The common law procedure for initiating actions at law in the English courts required a plaintiff to obtain a writ invoking the jurisdiction of the court and to file a declaration setting forth the facts that justified instigation of the suit and established the cause of the action. This clumsy and archaic system of litigation was abolished by a single chop of the legislative guillotine in New York in 1848. England followed suit in 1875, and the United States federal courts in 1938. Writs and declarations were replaced by simple forms which were copied from the practice of the equity courts. By contrast, Virginia painlessly and imperceptibly reformed the common law pleading over a two hundred year period. This article chronicles the stages of this development in the law of Virginia.

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