What is Barratry?

Legal Definition
Barratry (/ˈbærətri/ BA-rə-tree) is a legal term with several meanings. In common law, barratry is the offense committed by people who are "overly officious in instigating or encouraging prosecution of groundless litigation" or who bring "repeated or persistent acts of litigation" for the purposes of profit or harassment. It is a crime in some jurisdictions. If litigation is for the purpose of silencing critics, it is known as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). Jurisdictions that otherwise have no barratry laws may have SLAPP laws.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
Crimes. In old law French barat, baraterie, signifying robbery, deceit, fraud. In modern usage it may be defined as the habitual moving, exciting, and maintaining suits and quarrels, either at law or otherwise. 1 Inst. 368; 1 Hawk. 243.

2. A man cannot be indicted as a common barrator in respect of any number of false and groundless actions brought in his own right, nor for a single act in right of another; for that would not make him a common barrator.

3. Barratry, in this sense, is different from maintenance (q. v.) and champerty. (q. v.)

4. An attorney cannot be indicted for this crime, merely for maintaining another in a groundless action. Vide 15 Mass. R. 229 1 Bailey's R. 379; 11 Pick. R. 432; 13 Pick. R. 362; 9 Cowen, R. 587; Bac. Ab. h. t.; Hawk. P. C. B. 1, c. 21; Roll. Ab. 335; Co. Litt. 368; 3 Inst. 175.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
Maritime law, crimes. A fraudulent act of the master or mariners, committed contrary to their duty as such, to the prejudice of the owners of the ship. Emer. tom. 1, p. 366; Merlin, Repert. h. t.; Roccus, h. t.; 2 Marsh. Insur. 515; 8 East, R. 138, 139. As to what will amount to barratry, see Abbott on Shipp. 167, n. 1; 2 Wash. C. C. R. 61; 9 East, R. 126; 1 Str. 581; 2 Ld. Raym. 1349; 1 Term R. 127; 6 Id. 379; 8 Id. 320; 2 Cain. R. 67, 222; 3 Cain. R. 1; 1 John. R. 229; 8 John. R. 209, n. 2d edit.; 5 Day. R. 1; 11 John. R. 40; 13 John. R, 451; 2 Binn. R. 274; 2 Dall. R. 137; 8 Cran. R. 39; 3 Wheat. R. 168; 4 Dall. R. 294; 1 Yeates, 114.

2. The act of Congress of April, 30, 1790, s. 8, 1 Story's Laws U. S. 84, punishes with death as piracy, "any captain or mariner of any ship or other vessel who shall piratically and feloniously run away with such ship or vessel, or any goods or merchandize to the value of fifty dollars; or yield up such ship or vessel to any pirate or if any such seamen shall lay violent hands upon his commander, thereby to binder or prevent his fighting in defence of his ship, or goods, committed to his trust, or shall make a revolt in the said ship."
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
In maritime law. An act committed by the master or mariners of a vessel, for some unlawful or fraudulent purpose, contrary to their duty to the owners, whereby the latter sustain Injury. It may include negligence, if so gross as to evidence fraud. Marcardier v. Insurance Co., 8 Cranch, 49, 3 L. Ed. 481; Atkinson v. Insurance Co., 65 N. Y. 538; Atkinson v. Insurance Co , 4 Daly (N. Y.) 16; Patapsco Ins. Co. v. Coulter, 3 Pet. 231, 7 L. Ed. 659; Lawton v. Insurance Co., 2 Cush. (Mass.) 501; Earle v. Rowcroft, 8 East, 135.

Barratry is some fraudulent act of the master or mariners, tending to their own benefit, to the prejudice of the owner of the vessel, without his privity or consent. Kendrick v. Delafield, 2 Caines (N. Y.) 67.

Barratry is a generic term, which includes many acts of various kinds and degrees. It comprehends any unlawful, fraudulent, or dishonest act of the master or mariners, and every violation of duty by them arising from gross and culpable negligence contrary to their duty to the owner of the vessel, and which might work loss or injury to him in the course of the voyage insured. A mutiny of the crew, and forcible dispossession by them of the master and other officers from the ship, is' a form of barratry. Greene v. Pacific Mut. Ins. Co.., 9 Allen (Mass.) 217.

In criminal law. Common barratry is the practice of exciting groundless judicial proceedings. Pen. Code Cal. § 158; Pen. Co.de Dak. § 191; Lucas v. Pico, 55 Cal. 128; Com. v. McCulloch, 15 Mass. 229. Also spelled "Barretry," which see. In Scotch law. The crime committed by a judge who receives a bribe for his judgment. Skene; Brande.
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
The offence of practicing the excitement of quarrels or litigation. See 36 Am. Rep. 579. A grossly negligent or unlawful act of a master or crew of a ship, without the owner’s authority. See 3 L. Ed. (U. S.) 481.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary