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This is an interesting diary, but we should also note the following features of Roman law.

First, as mentioned, Roman law was almost entirely about private law: contracts, wills, debts, all of that stuff. The Romans came up with a highly developed but strictly limited jurisprudence. Things like criminal law and constitutional law were nowhere near as developed as private law. In terms of the events that have triggered the diary, that means a subpeona would be irrelevant because there wouldn't be a case in the first place, there being no relevant public or constitutional law to apply.

Also important is that the Romans had no concept of equality before the law. Witnesses of higher social rank were to be automatically accorded greater reliability in their testimony. If you were poor and you somehow managed to sue someone wealthy, right from the start you had to face the fact that you were prima facie a liar compared to them. You also faced a different system of penalties.

Another point is that the Roman system of patronage meant that many magistrates actually felt entitled to give bent judgments regardless of the merits of the case. This formed part of the notion of libertas.

Finally, Roman law was not necessarily fast, and there are records of lawsuits dragging on and on, in one case for eighteen years!

I summarize all this from memory. The source is G.E.M. de Ste. Croix's `The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World'. If anyone asks I will look up the relevant passages.

On the historical relationship between English and Roman law, we might note the interesting fact that while English law has practically no connection with it, Scots law has taken over much more, and it is of practical significance.

by wing26 on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 08:32:52 PM EST
Veneration of status

Perceived need to accord bent judgments in favor of privilege.

I am also concerned with class-based legal privilege making a comeback in the United States.

That there is one set of obligations and sanctions for the masses and another for elites, especially well connected ones.

Not merely a weak favoritism in practice but legislated sanction.

Have Keyboard. Will Travel. :)

by cskendrick (cs ke nd ri c k @h ot m ail dot c om) on Wed Nov 14th, 2007 at 06:54:19 AM EST
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