Habeas by Any Other Name

I am most grateful to Melinde Sanborn and Professor William E. Nelson for their work on a fascinating case which has enriched my thinking regarding the major project now engaging me and enabled me to put together a few preliminary ideas. Ms. Sanborn, of course, unearthed the case in the first place, thereby providing an additional source that I plan to use in the project, while Professor Nelson raised a provocative question about the purpose for which I plan to use it. Thanks to the generosity of the Hofstra administration, I spent the academic 2008-2009 year on a research leave at the New Hampshire State Archives in Concord doing research into the roots of habeas corpus. As I write up the findings, one proposal I intend to advance is that, for many purposes at least, to look only at “habeas corpus” is to look too narrowly. I have uncovered precisely parallel cases of petitioners’ release from imprisonment by means of a variety of writs, including certiorari, supersedeas, and prohibition—even in cases where they had originally asked for no particular writ at all.

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