LAWmazing banner

LAWmazing HOMEPAGELAWmazing #1 • LAWmazing #2 • LAWmazing #3 • LAWmazing #4LAWmazing #5LAWmazing #6LAWmazing #7LAWmazing #8 (Canadian Edition)

LAWmazing #5

The Dancin' Judge

Christopher HattonSir Christopher Hatton became chief justice and minister of justice of England not because of any skills as a lawyer. He was a lawyer - but he was a better party-goer and catching the eye of Queen Elizabeth (who remained single her whole life) never hurt any good Englishman's chances.

N. Fuller (see reference below) writes that after studying law, Hatton:

"... came afterwards to court in a mask, where the Queen (Elizabeth) first took notice of him, loving him well for his handsome dancing.... The queen at last preferred him Lord Chancellor of England. The gown-men, grudging hereat, conceived his advancement their injury, that one not thoroughly bred in the laws should be preferred to the place."

[Editor's note: Not thoroughly bred in the laws". Now there's a world record put-down as between lawyers if we've ever heard one. And that's precisely the problem with all other so-called "legal information" websites: they're not thoroughly bred in the laws.]

Queen Elizabeth affectionately called Hatton her little sheep (mon petit mouton). Hatton amassed a fortune because of the Queen's preferences - including his tenure as Lord Chancellor from 1587 to 1591 - and yet this lawyer never married, always under the spell of the flirtatious queen and whether or not they ever .... you know what ... no-one can ever be sure.

The Swimmin' Judge

Lancelot Shadwell (1779-1850) was Vice-Chancellor from 1827 to his death in 1850, the second most senior judge of all England. One day, he was enjoying a nice, peaceful swim in the middle of the Thames River, London, near his residence at Barn Elms, when he was tracked down by two lawyers, one of which was seeking an urgent injuction.

"Go ahead", shouted the Vice Chancellor, and he continued to tread water while the two lawyers presented their cases and he, once satisfied, rendered judgment while never leaving the river.

Walford writes of Shadwell:

"... he was a fine swimmer ... (O)n more than one occasion those who came from London to see him on legal affairs had to talk to him whilst he was in the water and to receive his replies as they waited on the banks."

The Hangin' Judge

Benedict CarpowBenedict Carpzow (1595-1666) was a criminal law professor at the law school at Leipzeg but it was customary for law professors to also sit as judges. He became the most prolific death penalty judge that ever lived. He signed more than 30,000 death warrants, most against women convicted of witchcraft. In his 45 years as a judge in Leipzig, Germany, that equals 450 a year.

As a law professor, he convinced Germans that for witchcraft, suspects could be readily tortured based on suspicion. He surprised hangings personally and made sure that a dead dog and a rat were buried with the convict.

Ironically, Carpzow was a devout Protestant who went to church regularly and his favorite book, the Bible and his favorite passage must of been Jeremiah 21:12 “administer justice every morning”.

News For The Condemned

In Paris, on every day of the French Revolution that the guillotine was scheduled to fall, a newspaper for all those being held on death row was published.

The Journal des Racourcis was published from June, 1877 to 1878.

Swift Asylum

Jonathan SwiftIreland's first ever mental health hospital (then called an asylum) was built from monies received from the estate of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), the famed Irish author (eg. Gulliver's Travels).

Swift was also an ordained Anglican priest. When Swift died, the bequeath was discovered and within the year, St. Patrick's Hospital in Dublin was given a Royal Charter.

His will, after precisely spelling out the details of his burial, called upon his executor to convert his assets into:

"... ready money and lay out same in purchasing lands ... in fee simple ... as near to the City of Dublin as conveniently can be found ... and in building thereon a hospital large enough for the reception of as many idiots and lunatics as the annual income ... shall be sufficient to maintain."

The new hospital - first called St. Patrick's Hospital For The Imbeciles - received the residue of Swift's estate; an amount estimated at £12,000.

Last Meal: Cake

NooseFrances "Frankie" Silvers lived with her husband Charlie near the Toe River, North Carolina.

For reasons that have never been explained, Frankie killed her husband while he snoozed in front of a fire at around Christmas, 1831. Then, she cut up and burned the body.

Suspicious family members searched the farm and found bits of teeth and rotting internal organs. Frankie was arrested and faced a North Carolina law that denied her the right to testify. She was sentenced to be hung while her lawyer confidently told the press that "they don't hang women" (in N.C.).

Just before her date with the hangman, she managed to escape from prison but was quickly caught.

Her last request was for a piece of cake which on the gallows on July 12, 1833, in full view of the spectators that had come for miles to witness the execution, she slowly ate, while the executioner waited. A popular ballad came out after her death known as Frankie Silvers.

She remains the only woman ever hung in North Carolina.

Yerger, Yerger, Yerger, Yerger, Yerger, Yerger & Yerger

In the mid-1800s, seven of the ten Yerger brothers from Lebanon, Tennessee, were practicing attorneys in the state of Tennessee and Mississippi (there was an eighth brother who was not an attorney).

They were all the sons of Edwin Michael Yerger, born in Reading, PA about 1780, but who moved to Tennessee in about 1813 and included:

  • Orville "Norval" Yerger who moved to Mississippi to practise law in about 1845 but moved back to Tennessee;
  • Edwin M. Yerger, a well-known criminal law lawyer;
  • George S. Yerger, the eldest, a prominent member of the bar in Nashville and who served as Attorney General for the State of Tennessee;
  • J. S. Yerger moved to, and later served as a circuit judge in the County of Bolivar, Mississippi (see Rules to Practse By, Bottled in 1890);
  • William Yerger, the youngest, also moved to Mississippi and like his older brother, J. S., was also elevated to the bench. William lived in Jackson, Mississippi.

Law-maker Elected 28 Times

The Greeks thought they had this democracy thing all figured out. Hold elections once in a while and soon enough, you're bound to clean the slate of old wood.

Not so in North Carolina two hundred years ago where Wilkes County elected war veteran James Wellborn (1767-1854) as Senator in 1796, and then re-elected him again 27 times between 1797 and 1835.

Noble Spends 22-Years of Prison Wretchedness

Leonora ChristinaLeonora Christina (1621-1698) was the daughter of the Queen of Denmark but that did not stop kings in England, Sweden and Denmark from holding her a prisoner for almost 22 years.

In 1636, she was married to Corfits Ulfeldt for political reasons but in the result, they fell in love.

But she and her husband had to flee Denmark to save their lives in 1651, often wandering through Europe in disguise.

They managed to ransom themselves out of a first prison term from 1660-1661 by selling off most of their properties.

Then the Danes formally charged Ulfeldt with treason and Christina promptly sailed to England hoping to collect on money owed to her husband by Charles II.

The English king arrested her and returned her to the Danes. Mr. Ulfeldt escaped Danish custody with their children but not so Christina, who never saw her husband again, languishing for 22 years without trial in solitary confinement and very difficult conditions in the so-called "Blue Tower" of Copenhagen Castle prison.

Mrs. Ulfeldt was finally freed in May of 1685 and published her memoirs  including the details of her prison decades, in a book called Jammers-Minde, now widely available on the Internet. The most common translation of that is The Memoirs of my Wretchedness.

Twenty-two years in a Danish prison in the 1860s with a charge of treason hanging over one's self? Jammers-Minde must of been one of many titles that came to mind.

Fishhooking A Bad Law

Fish hookSamuel Mulford (1656-1725) was angry with England over its tax on whale oil, 50% of the catch.

So angry that in 1716, the 70-year old New Yorker sailed for England to make his case directly to the British Government.

He landed in London and warned about pick-pockets, he lined his pockets with fishhooks.

Right away, he caught a pick-pocket and had him arrested, with the news of the hook invention racing around London like wildfire. Almost instantly, pick-pocketing ceased for fear of being hooked.

The British government asked him to attend their chamber and even King George I asked to meet this elderly and eccentric American.

When Mulford had his chance, he argued for the removal of the whale tax.

The whale tax was removed within a year and Samuel "Fishhook" Mulford returned to the American colonies a hero, having changed a taxation law by the power of a simple fishhook.

The Best Rent Deal Ever

Richmond, North YorkshireRichmond, North Yorkshire (England; pictured) is the Mother of all the Richmonds worldwide.

It also has the mother of all rent deals.

William the Conqueror rewarded his sympathizers by giving them land and his nephew Alan Rufus took the area near present-day Richmond. In 1071, Rufus started the construction of Richmond Castle on a hill above the Swale River. The town grew around the Castle and a tower was added in the 12th Century.

Since about 1136, the land upon which now stands much of the town-centre of Richmond has been perpetually leased (rented) from the British Crown for £29 (although instead of the modern word for rent, it was called a fee farm).

Mr. G. Coates, town clerk for the tenant, the Town of Richmond, adds:

"The fee farm was increased to £40 ...  in 1268.

"During a recession in 1440 the inhabitants petitioned that they could not raise £40 and after setting up a commission to investigate King Henry VI issued a new charter reducing it to £12.

"For several centuries now the sum has been paid but refunded by the Crown, and used for charitable purposes."


  • Christina, Leonora, Memoirs (London: Henry King & Co., 1872), translated by F. E. Bunnett.
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, LAWmazing 1, LAWmazing 2, LAWmazing 3, LAWmazing 4, LAWmazing 6 and LAWmazing 7
  • Erbsen, W., Log Cabin Pioneers (Ashville, NC: Native Ground Books & Music, 2001), pages 86-91 re Last Meal: Cake
  • Foote, H., The Bench and Bar of the South and Southwest (St. Louis: Soule, Thomas and Wentworth, 1876).
  • Fuller, N. The History of the Worthies of England, Volume II (London: Thomas Tegg, 1840), pages 507-508, re the Dancing Judge.
  • Guide to Richmond • A Brief History, published at
  • Haber, S., The Quest for Authority and Honor in the American Professions, 1750-1900 (Chicago: Univ. of Ilinois Press, 2001), pages 125-126, re Yeger Brothers.
  • "How Fishhooks Got His Name", East Hampton Star, Sept. 24, 1998, re Fishhooks Mulford.
  • Lemon, M., Up and Down The London Streets (London: Chapman & Hall, 1867), re the Swimmin' Judge.
  • Megivern, J., The Death Penalty: An Historical And Theological Survey (New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1997), page 532, re Hangin’ Judge.
  • Scott, W., The Works of Jonathan Swift (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable and Co., 1814).
  • St. Patrick's Hospital at re Swift's Asylum.
  • Walford, E., Greater London. A Narrative of Its History, Its People, and Its Places, Volume 2 (London: Cassell and Company, 1894).


  • Mr. Geoff Coates, Town Clerk, Richmond Yorks Town Council re Best Rent Deal Ever

LaWmazing logo