Tuesday, December 17, 2002

BLACKSTONE ANTICIPATES MANDUMBASS

Our friends at the Statutory Construction Zone have written to call our attention to an ancient common law antecedent to the Fourteenth Circuit's writ of mandumbass, issued periodically to news outlets confusing denials of certiorari with merits adjudications. William Blackstone's Commentaries, Book I, ch. 8 documents the related common law writ de indiota inquirendo, whose purpose is "to enquire whether a man be an idiot or not: which must be tried by a jury of twelve men." Were there any lingering doubt as to the propriety of mandumbass under the All Writs Act, this authority clearly dispels it.