Judgments of the Magistracy
For purposes of precedent, argument in court, and for the betterment of Peltarch's legal community, the following decisions of civil court have been rendered and made public by Peltarch's magistracy. Court records are extremely brief and outline merely scant facts, the result, and the dominant reason for the decision. However, below are the records of public memory, provided orally, and preserved in memory through an oral tradition and word of mouth.
The statute or code of laws for civilians is available here: Peltarch Code of Laws
Not every decision has been preserved in this way, but important decisions, decisions that set a principle, or decisions that provide a reinterpretation of the statute are.
Military tribunal decisions are not preserved, as they are often held in secret or are made without public reasoning. They are considered a measure of internal discipline or punishment upon members of the military, rather than public judgments.
[DM Xanatos Gambit]
Bank of Peltarch v. Crown and Feathered Quill
Feathered Quill, single-share chartered guild, publishes a newspaper circulated in Peltarch containing current events. Crown Princess Elizabeth Fisher, adventurer alias Reyhenna Jorino, published a publication in the Quill with support from the Quill containing, among other subjects, allegations against the Bank of Peltarch. The article is available on file as a matter of public record, and accused the Bank of "duplicitous dealings" and having "swindled the Treasurey." The Bank alleges that the article contains falsehoods that damage its reputation and business, contravening the following articles of the statute:
1.10: Negligent Harm to Another - Acting without regard for a person's safety and, in doing so, directly causes them harm is a violation of the law.
1.16: Fraud - An intentional perversion of the truth, in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right, is a violation of the law.
Even though the only prior decision concerning spoken or written word causing harm is Amraven v. Ludwig, which was decided under article 1.10, that article does not or should not apply in this case.
It is questionable whether the scope of article 1.10 reaches so far as to apply to guilded as opposed to physical persons, that is, business rather than humans or elves. The article mention's a "person's safety," not the safety of a commercial enterprise. The Magistracy questions but does not rule on this point exactly.
Rather, even if article 1.10 does apply to guilded persons, for circumstances of the spoken or written word causing harm, negligence is not the threshold. The threshold is intention and malice. For these reasons article 1.10 does not apply to civil claims of the spoken or written word causing harm.
Article 1.16 is the relevant article. The two-pronged test to hold another liable for non-contractual fraudulent damage caused by written or spoken words under article 1.16 is as follows:
First: Was the act intention; that is to say, was it conducted with malice?
If that step is met, then second: Was the act a perversion of truth; was it a falsehood; a lie?
Applying the test to these facts, the Quill and the Crown meet the first test. The Crown, that is, Elizabeth Fisher, admitted in court that she wants the Bank out of business. It is clear on the facts that there is no love lost between the two parties and, in any event, Elizabeth Fisher makes evident her intentions to figuratively run the bank into the ground.
The second prong, however, is not met. The record shows that the Bank withheld certain information from the Crown during its arrangements regarding the free land to be doled in the Residential District. The Bank knew of the ownership of one particular lot, information which it withheld from the Crown and was indeed allowed and permitted under law to withhold. There is no good faith obligation to assist a co-contractor in finding information or making enlightened decisions at the time of negotiation. Negotiate at your own peril is the rule.
Nonetheless, even though "swindled" is in certain ears synonymous with fraud, it is not a legal allegation. More particularly, "swindled" and "duplicitous dealings" as mentioned in the paper are not legal allegations. They are mere factual allegations. And, more importantly, withholding information is arguably "duplicitous." For this reason the publication itself is not a falsehood, per se.
The Magistracy caveats this decision by remarking that written or spoken words that do cause harm and do meet the threshold of the test described above may be found liable.
. . .
The parties have agreed to append facts to this decision. The Magistracy has received the following two documents to append, without remarking on the veracity of their contents.
Statement of Fact from Bank of Peltarch
The Princess Elizabeth Fisher's perils are of her own doing. The Princess has played fast and loose with her arrangements, and then grew frustrated when her speed and lax diligence devolved into haste and recklessness. It is not the Bank's fault that she refused to conduct even the most basic historic check on whether a property was in fact even owned. As a sophisticated and well-resourced entity, the Crown should be responsible for looking over its own documents. That includes due regard for the property in question, the lot of land, which the Bank is in the paper accused of duplicity or swindling. There was no duplicity or swindling. The fault in question is not duplicity. The fault in question is carelessness -- and this fault was not the Bank's. Any public allegations against the Bank in this regard are dishonest at best and a lie at worst.
Statement of Fact from the Crown Princess Elizabeth Fisher
The Magistracy notes the following publication, published the next day of the judgment, by the Quill and the Princess.
Crown v. Meadow
Ravos Calchais, Prosecutor.
Salin Ashald, Defense.
The accused, a mercenary known as "Meadow," fired an enchanted arrow that killed the Docks Union leader Wilkes during a public speech at the docks concerning the Docks Union's expansion into the Commerce and Residential Districts. Wilkes' body disintegrated due to the arrow's magical properties, notably magic cast upon striking comparable to that of Finger of Death and Disintegration. The bow and arrow were recovered, and analyzed by law enforcement. Evidence indicated that Meadow did in fact fire the arrow that killed Wilkes, but from a different bow. Nevertheless, Meadow was subsequently apprehended and gaoled. Meadow stood accused of the following charges:
"One of the following, in the alternative, or 'assault with a deadly weapon.'
1.01: Premeditated Murder - Plotting and executing a plan to kill a person is a violation of the law.
1.02: Non-Premeditated Murder - Killing a person without premeditation but with intent to kill is a violation of the law.
1.04: Involuntary Murder - Killing a person by inflicting harm upon them, without intent to kill, is a violation of the law.
1.09: Assault - Intentionally harming another person is a violation of the law."
D'Arneau M. thanked the litigants, notably Prosecutor Calchais and Defense Counsel Ashald, for their sound and complete assessment of the case at bar, including any potential gaps in the relevant case law. Counsel Calchais provided a complete and useful summary of all relevant facts applicable under the statute. Counsel Ashald provided a surgical assessment of potentially contradictory case law, and the means to reconcile that case law.
D'Arneau M. clarified the two types of prosecutor, and Prosecutor Calchais' role in the affair. Crimes in which the Crown has a vested interest are prosecuted, at the Crown's discretion, through Crown prosecutors. These include crimes against the Crown itself. All other crimes are prosecuted through either the Magisterial inquisitive process, that is, without a prosecutor at all, or, alternatively, through a prosecutor recruited and compensated by the Magisteracy. The former type of prosecutor is called a Crown Prosecutor. The latter, a Public Prosecutor.
Second, D'Arneau M. created a new procedure to be followed during court proceedings. Dubbed "Voice of the Commonfolk," this phase follows the Defense's claims and is conducted just before sentencing in order to ascertain the perceptions, will, and opinion of the common man and woman. Several spoke, including Isolde Garibaldi, Chea, Lady Varya, Nathelin, Vick Blake, Thaurilla, and Scott Grimm. The court thanked these voices, which provided needed context. D'Arneau M. further indicated that the nature of the events aside from the scope of this trial are not in the court's purview to weigh upon.
Third, D'Arneau M. clarified the evidentiary value of testimony produced from a Zone of Truth spell. Testimony produced under a Zone of Truth does not make proof of its contents. The reliability of the spell was called into question, and cannot replace the ordinary evidentiary process of written testimony through affidavits and oral testimony in courts. It can, however, be used to supplement and lend credibility to such evidence. Note, though, that this is a mere supplement, and is subject to rebuttals, cross-examinations and further assessment.
Fourth, D'Arneau M. reconciled contradictory case law. One case, decided by Borodin M. (Crown v. Ashwell), ruled that accidental deaths under statute article 1.04 do not require any mental guilt, awareness, or voluntariness, as a black letter and strictly textual interpretation of the statute's wording. Another case, decided by Greywing M., Crown v. Brookton, ruled that accidental killing under statute article 1.04 requires a voluntary action on the part of the killer, that crystallizes in a decision to act. The "involuntariness" indicated in the statute is the involuntariness of the death, not the involuntariness of the act itself. It further requires a guilty mental state, notably recklessness. The Magistrate endorsed the following interpretation of recklessness. It is, for example, prudent to swing a sword at a target dummy when no one is nearby. It is negligent to swing it when someone is nearby, which may strike them. It is reckless, however, to swing it at the nearby person, without intending to strike them, because the strike becomes all the more likely. D'Arneau M. endorsed this Greywing interpretation of article 1.04.
Applying these assessments to the case at hand, D'Arneau M. found that the accused, Meadow, did not voluntarily fire the arrow, because she was under the supernatural and magical influence of an unidentified third party, allegedly a young boy with pale skin and sharp teeth, suspected to be inhuman. Evidence produced by the Voice of the Commonfolk portion of the hearing indicated that this individual may be one of the traitor Far Scout Smoke's remaining lieutenants, now still at large.
For these reasons, D'Arneau M. acquitted Meadow of all charges, including the charge under section 1.04 of the statute.
Crown v. Lady Maurina
Crown represented by Roslyn Underhill, appointed by Thom Tiller
Lady Maurina represented by Nate Wingates
Note: this summary submitted by Nate Wingates for Magisterial approval.
King George, a King without a direct heir to his Crown, engaged three women in romantic courtship for the purpose of producing an heir. One of the three women, Lady Elisa, plotted to kill another of the three, Lady Aino, by casting the "Finger of Death" spell upon her. At this point the facts, in the eyes of the Magistracy, become less clear. Lady Maurina allegedly learned of this plot, and allegedly planted a ring of spell reflection upon Lady Aino through subterfuge. Roslyn Underhill, and several other adventurers, learned of these alleged facts and produced evidence found in a magical crystal capable of recording audio and visual input through a short range scrying spell, and re-producing the audio and visual input through an illusion spells akin to "greater image" or "control sound" spells. Upon this crystal a confession was allegedly recorded. A detective's report was also submitted.
At issue were the following provisions of the statute.
1.01: Premeditated Murder - Plotting and executing a plan to kill a person is a violation of the law. Recommended Sentence: Life in prison.
1.03: Conspiracy to Commit a Murder - One who does not participate directly in a murder, but help plots or mastermind it, is in violation of the law. Recommended Sentence: 15 year to the death penalty.
1.13: Obstructing Justice - Failing to help in the apprehension of a criminal by concealing evidence or information. -Recommended Sentence: Up to 5 years
D'Arneau M. held that Lady Maurina was not guilty of any charges.
On the issue of evidence, Counsel Wingates argued that the recorder crystal produced by the Crown to prosecute Lady Maurina should not be admitted into evidence due to the fickle, unreliable, and potentially misleading nature of the recorder crystal itself. As a conduit for illusion magic, the magic of deception, Counsel argued it should not ever be admissible as evidence in a civil court. D'Arneau M. only partially agreed, and noted that such crystals may be admitted if accompanied by supporting evidence such as additional witnesses, or other forms of evidence that immediately and directly corroborate the actual contents of the spell crystal. For these reasons, the evidence of the crystal recording was not accepted by the Court.
On the issue of murder, D'Arneau M. further emphasized that the evidence (with or without the recorder crystal) did not prove the element of intention (i.e. the intention to kill) necessary to trigger articles 1.01 and 1.03. D'Arneau M. contemplated that Lady Maurina may or may not be guilty of negligent murder under article 1.05, but that this article was not charged (and nor was the Defense given an opportunity to defend itself), and so such a charge is immaterial for the judgment.
On the issue of obstruction of justice, the Crown alleged that Lady Maurina ought be culpable for failing to inform the guard of the plot to murder. Though the remarks from the Magistrate were scant in this regard, the holding and lack of recognized guilt suggests there was an implicit acceptance in the Defense Counsel's argument that we cannot hold Lady Maurina culpable for not treating Lady Elisa's remarks such as "I want her dead," or "I want to kill her" completely literally in the context of a lovers' quarrel. The utility of this specific reasoning as precedent is not particularly clear, given the Magistracy's relative silence about it during the holding.
Crown v. Holloway (Represented by Quince Harkreath)
After an attack on Herald Fisher (the King's brother) several days ago, and broad suspicions that the military was somehow involved, the King ordered a sweeping investigation into military practices. The order provided sweeping investigatory powers to Vick Blake and Reyhenna Jorino, including the power to Gaol, and the power to use lethal force should the investigated military officials resist the Gaoling.
In the aftermath of this investigation, former Guard Captain Oscar Halbrook, former Defender Captain Gom, private arms dealer Oliver Holloway and his counsel, Quince Harkreath, were Gaoled. It is said that Halbrook has been sentenced to death by the military tribunal. Whether he will appeal to the King is unclear. Gom has been sentenced to Gaoling until the investigation is over.
Quince Harkreath successfully appealed to the King and to the Magistracy for a Civil Trial, given that neither of the two private citizens are military and never in the history of Peltarch has a military tribunal (rather than the civil Magistrates) decided an allegation of treason against a private citizen. The King approved the appeal. The civil trial was speedily and summarily dismissed in Holloway's favour by Magistrate Vlana Borodin, who noted, memorably:
"First, on the matter of my civil jurisdiction. Counsel Harkreath has successfully demonstrated clear precedent that military tribunals have no authority over civilians that are Peltarch citizens. Never once in the Jewel Monarchy's history have we allowed military tribunals, and military law, to decide the fate of civilians. Military tribunals and military law are backed with fewer procedural safeguards and a loose standard of proof that is not applicable to a civilian. For example, members of the military, facing trial by military law, do not have the right to counsel. While there are some cases of military trials that did allow for the right to counsel, many have not, due to the delicate and expedient nature of military tribunals. All of this, whereas the Peltarch magistracy has always allowed representation by legal counsel. Furthermore, Quince Harkreath successfully argued that the very premise of a military tribunal to decide the fate of a civilian sniffs of influences that defy the Peltarchian monarchy's rejection of Banite tyranny, which is enshrined in legislation under article 1.19 of the code of laws, which reads:
1.19: Heresy - worship of, or membership in, the Church of Bane or Cyric is a crime. Recommended Sentence: Banishment to death penalty.
For these reasons, Peltarch's Magistracy assumes jurisdiction over this case.
Second, on the matter of treason under section 1.00 of the code of laws. That section reads:
1.00: Traitorist Act - Betraying the City of Peltarch by giving information, aiding, or conspiring with an enemy faction of the city is a violation of the law. Recommended Sentence: Death Penalty
The evidence in this case is scant. The Crown's appointed investigators relied almost entirely on intuition and suspicion, rather than hard and clear indicators of treason on the part of Ser Oliver Holloway and Quince Harkreath. Given the dire situation and Blake and Jorino's mandate by their Crown, it is difficult to hold either of them in bad faith or blame. Nonetheless, it is equally true that we cannot Gaol or execute citizens for treason, on mere allegations and without clear evidence of that very treason. Some documentation that was found during the investigation suggests that Holloway sold weaponry to the traitorous soldiers. It is true that, as a dealer of weaponry and armor, Ser Holloway sold weapons to the traitorous soldiers. But it must be remembered that it is very common for the Crown to contract civilians to provide equipment to its military. As well, Holloway sold this weaponry to the traitorous soldiers while they were part of the Peltarchian military, as a part of a sale to all of Peltarch's military. Are we to Gaol every enchanter, cobbler, leather-worker, bread-maker, inn-keeper and anyone else who provided equipment, attire or useful services to these traitors while they were employed by the military? I think not. For these reasons, the charges of treason against Oliver Holloway and Quince Harkreath are summarily dismissed."
[DM Xanatos Gambit]
Crown v. Hemington (No legal Counsel)
Rumors abuzz in the legal community about Shannon d'Arneau's recent judgment of an alleged traitor and Peltarch Autonomist supporter, Professor Hemington of the Bardic College. The Autonomists are a secret group of individuals who believe Peltarch should return to government by Senate, and deny the legitimacy of the King's authority to govern. The professor taught courses which many now-convicted bardic Autonomists attended (including their former leader, Arch Weyland). The courses detailed a rosy picture of Senate-era Peltarch, the need for a diversity of political thought, and many criticisms of monarchy as a system of governance. The professor was dragged into court with a black eye by several guards, which called for an expedited hearing. The professor did not appear to have legal counsel.
The code of laws reads:
1.00: Traitorist Act - Betraying the City of Peltarch by giving information, aiding, or conspiring with an enemy faction of the city is a violation of the law.
Magistrate d'Arneau acquitted the professor, and provided what some call a new interpretation of the "treason test" -- the steps and evidence that must be proven and argued in order to demonstrate treason in a civil court to satisfy article 1.00 of the Code of Laws. This new test has created quite a few conversations in the legal community. All agree that the test has been tightened and made more difficult to satisfy. Merely affiliating with those convicted of treason, even if during the act of treason itself, is not sufficient to ground an allegation of treason by 'aiding,' 'giving information,' unless it can be proven that the accused provided information that is immediately and directly useful or helpful to an ongoing and current attempt to overthrow the Crown. Furthermore, neither public nor secret criticism of the Crown or monarchy in conversations or lectures is grounds to satisfy the 'conspiracy' prong of treason.
Royalists claim it has been tightened too much, and point out that d'Arneau himself was appointed by the Senate, leading some to all but suggest bias. Some royalists have argued that the bard college professor should have been tried under a military tribunal, like Arch Weyland. The less vocal members of the legal community have less to say about the decision, and whatever the so-called Autonomists are saying is not well known or heard, given the low amount of support for their cause.
D'Arneau's judgment was coupled with disapproving remarks about the severity with which the guards treated the professor, the liability and vulnerability of citizens to the Crown under an alternative and looser interpretation of the treason test, and a note that if the Crown truly wishes to hold its citizens to such a high standard of loyalty, it is free to change the statute. The King has yet to overrule the decision, and no appeal has been filed by the prosecution. Sufficient time has passed that the legal community doubts the decision will be overruled, given the tacit acceptance by the Crown of the decision.
A party was held at the Bardic College afterward to honor the professor's freedom, attended by Berlinne Toews and several other high profile bards and, some say, Inquisitor Northman and Reyhenna Jorino (who is a well known royalist).
[DM Xanatos Gambit]