Joseph Yates (judge)

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Sir Joseph Yates (1722June 7, 1770) of Peel Hall, Little Hulton, Lancashire was an eminent English judge.


  • The sheriffs of London have been immemorially the sheriff of Middlesex.
    • Case of John Wilkes (1763), 19 How. St. Tr. 1096.
  • Old rights must remain: it would be very unreasonable if it should be otherwise.
    • Mayor, &c. of Colchester v. Seaber (1765), 3 Burr. Part IV. 1872.
  • The Court must have ministers : the attornies are its ministers.
    • Mayor of Norwich v. Berry (1766), 4 Burr. Part IV., p. 2115.
  • The Courts can take no notice of anything but what comes judicially before them.
    • Rex v. Wilkes (1769), 4 Burr. Part IV., 2533.
  • It is proper to inquire into the practice and precedents; and to see whether they have been uniform and concomitant.
    • Rex v. Wilkes (1769), 4 Burr. Part IV., 2548.

Dissenting in Millar v Taylor (1769)[edit]

  • If the custom be general, it is the law of the realm: if local only, it is lex loci, the law of the place. Now, all laws are general, as far as the law extends; and all customs of England are of course, immemorial.1 No usage, therefore, can be part of that law, or have the force of a custom, that is not immemorial.
    • 4 Burr. Part IV., 2368.
  • The common law of England must direct the determination of a common law question. By common-law determinations we are bound; and to them we must always adhere: for, these are the proper constitutional declarations of the law of the land. They are so considered, even by the Court of Chancery itself. When any doubt arises in a cause of equity concerning a point of common law, it is usually referred to the determination of a Court of Common Law.
    • 4 Burr. Part IV., 2377.
  • Great attention and respect is undoubtedly due to the decisions of a Lord Chancellor: but they are not conclusive upon a Court of common law.
    • 4 Burr, Part IV., 2377.
  • It is certain that every man has a right to keep his own sentiments, if he pleases: he has certainly a right to judge whether he will make them public, or commit them only to the sight of his own friends. In that state the manuscript is, in every sense his peculiar property; and no man can take it from him or make any use of it which he has not authorized, without being guilty of a violation of his property.
    • 4 Burr. Part IV., 2379.
  • Ideas are free. But while the author confines them to his study, they are like birds in a cage, which none but he can have a right to let fly : for till he thinks proper to emancipate them, they are under his own dominion.
    • 4 Burr. Part IV., 2379.
  • Nothing but what has visible substance, is capable of actual possession.
    • 4 Burr. Part IV., 2384.
  • The law is too tenacious of private peace, to suffer litigations to be negotiable.
    • 4 Burr. Part IV., 2385.
  • No tort is assignable, in law or equity. It is not within any species of action at common law.
    • 4 Burr. Part. IV., 2386.
  • Improvement in learning was no part of the thoughts or attention of our ancestors.
    • 4 Burr. Part IV., 2387.
  • The invention of an author is a species of property unknown to the common law of England. Its usages are immemorial; and the views of it tend to the benefit and advantage of the public with respect to the necessaries of life, and not to the improvement and graces of mind.
    • 4 Burr. Part IV., 2387.
  • Every reward has its proper bounds.
    • 4 Burr. Part IV., 2391.
  • I wish as sincerely as any man, that learned men may have all the encouragements, and all the advantages that are consistent with the general right and good of mankind.
    • 4 Burr. Part IV., 2394.


  • Sacred to the Memory
    of the Honorable
    Sir Joseph Yates, Knight,
    of Peel Hall in Lancashire,
    successively a Judge of the Courts
    of King's Bench and Common Pleas;
    whose merit advanced him to the
    feat of Justice, which he filled with the most
    distinguished abilities and invincible integrity.
    He died the 7th day of June 1770,
    in the 48th year of his age,
    leaving the world to lament the loss
    of an honest Man and able Judge,
    firm to assert
    and strenuous to support
    the laws and constitution
    of his Country.

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