by Max Barry

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by The Regional Nation of The Northern Light. . 124 reads.

Court Rules and Procedures

The North Pacific Handbook

These rules are established by the Court and are binding on all matters brought before it. Amendments to this document may be passed by a majority vote of the Justices.

Chapter 1: Criminal Trials

Section 1: Indictments

  1. All criminal charges brought before the Court must be presented in the form of an indictment.

  2. All indictments must be publicly accepted or rejected, and the Court will endeavor to do so within 72 hours of filing.

  3. An indictment may be rejected for procedural or substantive reasons, and the reasons for rejecting an indictment will be publicly disclosed in full.

  4. A rejected indictment may only be resubmitted if significant changes have been made to address the reasons it was rejected.

  5. When an indictment is accepted, the Chief Justice will promptly appoint a Moderating Justice and a Standby Hearing Officer.

  6. The Standby Hearing Officer will be available to serve as a Hearing Officer should any matter requiring the recusal of the Moderating Justice arise during the trial.

  7. The Moderating Justice will promptly inform the Defendant of the charges against them.

  8. In the case of indictments seeking to impose penalties on a Defendant prior to the conclusion of a trial, including their removal from the region or expulsion from the Regional Assembly, the procedures established by the Legal Code must be followed as stated and will override any conflicting adopted rules and procedures of the Court.

Section 2: Criminal Trial Procedure

  1. The Moderating Justice will open a trial thread promptly once an indictment has been accepted.

  2. When a trial thread is opened, the Moderating Justice will notify the Defendant via a Private Message to their forum account and a Telegram to their nation. Alternate methods of notification may also be used so long as the Moderating Justice has a reasonable expectation that these methods will be more effective than the above options.

  3. The Moderating Justice will work with both the Defense and the Prosecution to establish a reasonable timetable for the trial. Trials shall proceed linearly through the following stages:

    • Plea Submission: The Defendant will be given a period of time to enter a plea and to choose any desired legal representation. If no plea has been submitted by the end of this period, a plea of Not Guilty will be entered into the record on the Defendant's behalf. If the Defendant has not declared either their intent to represent themselves or the identity of their chosen counsel by the end of this period, an attorney will be appointed for them by the court.

    • Evidence Submission: Following the end of Plea Submission, both the Defense and the Prosecution will be given a period of time to present gathered evidence in full, object to evidence submitted by opposing counsel, and present motions to the Moderating Justice.

    • Argumentation: When all outstanding motions and objections have been settled, the Prosecution and Defense will be given a period of time to make arguments on the evidence and the law, as well as to respond to the arguments made by opposing counsel.

    • Deliberation: After argumentation has concluded and any outstanding motions and requests have been resolved, the Court will deliberate amongst itself in order to reach a verdict. The Court will endeavor to keep this period below a maximum of five days.

    • Sentencing: When the Court renders a verdict of Guilty, the Prosecution and the Defense will be given a period of time to make sentencing recommendations before the Court makes an ultimate determination. Once a sentence has been issued, the Moderating Justice must personally notify the defendant as well as any government or administration officials who must act to carry out the sentence.

  4. The defendant may, at any time, replace their legal counsel or choose to represent themselves.

  5. As necessary, and in the interests of justice, the Moderating Justice may alter the established timetable to ensure a fair trial.

  6. The Moderating Justice may, at any time, ask questions of the prosecution or the defense in order to get clarification on relevant issues.

Section 3: Evidence

  1. The Court accepts both documentary evidence and witness testimony as valid submissions.

  2. Objections to evidence by either the Prosecution or the Defense must clearly explain why, in accordance with the Court Rules and general legal principles, the evidence in question should not be admitted into the court record.

  3. Relevant evidence may be admitted or excluded at the discretion of the Moderating Justice after hearing from both sides.

  4. Documentary evidence, which includes forum posts or threads, off-site chat logs, screenshots and other evidence of a similar nature, must be authenticated according to the criteria below:

    • Content which does not appear in its original form and location, such as off-site chat logs, screenshots, transcripts, or quotes, must be authenticated through witness testimony regardless of how public it is when it is presented as evidence.

    • Forum posts and threads may be accepted without authentication, as long as the Moderating Justice is provided with a direct link to the posts and threads entered into evidence and is able to view them in their original locations. The Moderating Justice must confirm that the evidence submitted does not contain any content that does not appear in the original location before accepting it without authentication.

    • Witness testimony is always an acceptable way to authenticate evidence.

    • The Moderating Justice may, when appropriate, waive authentication requirements for individual pieces of evidence. They must provide an explanation for doing so.

  5. Witness testimony must be gathered in the form of a deposition or a statement.

  6. Depositions will adhere to the following procedures:

    • Witness depositions must be conducted in a forum thread separate from the trial thread.

    • Any Justice may moderate a deposition.

    • Before answering any questions, the witness must swear the following oath: "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

    • Both parties will have the opportunity to ask questions of the witness, in turn.

    • Each party will have the opportunity to object to questions posed to the witness by the other party before the questions are answered.

    • If an objection is made, the questioning party will have the opportunity to withdraw the question or defend against the objection.

    • The Justice present will rule on objections to questions that are not withdrawn.

    • The witness will answer all remaining questions.

    • At the completion of a deposition, the Moderating Justice will publish an official record version of the deposition in the trial thread, with appropriate edits in accordance with any sustained objections.

    • Depositions which deviate from the above procedures may be admitted at the discretion of the Moderating Justice.

  7. Witness statements must be sent directly to the Moderating Justice by the witness before the scheduled end of Evidence Submission. Witness statements must begin with the following oath: "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." The Moderating Justice will post the statement in the trial thread.

  8. During Evidence Submission, either party may make a motion to require a deposition from a particular witness providing a statement.

Chapter 2: Requests for Review

  1. Anyone may submit a request to the Court for a review of government policy or law.

  2. Any Justice may accept or deny a request for review, at their discretion. The Justice who accepts a request for review will become its Moderating Justice.

  3. The Moderating Justice will promptly identify the government officials whose actions or policies are impugned by a request, or, in relation to a government body, the government official ultimately responsible for leading that body. Those identified, in relation to a request, will be respondents to it.

  4. The Moderating Justice will contact the respondents to a request for review, inform them of the review, and invite them to make submissions to the Court in relation to it.

  5. During the five days after a request for review has been accepted, anyone may offer information that is relevant to the case and/or advise the Court on how to rule in the form of a brief.

  6. The period for submitting briefs may be altered at the discretion of the Moderating Justice.

  7. A petitioner in a request for review may withdraw the request for review by a post in the thread for the review at any time before the Court delivers its opinion.

  8. The Court will endeavor to deliver an opinion answering the request for review within fourteen days after the end of the period for submitting briefs.

Chapter 3: Freedom of Information Reviews

  1. Where an initial request has been made to the government for the release of information under the Legal Code and the resident making the initial request has not received the requested information, that resident may file a request for the information.

  2. Any Justice may accept or deny a request.

  3. A request for information may be denied only on the basis that it relates to information which is not owned by the government as defined by the Legal Code.

  4. Where it appears to the Court that the request has been filed without giving the government a reasonable opportunity to respond to the initial request, the Court may defer accepting or denying the request until the government has had such an opportunity. A deferral will last for a definite period of time of no more than seven days.

  5. When a request is accepted, the Chief Justice will promptly appoint a Moderating Justice.

  6. The Moderating Justice will promptly open a thread for the review and will notify the government of the review via private message on the forum.

  7. During the five days after a thread has been opened, the government may make arguments and present evidence to the Court demonstrating that one or more of the criteria for classification are met.

  8. Evidence may be presented privately where presenting it publicly would risk the release of classified information.

  9. The resident making the initial request may make arguments concerning whether the requested information meets the criteria for classification.

  10. The Court will endeavour to deliver a decision on the request within seven days of the conclusion of the period during which the government may present evidence.

  11. The decision of the Court must be accompanied with reasons for the decision.

  12. In all cases where the government does not present evidence to the Court, the Court will order the release of the information.

  13. In all other cases, the Court may order the release of all of the information or part of it or may determine that all of it or some of it meets the criteria for classification.

  14. For the purposes of this chapter, the definitions in the Legal Code in relation to requests for information from the Delegate and Executive Officers will apply.

Chapter 4: Decorum

Section 1: Judicial Conduct

  1. Justices are discouraged from posting in the Public Gallery except when making official announcements unrelated to any trial or review.

  2. A Moderating Justice is strictly prohibited from posting in any thread in the Public Gallery relating to the issue they are moderating, barring truly exceptional circumstances.

  3. Justices must endeavor to recuse themselves from matters where they have a conflict of interest.

  4. Justices are required to recuse themselves from any matter where the majority of the Court orders them to.

Section 2: General Conduct

  1. All indictments, requests for review, briefs, Court decisions, and other official filings must be presented using an established template, if one exists.

  2. All parties in any matter before the court must conduct themselves in an appropriate, legal, and civil manner.

  3. Posts which fail to meet the above requirements may be split at the discretion of the Moderating Justice, and will not be considered in the Court's deliberations.

  4. An individual may, by the unanimous decision of the Court and based on excessive or repeated poor behavior, be declared to be in contempt in a particular issue before the Court.

  5. Motions made by individuals declared to be in contempt may be summarily denied, and the timeline of relevant matters need not be altered in order to accommodate any disciplinary actions handed down by forum administration.

  6. Any finding of contempt will be immediately rescinded should the Regional Assembly object to that finding by majority vote.

Chapter [u][b]5: Precedent and Appeals[/u][/b]

Section 1: Precedent

  1. All official Court decisions are legally binding on the Court as a whole as well as each individual Justice.

  2. Prior decisions made by the Court, regardless of its composition at the time, must continue to be obeyed by the Court and by each individual Justice until and unless their validity is formally overturned in a new request for review.

  3. The Court is a reactive body. Without any such request, the Court may not proactively overturn previous rulings.

  4. No Justice may act contrary to the opinions and decisions of the Court as a whole.

Section 2: Appeals

  1. The petitioner in a rejected request for review, as well as any of the participating parties in a criminal trial, may appeal a decision made by an individual Justice to the Court as a whole for consideration.

  2. The petitioner in an accepted request for review, as well as any of the participating parties in a criminal trial, may file a request asking the Court to order the recusal of any Justice from hearing or ruling on a particular case.

  3. During the proceedings on a matter before the Court, substantive appeals and requests which relate to that matter must be resolved before the proceedings can continue, unless the contrary is allowed under this section.

  4. The Court determining an appeal or review relating to Court proceedings may, if it determines that the appeal or review is being made frivolously or solely for the purpose of delaying the proceedings to which the appeal or review relates, may, by unanimous vote, allow the proceedings to which the appeal or review relates to continue before the appeal or review is resolved.

  5. A decision to allow proceedings to continue despite an appeal or review not yet being resolved will apply to all appeals or reviews relating to those proceedings unless the Court determining an appeal or review decides to the contrary, in which case the proceedings must not continue until that appeal or review is resolved.

Chapter [u][b]6: Declassification and Privacy[/u][/b]

Section 1: Declassification of Records

  1. Private Court records, in either the Justices' private forum or the private archive, which reach one year of age will be relocated to the Declassified Justice Archive.

  2. Private Court records which have reached six months of age may be released early in the same manner when requested by a Citizen.

  3. Private Court records which are younger than six months but predate the sitting Court may be requested by a Citizen and released if the Court finds a compelling benefit to their publication.

  4. Private Court records from within the term of the sitting Court will not be released.

  5. Private Court records which pertain to open or ongoing cases will not be released, regardless of their age.

  6. Records formerly owned by the Attorney General or by a Prosecutor will not be considered to be private Court records and will not be released.

Section 2: Privacy of Information

  1. Information protected as private is defined as follows:

    • Real life information about any NationStates player from which there is a risk of inferring that player's real life identity and which has not willingly been disclosed to the public, including, but not limited to, an individual's name, IP address, physical address or location, phone number, place of employment or education, appearance, social media accounts, and other knowledge about a player, unless the player in question provides explicit consent for this information not to be considered private.

    • Real life information about any NationStates player for which there exists a reasonable real life expectation of privacy or discretion, including, but not limited to, health status, both mental and physical; financial status; personal tragedies; changes in personal status such as marriage, divorce, pregnancy, birth, or death; and other similar information, unless the player in question provides explicit consent for this information not to be considered private.

    • Information that, upon being made public, would jeopardize any ongoing military or intelligence operations; or jeopardize the security of units and agents participating in them, or be harmful to the diplomatic interests, military interests, or security of The North Pacific.

  2. The Court will not release Private information during its declassification process. This may take the form of withholding a thread in its entirety, or producing a copy of of the original thread with the Private information or posts redacted.

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