As promised last week, there's more about the Yewlish court system to discuss. Today we'll look at the procedure of the Hallmoot (and the Hundred Courts, because they follow the same procedural system).
First, the entire village (or those attending the Hundred Court) arrive in the hall, or wherever the court is being held. Hundred courts are commonly held outside because of the large numbers of people involved. The knight (Hallmoot) or justicar (Hundred Court) opens the court by saying something similar to the formula: "This moot has been gathered to dispense the lord's (or the king's) justice. Let all who have cause come forth and make their complaint."
For a civil complaint, the complainant comes forward, states their name, states their cause of action and their harm. The presiding authority then asks if the defendant is present in the moot. If he is not, the authority will issue a writ of capias through his pronotary (or the local cleric in a Hallmoot). This authorizes the arrest of the defendant, who must be presented to the next mooting. If the defendant is not present on the following mooting, it is likely the authority will declare them to be outlaw if they are commoners.
All criminal complaints that do not implicate the Rule of Felony will be presented in the exact same way as civil complaints. In some cases, the defendant will already be arrested and held prior to the mooting. The complainant may be a private party, and will sometimes be a party with an official role (for example, the Woodward often brings allegations of poaching).
The complainant proceeds as the prosecution in a criminal complaint not brought under the Rule of Felony.
The Rule of Felony
This is a fairly new rule in Yewland. The Rule of Felony makes it a crime to break the king's peace in certain situations, and thus the court itself (as the justicar or knight-judge) may proceed as prosecutor against the criminal. The Rule of Felony is invoked by the justicar or judge in the following way: "Are there any felons here present in the court, or do any know of them?" Generally, the pronotary, bailiff, or other official will offer the presence of a felon and then the proceeding continues against that person.
Trial may proceed in one of four ways. Eligibility for each type of trial depends on status and crime charged. Compurgation is the default method of trial for non-capital crimes and all civil cases.
Trial by compurgation relies on the oath-swearing of oath-helpers who support the two parties. In a a civil case, commoners bringing suit or complaint against one another must produce six oath-takers each to support their claim. In non-capital criminal cases, the complainant and defendant must present twelve oath-takers unless excused to six by the court.
The judge is required to weigh the oaths of each oath-taker and determine whether they are sufficient as a matter of law. Deficient oaths or oaths which contradict each other may prompt the judge to rule that the complainant or the defendant lose their case. Generally, however, each party will produce a number of oath-takers and, because the burden of proof lies on the moving party, the moving party will lose.
If all oath-takers swear and the moving party wins, it, as a matter of law, means that the judge has found the defendant's oath-takers deficient in some way. It is possible that the judge will allow the defendant to find more oath-takers to make up the deficiency or simply pass judgment.
Trial by ordeal may be requested by any party in a civil or criminal case or imposed in a civil or criminal case that is non-capital at the discretion of the judge.
Trial by combat may be requested by any noble party in any case. It may never be imposed by the court.
Trial by jury is required (but may be transformed into a trial by ordeal or combat) in any case of a capital crime. Trial by jury will cause the court to select twelve jurors who know the case and the people involved. They will be left to debate the question and determine what happened and what the customary law is. The judge will then rule on the finding.
Advocates are not permitted to practice their craft in Hallmoots. They are permitted to practice their craft in the Hundred Courts, the Commune Courts, the Consistory Courts, and the Royal Assize.