The Courts

Metamor Valley and those lands under its sway are governed, at a high level, by a series of legal codes passed down from the Suielman Empire. However, most issues do not rise to such a level and thus fall under Common Law; a series of precedents and traditions of which the Duke of Metamor is the final arbiter. For religious matters there are also Ecclesiastical Laws, and that is left in the hands of the appropriate religious institutions and their believers.

Legal Tiers

Village Justice

The village is the smallest organizational unit described in the legal codes. Villages can vary greatly in size and jurisdiction, but generally come under the sway of some headman, the title of which may differ from one settlement to another, based on local tradition. Local disputes between commoners are settled by traditional means. This is usually a village council or some similar body. High Crimes (e.g. Murder, Rape, Arson, etc.) would be handled by the next level up: the parish.

Parish

A parish is the smallest official unit of civil administration. It can be a single town, a collection of villages, or merely a subdivision of a larger city. General law provides for several positions outside of chartered settlements (towns and cities). Settlements with a charter may explicitly define these powers under a framework other than what is defined below, acting as independent entities, but still beholden to the Duke and Metamor Keep. A good example of how local justice systems can be implemented is the article on the Watch, which describes the legal systems of Euper.

Constable

A volunteer official for keeping the peace in a parish. The office is usually held for a term of only 1 year, though it may be
renewed with no term limit. In large towns or cities, constables may be replaced by members of the Watch, if appropriate, or may be responsible only in specific wards. This is usually determined by the town's charter.

Coroner

Literally the "Crown's Representative". It is not a full-time position, but a coroner is responsible for determining if a death is natural, accidental, or otherwise. They are called upon when there is reason to suspect a death is anything other than natural, and may call up a jury of 12 or more persons to conduct an inquest or post-mortem if necessary. They may accuse a suspect (but need not do so), who is then brought to trial. They are not medical examiners, though may call on the assistance of medical or magical experts as required.

Magistrate

Most magistrates, sometimes called justices of the peace, are volunteers. It may be a local nobleman, or simply landed gentry, though probably not a yeoman or husbandman as they are required to be landowners with enough land-holdings to be able to maintain their houses separately, as the position itself is unpaid. They are not required to hold degrees in law, and their courts are typically for 'petty' crimes.

Counties

In a given county, there would be county courts at the county seat. For legal purposes, Metamor Valley is essentially one county, with the county seat located in Euper. The Keep is set apart as the seat of the Duchy of the Northern Midlands and has its own judicial jurisdiction. County courts can oversee disputes between parishes, high crimes, and appeals from the parish courts.

Judges

Judges preside over the county courts. In contrast to the magistrate, a judge must be trained in law and have shown themselves of superior character.

Kingdom (Duchy)

The highest law in the land is that of the king. In the absence of a king, the Duke of Metamor holds similar power over the Duchy of the Northern Midlands. There are, generally speaking, two courts at this level.

Courts of Assize

The Courts of Assize are an ancient tradition handed down from the Suielman Empire. The bodies are actually wandering courts, set up temporarily in 'Assize Towns' around the kingdom. They are not constant, but are supposed to meet every two to four years (depending on the town, the population, the need, etc.) and are the highest court in the land, save for the King's Court. They are overseen by 3 or 4 chief justices, all judges of the highest order. However, no such court has been held outside of Metamor Valley for many years.

King's Court (Duke's Court)

Known as the Duke's Court, or High Court, the tradition follows that of the King's Court, but as there is no King, cases are instead brought to the Duke. It is actually an extrajudicial court set up at the Duke's pleasure, as he does have the power to overturn any verdict in his demesnes. The court is presided over in the presence of the Duke by the Duke or his representative - often the Prime Minister. One such trial was that of Charles Matthias in "Wagging Tongues Will", Part 22. Cases must be accepted by the Duke and the right to argue in the court is decided per trial; there is no 'right' to practice before the Duke.

Lawyers

Besides the official officers of the law, all of whom serve the state at the pleasure of the Duke, there are also private persons who are involved in the business of law as lawyers.

Lawyers are just that, usually. In the countryside, a lawyer usually apprentices with another lawyer, and is then sent to another district to be tested in law. Alternatively, one can study at an institution (akin to London's Inns of Court) and thereby be accredited. Besides the approval of their peers, lawyers must also apply to a given court to be able to practice law therein. The right to practice law in one court or district does not guarantee the right to practice law before another court. Plaintiffs and Defendants may usually represent themselves before a magistrate or a judge, but this is not considered wise.

Some cities actually divide the duties of the lawyers between solicitors, who work directly as attorneys for their clients, and usually do not argue in the courts directly, and barristers, who usually argue in court at the behest of the solicitors. As in so many times and places, lawyers are engaged for their services, but often despised because of it as well. Nonetheless, it is a respectable career, and may eventually lead to a judgeship or other positions of favor. Law is often a route for studious persons who are not necessarily magically inclined.

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