Author Topic: Imperial Legal Theory  (Read 2810 times)

Offline DapperAnarchist

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Imperial Legal Theory
« on: January 28, 2010, 10:23:25 PM »
I was thinking, in dribs and drabs, about the basis for Imperial law. As some will already know, there exist various bases for law in different jurisdictions. There's decree law, whether parliamentary or dictatorial, there's common law of a couple different types (english common law is made by Judges, working from precedent, as well as the concept of "common sense", often referred to [in legal theory and all] as "the man on the Clapham Omnibus", where as Brehon Law is similar, but rest more in the populace's willingness to enforce a particular Brehon's decision than what the Brehon said).

Imperial Law, it seems to me, has one basis - the "Charter". The Emperor is the Sovereign of the Imperium, the ultimate owner and rights-holder of all that exists with the Imperium. If you live in the Imperium, your property belongs to the Emperor, and He grants you the right to use it. Out of this legal concept of "granting" grows the concept of the Charter - a legal document signed by the Emperor or His representative to grant a set of powers to the Charter-holder. This already appears in the Chartist Captains and the Trading Charter held by Rogue Traders. However, I think it exists in all sorts of other places - Imperial Commanders would be given a Charter to rule over a planet, Sector Lords one to rule over a Sector, Manufactoria owners would be granted one in the name of the Adeptus Mechanicus to produce goods, so one and so forth.

So, the Charter grants the various servants of the Imperium their legal powers. Who grants those Charters? Well, you have the Emperor - the Sovereign of the Imperium. You also have various representatives, many of whom sit on the Council of Terra. However, I would argue you also have the Inquisition, and that all of these are "Peers of the Imperium", a phrase that appears in the Codex Imperialis. They exist as legal equals of the Emperor, in terms of their power over the granting of Charters, though their position as Peers is dependent on the Emperor’s acceptance of that (being nine tenths dead, he’s pretty accepting).

So… what is the Lex Imperialis if the basis of Imperial Law is the Charter, I hear you ask? Simple. Its contract law – heavily enforced contract law, but still. Take a Charter, and you sign up to the stated conditions (pay the tithe, do not associate with the Heretic, the Alien, or the Traitor, give the Black Ships access) and to the Imperial conditions that go along with it, but may not be stated. While the Lex Imperialis has moved beyond simply enforcing the Charters, that is still its basis, and even when it enforces behaviour among the masses, that is based on their existence as subjects of the Sovereign. If I managed to leave the Imperium for a non-Imperial territory, I would no longer be subject to the Charters, and would be out of the jurisdiction of the Lex Imperialis. Not to say that there aren’t other options, but they’re mostly “military”, not legislative or enforcement options…
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Offline Gnaeus Conlitor

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2010, 11:22:16 AM »
Military law is laid out in the Tacita Imperialis. I'd imagine, given the military focus of the Imperium, civilian law is simply adapted from military law. Certainly a military court would be considered higher than a civilian one. In addition to this is the whole question of Eclesiastical Law. I'd imagine the Eclesiarchy, though restricted by the reforms of M36 will still have a great deal of legal power: Power that may overide Military and Civilian Courts. Also there is the Adminstratum. It wouldn't be much of a laberynthine beraucracy without a legal punch of some description. 
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Offline precinctomega

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2010, 04:29:25 PM »
I like the concept very much, DA, and might plunder it for future fan-fic...

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Offline DapperAnarchist

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2010, 02:34:36 PM »
Gnaeus - each of those laws constitues the Feudal laws laid down by authorised Charter Holders/Peers. Were those Charters/Peerdoms to be removed, those laws would no longer apply. However, in the two cases you mentioned (the Administratum probably is subject to the Lex Imperialis, as the Adeptus Arbites are [I believe] a division of the Administratum), only the Emperor would be in a position to remove the Peerdom and subsidiary Charters.

PO - woo! Compliments from PO! This is good.

After reading the Badab War Campaign Book from BoLS, I've been wondering if Space Marine Masters would be Peers or Charterholders... They describe Master Huron as a Peer of the Imperium, and it would fit with their near-Inquisitorial legal power (separate from all the other legal powers, entitled to authorise the use of Exterminatus)... Are there any GW references, does anyone know?
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Offline N01H3r3

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2010, 10:16:53 PM »
After reading the Badab War Campaign Book from BoLS, I've been wondering if Space Marine Masters would be Peers or Charterholders... They describe Master Huron as a Peer of the Imperium, and it would fit with their near-Inquisitorial legal power (separate from all the other legal powers, entitled to authorise the use of Exterminatus)... Are there any GW references, does anyone know?
Not quite GW, but GW-approved:

Rogue Trader (the RPG, not 1st edition 40k) has this to say about, well, Rogue Traders, on page 322:

"The Warrant [of Trade] also elevates the recipient to the highest of ranks to which a servant may rise, granting him equivalent status with such men and women as Imperial Commanders, Inquisitors and Space Marine Chapter Masters. They are granted the power to deal with such peers of the Imperium as equals, with the Warrant allowing them to call upon what aid they can negotiate."

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Offline Myriad

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2010, 12:21:22 AM »
Chapter masters, in much the same way as the inquisition, have their own ways and laws which under normal circumstances take precedence over other legal systems.

Dapper Anarchistgives a good summary of imperial law.  It strikes me that it is, above all, pragmatic.  The imperium is simply too big to micromanage and so long as a governer pays his tithes and is loyal to the emperor (and so long as the emperor is central, the imperial faith is pretty elastic), they don't much care as to the system of government.  It's quite possible (though not mentioned in any fluff), to imagine pockets even of democracy, tolerated so long as the base conditions are met.
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Offline DapperAnarchist

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2010, 12:59:08 AM »
To account for things under my model -

1) what the RTRPG seems to say is that Rogue Traders aren't Peers, in the sense of title, but have Charters (called Warrants) that entitle them to the same freedoms (though perhaps without some of their powers - like what I'm now calling the Power of Issue - the power to grant a Charter)

2) A democratic Governorship would involve the planet holding the Charter as a body, not just the sequence of Governors. The planet is entitled to selection of an Imperial Commander within certain limitations (no felons, mutants, witches, heretics, traitors, priests, etc), and they represent the planet under the Charter, rather than being the Charter holder.
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Offline Kallidor

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2010, 02:05:07 AM »
I don't recall if it is mentioned elsewhere but White Dwarf Ninety-Seven, which is primarmily concerned with the Ultra-Marines, describes the process by which a Space Marine Chapter acquires the title of Adeptus Astartes. When a Chapter gains control of a world it gains the title of Imperial Commander and presumably it is the Chapter Master only who holds this title, becomes a Priest of the Adeptus Terra and is recognised as Adeptus or Adept by equals and the Chapter then becomes Adeptus Astartes rather than just Legiones Astartes. I would imagine that this would then give such a Chapter Master the right to grant charters along the same lines as any other Imperial Commander.

This might also explain why some Chapters and Chapter Masters have more authority than others; they have superior charter granting capabilities. It would also make such a Chapter have much closer ties with the Imperium as they are now part of it unlike non Adeptus Chapters which, whilst without the power of Adeptus Chapters, have a certain autonomy as they operate alongside but not within the Imperium.


I don't see why any form of government could not work within the Imperium or that the Imperium would even care. As with Chapters, any non-autocratic government would hold the title and would be invested with the powers the title confers. The real problem would be, once elected, what is to stop the government simply declaring that now they hold the power of the charter that they are simply going to stay in power for as long as they want? Afterall, the democratic convention would be one for that world only, otherwise it would require the Imperium to arbitrate which seems a bit daft when they don't enforce democracy on Imperial Commanders right across the board. What would a democratic population actually be able to do? If they rebelled the Guard would turn up the next day and crush the rebellion so that would be a lot easier to have autocratic governments.
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Offline Vladimir

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2010, 03:28:21 PM »
Kallidor- each charter may well be different. the charter for a democratic planet may well have certain clauses forbidding the holder from over-riding the democratic proccess in the way you discribe. After all, once a comander is sitting there going 'power, power, POWER! AHAHAHAHAHA!', it's only a matter of time before some body (arbites, sororitas, inquisition, astartes or whoever) goes after them.
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Offline MarcoSkoll

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2010, 03:36:56 PM »
...once a commander is sitting there going 'power, power, POWER! AHAHAHAHAHA!'
I've just had this really weird vision of Jeremy Clarkson as a planetary governor.
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Offline Gnaeus Conlitor

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2010, 05:18:18 PM »
Any planet run by Jeremy Clarkson would quickly fall. Either by catostrophic environmental failure or anarchy on the roads.
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Offline Adlan

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2010, 01:27:29 PM »
Why am I now envisioning a top gear themed speed freaks army?

Offline MarcoSkoll

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2010, 03:06:36 PM »
Because an Ork Warboss in his customised wartrukk holding the galaxy's longest power slide while talking about the price and how there was no room in the boot would be awesome.
But I'm not sure how popular the "Ambitious but Rubbish" army special rule would be.

I find the idea of transplanting modern day celebrities into 40k a wonderfully amusing one. Such as the suggestion that Tenacious D should be Noise Marine heroes. They'd get the special ability Mind Bullets, which can kill a yak from 200 yards away.
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Offline Brother_Brimstone

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2010, 04:07:43 PM »
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Offline Gnaeus Conlitor

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Re: Imperial Legal Theory
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2010, 08:24:26 PM »
How about Boris Johnson as a planetary governor?
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