WRIT OF INQUIRY, practice. When in an action sounding in damages, (q.v.) as
covenant, trespass, and the like, an interlocutory judgment is rendered,
which is, that the plaintiff ought to recover his damages, without
specifying the amount, it not yet being ascertained, the court does not in
general undertake the office of assessing the damages, but issues a writ of
inquiry, which is a writ directed to the sheriff of the county where the
facts are alleged by the pleadings to have occurred, commanding him to
inquire into the amount of damages sustained "by the oath or affirmation of
twelve good or lawful men of his county;" and to return such inquisition,
when made, to the court.
2. The finding of the sheriff and jury under such a proceeding is called an inquisition. (q.v.)
3. The court will, on application, order that a writ of inquiry shall be executed before a judge, where it appears that important questions of law will arise. 2 John. R. 107.
4. When executed before the sheriff, he acts ministerially, and not judicially, and therefore, it may be executed before a deputy of the sheriff. 2 John R. 63. Vide Steph. Pl. 126; Grah. Pr. 639; 2 Archb. Pr. 19; Tidd's Pr. 513; Yelv. 152, n.; 18 Eng. Com. Law Rep. 181, n., 189, n.; 1 Marsh. R. 129; l Sell. Pr. 346; Watson on Sher. 221; 2 Saund. 107, n. 2.