[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Copyright Notice, Limited Permissions, and Disclaimers
SIR JOHN JERVIS (1802 - 1856)
John Jervis was born on 12 January 1802, the son of Thomas Jervis, a King's Counsel who was also the last of the Chief Justices of Chester. He attended Westminster School and Trinity College Cambridge (leaving without a degree), and may then have been commissioned into the army, but finally he determined on the law, and was called to the bar in 1824.
Between 1826 and 1832 he was a regular law reporter in the Court of Exchequer, and two series of nominate reports bear his name - Younge & Jervis, vols 1-3 (English Reports, vol 148), 1826-1830, and Crompton & Jervis, vols 1-2 (English Reports, vols 148, 149), 1830-1832.
He was a prolific author too. As well as Jervis on Coroners, published in 1829 while he was a law reporter, he also edited the fourth to eighth editions of Archbold's Criminal Pleading and Practice, wrote a successful book on the rules of practice in the Courts of King's Bench and the Exchequer (first edition 1832, although it ran to four editions in all), and was one of the co-founders of the legal periodical "The Jurist".
In 1832, as rising stars tended then to do, he was elected MP (for Chester, as a Liberal), and took silk in 1837. He was appointed Solicitor-General in 1846, but only held office for three days, because Sir Thomas Wilde A-G then resigned to become Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and Jervis took his place as Attorney-General. He was also knighted, on 1 August 1846.
Whilst Attorney-General, he promoted three Acts of Parliament dealing with criminal law and magistrates, known as Jervis's Acts, 11, 12 Vict cc 42-44. He was also chairman of the Commission on Common Law Procedure, which led to the Common Law Procedure Act 1852, a most important reform which in effect abolished the forms of action, and parts of which (dealing with landlord and tenant law) are still in force today.
In July 1850, when Wilde CJ resigned to become Lord Chancellor (as Lord Truro), Jervis again succeeded him, and on 16 July 1850 was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. Since 1825 the Chief Justice's salary had been fixed at £8000 per annum (charged since 1832 on the Consolidated Fund), but Jervis agreed to a reduction to £7000, confirmed by the statute 14 & 15 Vict c 41, s 1.
Jervis enjoyed a reputation for an extraordinary knowledge of the criminal law, and also of the ways of criminals, particularly fraudsters. He was involved in a number of important legal decisions, among them Harmer v Bell (the "Bold Buccleugh") (1851) 7 Moo PC 267 (maritime liens), Leroux v Brown (1852) 12 CB 801 (contract and the Statute of Frauds), and Wenman v Ash (1853) 13 CB 836 (defamation and husband and wife). He also presided over the trial of the Calotype patent lawsuit in 1854 between WH Fox Talbot and Martin Laroche (real name William Silvester), which the latter won.
Jervis died at his house in Eaton Square, Belgravia (London) on 1 November 1856, still in office, largely as a result of the toll which his hardworking habits had taken on him. He was succeeded on 20 November 1856 as Chief Justice of the Common Pleas by Sir Alexander Cockburn, who had also been Attorney-General, and who in 1859 became Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench.
He had married Catherine Jane Mundell in 1824, and left 5 children.
Sir John Jervis the judge should not be confused with his namesake (and second cousin), the famous eighteenth century admiral, who became Earl of St Vincent. Curiously enough, his younger daughter Grace Catherine married (as her first husband) a great grandson of the admiral's sister.
To Home page
Last modified: Monday, 09-Aug-2004 08:53:13 BST by: Malcolm Bishop