True Writ


A celebrated declaration is engraved above the portal of Langdell Hall, the central building of Harvard Law School: non sub homine sed sub deo et lege (“not under man but under God and law”). That was the brave admonition of Lord Edward Coke (1552–1634) to King James I when the monarch imprisoned one of his subjects peremptorily. The old judicial remedy for such misconduct by the chief executive was a special form of the writ known as habeas corpus (literally, “have the body”).


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About the Author

Joseph D. Becker, a founding partner of Becker, Glynn, Melamed and Muffly, a Manhattan law firm, is author of The American Law of Nations (Judis).