CoJ Trial Types

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The Chamber of Justice makes use of several different types of trials, as outlined by the Covenant - Article VII, Section 7.03(h). This is in accordance with Article VII, Section 7.02(b) which gives the right to a trial to all members ("In accordance with the provisions of the Covenant, members are afforded a right to trial in relation to charges brought by the Chamber of Justice."). These different trials are used for a variety of situations. In addition, trials are not the only recourse of the Chamber, which is given authority by the Covenant to mediate disputes when possible.

Trial by Jury

A Trial by Jury is often seen as the most ideal form of trial as a members is judged by his peers. However, the Chamber of Justice faces a wide variety of cases, many of which are so minor as to not warrant the labor-intensive process of a jury trial. Therefore, the Covenant outlines exactly when a jury trial may be used - based on severity of the offense, as measured by potential sentence - in Article VII, Section 7.03(i), which states:

Upon entry of a plea, the accused may be offered the choice of type of trial, depending on the range of proposed penalties. For all charges in which the proposed penalty is a maximum of a one-grade Equite or Elder demotion, a two-grade Journeyman or Noviate demotion, a Letter of Reprimand, one year probation, or a combination of the above, a Trial by Justicar will be held unless the Justicar determines that it is appropriate to offer the member an option for a Trial by Jury. For all other charges, the accused will have at least 48-hours to choose between Trial by Justicar and Trial by Jury. In the event that no choice is made by the accused, a Trial by Justicar will be held.

If a Trial by Jury is chosen by a defendant, then the Justicar gathers a jury from the Brotherhood's members to serve, as outlined by Article VII, Section 7.04. A Jury consists of one member of the Dark Council and five other random Equite or Elder members for a total of six members. Two alternates are also chosen in the event of a recusal or absence. The Justicar follows a strict process to ensure an unbiased jury is selected, and the Grand Master oversees this process to guarantee impartiality.

Once arguments are complete, they are submitted to the Jury for review and deliberation. The jury may not make further factual inquiries, but it may seek procedural clarifications from the Justicar. The jury is tasked with reaching a verdict on the guilt or innocence of the defendant based on a preponderance of the evidence; that meaning the accused must be 51% guilty. Five of the six jurors must agree. In the event a decision cannot be reached, the Justicar must dismiss the jury and select another, presenting the same arguments until a decision is reached.

While juries do not participate in the sentencing of a guilty defendant (this is done by the Justicar), they do play a role in expulsions. If a member is found guilty and the Justicar determines that expulsion is the appropriate punishment, a special "Expulsion Jury" is formed. The Justicar must then present his argument for why expulsion is an appropriate punishment, and the jury votes to approve or disapprove the sentence. Unanimity is not required for this jury; a 5/6 vote will result in approval. If the jury votes against expulsion, the Justicar will issue an alternate punishment.

Trial by Justicar

Trial by Justicar is a trial type typically used for more minor violations of the Articles of Conduct and Reprimand, as outlined by Article VII, Sections 7.03(i) which states:

For all charges in which the proposed penalty is a maximum of a one-grade Equite or Elder demotion, a two-grade Journeyman or Noviate demotion, a Letter of Reprimand, one year probation, or a combination of the above, a Trial by Justicar will be held unless the Justicar determines that it is appropriate to offer the member an option for a Trial by Jury.

Defendants who are charged with more serious violations may also choose a Trial by Justicar if they do not wish to be tried by a jury. The Trial by Justicar follows the same procedures as the Trial by Jury, except that the Justicar will consider the evidence and arguments himself instead of passing them on to a jury. The Justicar takes the evidence and arguments under consideration, consults the Right Hand of Justice and Left Hand of Justice for advice, and makes a decision to the guilt or innocence of the defendant. If he finds the defendant guilty, the Justicar then moves on and sentences him as well.

Trial by Tribunal

Previous versions of the Dark Covenant contained a third type of trial, the "Trial by Tribunal." If a defendant chose this option, a Tribunal consisting of the Justicar, Left Hand of Justice, and Right Hand of Justice was formed and presided over the case. After arguments were made, the Tribunal would deliberate and come to a decision on the guilt or innocence of the defendant. This type of trial was removed via Covenant amendment because it was found to be redundant - in a Trial by Justicar, the Justicar consults the Right and Left Hands of Justice for advice, making every Trial by Justicar a de facto Trial by Tribunal. Therefore the Justicar proposed that the Tribunal be removed from the Covenant, and this amendment was approved by the Grand Master and Dark Council.

Trial versus Mediation

Trials are not the only recourse available to the Chamber of Justice. Article VII, Section 7.03(d) states:

In cases that are initiated by a formal complaint by a member, or in other appropriate cases, generally where a complaint involves two members or two units, the Chamber of Justice will attempt to mediate any dispute between the parties. The mediator will generally be the Justicar, but may also be a Hand of Justice, a Star Chamber member, or a Dark Council Member. Attempted mediation does not bar the member from continuing the adjudication under their complaint if mediation fails….Nothing in this provision eliminates the need or the ability of the Grand Master or other Dark Council member to mediate disputes between members as they see fit, including command-level disputes between leaders.

Most complaints which are brought to the Chamber of Justice are dealt with in this manner. The Justicar or a Hand of Justice who receives the complaint will contact the parties involved, gather information regarding the situation, and attempt to mediate the dispute that has arisen. Oftentimes the Chamber will work with Clan and House leaders to resolve minor issues before they get out of hand. However, if a complaint is of a very serious nature, or if attempted mediation is unsuccessful (and there is cause for trial), the Chamber will initiate the Trial process, which will lead to one of the two trial types described in the above sections.

Relevant Dark Covenant Sections

To better understand the source of these policies, browse the Covenant, especially the following sections:

Article VII, Section 7.02(b)m "Right to Trial"
Article VII, Section 7.03(d), "Mediation and Informal Resolution"
Article VII, Section 7.03(h), "Type of Trial"
Article VII, Section 7.03(i), "Choice of Trial"
Article VII, Section 7.04, "Juries"