parties and one party requires the other to take action. It plays a significant role in the legal system by ensuring that justice is served.

Full Definition Of Writ Of Mesne Process

The Writ of Mesne Process is a historical legal instrument rooted in English common law. Though it has largely fallen out of use in modern legal systems, understanding its historical significance and function provides valuable insight into the evolution of legal processes related to the administration of justice, particularly in civil disputes.

Historical Context

The term “mesne” is derived from the Old French word “mesne,” meaning intermediate or middle. In legal terms, it referred to an intermediary stage in the judicial process. The writ of mesne process historically played a critical role in the English legal system, especially during the medieval and early modern periods, serving as an intermediary step in litigation.

Nature and Purpose of the Writ

A writ of mesne process is a form of judicial order issued by a court directing a party to take or refrain from specific actions. It typically functions within the framework of civil litigation, where it serves to ensure that legal proceedings are conducted in an orderly manner. The writ could compel a defendant to appear in court, ensure the enforcement of a court order, or facilitate the collection of a debt.

Types of Mesne Process

There are several types of mesne process writs, each serving a unique function within the legal system. The primary types include:

  1. Writ of Attachment: This writ orders the seizure of a defendant’s property to secure a claim or debt. It ensures that the defendant’s assets are available to satisfy a judgment if the plaintiff prevails.
  2. Writ of Capias: This writ directs law enforcement to arrest a defendant who has failed to appear in court. It is used to compel the defendant’s presence at a legal proceeding.
  3. Writ of Summons: This writ notifies a defendant of the legal action being taken against them and orders them to appear in court. It initiates the legal process and sets the stage for subsequent proceedings.
  4. Writ of Replevin: This writ is used to recover property wrongfully taken or retained. It directs law enforcement to seize the property in question and return it to the rightful owner pending the outcome of the legal dispute.

Procedural Aspects

The issuance of a writ of mesne process typically follows specific procedural steps:

  1. Filing a Complaint: The plaintiff initiates the legal action by filing a complaint with the court. This document outlines the basis of the claim and the relief sought.
  2. Issuance of the Writ: Upon review of the complaint, the court may issue a writ of mesne process. The type of writ issued depends on the nature of the claim and the relief sought by the plaintiff.
  3. Service of the Writ: The writ is then served on the defendant, notifying them of the legal action and compelling them to comply with the court’s order.
  4. Compliance and Enforcement: The defendant is required to comply with the terms of the writ. Failure to do so may result in further legal action, including penalties or additional writs to enforce compliance.

Significance in Legal History

The writ of mesne process played a pivotal role in the development of the English legal system. It facilitated the orderly conduct of legal proceedings and ensured that parties complied with judicial orders. Its use underscores the importance of intermediary judicial measures in maintaining the integrity of the legal process.

Transition to Modern Legal Systems

In contemporary legal systems, the functions historically served by writs of mesne process have largely been subsumed by more streamlined procedures. Modern civil procedure rules provide comprehensive frameworks for the initiation and conduct of legal actions, reducing the need for intermediate writs.

For instance, the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) in England and Wales, introduced in 1999, consolidate various procedural steps into a cohesive system. These rules govern the practice and procedure to be followed in the civil courts, ensuring efficiency and clarity. The CPR streamline processes such as the issuance of summonses, orders for seizure of property, and enforcement of judgments, effectively replacing the myriad writs of mesne process with a unified procedural code.

Comparative Analysis

While the writ of mesne process has largely been rendered obsolete in England and Wales, its influence can still be observed in other common law jurisdictions. In the United States, for example, similar processes exist under different names, such as preliminary injunctions and temporary restraining orders. These legal instruments serve analogous functions, providing interim relief and preserving the status quo pending the resolution of a legal dispute.


The writ of mesne process represents an important chapter in the history of English law. Its use as an intermediary judicial measure highlights the evolving nature of legal procedures aimed at ensuring justice and compliance with court orders. While modern legal systems have largely replaced such writs with more streamlined processes, understanding their historical context enriches our appreciation of contemporary civil procedure and the principles underlying the administration of justice.

Writ Of Mesne Process FAQ'S

A Writ of Mesne Process is a legal document issued by a court that allows a plaintiff to seize and hold the defendant’s property until a judgment is made in the case.

A Writ of Mesne Process can be used when a plaintiff believes that the defendant may try to dispose of their property to avoid paying a potential judgment.

To obtain a Writ of Mesne Process, the plaintiff must file a motion with the court, providing evidence of the defendant’s potential intent to dispose of their property.

A Writ of Mesne Process can be used to seize various types of property, including real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, and other valuable assets.

In some cases, a Writ of Mesne Process can be issued without prior notice to the defendant if there is a risk that they may dispose of their property before the court can make a judgment.

A Writ of Mesne Process remains in effect until the court makes a final judgment in the case or until the plaintiff voluntarily releases the seized property.

Yes, a defendant can challenge a Writ of Mesne Process by filing a motion with the court, providing evidence that the seizure of their property is unjustified or unnecessary.

The seized property is typically held by a court-appointed custodian until the court makes a final judgment. If the plaintiff wins the case, the property may be sold to satisfy the judgment.

In most cases, a defendant cannot use their seized property while the Writ of Mesne Process is in effect. However, they may be allowed to use certain assets if it is necessary for their daily living or business operations.

Violating a Writ of Mesne Process can result in severe penalties, including fines, contempt of court charges, and potential criminal charges for obstruction of justice.

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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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