A document formerly used to commence a lawsuit in English courts.
Historically, the writ needed to start a personal action was a mandatory letter from the king, issued by the Chancery and sealed with the Great Seal. It was directed to the sheriff of the county where the wrong was supposed to have been committed and required the sheriff to command that the defendant either satisfy the plaintiff's claim or answer the charges that had been made. This form of writ has been replaced by the summons, which commences civil actions today, but the summons is still sometimes called an original writ.
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