[sca-comments] Reform of the Sanctions Process

Michael Cramer valgards at aol.com
Thu May 20 19:21:10 CDT 2021


An Open Letter to the Board of Directors: 


The SCA sanction process is broken. 

On the one hand it is mysterious and opaque. People are sanctioned for apparently no reason. They are removed from our community, often after years of having built  relationships, without any real explanation as to why. Rumors abound. Lives have been ruined on the basis of SCA sanctions that are mysterious and appear to many to be unjust. People long ago lost trust in the Board of Directors to act fairly in handing out sanctions. They have become a star chamber. 

On the other hand, some SCA members, including some peers, appear to act with impunity. There seems to be no way to call SCA members to account for bad behaviour. Many in the populace have long ago lost trust in the SCA to police its members. 

The following ideas are based on three principles. First, transparency. There must be full and complete transparency in the sanction process in order for it to be fair. Second, due process. There must be clearly delineated processes for how cases are presented, who hears them, and how they are handled. This involves jurisdiction -- who has jurisdiction over what. Third, medievalism. One part of this effort is to bring some resemblance to medieval practice into our sanctioning process. It is not intended as a recreation of that process. Like the SCA, it is informed by medieval process, being “perioid” rather than period. This is especially true of the sanctions. Penance is a very broad topic. We can’t pillory people (though we can make them ride the barrier), but we can send them on a quest or have them do penance, which is the most medieval of punishments. One of the big problems we face is that the Board, because it is corporate, only has one or two sanctions. 

Finally, in keeping with the idea of making things more medieval, an effort is made to remove the Board of Directors as much as possible from the sanction process. Sanctions should, in nearly all cases, be handled on a kingdom level. 

Mistress Wander Riordan, who in mundane life has an M.Div., once pointed out that SCA banishment is not like banishment, it’s more like excommunication. A person is still around us, at least locally. We can go to the movies with them, we can even fight or fence with them, so long as it’s not at an SCA sanctioned practice: but they are prohibited from taking part in the rituals and events that form our communion. They are in the community but not of it, which is a very painful position for everyone involved. One of the big things I’ve believed for a long time is that we use banishment too much. To quote another M.Div. I know, Viscountess Maythen Gervase, we have to get past this trend of voting people off the island. 

(and before anybody asks, yes, I would totally accept trial by combat. I’m a knight, for crying out loud: but I am not crazy enough to think that I could get that one to fly). 

So here are some ideas that I’ve been working on for more than a decade. They are just outlines, places to start conversations. 

Jarl Valgard Stonecleaver
Michael A Cramer 

SOME IDEAS ON HOW TO REFORM THE SCA SANCTION PROCESS

For the purposes of sanctioning members, the SCA recognizes Four different types of courts. 
Honor Courts
Honor Courts shall be made up of no fewer than 9 and no more than 21 Barons and Baronesses of the Court.
Honor Courts shall sit for a term of one year, beginning at the SCA New Year.
Honor Courts may only hear cases on actions taken in the year that they are in session, unless the actions took place in April of the previous year (the last month in the SCA calendar). 
Honor Courts hear cases of violations of the SCA Code of Conduct which take place off the field.
Any person may bring a case before an honor court. 
Honor Courts shall have the following sanctions available to them: 
Acquittal -- no sanction is warranted or the charge is untrue
Warning -- the transgression is minor and only a warning is called for.
Censure -- the transgression is serious. Persons will be publicly censured and required to make a formal apology, in person, at either a royal or baronial court. 
Penance - the transgression is serious, but in addition to a public apology, a person shall be required to do penance in some way. 
Temporary suspension from activities, non marshal. 
Indictment -- in the case of major violations of the SCA’s conduct policy, the Honor Court may recommend the case be referred to a Court of Chivalry. 
Marshal’s  Courts
Marshal’s Courts shall be formed by the Earl Marshal of the Kingdom, and shall be made up of warranted marshals. 
They shall sit for one year, beginning on May 1st, the first day of the SCA year. 
Marshal’s Courts hear cases of violations of the Rules of the Lists. 
Marshal’s Courts shall hear cases on actions that occurred in the ye
Any marshal, or any authorized fighter, may bring a case before a marshals court.  
Marshal’s Courts shall have the following sanctions available to them: 
Acquittal -- no sanction is warranted or the charge is untrue
Warning -- the transgression is minor and only a warning is called for.
Censure -- the transgression is serious. Persons will be publicly censured and required to make a formal apology, in person, on the field. 
Penance - the transgression is serious, but instead of a public apology, a person shall be required to do penance in some way. 
Temporary suspension from activities, marshal. 
Revocation of authorization, temporary.
Revocation of authorization, permanent, in the case of multiple infractions. 
Indictment -- in the case of major violations of the Rules of the Lists, or the SCA’s code of conduct, the Marshal’s Court may recommend the case be referred to a Court of Chivalry. 
Runnymede Courts
Runnymede Courts shall be made up of all the sitting landed barons and baronesses of the kingdom. 
Runnymede Courts shall hear cases against sitting royalty and are limited to cases involving actions taken by the crown during their reign.
The only sanction open to a Runnymede court is removal from the throne. This must be taken only for actions that the court deems immediately harmful to the Kingdom. 
Any sanction by a Runnymede Court is automatically referred to a Court of Chivalry. 
Any sanction of a Runnymede Court must be unanimous. 
Courts of Chivalry
Courts of Chivalry shall consist of the peers of the realm. 
The Crown and seneschal may decide to reduce the numbers of peers on the court, however, the court must have at least two distinct representatives from each of the awarded peerages, plus two royal peers.  
All peers have a right to sit on courts of chivalry. 
Courts of Chivalry shall hear cases that involve major violations of the SCA Code of Conduct or the Rules of the Lists, violations of fealty, treason, and conduct unbecoming of a peer. 
The sanctions open to Courts of Chivalry are as follows: 
Penance - the transgression is serious, but in addition to a public apology, a person shall be required to do penance in some way. 
A recommendation of banishment. A court of chivalry may recommend that a person be banished by the Crown. 
SANCTIONS RESERVED FOR THE CROWN
The crown has available to it, without the findings of any court, all of the sanctions listed above. 
In addition, the Crown, or the coronet of a principality with regard to one of the principality subjects, has the sole right to banish a person from the Royal Presence. 
Banishment from the Royal Presence requires that the banished person not attend court, may not hold office, and may not compete as either a consort or a fighter in a royal lists. 
Persons banished from the Royal Presence may not hold office under the Crown or Coronet who banished them. 
Banishment From The Royal Presence lasts until the end of the reign of the royal who instituted the banishment. 
The Crown and only the crown has the sanction of banishment from the realm. 
Banishment from the Realm may only occur after a conviction by a court of chivalry. 
Persons banished from the realm may not attend events, including local meetings and practices under the auspices of the SCA. 
Banishment From The Realm lasts until the end of the reign of the royal who instituted the banishment.
The Crown may, at its discretion, request that persons banished from the realm have their membership in the SCA revoked and denied by the Board of Directors of the SCA. 
CALLING TO ACCOUNT
In addition to the above, Each of the Orders of Peerage may “Call To Account” any member of that order. 
Five members of an order are required to call a peer to account. 
When a peer is called to account, they must 
Be given a list of charges against them at least one month before they appear. 
They will appear in person before the order to hear the charges against them. Failure to appear may be taken as an admission of guilt. The order may not, however, make it so difficult for a peer to attend -- by holding the council very far away, or scheduling it at an impossible time -- that the peer is likely to miss and therefore be held in forfeit. 
The accused peer may call up to two witnesses in their defense for each charge.
Upon hearing the evidence and the account of the peer, the order may choose to sanction the accused. 
The sanctions open to the orders when a peer is called to account are 
Temporary Suspension from the order -- the peer must surrender their regalia for a set amount of time, and may not take place in any of the actions or deliberations of the order, nor use their rank, nor march in the order of precedence as a member of the order. 
Degradation from the order -- The council may, in consultation with the Crown, request that the peer be degraded from the order. 
Indictment to a Court of Chivalry. 
No peer may degraded from an awarded peerage unless and until they have been called to account and their order has recommended degradation, and the Crown has concurred. 
Royal Peers may not be degraded of their titles: however, with a conviction of a court of Chivalry, they may be stripped of their patent of arms. 
CONDUCT OF THE COURTS 
All persons appearing before an SCA court are to be presumed innocent by that court until proven guilty and convicted by that court. 
All proceedings of the court, save deliberation, are to be held in public, and the populace may attend. 
The proceedings may be virtual, but all effort should be made to hold the court in person. . 
Failure of the defendant to attend the court may, at the court’s discretion, be taken as an admission of guilty. The court may not, however, make it so difficult for a peer to attend -- by holding the council very far away, or scheduling it at an impossible time -- that the peer is likely to miss and therefore be held in forfeit.
Anyone disrupting the court will be barred from the court. 
The court shall appoint a judge to preside over the court. 
A judge of a court of Chivalry should be a royal peer. 
The judge does not make rulings except in the case of questions, as outlined below. The judge’s job is to speak for the court and act as chief justice. 
The court shall appoint a prosecutor to argue for conviction. 
The defendant has the right to appoint an advocate to argue in their defense. 
The charges must be read allowed in court, and the court is limited to findings on those charges alone. 
In the case of a Court of Chivalry, the findings of an Honor Court, a Marshal’s Court, a Runnymede Court, or of a council that has called a peer to account, shall be entered into evidence as part of the charges.
In the case of a court of Chivalry, the Seneschal may appoint an investigator to investigate the charges and present them to the court, but the investigator may not act as prosecutor. 
Prosecutors may call up to two witnesses for each charge. 
Prosecutors have one hour total to present their case. 
Defendants have a right to hear all of the evidence against them. 
Defendants have a right to attempt to refute the charges against them. 
Defendants have a right to present witnesses in their defense. They are limited to two witnesses for each charge.   
Defense has the right to at least one hour to prepare their defense. 
Defense has up to one hour in total to present its defense. 
Questioning of Witnesses:
After each side has presented their case, including witnesses, the witness are to remain in court, unless the court has taken a recess. 
Questioning of the witnesses shall take place after each side has presented its case. 
It is in the interest of justice to protect witnesses and those making charges against a member of the SCA, but also that parties from both sides be able to question the witness. Therefore, the court has open to it two options. 
That the parties be allowed to cross examine a witness against them.
That the parties be allowed to submit questions, in writing, to the judge to be asked of the witness. The judge has the discretion, if they find the question to be harmful to the witness, of rephrasing it or not asking it. If the question is not asked, that fact must be made aware to all the members of the court.
Each member of the court may also submit, in writing, one question to ask of each witnesses. 
After the witnesses have been questions, each member of the court may submit one question, in writing, of prosecution. 
After the prosecution has been questioned each member of the court may submit, in writing, on question of the defense.  
After the cases of the prosection and defense have been presented, and questions have been asked, each side is allowed ten minutes for a summation, with the prosecution going first. 
The court shall deliberate in private for no more than two hours. 
If the court is made up of fewer than 10 members, the findings of the court must be unanimous. If the court is made up of ten members or more, at least 75% of the members must be in agreement to convict, with the exception of a Runnymede Court, which must always be unanimous. 
In the case of a conviction, the court shall then decide upon sanction by majority vote. 
All sanctions must be published in the kingdom newsletter and declared in court, but they are considered to be in effect from the moment they are pronounced. 
SANCTIONS RESERVED FOR THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS. 
The Board of Directors acts primarily as the court of final appeal on cases of banishment and degradation. 
The Board will not initiate proceedings against any member of the SCA except in the cases outlined in this section.
The board shall not consider evidence in an appeal, nor initiate any new investigations. The board simply assures that due process was followed, and votes up or down to uphold the sanction, save in those outlined below. 
No one may be degraded from a peerage without the findings of a Court of Chivalry, in the case of Royal Peers, or a recommendation of their order from their kingdom of residence, in the case of awarded peerages. 
No one shall have their membership revoked and denied absent a conviction by a Court of Chivalry and the Recommendation of their sovereign, except in the following extraordinary circumstances. These may be initiated by the Board. 
Expulsion From The SCA: persons under felony indictment in a court of law may, at the discretion of the board, be temporarily expelled from the SCA, until such time as their case is resolved. 
Persons who have been convicted of a felony while members of the SCA may, at the discretion of the Board of Directors, have their membership revoked and denied without the need for any other proceedings. This revocation and denial must take place within one year of the conviction.  
People who were convicted before they joined the SCA of sexual assault, sexual offenses agaisnt a child, or felony murder may, at the discretion of the board, have their membership revoked and denied at any time, so long as the vote to revoke and deny takes place within one year of the Board of Directors becoming aware of the conviction.
The board may chose to make any sanction, including Revocation and Denial of Membership, temporary, up to three years, or permanent. 
The Board may not vote twice on any sanction, except in the case of reconsideration. 
RECONSIDERATION in the case of permanent sanction, a former SCA member may, after three years have elapsed, petition the board to have their membership reinstated. If reinstatement is denied, they may continue to petition the board every two years thereafter. 
All Board Sanctions must be published by the Board on the SCA website, and in the Board minutes, and must include both the sanction and the reason behind it. All evidence used by the board in arriving at a sanction must be available to the membership upon request, save that names may be redacted at the discretion of the board. 
The board shall maintain a public database of all those who have had their membership revoked and denied. 
 

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