oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - Brevi note sulla "mors litis" per inattività
Whether a trial came to an end because of inactivity has been debated in Roman law in various ways at different times. The question was also often confused with the extinction of actions because of time constraints. The author firstly considers a number of norms in the XII Tables, which, at a very early period, reflected an interest in the rapid conclusion of trials. Having expressed uncertainty about the situation during the following centuries, he then examines the relevant Augustan legislation, with its distinction between iudicia legitima and imperio continentia, which envisages different terms for the mors litis. In this context, the author refers to various hypotheses propounded in literature on the effects of this reform, with reference to the possibility of re-instituting a suit after the expiry of the permitted period, but not indicating a definite time limit for trials. Under Theodosius II (CTh. 4.14.1) a thirty-year statute of prescription was imposed, which in some cases also determined the maximum duration of suits. The link between limitation and preemption was increased by a Novel of Valentinian III (35.13) who linked the thirty-year period to the duration of suits, eliminating the cases of interruption and suspension envisaged by Theodosius. Finally, Justinian's famous constitution "Properandum" (C. 3.1.13) set the maximum length of trials at three years, but allowed the rule to be avoided in some cases where it was possible to re-institute a suit within the general limits of prescription. The author reaches the conclusion that Roman law never knew the general principle of preemption as the term is understood in modern usage.
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