Lex Cincia

Lex Cincia (The Law of the tribune Marcus Cincius Alimentus) was a plebiscite (law passed by the Plebeian Council) passed in 204 BC, and was intended to reform the legal system of the Roman Republic. One provision of this law forbade lawyers from being compensated after pleading a case. By the time of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, this law was confirmed by a decree of the Roman Senate (senatus consultum) and a penalty of four times the sum received was imposed on the lawyer. This was a part of Augustus' attempt to restore the ancient virtues of the republic. By the time of the emperor Claudius, this law had been modified to allow the lawyer to receive a payment of up to ten thousand sesterces. If he took any sum beyond that, he was liable to be prosecuted. By the time of the emperor Trajan, lawyers were not allowed to be paid until their work was done.

The restrictions on compensation for pleading a case typically concerned the early stages of the case, although some provisions applied beyond these early stages. Some provisions applied to gifts in general. Small gifts could be given freely, but large gifts required certain formalities. One common formality was known as In Jure Cessio, which was an ancient legal doctrine, dating back to the Twelve Tables of 450 BC. In this process, the lawyer would claim the right to the gift in the presence of a Roman Magistrate and the person making the gift. The magistrate would ask the owner for a defense, the owner would not claim one, and the gift would be transferred to the lawyer. This was intended to prevent foolish and hasty gifts of a large amount, and also to prevent fraud. These same provisions applied equally to relatives. The emperor Antoninus Pius introduced an exception in favor of parents and children, and also of other close relatives, although this exception appears to have been subsequently abolished, and then restored by the emperor Constantine in 319.

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