Constitutional courts of Nova Roma
I. Introduction to the Constitutional Court
Constitutional Court proceedings serve to decide debates and uncertainties about the interpretation of law between various magistrates and officers or other debates between the Comitia, the Senate, the priestly colleges, the magistrates and other officers about their jurisdiction, competence, power and authority. Examples include a debate between two magistrates about who has the authority and competence to make a decision or to issue an edict in a specific question, or a debate about which comitia have the right to make a decision about a specific question.
Only recent actions and disputes may be brought to trial by a Constitutional Court. If more than 6 months have elapsed after the disputed action or decision that is brought to a Constitutional Court, the case shall be automatically dismissed, and no jurisdictional trial may be held about such a petition.
If the involved litigant parties are uncertain about which type of court they should petition with their complaint or case, they shall ask for a general directional ruling from the Praetorian Office, and they shall turn to the jurisdiction of the court as directed.
- 1. Challenges made about the correctness of this general directional ruling shall be addressed to the praetors who shall handle any controversy about the selection of the appropriate court in a form of an administrative court trial, as the court of first instance, for original jurisdiction.
- 2. Appeals against the ruling of the praetor shall be made to the comitia as the court of second instance. Once a verdict is made by the comitia, it shall be considered final.
Regular terms used in the courts of Nova Roma:
|petitio actionis = request for action (formal compliant made to a magistrate)||actor = plaintiff (the one raising the complaint)||reus = the defendant (the accused or opposite party)||litigant parties = the actor and reus of a particular case|
|trinundinum = a period including three nundinae (market days, held every eight days), total 24 calendar days.||poena/poenae = punishment/punishments||Sententia/Sententiae = The expression of opinion of conviction||iudex/iudices = judge/judges|
|advocatus = advocate or barrister|
II. Magisterial jurisdiction of Constitutional cases
- First Level. The Decemviri Stlitibus Iudicandis will serve as judges in the court of first instance. The role of the iudices shall be filled by the decemviri stlitibus iudicandis themselves, their full collegium being the tribunal. They shall agree among each other about who will preside as chairman of the trial, assuming the role of the presiding praetor, and subsequently who is responsible for conducting the trial according to the lex Salvia iudiciaria. They may change the chairman during the course of the trial upon collegial agreement. The formula for the trial is developed based on their collegial decision in place of the praetor. Cases brought before these magistrates may not be rejected.
- Second Level. Appeals against the ruling of the decemviri stlitibus iudicandis, or if a case includes the decemviri as a litigant, it shall be brought to a Praetor as the court of second instance.
- Third Level. Appeals against a ruling of the praetor in these cases shall be made to the Comitia Centuriata as the court of third instance. Once a verdict is made by the comitia, it is considered final.
III. Proceedings of Constitutional Court Cases
All forms of cases primarily follow the process defined within the lex Salvia iudiciaria. The variance in process is generally defined by the magistrate who is presiding or judging the case. The following format is for the most common court of the first instance, a tribunal of the decemviri stlitibus iudicandis.
I. Upon one or more of the Decemviri Stlitibus Iudicandis magistrates receiving a petitio actionis, they will inform all other decemviri and coordinate a notification to the reus (or associated representative) who is informed of the nature of the claim presented against him or her and of the identity of the actor. The decemviri will also coordinate a response to the actor notifying them of the formal receipt of their petition. The magistrates are not able to reject a petitio actionis. Unlike jurisdictional court cases, constitutional court cases are permitted to be held against sitting magistrates.
II. The decemviri then coordinate with each other to form a summary judgement within fourty-eight (48) hours' of notification to the actor and reus. There are no special rules concerning a summary judgement but they can be considered as a rapid abridged trial. None of the standard trial elements are required to be conducted for a summary judgement.
III. At the end of the 48 hours and all litigants have been notified of the summary judgement, there is four possible outcomes:
- A. If all litigant parties accept the summary judgment, the case is closed immediately with the summary judgment enacted as the official decision.
- B. If the reus does not answer to the summary judgment offered by the decemviri within a trinundinum, the decemviri shall judge the case in favor of the actor.
- C. If the actor does not answer to the summary judgment offered by the decemviri within a trinundinum, the decemviri shall dismiss the case.
- D. If all litigant parties answer, but one of the litigant parties refuses the constitutional verdict, the case will proceed to a full trial within a trinundinum after the point the last litigant has answered.
Proceeding to trial
IV. The decemviri will first agree among each other about who will preside as the chairman of the trial, who will fill the role normally conducted by a presiding praetor and act as a primary spokesperson for the tribunal. They are responsible for conducting the trial according to the lex Salvia iudiciaria. They can change the person presiding as the chairman during the trial upon collegial agreement.
V. The decemviri are required to issue the formula for the trial based on their collegial decision. The formula consists of a logical statement that scopes and instructs the full collegium tribunal of thedecemviri, acting as the iudices on the case, on the decision they must take. The formula is structured into four parts: institutio iudicis, intentio, demonstratio and condemnatio. An explanation of each part follows:
- A. INSTITVTIO IVDICIS: This clause confirms the Decemviri Stlitibus Iudicandis, acting as a collegial tribunal, as the iudex to judge the case.
- B. INTENTIO: This part expresses the claim of the actor; i.e., it expresses what the actor seeks by petitioning the decemviri. There are two kinds of intentio: intentio certa, when the facts that lead to the claim by the actor are so obvious that they do not need to be proved, and intentio incerta, when the actor must prove the facts that justify his or her claim.
Example: Intentio Certa: "According to the public statement posted by the magistrate..." Intentio Incerta: "If it is proved that magistrate Ticius unlawfully denied Gaius as a candidate, Ticius shall reverse his decision".
- C. DEMONSTRATIO: This is the clause that further defines an intentio incerta.
- D. CONDEMNATIO: This is the clause that allows the iudices to condemn or absolve.
Note: Sententiae through the Constitutional Court process do not contain poenae, but they may uphold any existing administrative poenae under question in a case.
- Example: "Let the decemviri stlitibus iudicandis be the iudices. If it is proved that magistrate Spurius unlawfully denied citizen Gaius as a candidate to the election, who, upon demonstrating he met the required conditions in accordance with the lex Salvia de prorogatione et cumulatione, we, the decemviri stlitibus iudicandis, shall condemn the magistrate Spurius to reverse his decision and permit citizen Gaius as a candidate, otherwise we shall acquit magistrate Spurius."
- Example (in parts): Institutio Iudicis: "Let the decemviri stlitibus iudicandis be the iudices. Intentio: If it is proved that magistrate Spurius unlawfully denied citizen Gaius as a candidate to the election, Demonstratio: who, upon demonstrating he met the required conditions in accordance with the lex Salvia de prorogatione et cumulatione, Condemnatio: we, the decemviri stlitibus iudicandis, shall condemn the magistrate Spurius to reverse his decision and permit citizen Gaius as a candidate, otherwise we shall acquit magistrate Spurius."
VI. To write down a formula, the decemviri must use one of these sources as a basis:
- A. Lex: the intentio and the condemnatio shall never be in disagreement with the current laws of Nova Roma. They must follow these laws when the situation is explicitly treated by them.
- B. Iurisprudentia: in those cases where the laws do not present an explicit treatment of a certain situation, the decemviri may propose to a praetor that he or she create iurisprudentia (jurisprudence) applicable to all similar situations. Iurisprudentia is an expression of the Imperium of the praetor, and it has the same legislative power as a praetorial edictum. Because of this, laws approved by the Comitia shall always supersede iurisprudentia, and a certain praetor can alter previous iurisprudentia through an official edictum whenever common sense dictates that such a course of action is necessary.
VII. In case of proccedings about a debate regarding the interpretation of the law that are heard by magistrates or other officers, the formula issued by the magistrates shall describe the various possible interpretations, in the form of proposed decreta, each with a different title,
Conducting the trial
VIII. Once the tribunal of decemviri is ready, they are to determine by collegial decision if the trial is going to be conducted under the public scrutiny or, should the dignitas of innocents be at stake, declare a secret summary and move the trial away from public scrutiny. Trials may be live events or may be via some other medium (text or forum post based, email etc.) determined by the tribunal.
IX. Any of the parties can choose to appoint an advocatus (advocate or barrister) to speak for them in front of the iudices, or they can choose to speak by themselves. An advocatus shall not receive a fee for his services.
X. The actor shall present evidence to back his or her demands, and then the reus shall present evidence to back his or her defense. Evidence shall consist of anything that is relevant to the case, including written texts, visual evidence, and the statements of witnesses or experts. In the case of statements, each party shall have the right to ask questions of the witnesses and experts presented by the other party.
XI. The chairman shall be the final judge to determine what pieces of evidence are relevant to the case.
XII. Once both parties have presented their evidence, each party shall have the opportunity to make one final statement in front of the tribunal, with the actor speaking in the first place.
Deciding the sentence
XIII. Once the final statements have been issued by all litigants, the tribunal have seventy-two (72) hours to deliberate the request of the actor. Each of the decemviri on the tribunal issues their vote upon each 'decretum proposal, by adding the title of the decretum proposal (which contains their preferred interpretation) after one of the following judgements:
- A. IUDICO: If a decemvir magistrate concedes to the request of the actor; “I judge the case in favor of the plaintiff.”
- B. NON LIQUET: If a decemvir magistrate cannot decide; “It is not clear.”
XIV. The prevailing decretum proposal shall be accepted as the official interpretation and shall be publicly issued as a decretum of the magistrate which presided over the proceeding, immediately, at the same time when the verdict is issued. Should the votes for NON LIQUET outnumber all of the different IUDICO votes combined, none of the proposed decretum will be enacted, and the case is dismissed, with the possibility of a new proceeding with different proposals of interpretation. If there is a draw in the sentences (two or more decretum proposals winning the vote with equal number of votes), then the presiding magistrate shall select which proposal shall be considered enacted as a decretum.
XV. Once all the tribunal have issued their sententiae, the chairman will immediately inform the parties of the sententia, and shall enforce any outcomes through the issue the proposed decretum.