In Criminal Law, the frequent incitement of lawsuits and quarrels that is a punishable offense.
Barratry is most commonly applied to an attorney who attempts to bring about a lawsuit that will be profitable to her or him. Barratry is an offense both at Common Law and under some state statutes. The broader common-law crime has been limited by certain statutes. An attorney who is overly officious in instigating or encouraging prosecution of groundless litigation might be guilty of common barratry under a particular statute. The requirement for the crime of barratry is that repeated or persistent acts of litigation are performed by the accused. Barratry is generally a misdemeanor punishable by fine or imprisonment. In the case of an attorney, disbarment is the usual punishment. Since few cases have been prosecuted, barratry is considered by the legal community at large to be an archaic crime. This is particularly true today due to a highly litigious atmosphere.
In maritime law, barratry is the commission of an act by the master or mariners of a vessel for an unlawful or fraudulent purpose that is contrary to the duty owed to the owners, by which act the owners sustain injury.
A form of barratry is misconduct of the master of a ship in taking commodities on board that subject the ship to seizure for Smuggling. It is essential in barratry that a criminal act or intent exist on the part of the master or mariners which inures to their own benefit and causes injury to the owners of the ship.
West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.