One of the weaknesses of the current system is that decision making authority on Kingdom level sanctions is vested solely in two specific individuals. In a given matter they may have significant ties to one or more of the parties involved. They may actually be, or believe themselves to be, the injured party in the matter they are deciding. Yet there is no way they can recuse themselves even if they wish to.
This creates significant potential for conflict of interest, and the appearance of such conflict. When this occurs it is awkward for everyone involved. Even if the Crown acts with scrupulous fairness in the difficult situation, persons dissatisfied with the outcome are able to make complaints of bias and personal persecution.
One solution might be to turn to a Court of Chivalry. However, Corpora says almost nothing about how such a court is to be formed. In some kingdoms, the Crown has absolute discretion to choose who will sit on a Court of Chivalry. Such a court might be, or be perceived as, predisposed to one side or the other in the issue. Also, such courts have negative connotations in some kingdoms, and their name implies a limited jurisdiction to some. And the very fact that Courts of Chivalry are called "Courts" can be intimidating. As it stands, kingdoms have little motivation to consider ways to make their courts more useful. Existing courts are rarely used, so there is little impetus to improve the laws governing them.
In any case, it seemed unwise to compel kingdoms to change their traditional procedures for Courts of Chivalry. Instead, kingdoms would be allowed, but not required, to create mechanisms for assizes, bodies formed with specific procedures to avoid favoring one of the parties in the matter considered. Some Courts of Chivalry might also be assizes, if they met those requirements. You could also have Courts of Chivalry that were not assizes, and assizes that were not Courts of Chivalry.
They would offer the Crown mechanisms for dealing with issues without themselves being enmeshed in personal accusations. Concerns of unfair process could be addressed at the outset rather than resolved on appeal.
The proposal imagines three types of assizes. The least controversial is advisory, and does not exceed the powers currently available to Kingdom courts. It would seem to be, at worst, harmless. Is it worth the trouble? Perhaps. If the explicit provision encourages Kingdoms to consider new and better approaches to Kingdom courts, it may be worthwhile.
The two other types of assizes are increasingly independent, and may be less acceptable to you. You may, of course, use as much or as little of the proposal as you wish.
To answer a specific question raised by previous drafts, the mechanisms for assizes could be modified or repealed in the same way as any other Kingdom law.
PROPOSAL ON ASSIZES
(Replaces Corpora IV.H.9. in draft organizational handbook of July 2000.)
The Crown may establish and call such courts as may be necessary for the governance the of the realm, in accordance with kingdom law and custom.
Definition: For the purposes of Society law, an Assize is a panel selected in a manner intended to insure that it will not favor one of the parties in a matter it is considering.
Composition: Members of an assize should not have a personal interest in the case, or be unable to judge the matter fairly, nor should the composition of an assize to hear a particular matter be under the control of a person with a personal interest in the case. Kingdom law will determine how such a panel is to be selected, provided the requirements set here are met to the satisfaction of the Board.
Matters Heard: Kingdom law shall determine under what circumstances matters may be referred to an assize.
Types of Assizes: Kingdom law may allow any, all, or none of the following types of assizes:
Advisory: the panel may recommend action be taken by Crown or Kingdom officers, or issue a request to the Society Seneschal.
Binding: the panel may recommend action be taken by Crown or Kingdom officers, or issue a request to the Society Seneschal. Realm action is effective once announced and ratified by royalty of the realm. Royalty may chose to impose a lesser sanction than that recommended by the assize, but not a greater sanction.
Independent: to the extent allowed by kingdom Law, the panel may exercise powers delegated to it by royalty. If the Board determines that the panel has imposed a greater royal sanction or realm ban on attendance unfairly or without merit, the sanction will be lifted and the panel that imposed it may be subject to sanctions.
Terminology: Assize is a term in English law for a type of judicial panel, dating back to the 12th century. A court of chivalry that meets all the requirements of an assize may serve as one.
Nothing here is intended to restrict the ability of royalty or officers to form advisory panels to assist them in a decision. However, such panels are not assizes, and royalty and officers remain entirely accountable for decisions they make on their own authority.
Policy on Assizes
Assizes need not recreate the full formality of a modern or medieval court, and needlessly cumbersome procedures are not in the interests of the Society. They need not necessarily meet face to face, and may use such means as conference calls.
Here is one possible method: The realm maintains a list of persons willing to serve on an assize. A person who wishes to call an assize contacts a designated realm officer, such as the Seneschal, or Earl Marshal. That officer asks if the person objects to anyone on the list. They call the defendant, and see if they object to anyone on the list. Then they go to the first three people remaining on the list, and ask them if there is a reason why they need to be excused. If so, they go down the list until they get three. The person with the problem contacts them, and the assize decides if there is a need to go forward. If not, the matter drops. If so, the assize collects the information they need to come to a decision, and make it. Then those three panelists drop to the bottom of the list.
Other possible methods might include the creation of a pool of willing volunteers, from which one party selects one panelist, the other another, and both of these panelists jointly to select a third. Or, panelists might be selected from such a pool, after any with a personal interest in the case have been excused, by geographical convenience or lot. Or the members of the panel might be selected by an officer without a direct interest in the case.
Royalty may appoint potential panelists to a pool from which future assizes might be formed if the appointments are for staggered terms longer than a single reign. This list of methods is not exhaustive, and any method that fulfills the requirements of fairness may be used provided it is approved by the Board or their designated representative. Members of the panel need not be subjects of the realm.
Either royalty or officers might themselves be one of the parties to a dispute. If the task of determining the composition of an assize is given to royalty or a particular officer, there should be alternative procedures for cases in which that person has an interest in the matter.
Please send comments to the Directors at the corporate
PO Box or to
the Grand Council at SCAGC-L@LISTSERV.AOL.COM,
or, better yet, both. You may send postal mail for the GC to:
Cyndi Baskett, P.O. Box 3460, University, MS 38677 (USA)
Janna G Spanne, Nyckelkroken 50, 226 47 Lund, Sweden,
Fax: +46 46 2224531 attn.: Janna G Spanne
You are both welcome and encouraged to post or reproduce this proposal, provided you do so in full without alteration.