Legal Fundamentals Act
|Legal Fundamentals Act|
|Enacted by||Open Parliament|
|Date enacted||1 December 2017|
|Introduced on||13 September 2017|
|Voting began||24 November 2017|
|Required majority||Simple majority|
|Vote results||10 Yea, 0 Nay, 0 Abstain|
|Text as originally enacted|
|Status: In force|
This Act provides for the fair and efficient administration of justice, and codifies various procedures and protections.
- 1 Article 1. Technicalities
- 2 Article 2. Types of Cases
- 3 Article 3. Jurisdiction
- 4 Article 4. Criminal Matters
- 5 Article 5. Civil Matters
- 6 Article 7. Privileges and Immunities
- 7 Article 8. Perjury, Contempts, and Order
Article 1. Technicalities
Section 1. Forum Section and Court Venue
A board shall be reserved on the regional forum for the exclusive use of the Court of Justice, and shall contain any sub-board and be configured as the Chancellor may direct. The Court shall hold its sessions and hearings on the board, unless otherwise authorized by the Court.
Section 2. Official Regional Time
Coordinated Universal Time shall be the official time standard of the Social Liberal Union for the purposes of regional law.
Section 3. Month Defined
A month shall be defined as four weeks for the purposes of regional law.
Section 4. Names of Cases
The Court of Justice shall ensure the following system for naming cases is implemented:
- Clause 1. Names of civil cases shall be in the following form: [Plaintiff(s)] v. [Defendant(s)] ([Month] [Year])
- Clause 2. Names of civil cases that are appeals shall be in the following form: In re Appeal of: [Name of case being appealed]
- Clause 3. Names of civil cases that are solely petitions shall be in the following form: In re Petition of: [Petitioner(s)] ([Month] [Year])
- Clause 4. Names of criminal cases shall be in the following form: Social Liberal Union v. [Defendant(s)] ([Month] [Year])
- Clause 5. Names of advisory opinion cases shall be in the following form: Advisory Opinion In re: [Brief summary of advisory opinion's subject(s)] ([Month] [Year])
- Clause 6. When a party to a case is identified by a fictitious or erroneous name, and in any stage of the proceedings their true name is discovered, it must be inserted in the subsequent proceedings, referring to the fact of their being identified by the name mentioned in the initial filing(s).
Section 5. Citations of Cases
Each concluded civil and criminal case before the Court of Justice shall be archived with the prefix "CJ" followed by the sequential number of the case's decision, and each advisory opinion case before the Court of Justice shall be archived with the prefix "AO" followed by the sequential number of the advisory opinion's issue.
Article 2. Types of Cases
Section 1. Criminal Cases
Criminal cases solely involve the prosecutions of States for offences, initiated under Article 9, Section 12 of the Constitution, following the indictment of a State by the Delegate, the Minister of Domestic Affairs, the Attorney General, or an authorized Deputy Attorney General. Criminal cases shall enjoy priority over all other types of cases, except when the public good may require otherwise.
Section 2. Civil Cases
Civil cases include constitutionality challenges to an Act or Resolution of Parliament, initiated under Article 9, Section 6 of the Constitution, challenges to the legality or constitutionality of a treaty, agreement, executive order, policy, or official action or omission, initiated under Article 9, Section 5 of the Constitution. Civil cases also include disputes between individual States in the region arising from the Constitution, Acts of Parliament, Resolutions of Parliament, executive orders, and treaties and other agreements, initiated under Article 9, Section 3 of the Constitution. Civil cases also include appeals to modify or vacate past verdicts or decisions of a previous civil or criminal case, initiated under Article 9, Section 7 of the Constitution.
Section 3. Advisory Opinion Cases
Advisory opinion cases are non-binding opinions of the Court on a certain question of law, initiated under Article 9, Section 4 of the Constitution by a government officer in their official capacity, or, by a Member State with respect to a draft bill.
Article 3. Jurisdiction
Section 1. Jurisdictional Requirements
The Court of Justice must have either territorial or extraterritorial jurisdiction over all parties in a case, and, must have at least one type of subject-matter jurisdiction over the subject(s) of the case, in order for the Court to be able to adjudicate the case.
Section 2. Regular Territorial Jurisdiction
The Court of Justice has jurisdiction over the government and officers of the Social Liberal Union, and, over any State present or that was present in the Social Liberal Union at the time of the commission of an offence or the subject of a case, matter, or controversy. The regional message board, regional forums or websites, regional chat rooms, the Library of Parliament, any successor region provided for by law, any foreign regions occupied under the authority of the Cabinet or by law, and any special venues of the Court shall be considered inside the Social Liberal Union.
Section 3. Extraterritorial Jurisdiction
The Court of Justice has extraterritorial jurisdiction over any State outside the regular jurisdiction of the Social Liberal Union with respect to an offence by or against a diplomatic officer or other official representative of the Social Liberal Union, over any State with respect to all offences related to the World Assembly, treason, rebellion, insurrection, espionage, or invasion against the Social Liberal Union, and over any State with respect to all offences related to invasion against or disruption of foreign relations with any embassy region or ally of the Social Liberal Union, irrespective where said offences took place.
Section 4. Subject-matter Jurisdiction
The Court of Justice has subject-matter jurisdiction over:
- Clause 1. Criminal trials; and
- Clause 2. Advisory opinions; and
- Clause 3. Appeals related to any previously-adjudicated cases and rulings of itself or by any other inferior tribunal; and
- Clause 4. Controversies arising from the Constitution; and
- Clause 5. Controversies arising from an Act of Parliament; and
- Clause 6. Controversies arising from a Resolution of Parliament; and
- Clause 7. Controversies arising from a treaty or interregional agreement signed by the Delegate or Minister of Foreign Affairs; and
- Clause 8. Controversies arising from an executive order of the Cabinet; and
- Clause 9. Controversies arising from a policy of an officer, ministry, agency, or instrumentality of or within the government of the Social Liberal Union; and
- Clause 10. Controversies arising from an act or omission of an officer, ministry, agency, or instrumentality of or within the government of the Social Liberal Union; and
- Clause 11. Disputes between individual Member States, to the extent permitted by law, if at all; and
- Clause 12. Other matters as provided for by law or the Constitution.
Article 4. Criminal Matters
Section 1. Mode of Prosecution
All offences shall be prosecuted by indictment in the name of the Open Parliament of the Social Liberal Union and by its authority, to be signed under penalty of perjury by the prosecuting officer.
Section 2. Format of Indictment
In charging an offence, each count shall contain, and shall be sufficient if it contains in substance, a statement that the accused has committed some public offence therein specified. Such statement may be made in ordinary and concise language without any technical averments or any allegations of matter not essential to be proved. It may be in the words of the enactment describing the offence or declaring the matter to be a public offence, or in any words sufficient to give the accused notice of the offence of which they are accused.
- Clause 1. The precise time at which the offence was committed need not be stated in the indictment, but it may be alleged to have been committed at any time before the finding or filing thereof, except where the time is a material ingredient in the offence.
- Clause 2. An accessory to the commission of an offence may be prosecuted, though the principal may be neither prosecuted nor tried, and though the principal may have been acquitted.
- Clause 3. When several defendants are named in one indictment, any one or more may be convicted or acquitted.
- Clause 4. Words used in a statute to define a public offence need not be strictly used in the indictment, but other words conveying the same meaning may be used. The words used in an indictment are construed in their usual acceptance in common language, except such words and phrases as are specifically defined by law, which are construed according to their legal meaning.
- Clause 5. No indictment shall be deemed insufficient, nor can the trial, judgment, or other proceeding thereon be affected by reason of any defect or imperfection in matter of form which does not prejudice a substantial right of the defendant upon the merits.
- Clause 6. If a defendant has been convicted or acquitted, the conviction or acquittal is a bar to another prosecution for the offence charged, or for an attempt to commit the same, or for an offence necessarily included therein.
Section 3. Pleas
There are four kinds of pleas for each count in an indictment: Guilty, not guilty, formerly acquitted, and formerly convicted.
- Clause 1. For formerly acquitted and formerly convicted pleas, the defense shall provide the date when the judgement was rendered.
- Clause 2. If the defendant refuses to answer the indictment and enter a plea, a plea of not guilty must be entered.
- Clause 3. The change of a plea requires leave of the Court.
Section 4. Criminal Pre-trial Proceedings
Once the Court has received an indictment from a lawful prosecuting officer, filed under seal, it shall conduct pre-trial proceedings in the following order:
- Clause 1. Pursuant to Article 9, Section 12 of the Constitution, the Court shall conduct an ex parte hearing to rule on the admissibility of the indictment as to form, whether the charge(s) actually constitute public offences, and whether it meets all other constitutional and statutory requirements. If the Court accepts it, the indictment shall be unsealed and the Court shall ensure that the defendant is notified of the charge(s). If the Court rejects it, it shall provide such reason(s) why, and the indictment shall remain sealed indefinitely, but the prosecuting officer may submit a revised indictment.
- Clause 2. Next, the Court shall hold a hearing to determine if a public defender should be appointed to represent the defendant. The Court shall appoint a competent public defender when requested by the defendant, or, if the defendant has ceased to exist or fails to respond after 5 days of being served with the indictment. If a defendant has retained private counsel, they shall notify the Court. A public defender must enter a plea of not guilty, formerly acquitted, or formerly convicted on behalf of a defendant, unless otherwise instructed by the defendant.
- Clause 3. Next, the Court shall hold a hearing for the defendant (or their counsel in their absence or when so authorized by the defendant) to enter pleas for each charge listed in the indictment. If the defendant claims immunity, claims lack of jurisdiction, or pleas either previously convicted or acquitted, the Court shall hold a hearing to determine if a charge must be removed from the indictment, or the indictment be discharged entirely.
Section 5. Criminal Trial Proceedings
A criminal trial shall proceed in the following order, unless otherwise directed by the Court:
- Clause 1. The prosecution may make an opening statement in support of the charge(s). Whether or not the prosecution makes an opening statement, the defendant or their counsel may then make an opening statement, or may reserve the making of an opening statement until after introduction of the evidence in support of the charge(s).
- Clause 2. The prosecution shall then offer the evidence in support of the charge(s). The defendant or their counsel may then offer their evidence in support of the defense.
- Clause 3. Thereafter, the parties may then respectively offer rebutting evidence only, unless the Court, for good reason, in furtherance of justice, permit them to offer evidence upon their original case.
- Clause 4. When the presentation of all evidence has concluded, unless the case is submitted on either side, or on both sides, without argument, the counsel for the defendant then the prosecution may make their closing statements.
- Clause 5. Except in bench trials, the Court may then instruct the Open Parliament, and shall do so on any points of law pertinent to the issue, if requested by either party; and the presiding officer may state the testimony, and they may make such comment on the evidence and the testimony and credibility of any witness as in their opinion is necessary for the proper determination of the case and they may declare the law. At the beginning of the trial or from time to time during the trial, and without any request from either party, the presiding officer may give the Open Parliament such instructions on the law applicable to the case as the Court may deem necessary for their guidance on hearing the case.
- Clause 6. Except in bench trials, the Court may then require the assistance of the Speaker of the Union to conduct a vote in the Open Parliament on conviction or acquittal for each charge to last 5 days, and to ensure parties to the case (as identified by the Court) are excluded from voting. In bench trials, the Court must render verdicts within 5 days, or more with the consent of the defense.
- Clause 7. The Court shall then declare the verdict for each charge. If the defendant is convicted of any charge, the Court shall hold a sentencing hearing to sentence the defendant according to the Offences and Sentencing Act and other applicable law, where the defendant may offer mitigating factors and the prosecution may offer aggravating factors for the Court to take into consideration before it issues the sentence. Thereafter, the Court shall issue proper orders to ensure the sentence is carried out.
Section 6. Miscellaneous Provisions
- Clause 1. When two or more defendants are jointly charged with any offence, they must be tried jointly, unless the Court order separate trials. In ordering separate trials, the Court in its discretion may order a separate trial as to one or more defendants, and a joint trial as to the others, or may order any number of the defendants to be tried at one trial, and any number of the others at different trials, or may order a separate trial for each defendant; provided, that where two or more States can be jointly tried, the fact that separate indictments were filed shall not prevent their joint trial.
- Clause 2. When two or more defendants are included in the same indictment, the Court may, at any time before the defendants have gone into their defense, on the application of the prosecution, direct any defendant to be discharged, so that they may be a witness for the prosecution.
- Clause 3. When two or more defendants are included in the same indictment, and the Court is of the opinion that in regard to a particular defendant there is not sufficient evidence to put them on their defense, it must order them to be discharged before the evidence is closed, that they may be a witness for their codefendant.
- Clause 4. An order under Clauses 2 to 3 of this Section shall be considered an acquittal of the defendant discharged, and is a bar to another prosecution for the same offence.
- Clause 5. If several defendants having separate defenses, appear by different counsel, the Court must determine their relative order in the evidence and argument.
- Clause 6. The Court must decide all questions of law which arise in the course of a trial.
Article 5. Civil Matters
Section 1. Order of Civil Proceedings
The Court shall determine the order of all civil proceedings as best fits the particular case, but shall ensure fair opportunity for the presentation of arguments and evidence, and rebuttal for all parties.
Section 2. Remedies
Legal remedies the Court may grant are declaratory relief and injunctive relief.
- Clause 1. Declaratory judgements are the legal determination of the Court that resolves legal uncertainty for the parties. It is a form of legally binding preventive adjudication by which a party involved in an actual or possible legal matter can ask the Court to conclusively rule on and affirm the rights, duties, or obligations of one or more parties in a case.
- Clause 2. Injunctions order States or entities to perform and/or refrain from certain acts. Injunctions must be consistent with the Constitution, and should only be granted when doing so would not disserve the public interest and when there is no other adequate remedy at law. Failure to comply, upon application of the Minister of Domestic Affairs, Attorney General, or the adverse party, may be considered a contempt against the Court.
Section 3. Judicial Review and Restraint
In granting remedies, the Court may exercise judicial review to the extent permitted by the Constitution. Clear and irreconcilable unconstitutionality shall be the only ground for the Court to strike down an Act or Resolution of Parliament as unconstitutional. The Court should endeavor to avoid reviewing the constitutionality of an Act or Resolution of Parliament when the case before it could be decided on other grounds.
Section 4. Standing
A State that wishes to bring a civil matter before the Court must demonstrate sufficient connection to or harm from the law or action challenged, or the dispute or matter in question, to support that State's participation in the case. However, with leave of the Court, a State may bring constitutionality challenges when doing so would be in the public interest, regardless of their own standing.
Section 5. Ripeness
Except as otherwise provided for by law, such as with signed but unratified treaties or agreements, the Court cannot prematurely adjudicate a civil matter if it rests upon contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or may not occur at all.
Section 6. Mootness
The Court cannot adjudicate a civil matter when further legal proceedings with regard to it can have no effect, or events have placed it beyond the reach of the law, and thereby the matter has been deprived of practical significance. However, with leave of the Court, a legal proceeding which has become moot may continue despite this, if it is likely capable of repetition or potentially may keep evading review because the matter keeps becoming moot before it can be adjudicated.
Section 7. Political Questions
The Court cannot adjudicate a civil matter that is a political question in nature, which includes where the Constitution requires another branch of government to resolve questions regarding the issue, where there is a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it, where there is an impossibility of deciding a matter without an initial policy determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretion, or where there is an unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made, especially related to matters of regional defense.
Article 7. Privileges and Immunities
Section 1. Counsel-client Privilege
Communications and work-product between counsel (States providing bona fide representation of other States or entities in legal proceedings or in preparation thereof) and a client (States or entities being represented) shall be inadmissible as evidence or in testimony. Disclosures may only be compelled:
- Clause 1. In order to prevent a new crime, offence, or fraud; or
- Clause 2. When counsel is defending themselves against legal proceedings initiated by the client they represented; or
- Clause 3. When information in question is already in the public domain or is public knowledge.
Section 2. Personal Information Privilege
Personal passwords and other personal information (such as real names, home or occupational addresses, ages, dates of birth, phone numbers, etc.) shall be inadmissible as evidence or in testimony, and their disclosure may not be compelled.
- Clause 1. Email addresses and IP addresses shall be an exception to this privilege, and may be admissible as evidence only when introduced under seal.
Section 3. Qualified Immunity for Government Officers
All lawful government officers of the Social Liberal Union, in their official capacity, shall enjoy absolute criminal and civil immunity for all good faith acts or omissions within the scope of their official duties, insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights or obligations.
- Clause 1. Conduct done with clearly corrupt, fraudulent, or malicious intent shall not be protected by this immunity.
- Clause 2. A State which asserts this immunity shall bear the burden of proof of proving its applicability.
Section 4. Diplomatic Immunity
Ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives of foreign regions or organizations duly-accredited to the Delegate or Minister of Foreign Affairs shall enjoy absolute criminal immunity, provided, that the same level of immunity is reciprocated to ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives of the Social Liberal Union to the same foreign region or organization abroad.
- Clause 1. The Delegate (or the Minister of Foreign Affairs when so authorized) may declare any foreign ambassador or other diplomatic representative unwelcome, and upon transmitting notice thereof to the affected foreign nation and their sponsoring government or organization, diplomatic immunity shall cease.
Section 5. Witness Immunity for Compulsory Testimony
Whenever a witness refuses, on the basis of their constitutional right against self-incrimination, to testify or provide other information in a proceeding before or ancillary to the Court of Justice, a prosecutor of the Social Liberal Union when conducting a criminal investigation, or other officer or body authorized by law or executive order to hear testimony or take evidence, and the presiding officer of the proceeding communicates to the witness an order issued under this Section, the witness may not refuse to comply with the order on the basis of their right against self-incrimination; but no testimony or other information compelled under the order (or any information directly or indirectly derived from such testimony or other information) may be used against the witness in any criminal case, except a prosecution for perjury, giving a false statement, or otherwise failing to comply with the order.
Article 8. Perjury, Contempts, and Order
Section 1. Sworn Declarations Generally
Wherever, under any law of the Social Liberal Union or under any rule, policy, order, or requirement made pursuant to law, any matter is required or permitted to be supported, evidenced, established, or proved by the sworn declaration, verification, certificate, statement, oath, or affidavit, in writing of the State making the same, such matter may, with like force and effect, be supported, evidenced, established, or proved by the sworn declaration, certificate, verification, or statement, in writing of such State which is subscribed by them, as true under penalty of perjury, and dated, in substantially the following form: “I, (name), declare (or certify, verify, or state) under penalty of perjury under the laws of the Social Liberal Union that the foregoing is true and correct."
Section 2. Sworn Declarations Before the Court
All filings, testimony, statements, affidavits, certifications, and other declarations made to or before the Court of Justice shall be subject to penalty of perjury. The Court, and the officers thereof, shall have the power to administer oaths and to take testimony under oath.
Section 3. Contempts
The Court shall have the power to find and hold States or entities in direct or indirect contempt.
- Clause 1. Direct contempt occurs in the immediate presence or venue of the Court, and disrupts or prejudices the due administration of justice.
- Clause 2. Indirect contempt occurs outside the immediate presence or venue of the Court and consists of disobedience of a prior order of the Court.
Section 4. Judicial Sanctions for Contempts
The Court of Justice shall have the sole power to try and impose sanctions on States for contempts against the Court under Article 9, Section 15 of the Constitution. All sanctions for contempts shall be coercive and remedial as opposed to punitive, therefore, any sanctions are limited in their imposition for so long as the disobedience to the Court's order continues, and once the party complies with the Court's order, the sanction shall be lifted. States held in contempt are entitled to notice of the charge and an opportunity for hearing of the evidence of the contempt, and may present evidence in rebuttal. The Court may only hold states in contempt after the Court provides a reasonable warning to the offending party, and, if the party in question actually has the ability to comply with the underlying order. Sanctions for contempts against the Court may only consist of:
- Clause 1. Public or private written admonishment.
- Clause 2. Ban on initiating new cases in the Court of Justice.
- Clause 3. Complete or partial ban, under penalty of suppression or deletion, on posting on the forum, official regional chat, or the regional message board, but shall not preclude a State from posting in the appropriate judicial section in matters related to their case.
- Clause 4. In severe cases, the Court may formally refer the contemptuous matter to the Attorney General or Minister of Domestic Affairs for possible prosecution, but the officer presiding shall be recused from any criminal case related to that referral.
Section 5. Vexatious Litigants
The Court of Justice may designate a State as a vexatious litigant and bar them from initiating any civil case and from requesting an advisory opinion for up to four months at a time, if the Court rules that State in question has committed a pattern of several frivolous or meritless civil legal actions. However, only the Minister of Domestic Affairs, the Attorney General, or an alleged aggrieved party of a vexatious litigation may petition the Court to hold a hearing on the question, to allow them to show cause.
Section 6. Order and Decorum
The presiding officer of the Court of Justice is empowered to maintain order and proper decorum within the venue(s) of the Court and in all proceedings, to ensure the fair and expeditious dispensation of justice, and may issue, revise, or revoke Standing Orders to that effect.
- Clause 1. Each Standing Order of the Court of Justice shall be archived with the prefix "SO" followed by the sequential number of the Order's issuance.