"Sed fortuna, quae plurimum potest cum in reliquis rebus tum praecipue in bello, parvis momentis magnas rerum commutationes efficit; ut tum accidit."

C. Iulius Caesar - Commentarii de Bello Civili Bk III.68

Friday, November 26, 2010

In the forum, asked on laws to repeal or change

Whoever is successful in the election for praetor will have to, to a large extent, follow the lead and legislative program of the consuls for next year. Praetors do not have a free hand amice, as you know, at implementing a legislative program of their own.
That said, what laws do I want to repeal you ask. Any law that is so badly written that it cannot be salvaged without  a total rewrite, any law that is irrelevant to the current and foreseeable circumstances of the res publica, and any law that conflicts with the constitution to a degree that it could not be salvaged without a total rewrite.
As to changing laws, the same criteria as above, especially in respect of laws where only a small percentage of the overall law is contradictory.
A reasonable time frame is a subjective judgment, which is going to be affected by numerous factors, but if the work is started immediately in January there is no reason that I can see that would prevent the process being completed by December 31st.
Now, I am sure for some the burning issue is the fate of the Lex Salicia poenalis and Lex Salicia iudiciaria. Put simply the system they outline has not worked, does not work and will not work, with the degree of universal support necessary for a legal code. The reason being, that on all sides of the spectrum there is recognition that the practical application of trials do not match the expectations of justice and the goals of the drafters.
However, having reviewed some suggestions for replacing them, I note that some suggest total abolishment and for others the solution is a simplified trial process. The issue goes deeper than that. I believe it is completely impossible to find citizens that will be widely accepted as neutral in their assessment of the evidence. It doesn't matter if they can be neutral; it is the perception that counts, which influences the level of support for the system.
Additionally there are sections of the current leges which it would be absolutely vital to retain if a simplified trail process was adopted, namely temporal limits of Nova Roman authority. That is just one example. Simple and short when constructing a legal code is not necessarily best. leaving the process to be decided by the sitting praetor will without question be a source of dispute, as it was before. The real question is do we need an internal justice system? Add to that, should we even attempt to construct one with such a small population base, where charges of bias will run rampant against those comprising the court?
The easy thing to do in response to your question is to produce a shopping list of laws to replace, repeal, but the issues run far deeper than knocking a few unpopular ones off the books, only to discover that the price of popularity is an even bigger mess. Any changes to our legal code have to command near universal support, they need to be well mooted and discussed at all levels, ideally they should be modeled "in action" to see how they perform. It maybe the popular thing to do to stake the legal code, but I as praetor would be obligated to ensure that I didn't promote a popular cause and create a legacy of a huge mess for someone else to have to deal with next year, or in the years to come.
So amice, I won't give you your shopping list of laws for the axe, but I will state that if I am elected I will assist immediately in any law reform they undertake, and to give politically neutral and constructive critical comments, and generally assist the process - which must be community based as it is the people's legal system - of review.