Quo warranto (Medieval Latin for "by what warrant?") is a prerogative writ requiring the person to whom it is directed to show what authority they have for exercising some right or power (or "franchise") they claim to hold.
Quo warranto had its origins in an attempt by King Edward I of England to investigate and recover royal lands, rights, and franchises in England, in particular those lost during the reign of his father, King Henry III of England. From 1278 to 1294, Edward dispatched justices throughout the Kingdom of England to inquire "by what warrant" English lords held their lands and exercised their jurisdictions (often including the right to hold a court and collect its profits). Initially, the justices demanded written proof in the form of charters, but resistance and the unrecorded nature of many grants forced Edward to accept those rights peacefully exercised since 1189 (the beginning of the reign of Richard I). Later, quo warranto functioned as a court order (or "writ") to show proof of authority; for example, demanding that someone acting as the sheriff prove that the king had actually appointed him to that office (literally, "By whose warrant are you the sheriff?").
The most famous historical instance of quo warranto was the action taken against the Corporation of London by Charles II in 1683. The King's Bench adjudged the charter and franchises of the City of London to be forfeited to the Crown, though this judgment was reversed by the London, Quo Warranto Judgment Reversed Act 1689 shortly after the Glorious Revolution.
Quo warranto today
In the United States today, quo warranto usually arises in a civil case as a plaintiff's claim (and thus a "cause of action" instead of a writ) that some governmental or corporate official was not validly elected to that office or is wrongfully exercising powers beyond (or ultra vires) those authorized by statute or by the corporation's charter.
- Clanchy From Memory to Written Record p. 3
- Harris, Nicholas; Charles Purton Cooper (1831). Public Records. p. 74.
- Carpenter, David A. (1996). The reign of Henry III. p. 88. ISBN 978-1-85285-137-8.
- Clanchy From Memory to Written Record p. 152
- Shortt, John (1888), Informations (criminal and quo warranto) mandamus and prohibition, American law series, C. H. Edson and company, p. 137.
- Sn 42 Abolition of quo warranto, Judicial Review Act 1991, Queensland Consolidated Acts
- Sn 12 Quo Warranto Supreme Court Act 1970, New South Wales Consolidated Acts
- Clanchy, M. T. (1993). From Memory to Written Record: England 1066–1307 (Second ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-631-16857-7.
- Michael Prestwich, Edward I (London: Methuen, 1988, updated edition Yale University Press, 1997 ISBN 0-300-07209-0)
- Michael Prestwich, The Three Edwards: War and State in England 1272–1377 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1980, reprinted Routledge 1996) ISBN 0-415-05133-9
- Donald W. Sutherland, Quo Warranto Proceedings in the Reign of Edward I, 1278–1294 (Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1963)