1731: 4 George 2 c.26: An act that all proceedings in courts of justice within that part of Great Britain called England, and in the court of exchequer in Scotland, shall be in the English language.
WHEREAS many and great mischiefs do frequently happen to the subjects of this kingdom, from the proceedings in courts of justice being in an unknown language, those who are summoned and impleaded having no knowledge or understanding of what is alledged for or against them in the pleadings of their lawyers and attornies, who use a character not legible to any but persons practising the law:
[This extended to Wales by 6 Geo. 2. c.14.]
To remedy these great mischiefs, and to protect the lives and fortunes of the subjects of that part of Great Britain called England, more effectually than heretofore, from the peril of being ensnared or brought in danger by forms and proceedings in courts of justice, in an unknown language, be it enacted by the King’s most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal and commons of Great Britain in parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same,
[After 25 March 1733, all proceedings in courts in England, or exchequer in Scotland, to be in English, and in words at length. 6 Geo. 2. c. 6.]
That from and after the twenty-fifth day of March one thousand seven hundred and thirty-three, all writs, process and returns thereof, and proceedings thereon, and all pleadings, rules, orders, indictments, informations, inquisitions, preferments, verdicts, prohibitions, certificates, and all patents, charters, pardons, commissions, records, judgments, statutes, recognizances, bonds, rolls, entries, fines and recoveries, and all proceedings relating thereunto, and all proceedings of courts leet, courts baron and customary courts, and all copies thereof, and all proceedings whatsoever in any courts of justice within that part of Great Britain called England, and in the court of exchequer in Scotland, and which concern the law and administration of justice, shall be in the English tongue and language only, and not in Latin or French, or any other tongue or language whatsoever, and shall be written in such a common legible hand and character, as the acts of parliament are usually ingrossed in, and the lines and words of the same to be written at least as close as the said acts usually are, and not in any hand commonly called court hand, and in words at length and not abbreviated; any law, custom or usage heretofore to the contrary thereof notwithstanding:
[Penalty 50l. Altered by 6 Geo. 2. c.14. s. 5.]
and all and every person or persons offending against this act, shall for every such offence forfeit and pay the sum of fifty pounds to any person who shall sue for the same by action of debt, bill, plaint or information in any of his Majesty’s courts of record in Westminster hall, or court of exchequer in Scotland respectively, wherein no essoin, protection or wager of law, or more than one imparlance shall be allowed.
[Mistranslation before 5 March, 1733, may be amended before or after judgment.]
II. And be it farther enacted by the authority aforesaid, That mistranslation, variation in form by reason of translation, mispelling or mistake in clerkship, or pleadings or proceedings begun or to be begun before the said twenty fifth day of March one thousand seven hundred and thirty-three, being part in Latin and part in English, shall be no error, nor make void any proceedings by reason thereof; but that all manner of mistranslation, errors in form, mispellings, mistakes in clerkship, may at any time be amended, whether in paper or on record or otherwise, before or after judgment, upon payment of reasonable costs only.
[Not to extend to the certifying proceedings in court of admiralty.]
III. Provided always, That nothing in this act, nor anything herein contained, shall extend to certifying beyond the seas any case or proceedings in the court of admiralty; but that in such !cases the commissions and proceedings may be certified in Latin as formerly they have been.
IV. And whereas several good and profitable laws have been enacted, to the intent that the parties in all manner of actions and demands might not be delayed and hindred from obtaining the effect of their suits, after issue tried and judgment given, by reason of any subtile, ignorant or defective pleadings, nor for any defect in form, commonly called jeofails, it is hereby enacted and declared,
[Statutes for reforming delays by Jeofails, to be extended to the English forms.]
That all and every Statute and Statutes for the reformation and amending the delays arising from any Jeofails whatsoever, shall and may extend to all and every form and forms, and to all proceedings in courts of justice (except in criminal cases) when the forms and proceedings are in English; and that all and every error and mistake whatsoever, which would or might be amended and remedied by any Statute of Jeofails, if the proceedings had been in Latin, all such errors and mistakes of the same and like nature, when the forms are in English, shall be deemed, and are hereby declared to be amended and remedied by the Statutes now in force for the amendment of any Jeofails; and this clause shall be taken and construed in all courts of justice in the most ample and beneficial manner, for the ease and benefit of the parties, and to prevent frivolous and vexatious delays.
Source: Pickering, Statutes at Large vol. 16.
Further reading: Wikipedia.