Laws and Justice in the Martic League


The legal system in all three republics of the Martic League is similar. The officials responsible for enforcing the laws passed by the City Council are known as the Chief Justice (who runs the courts, keeps the judical records and appoints judges), the Sheriff (who looks after the jails, and civil business problems) and the Watchwarden , who handles the enforcement side of things, by running the city guard. For severe problems like riots, the Marshal and Captain of the City Guard may also become involved,a lthough their function is primarily military. Neither Lacramar nor Irilian has the death penalty. Ilthmar does, but it is only rarely invoked and for the most serious crimes. Criminals condemned to death are often sacrificed at one of the city's temples. For the rest, sentences range from small fines through scourging and imprisonment to forced indenture (usually chained to a galley oar). Sentences can be harsh - up to thirty years in the galleys, which is a virtual death sentence anyway. Prisons tend to be deathtraps also - dank, stifling airless holes. Those in Ilthmar have a particularly bad reputation, being hacked from stone below the waterline, with floors covered in slimy water.

Courts throughout the Martic league also have a similar form. They are composed of six arbiters,and a judge. Only the judge is appointed and they handle both civil and criminal cases. For criminal cases, he picks three of the arbiters from a roster chosen by lot at election time, while the accused can propose three himself, who must be citizens with no outstanding criminal record. For civil cases, each of the two people seeking judgement are allowed to chose three arbiters. Pleaders are allowed to put the case for the accused, and professional pleaders exist, but they are generally despised by judges, so are not always a help.

Court procedure goes like this - the judge will talk to the arbiters and arrange a date for the trial with them. Often it can take quite a long time to to find day that is suitable for all the arbiters. The prisoner or plaintiffs can ask for more time, and the request may or may not be granted - it's up to the judge, although a bribe might help. On the other hand, a prisoner is often held in a nasty cell, so extra time is not always a good thing. On the day decided, the Sheriff's or Chief Justice's men responsible for the trial will inroduce whatever evidence there is - normally this only consists of witnesses - and they get to speak. When they are finished, the prisoner gets to speak and introduce his own evidence. Then the judge thinks about the whole affair and pronounces a sentence, which will be passed if the prisoner is found guilty. Then the arbiters vote - guilty or not. The judge has a vote too, to ensure a tie-breaker. The judge has to fit his sentence fairly to the crime, since if the judge-appointed arbiters feel the sentence is too unfair, they might vote not guilty. It goes without saying that the prisoner-appointed arbiters almost always vote for aquittal, and the judge almost always votes guilty, so it comes down to the three appointed arbiters. In Ilthmar, for criminal trials, there are 12 arbiters - 7 appointed and 5 nominated by the prisoner, but otherwise the procedure is the same. Trials rarely last more than a day - often only an hour or so.

Trials are held in the Palace of Justice - a big one might have a half dozen courtrooms where trials can be held, and Lacramar actually has several Palaces of Justice, which cover different wards of the city. In villages small enough to lack a Palace of Justice, the prisoner is usually put in a stout, wheeled cage and hauled off to the nearest town for judgement - assuming a more summary punishment is not carried out.

For crimes involving theft, operating a business without a licence or business fraud, the usual punishments involve a fine, confiscation of property or (if the guilty party cannot pay) some sort of physical punishment. Beating or whipping are common, and there are platforms in the square outside the Palaces of Justice where this occurs. However other punishment - such as branding, or exposure to the scorching sun are also possible. For assault or threatening assault, a fine is possible - although not usual - and the usual punishments are physical punishment or prison. The same is true for smuggling and forgery. The most serious crimes - arson, couterfeiting, rape, treason, causing serious injury or murder, are almost always punished by prison or forced indenture (often for decades). If the judge thinks it warranted, in many cases a public scourging is tossed in for good measure. Forced indenture could be on a labour gang, chained to a galley oar, or occasionally (for individuals gifted with particular skills) for a period of enforced service - normally compelled with magical sureties such as a Soulhook spell.