Where a citizen (the plaintiff) has a disagreement with another person (the defendant) which cannot be resolved between them, then they may seek redress under the civil law. A plaintiff may also seek redress on behalf of another individual they are responsible for in law (such as a young child). The civil law is predominantly concerned with maintaining fair dealings in the relationship between citizens. Magistrates who apply the civil law are guided by the seven Virtues, and in so doing will attempt to come to as just and equitable a judgement as is possible in the circumstances, based on the evidence before them.
Resolving the dispute by other means
Magistrates are usually reluctant to hear cases where there is some other preferred method of resolution. For example, the national customs of both parties might provide a mechanism for the resolution of their dispute. Disputes regarding certain trade agreements might normally be resolved according to the rules of the Bourse.
Where an individual is convicted of a criminal offence the magistrate will normally provide compensation to the victim from the convict's resources as part of the criminal trial sentencing if they believe it is appropriate. It is sensible for victims of crime to discuss this with the presiding magistrate before the trial, but if this isn't possible magistrates will often waive their fee if they can deal with it summarily.
The civil hearing
The plaintiff must seek out a magistrate to arrange for a hearing to take place at which both plaintiff and defendant (and any witnesses) are present. There is usually a charge of one crown for this service which is payable before the case will be heard. At the appointed time the presiding magistrate will hear the case and deal with any procedural issues (such as missing parties or witnesses) as they arise.
In order for a claim to be successful the magistrate must be satisfied that the plaintiff has suffered harm as a result of the defendant's unvirtuous behaviour and that it is just and fair to apply redress. There is no specific burden of proof applied to either party. The magistrate will decide the merits of the claim based on the evidence. The plaintiff should request an appropriate redress as part of their submission to the court.
Both plaintiff and defendant have as wide a latitude to argue their case as the magistrate permits within the brief time allowed. When the magistrate deems sufficient time has been accorded to this matter (usually no more than ten minutes) she will render judgement, which is binding on both parties. Breaching the terms of the magistrate's order will very likely result in a finding of contempt of court. It is not unusual for magistrates to reserve judgement, especially in those cases where they are of the view that the parties should have resolved this matter between themselves or where both parties have behaved inappropriately.
The magistrate has a wide latitude available with regard to orders for redress or sanctions to any affected party, although compensation or orders for the ownership of assets are the most common remedies. Magistrates will normally only apply criminal sanctions where crimes are proven to their satisfaction during the course of the hearing. If this is the case the magistrate will usually summarily convict the offender.
- You may not bring a civil claim against the state or its officials for the exercise of their legal powers: any such grievances should be taken before the Synod, The Throne or other applicable bodies. The Synod in particular are responsible for ensuring the virtue of those who hold Imperial office and have a number of powers to remedy deficiencies in this regard by individuals.
- Normally you may only bring a civil claim against a citizen for their use of magic against you if they have already been declared a sorcerer by the Conclave. Exceptionally, if they have been convicted of an offence relating to your claim (which has not itself already been remedied as part of the criminal trial) then you may also bring a civil claim.
- Blackmail, slander and libel are neither criminal offences nor can they be the basis for a civil claim.
- Fraud is not a criminal offence but it may form the basis for a civil claim. However, under imperial law the principle of "buyer beware" strongly applies. The purchaser assumes the risk that the product might be either defective or unsuitable to their needs unless other terms are agreed between the parties concerned.
- Magistrates are responsible for resolving civil claims with regards to will disputes