Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Establishment of a Supreme Court to Try Peace-breakers, 1495

As found in A Source Book for Mediaeval History: Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Ages, by Oliver J Thatcher, Ph.D. and Edgar H. McNeal, Ph.D., pgs 430-431 (1905).

250. The Establishment of a Supreme Court to Try Peace-breakers, 1495. (German.)

Datt, Volumen rerum Germanicarum novum, sive de pace imperii publica, p. 876.

We, Maximilian, etc., have, for good and sufficient reasons, established a general peace of the land throughout the Roman empire and Germany, and have ordered it to be observed. But it cannot be enforced without the proper support and protection. Therefore at the advice of the electors, princes, and the general diet held here at Worms, for the common good, and for the honor of us and of the supreme court of the holy Roman empire, we have issued the following laws and regulations in regard to it. We will appoint a presiding judge of this court. He may be either a layman or a clergyman, a count or a nobleman. And we will elect sixteen assistant judges [who shall give the decision]. They shall all be elected at this diet.  They shall all be Germans of good character and of good degree of knowledge and experience, and at least half of them shall be trained in the law and the other half shall be noblemen of the rank of knight at least. The decision of the sixteen shall be final. In case of a tie the presiding judge shall have the deciding vote. Nothing shall prevent them from giving a just and legal decision. The presiding judge and the sixteen shall have no other business, but they shall devote themselves wholly to the work of this court. They shall not be absent from the sessions of the court without special permission. The sixteen shall get such permission from the presiding judge, and he from the sixteen. But never more than four of them shall be absent from the court at the same time. Neither the presiding judge nor the sixteen shall leave the city in which the court is in session except for the most weighty reasons. If the presiding judge is for a long time prevented by illness or other weighty reason from holding court, he shall, with the consent of the sixteen, give one of the sixteen, preferably a count or nobleman, the authority to represent him. And even if four or less of the sixteen are absent, the others shall have the power to try cases and render decisions as if they were all present. But in cases in which electors, princes, or those of princely rank are concerned, the presiding judge must preside in person. But if he cannot do so, he may, with the consent of the others, name a person to preside in his stead. ... We will, with the advice of the princes and of the diet which shall meet that year, fill all vacancies which may occur in this court. If the presiding judge dies without appointing some one to preside in his stead, the sixteen shall elect some one to take his place, so that the court may not be idle until the next diet assembles. They shall elect a count or nobleman to this office; and he shall fill this office until the next diet meets, at which time we will appoint a new presiding judge.

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