Define: Writ Of Praecipe

Writ Of Praecipe
Writ Of Praecipe
Quick Summary of Writ Of Praecipe

A writ of praecipe is a legal document that orders a defendant to either take a specific action or provide an explanation for their inaction. It can also be a written request for court action, such as scheduling a trial date or issuing a judgement. For instance, if a plaintiff wants to reclaim a particular property from a defendant, they may use a praecipe writ to instruct the defendant to either return the property or justify why they should not be required to do so. In the past, a praecipe writ was also employed to initiate a common recovery action, which was a legal process for transferring land ownership. The writ would compel the defendant to appear in court and surrender the disputed property. Overall, a writ of praecipe is a potent tool for plaintiffs to enforce action from defendants in legal disputes.

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

A legal directive known as a writ of praecipe instructs an individual to perform a task or provide an explanation for their failure to do so. It may also serve as a written plea for a court to take action, such as scheduling a trial or issuing a verdict. Historically, it was used to reclaim particular assets, such as property or funds. The term “praecipe” originates from Latin and translates to “command.”

Full Definition Of Writ Of Praecipe

A Writ of Praecipe, a term rooted in English common law, is a formal legal document commanding a person to do something or to appear in court and explain why they have not done so. This document plays a pivotal role in the legal landscape, especially within the context of civil procedure. The term “praecipe” itself originates from the Latin word “praecipere,” meaning “to order” or “to command.” This overview will delve into the history, purpose, structure, and application of a Writ of Praecipe within the British legal system, offering a comprehensive understanding of its function and significance.

Historical Context

The Writ of Praecipe has its roots in mediaeval England, emerging as a part of the writ system used by the royal courts to administer justice. During this period, writs were essential for initiating legal proceedings. The development of the writ system was instrumental in standardising legal processes and ensuring that subjects could seek justice through the King’s courts. The Writ of Praecipe, specifically, was a command issued by the King or his justices, requiring a person to perform a specified act or to justify their failure to do so.

Purpose and Function

The primary purpose of a Writ of Praecipe is to compel action or a response from the recipient. It serves as a mechanism for ensuring compliance with legal obligations or court orders. There are two main types of Writs of Praecipe:

  1. Writ of Praecipe to Do Something: This writ orders the recipient to perform a specific act, such as paying a debt, returning property, or complying with a contractual obligation.
  2. Writ of Praecipe to Show Cause: This writ requires the recipient to appear in court and explain why they have not complied with a legal requirement or court order. It essentially commands the person to “show cause” for their inaction or non-compliance.

Structure of a Writ of Praecipe

A Writ of Praecipe typically contains several key elements:

  1. Title and Heading: The writ begins with a formal heading, indicating the issuing court and the title “Writ of Praecipe.”
  2. Introduction: This section identifies the parties involved, including the name of the plaintiff (the party requesting the writ) and the defendant (the recipient of the writ).
  3. Command: The core of the writ is the command, clearly stating the action that the defendant is required to perform or the reason they must appear in court.
  4. Details of the Case: This section provides a brief overview of the case, including relevant facts, legal grounds, and the basis for issuing the writ.
  5. Consequences of Non-Compliance: The writ outlines the potential consequences if the defendant fails to comply with the command, such as fines, penalties, or further legal action.
  6. Seal and Signature: The writ is authenticated with the seal of the issuing court and the signature of an authorised court official.

Issuance and Service

The process of issuing a Writ of Praecipe typically begins with the plaintiff filing a request with the appropriate court. This request must include the necessary information and documentation supporting the issuance of the writ. Once the court reviews and approves the request, the writ is formally issued.

Service of the writ involves delivering it to the defendant. This can be done through various means, such as personal delivery, mail, or, in some cases, electronic communication. Proper service is crucial to ensuring that the defendant is aware of the writ and the required action or appearance.

Legal Implications and Enforcement

The issuance of a Writ of Praecipe carries significant legal implications. Failure to comply with the command outlined in the writ can result in serious consequences for the defendant. Depending on the nature of the writ, these consequences may include:

  • Fines and Penalties: Non-compliance can lead to financial penalties imposed by the court.
  • Contempt of Court: Ignoring a Writ of Praecipe may be considered contempt of court, which can result in additional fines, imprisonment, or other punitive measures.
  • Default Judgement: In some cases, failure to respond to a Writ of Praecipe to Show Cause can result in a default judgement in favour of the plaintiff, meaning the court may rule against the defendant without a trial.

Enforcement of a Writ of Praecipe is typically carried out by court officials, such as bailiffs or sheriffs, who are authorised to ensure compliance with court orders. In cases where the defendant continues to resist compliance, additional legal measures, such as asset seizure or arrest, may be employed.

Practical Applications

Writs of Praecipe are utilised in a variety of legal contexts. Some common applications include:

  • Debt Recovery: Creditors may use a Writ of Praecipe to compel debtors to repay outstanding debts or to appear in court and explain their failure to do so.
  • Property Disputes: In cases involving disputes over property ownership or possession, a Writ of Praecipe can be used to order the return of property or to address non-compliance with court orders.
  • Contractual Obligations: When one party fails to fulfil contractual obligations, the other party may seek a Writ of Praecipe to enforce compliance or to address breaches of contract.

Modern Relevance

In contemporary legal practice, the use of Writs of Praecipe has evolved, but they remain a vital tool in ensuring adherence to legal obligations and court orders. The principles underlying these writs continue to be relevant, particularly in civil litigation and enforcement proceedings.

The modern application of Writs of Praecipe is governed by procedural rules and regulations established by the courts. These rules ensure that the issuance and service of writs are conducted in a fair and transparent manner, protecting the rights of all parties involved.

Case Law and Judicial Interpretation

The interpretation and application of Writs of Praecipe have been shaped by numerous judicial decisions over the years. Case law provides valuable insights into how courts have addressed various issues related to these writs. For instance, courts have considered questions regarding the adequacy of service, the sufficiency of the underlying legal claims, and the appropriate remedies for non-compliance.

The judicial interpretation of the Writs of Praecipe often emphasises the importance of due process and the need for clear and specific commands. Courts have also highlighted the necessity of providing defendants with adequate notice and an opportunity to respond, ensuring that the principles of natural justice are upheld.


The Writ of Praecipe remains a fundamental aspect of the British legal system, embodying the principles of justice and accountability. Its historical origins and enduring relevance underscore its importance as a mechanism for compelling action and ensuring compliance with legal obligations. By understanding the structure, purpose, and application of Writs of Praecipe, legal practitioners and individuals can navigate the complexities of civil procedure and enforcement with greater confidence and clarity.

As the legal landscape continues to evolve, the Writ of Praecipe will undoubtedly adapt to meet the changing needs of the justice system. Its role in upholding the rule of law and facilitating the resolution of disputes will remain integral to the pursuit of justice in British society.

Writ Of Praecipe FAQ'S

A Writ of Praecipe is a legal document that is used to request the court to issue a specific order or directive.

A Writ of Praecipe is commonly used in civil litigation cases to request actions such as the issuance of a summons, the entry of judgment, or the scheduling of a hearing.

To file a Writ of Praecipe, you typically need to draft the document outlining the specific order or directive you are seeking and submit it to the court clerk along with any required filing fees.

No, a Writ of Praecipe is generally not used in criminal cases. It is primarily utilized in civil litigation matters.

The purpose of a Writ of Praecipe is to request the court to take a specific action or issue a particular order in a legal case.

No, a Writ of Praecipe is different from a motion. While both are used to request court action, a Writ of Praecipe is typically used for more administrative or procedural matters, whereas a motion is used to request substantive legal relief.

Yes, you can file a Writ of Praecipe without an attorney. However, it is recommended to seek legal advice or assistance to ensure that the document is properly drafted and filed.

The time it takes for a court to respond to a Writ of Praecipe can vary depending on the specific circumstances and workload of the court. It is best to check with the court clerk for an estimated timeline.

Generally, a Writ of Praecipe itself cannot be appealed since it is a request for court action rather than a final decision. However, if the court grants or denies the requested action, the party affected may have the right to appeal that decision.

If the court denies your Writ of Praecipe, you may need to explore alternative legal options or seek further guidance from an attorney. It is important to understand the reasons for the denial and determine the best course of action moving forward.

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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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