Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On whether a man be an idiot or not

In Ingram v. Com., the Virginia Court of Appeals in a published opinion by Judge Kelsey, joined by Judge McCullough and Senior Judge Haley, disposed of Mr. Ingram's claim that he was entitled to a jury trial on the claim that he should be required involuntarily to undergo psychiatric treatment. In reject Ingram's claim, Judge Kelsey noted the following:

"Though wholly unrelated to claims for monetary damages, the ancient common law writ of 'de idiota inquirendo' authorized juries to 'inquire whether a man be an idiot or not' and, if so, to transfer 'the profits of his lands and the custody of his person' to the king or his designee. 1 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Law of England *303. A similar writ could be issued against a 'non compos mentis,' described in the common law as a mere 'lunatic' who 'by disease, grief, or other accident, hath lost the use of his reason' yet still has 'lucid intervals.' Id. at *304.

These common law writs, however, have little in common with a Code § 37.2-1101 proceeding."

Many is the case in which it might have been asked whether I or other counsel or a litigant or witness whether he "be an idiot or not."

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