Tuesday, April 12, 2011


J is for Justice in the tenth installment of the Deepest Sea A-Z.

Justice and Law in the world of the Deepest Seas are not your Justice and Law.  There are no constitutions, there are no Miranda rights, and no international courts.  That being said, in most countries, life is not some sort of Hobbisan dystopia either, custom and codes of law restrain the abuse of power, and the sure knowledge that death awaits with an executioner's axe keeps crime down as well.

Most of the human countries have a feudal system, in which a lord is given control of a fief and its tenants in return for loyalty to a higher lord, and military service.  This chain continues up until you reach the King, who own the land, and  is beholden only to the Shepard (or in some cases to a High King, or the Emperor of the Elves).  Each link in the chain has control of those under them, down to the lowest peasant or slave.  This chain works in reverse, so that the authority of the feudal overlord increases as one moves from the manor court to the baron's court, to the local magistrate, and then to the court king himself.  Typically, only the local magistrate or the king may authorize enforcement of a sentence for capital punishment, although lower courts may suggest this sentence.

Cities with in the human countries sometimes have a slightly different situation, as many have a charter from the king to be self ruling, typically with a council of elders and an elected mayor.  In these cities, the laws are typically based on the common law of the country, but have an additional layer of rules and laws created by the council.  These local laws may relate to local commerce, or local religious custom. As an example, in Szépes, a man may not wear red tights during the 4th month, as this is seen as offensive.  The punishment is set at a hefty fine of one penny.

The Empire, although much reduced in power and territory has a long and grand legal tradition, starting with the dictates of Remoos, adding law and legal custom under the Republic, and then moving into the long period of decline, where the rule of the Emperor became both more open, and more absolute.  In general, citizens of the Empire (which is to say mostly Elves) have a strictly defined protection from the state, and one another, based on legal precedent, and a limited code of laws.  Citizens retain these rights when outside the empire, although except in the case of client kingdoms, this is impossible for the Empire to enforce.  Slaves, and other non-citizens have very few legal protections, and are not covered by same code of law.

Dwarven Kingdoms are somewhat varied, but typically have a feudal/clan hybrid system, where a king reigns above several clans as their liege lord, the clans are headed by a great noble, who then has their own clan members as vassals.  The system as a whole, is generally flatter than in a human kingdom, as the distance between common citizen and the king is, on the whole, much smaller.  Some dwarven kingdoms are contrarily more despotic for the same reason, where the king maintains his position by fiat and tight rule.

The Orcs have a more autocratic legal system, where the king rules through courts and magistrates appointed by the crown.  Their basis of civil law is religious law, to the point where many of the appointed magistrates are priests recommended for their position by higher priests closer to the crown.  The near totality of the overlap of religious law with civil law means that there are no appeals, and that sentencing is both swift, and usually merciful.  Non-orcs have many fewer legal protections, and those who are not state slaves or orcs have none, save the force of arms or appeals to the local lord for clemency.

Wednesday, more Deepest Sea A-Z with Kékhzmet.

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