Rokugani Law Enforcement

Rokugani Law Enforcement
(Researched and written by Bookkeeper.)

Enforcing the law is never easy. It is made less so when the law is not always entirely clear. It gets worse when two different legal structures exist, whose jurisdictions often get muddy at the highest levels. Throw in feudalism and petty jealousies and you have a mixture ripe for abuse. Such is the legal system of the Emerald Empire and yet, for no other reason than, perhaps, the Will of Heaven, it has kept the Empire from coming completely apart for over 1000 years.

Acting as an officer of the law in Rokugan is a thankless task, especially on the lowest rungs of the social ladder. The Clan magistrates must contend with the daimyo and the Emerald Magistrates speak with the Emperor’s authority…in theory.

Clan Law Enforcement: the Bugyo-sho

Imperial Law gives authority to the Clan Champions and their daimyo to enforce the laws within their territories. To that end, each clan has established a Bugyo-sho or Judicial Bureau for their Han. Technically, the Bugyo-sho is administrated by the daimyo, especially the provincial daimyo, since most crimes that rise above this level will catch the attention of the local Emerald Magistrates. Since daimyo have a great many tasks aside from hearing complaints and passing sentence, the duties of a judge are usually handled by the Bugyo. Justice-oriented daimyo may keep the office of Bugyo for themselves, but most find it too time-consuming. The Bugyo hears any case involving transgressions of clan law. Particularly favored or high-ranking samurai may attempt to appeal to the provincial daimyo (or higher, should they have those sorts of connections), but the daimyo are loathe to interfere with the operation of the Bugyo-sho as it presents a veneer of impartiality and justice.

Each Bugyo is responsible for an entire province and usually makes their office in the provincial capital. Only the largest crimes or crimes in fierce dispute will appear before the Bugyo. For day-to-day administration, each Bugyo has a number of yoriki. The yoriki are the managing assistants – the bureaucrats of the Bugyo-sho. They can serve in any number of roles: Police station chief, Inspector, Administrator, and certain high-profile police duties, such as cases involving treason against the clan or requiring extensive investigation. Most Bugyo have at least one Itsuke Tozoku Aratame-kata or “Investigative Division for Arson/Organized Robbery.” Such divisions are usually staffed primarily by yoriki due to the high profile nature of these crimes.

Beneath the yoriki are the low-ranking samurai that most criminals come into contact with when the law comes pounding down their door: the Doshin. The Doshin are the samurai responsible for regular patrols and street-level law enforcement. Most crimes will never get past the Doshin – they act, principally, as peacekeepers and are picky in which samurai (or even peasants) they will drag back to the police station for formal charges. Doshin must be capable of resolving conflicts at the street level unless they want the Yoriki in charge of the station to take them to task.

Each Doshin usually has a few peasant assistants, or Komono. The Komono are the local experts in detention and disarming, adroitly using man-catchers and polearms to seize someone causing a disturbance. The Komono have some limited police powers in matters involving only peasants and eta, but must summon a samurai to deal with another samurai. That is not to say that the Komono will allow a samurai to run rampant while they wait for another samurai to arrive – the man-catchers allow them to detain a bushi without actually touching him or his sword, but they may not arrest him or do anything other than fix him in place.

Each police station usually has one or two eta, whose responsibility it is to deal with dead bodies, blood, and anything else that purer souls may not get involved with. Often, one of the Doshin acts as the expert on dealing with dead bodies, accompanying the eta to get a look at a newly-discovered corpse before it is handled too roughly. Such Doshin never touch the body, but have been trained on tell-tale signs to look for as evidence of poison, strangling, or certain types of weapon wounds.

Imperial Law: The Emerald Magistrates

According to official histories, the Emerald Magistrates were the brainchild of Doji Hatsuo and Soshi Saibankan. Disgusted by the uneven application of Imperial law from province to province, they crafted a judicial system for the ages, including the new enforcers of Imperial Law. These histories are largely a result of Crane and Scorpion revisionism that hides the true structure of the Gyobu-sho, the Imperial Ministry of Justice.

The Gyobu-sho was, in fact, the creation of the Seppun family. Until the time of Hatsuo and Saibankan, the Minister of Justice, or Gyobu-kyo was the highest legal official in the Empire and his handful of assistants made up the Supreme Tribunal. They oversaw violations of Imperial law as well as religious law, helping to smooth the merging of Shinseism and Fortune worship.

When the Hantei Emperor created the title “Emerald Champion” for Doji Hatsuo, it was merely the endgame of a stealthy civil war between the Imperial families and the two most politically powerful Great Clans. The system that has emerged from that time is generally poorly understood by those outside of it, but it, much like the Bugyo-sho of the Clans, often works in spite of itself.

The Emerald Champion has several titles, owing to his multiple duties as the Emperor’s yojimbo, the commander of the Imperial Legions, and the head of the Emerald Magistrates. In terms of law enforcement, the Emerald Champion occupies the post of Dai-hanji, or Chief Judge. This has allowed the Seppun to maintain, through their iron-fisted grip on the Ministry of the Left, control over much of the judicial bureaucracy, which has had 1000 years to grow and entrench. The Minister of Justice is still the Gyobu-kyo and is still a Seppun. His office is more administrative in nature, although the Supreme Tribunal may still oversee matters involving Imperial families, as well as most Religious crimes. The Ministry also controls the stipends of the Emerald Magistrates as well as their assignments, unless the Emerald Champion himself intervenes.

The Emerald Magistrate structure is built on a two-track system, with one subordinate to the other. The upper track is that of the judges and consists of three ranks. Technically, the highest rank is Dai-hanji, but this hardly counts as a layer since it is occupied by a single person – the Emerald Champion. Beneath him are the Chu-hanji or First Assistants. They are assigned to geographic regions as the interpreter and arbiter of Imperial Law for all samurai in that area.

The other rank among the judges is Seu-hanji or Second Assistant Judge, who are roaming Emerald Magistrates with little defined responsibility other than to “dispense the Emperor’s justice.” They go where they will, invoking Rights of Privy Investigation and being, in general, busybodies on behalf of the Emerald Champion. While the Seu-hanji give the Emerald Magistrates the ability to go looking for violations of Imperial Law, those with complaints or charges to bring will stand before the Chu-hanji. The Chu-hanji also, as a rule, host larger support staffs as they will handle many of the non-judicial administrative responsibilities of the Emerald Magistrates.

The subordinate track of Emerald Magistrates is that of the Inquisitor. These are the Investigators and Foot Soldiers of the Emerald Magistrates. While the Chu-hanji and Seu-Hanji consider cases and render judgments, it is the Inquisitors who will break down the maho-tsukai’s door and take them prisoner (though being taken prisoner is rarely a concern for such violators of Imperial law). Both Chu-hanji and Seu-hanji will have one Dai-tokibe or Senior Inquisitor. This person is responsible for managing the Inquisitorial staff and ensuring investigations are assigned, carried out, and followed up on. The Dai-tokibe will generally have a few Chu-tokibe or Middle Inquisitors. These men and women occupy the middle rank that is both thankless and essential simultaneously. Finally, the Seu-tokibe are, in all likelihood, the lowest ranking samurai to occupy an Imperial post. Seu-hanji rarely have more than three or four Seu-tokibe on their staff – the travel makes moving with a large company difficult. Chu-hanji for some of the more populous provinces may have up to two dozen.

The Emerald Magistrates have, through the Right of Privy Investigation, the power to stick their nose into any matter which they deem of interest. This power must, from time to time, collide with reality. An exceptionally nosy Seu-hanji may find himself reporting his activities to the provincial daimyo every few days and a Seu-tokibe who attempts to usurp a high-ranking yoriki’s investigation may find himself not taken very seriously at all, depending on extenuating circumstances. Rokugan does not approve of those who rock the boat.

Possibly the most widely used power of the Emerald Magistrates is the signing of travel papers. More often than not, the provincial Chu-hanji will not delegate this power past the Chu-tokibe rank in order to keep the newest magistrates from selling such authority to supplement their income. Beyond that proviso, however, the Emerald Magistrates can write travel papers to anywhere from anywhere. Needless to say, those who do have the power have often used it to increase their own cash flow.

While the Emerald Magistrates are, officially, responsible for tax collection, the Seu-hanji usually signs the reports presented to him by the representatives from the Ministry of Taxation. The Otomo who run that Ministry and the Emerald Magistrates consider it sufficient that, should the Seu-hanji deem it warranted, they could look into the accounting (supposing they could understand the system in the first place).

Criminally speaking, the Emerald Magistrates are responsible for upholding the copious volumes of vaguely-worded Imperial Law. When they cannot extract a confession from the accused, the Dai-tokibe will present the evidence of criminal activity to the Seu-hanji or Chu-hanji for consideration. This is not a trial. There are no defense attorneys, there is no right of cross-examination, there are few, if any, rights given to the accused, other than, perhaps, to speak in their own defense. If they are politically connected or particularly gifted rhetorically, they might be able to get others to speak in their defense as well. Physical evidence is very rarely considered, save by the Kitsuki, and is often cause to cast doubt on the wisdom and understanding of the judge. There is, of course, no formal system of appeal, though the Emerald Champion may request to review a decision rendered by one of his Magistrates.

Emerald Magistrates generally find themselves investigating three types of crime. Murder takes up the largest part of their time. If a samurai of a Great Clan dies under mysterious circumstances in lands that are not his own, such a matter immediately becomes the concern of the Emerald Magistrates. Acts of Treason against the Emperor (to include consorting with the forces of the Shadowlands) are also automatically matters for the Emerald Magistrates. Finally, cases of Wanton Destruction (the definition of which is usually a matter of fierce debate) pose a threat to Imperial Security and are usually taken over by the Emerald Magistrates.


Bugyo-sho: Clan Judicial Bureau, Office of the clan magistrates for a province.

Bugyo: Head clan magistrate for a province; acts as judge.

Yoriki: Managing assistants to the Bugyo; Station Chiefs, administrators, and Inspectors

Itsuke Tozoku Aratame-kata: Investigative Division for Arson/Organized Robbery; the “Robbery/Homicide” division of a clan magistrate office.

Doshin: The “beat cops” of the clan magistrate structure.

Komono: Peasant assistants to the magistrates, specialists in man-catchers and disarming techniques.

Gyobu-sho: The Imperial Ministry of Justice; Office of the Emerald Magistrates.

Dai-hanji: “Chief Judge”; One of the titles of the Emerald Magistrates.

Chu-Hanji: “First Assistant Judge”; Emerald Magistrates assigned to a particular territory.

Seu-Hanji: “Second Assistant Judge”; Roaming Emerald Magistrates with no designated area of responsibility.

Dai-tokibe: “Chief Inquisitor”; Acts as a second to a Chu-Hanji or Seu-Hanji and manages the Investigative staff.

Chu-tokibe: “First Assistant Inquisitor”; Middle-ranked investigators in the Emerald Magistrate System.

Seu-tokibe: “Second Assistant Inquisitor”; Lowest-ranking of the Emerald Magistrates. They do much of the legwork in investigation of violations of imperial law.

Rokugani Law Enforcement

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