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No. 11. - Blagg v. Sturt ; Sturt v. Blagg. — Rule.
of particulars of any charge not set forth with sufficient detail in the pleading to enable the party to meet it.
The point is fully and learnedly examined, with citations of many English authorities, in Tilton v. Beecher, 59 New York, 176; 17 Am. Rep. 337, in which particulars of the plaintiff's charges in an action of crim. con. were ordered. (Two Judges dissented.)
This doctrine was applied by Chief Justice Shaw to a case of criminal libel, in Commonwealth v. Snelling, 15 Pickering (Mass.), 321 (see McDonald v. People, 126 Illinois, 150; 9 Am. St. Rep. 547; Williams v. Commonwealth, 91 Pennsylvania State, 493); and the same Court applied it to a declaration in a civil suit for slander, in Clark v. Munsell, 6 Metcalf (Mass.), 373; and so in True v. Plumley, 36 Maine, 466; McLean v. Warring (Mississippi), 13 Southern Repr. 236; Childs v. Tuttle, 48 Hun (N. Y. Sup. Ct.), 228; Madden v. Underwriting, &c. Co., 10 Miscellaneous (N. Y.), 27.
See Newell on Defamation, p. 745. Mr. Townshend says (Slander and Libel, sect. 275), “It is almost a matter of course" to order a bill of particulars to supplement a complaint which does not give particulars of times, places, and persons.
But it has been held in New York that the proper practice to obtain particulars of a justification is by motion to make the answer more definite. Orvis v. Dana, 1 Abbott New Cases (New York), 268. The Court said :
There is no precedent in this State for a bill of particulars in a libel suit,” but concluded that the Court had power to order particulars to be furnished by a defendant as well as a plaintiff in such a suit. But further they held that “if the defendant fails to plead a complete justification, he will not be permitted to prove his defence. The plaintiff has his election either to move to make the answer more definite and certain, or to lie by, and object on the trial to the reception of any evidence offered to support the defective plea.” This case contains an interesting review of the English authorities on the point.
SECTION VI. — Province of Judge and Jury.
No 11. – BLAGG v. STURT.
(Q. B. 1846.)
STURT V. BLAGG.
It is the province of the judge to decide whether a publication is capable of the meaning ascribed to it by an innuendo, and for the jury to decide whether such meaning is truly ascribed to it.
Blagg v. Sturt; Sturt v. Blagg, 10 Q. B. (Ad. & El.), 899, 900.
Blagg v. Sturt; Sturt v. Blagg.
Libel. Innuendo. — Province of Judge and Jury. Held by the Court of Exchequer Chamber, affirming the judgment of  the Queen's Bench, that it is for the judge to decide whether a publication is capable of the meaning ascribed to it by an innuendo, and for the jury to decide whether such meaning is truly ascribed to it.
Where a declaration for libel stated that plaintiff was town-clerk and clerk to the justices of a borough, that two persons were apprehended on a charge of einbezzlement, and that defendant sent a letter to the Home Secretary, stating that the administration of justice ought to be above suspicion, that one of the above persons, who was taken before justices out of the borough, was defended by plaintiff, that the other, who was taken before the borough justices, was defended by a friend of plaintiff, he himself acting as legal adviser to the justices, that the closest intimacy had long existed between plaintiff and the prisoners, and that ainong the papers of one of them was found an enormous amount of accommodatioù bill transactions, plaintiff, and others with whom he is associated, being the parties thereto, thus clearing up the mystery as to the nises to which the plunder had been appropriated; that defendant deemed this a state of things demanding a remedy, and called upon the Secretary to take such steps as the justice of the case and the crying evil demanded, “ meaning thereby that the plaintiff had conspired with and was an accomplice" of the prisoners in the embezzlement, and also that, as clerk and legal adviser of the borough justices, he had acted corruptly at the examination before them : Held, by the Court of Queen's Bench, and by the Exchequer Chainber, affirming their judgment, that the letter was capable of the meaning ascribed to it by the induendo.
Held, also, by the Court of Exchequer Chamber, that a libel sufficiently appeared on the declaration, without the innuendo.
Case. The declaration alleged that plaintiff, before and at the time of the committing, &c., carried on the business and profession of an attorney at law, and also the business, &c., of a solicitor of the Court of Chancery, at St. Alban's, in Hertfordshire, and was acquiring great gains, &c. : allegation of good character: and also plaintiff, before and at the time of the committing, &c., held and enjoyed the office of town clerk of the borough of St. Alban's, and also the office of clerk to the justices of the peace of the said borough, the jurisdiction of which said justices is distinct from and independent of and unconnected with the jurisdiction of the justices of the peace of the liberty of St. Alban's in the county of * Hertford: allegation of faithful discharge [* 900]
No. 11. — Blagg v. Sturt; Sturt v. Blagg, 10 Q. B. (Ad. & El.), 900, 901.
of the duties of the said offices, and of plaintiff's good repute with the justices of the borough: That, before and at the time of the committing, &c., to wit, 16th April, 1846, one Richard Charles Gutteridge, who before then had been in the employ of one Thomas Kinder, a brewer at St. Alban's, was apprehended upon certain charges of felony; that is to say, for that he, the said R. C. G., being clerk and servant to the said T. K., did, by virtue of such his employment, whilst he was such clerk, &c., receive and take into his possession divers moneys for and in the name and on the account of the said T. K., his master, and did fraudulently and feloniously embezzle the same: That R. C. G., on, &c., was brought before the justices of the peace of the said liberty to be examined by them, and was then and afterwards, to wit, 21st April, in the year aforesaid, examined by them concerning the said charges; at which said examinations plaintiff acted as, and was, at the request of the said R. C. G., the legal adviser and attorney at law of the said R. C. G. : And also that, before and at the time of the committing, &c., to wit, 18th April, 1846, a certain other person, viz., one David Hutson, who before then had been in the employ of the said T. K., was taken into custody and apprehended upon a certain other charge of felony, that is to say, for that he, the said D. H., being clerk and servant to the said T. K., did, by virtue of such his employment, whilst he was such clerk and servant, receive and take into his possession divers moneys for and in the name and on the account of the said T. K., his master, and did fraudulently and feloniously embezzle the same: and the said D. H., on the day and year last aforesaid,
was brought before the justices of the said borough, to [* 901) * be examined by them, and was then, and afterwards, to
wit, on, &c., examined by them concerning the said last mentioned charge; at which said examinations of the said D. H. plaintiff acted and was the legal adviser of the said justices. Yet defendant, well knowing, &c., but contriving, &c., to injure plaintiff in his said good name, &c., and to bring him into public scandal, &c., and to injure plaintiff in his said businesses and professions, and in his said offices of town clerk and clerk, &c., to the justices aforesaid, and to cause it to be suspected, &c., that plaintiff had acted improperly and dishonestly in his said professions and businesses, and in his said offices of town clerk and clerk and legal adviser to the justices of the borough, heretofore,
No. 11. - Blagg v. Sturt; Sturt v. Blagg, 10 Q. B. (Ad. & El.), 901, 902.
to wit, on 23d April, 1846, in the form of a letter addressed To the Right Honourable Sir James Graham, Secretary of State, Home Office, meaning thereby the Right Honourable Sir James Robert George Graham, Baronet, one of the principal Secretaries of State of our Lady the now Queen, falsely and maliciously did compose and publish, and cause and procure to be published, of and concerning plaintiff, and of and concerning the said examinations of the said R. C. G. and D. H. respectively, and of and concerning the conduct of plaintiff in his said offices of town clerk and clerk and legal adviser as aforesaid, and in his said businesses and professions and of and concerning the conduct of plaintiff at the said examinations, a certain false, &c., libel, containing, amongst other things, the false, &c., and libellous matter following, of and concerning plaintiff, and of and concerning the said examinations and the conduct of the plaintiff as aforesaid ; (that is to say):
" Honourable Sir (meaning,” &c.), “Deeming the due administration of justice of paramount importance, and [* 902] that those who administer it should be not only pure but above suspicion, I (meaning,” &c.,)“ beg to call your attention to the following facts, showing the anomalous position of a certain functionary (meaning the plaintiff) in this borough (meaning the said borough of St. Alban's). At this time there are two persons fully committed for trial for felony, one (meaning the said R. C. G.) by the liberty magistrates, and one (meaning the said D. H.) by the borough magistrates. The parties (meaning the said D. H. and R. C. G.) are related, being uncle and nephew, and lately clerks to a brewer (meaning the said Mr. T. K.), whom they are charged with having robbed for a series of years. The nephew (meaning the said R. C. G.) was taken into custody first; and he was committed by the liberty magistrates, and is now in our gaol, bail having been refused. This prisoner (meaning the said R. C. G.) is defended by the town clerk of this borough (meaning the plaintiff). The uncle (meaning the said D. H.) was committed by the borough magistrates, the town clerk (meaning the plaintiff) taking the evidence, and acting as legal adviser to the magistrates; a friend of his acting as legal adviser to the prisoner. The most close intimacy has existed for years between the town clerk (meaning the plaintiff) and the two prisoners (meaning the said R. C. G. and D. H.): and, when the nephew's (meaning the
No. 11. - Blag: v. Sturt; Sturt v. Blagg, 10 Q. B. (Ad. & El.), 902–904.
said R. C. G.'s) papers were yesterday examined, an enormous amount of accommodation bill transactions, and legal proceedings arising therefrom, amounting to many thousands, were discovered; the said town clerk (meaning the plaintiff), and others
with whom he (meaning the said plaintiff) is closely asso(* 903] ciated, being the parties * thereto, thus clearing up the
mystery as to the uses to which the plunder had been appropriated. Deeming this a state of things demanding a remedy, I (meaning,” &c.) “ respectfully call your prompt attention to the same, feeling assured that you will institute the necessary inquiry, and take such steps as the justice of the case and the crying evil pointed out demand (meaning thereby that the plaintiff had conspired with, and was an accomplice of, the said R. C. G. and D. H. in embezzling the moneys of the said T. K., and had made use of the proceeds of the said embezzlement, and also that the plaintiff, as such clerk and legal adviser as aforesaid, had acted corruptly and dishonestly in his said office and employment at the said examinations of the said D. H. before the said justices of the said borough, in order that the said justices might be induced to dismiss the said charge against the said D. H., and to discharge him out of custody). By means,” &c., “ (General allegation of damage to character, &c.)"
Pleas: 1. Not guilty. Issue thereon. 2, 3 and 4. Pleas in justification. Replication to each, De injuria. Issue thereon.
On the trial, before PARKE, B., at the Hertfordshire Summer assizes, 1846, the plaintiff proved that the defendant had written and sent the letter, mentioned in the declaration, to Sir James Graham, who was then Secretary of State for the Home Department, and who had thereupon instituted an inquiry under the superintendence of Mr. F. N. Rogers, the Deputy Judge Advocate, who had not yet reported the result. The plaintiff also gave evidence to show that the charges in the libel were, in part, false;
and also that the defendant, who was an inhabitant of the [* 904] borough of St. Albans, had said * that he should feel great
pleasure in ridding the borough of men like the plaintiff. The counsel for the defendant contended that the letter was a privileged communication, and that express malice could not be proved by evidence of falsehood. The learned Judge gave leave to move for a nonsuit: and he left to the jury whether they believed the innuendo as to the meaning of the letter; and, if they did,