Sunday, January 13, 2008

Once upon a time, there were some crooked lawyers and judges....

Rome was known for its laws and courts. Courts were usually staffed by senators and knights and judges were appointed by the Praetor Urbanus (who was the chief prosecutor as well as the Roman equivalent of mayor). There were several other praetors that served at the same time as he did. Rome was ruled by two assemblies, the Senate and the Plebeian Assembly (led by the Tribunes). The Tribunes (these were elected) had the authority to veto most actions of the Senate and if actning unanimously, could throw out most verdicts in the courts. Under the Roman legal system, civil suits for damages could be filed as in America.

In the year of the Consulship of Marcus Minicus Rufus and Spurius Postimus Albinus, the hallowed Roman system was compromised. Advocates such as Rutilius Scrulinius, Julius Langilus, Titus Baltius, and others became extremely wealthy from winning suit after suit against rich defendants. They used an arrangement that would make Marcus Licinius Crassus proud in that they didn't charge but a small fee from the plaintiff before they took the suit but received a large share of the winnings if successful. Although this practice was publicly decried by Senators and Consuls alike, they were able to continue in their subversion of the Roman legal system as they always bought several tribunes of the plebeians. Under Roman law, the tribunes could veto any act of the Senate and all 12 tribunes could overturn any verdict of the court. Having paid off the tribunes, the legal mafia did not have to worry about unfavorable verdicts nor the Senators and Consuls as long as they conspirators remained silent.

However, the legal mafia was not stupid nor short-sighted as they also bribed the Praetor Urbanus, giving them an additional tool as they could threaten a hapless defendant with a criminal prosecution if he did not settle the lawsuit. Several fortunes were acquired this way. Since the Praetor Urbanus was always their candidate, many lawsuits never even went to trial, thus providing the legal mafia with a never-ending source of income.

Finally, the Senate and Consuls had had enough when one of their own, Gaius Lucius Cotta lost his entire fortune and was exiled due to one of their scams in the extortion court. The Cottae family was known for its virtue, centuries-long service to Rome, and its immense wealth. While Cotta was proconsul of Macedonia, the legal mafia set their sights on him as they planned on seizing his fortune in their little web. While he was proconsul, they had documents forged, Romans impersonating his officials stole money from the treasury, and other false evidence of crimes was planted. They bought a few of his minor officials, granted them immunity, and thus acquired completely false testimony against Cotta. When he returned to Rome when his term as proconsul, and thus imperium, was over, they struck and filed a lawsuit on behalf of some poor Macedonians alleging that he stole from the Roman treasury, seized Macedonian assets and works of art for himself, and tortured Macedonians. Praetor Urbanus Junicus Hortensius met with Cotta's advocate, Michaelis Milo, and told him Cotta had two options: surrender his entire fortune or else he could face a criminal prosecution by Hortensius that would see him lose his entire fortune as well as face exile, the loss of his Roman citizenship, or even the possibility of being thrown off of the Tarpenian Rock, which was the only death penalty allowed for Roman citizens.

It was interesting that Milo was his advocate as Michaelis had been the previous Praetor Urbanus and was very popular as he had taken on those who had gotten rich off of Romans who had become very rich by overcharging Rome for producing arms during the Punic Wars. It was also made clear to Cotta that any favorable verdict to him would be overturned by the tribunes. Thus Cotta was forced to surrender his entire fortune to the plaintiffs. It was noted afterwards that the legal mafia had several stunning villas built on the Palatine that were palaces worthy of any Oriental king after the verdict. Rumors of their wealth flew as they were considered to be the new masters of Rome.

This was the last straw for the Consuls and the Senate, who undertook to stop this hijacking of Rome and its legal traditions. No Roman was truly ethical but there was still a certain fairness about it. If a Senator took money in order to help a supporter get a state contract or a proconsul taxed more of his province than Rome required, that was one thing. However, this legal mafia had worked out a perfect conspiracy that operated at a much higher level and threatened to wreck Rome.

The Consuls began an investigation, backed by a law passed by the Senate and the Plebeian Assembly giving them the authority and responsibility for ensuring the integrity of the courts as well as giving them full powers of prosecution. Rufus had been particularly outraged at the treatment of Cotta so he attacked this task with much enthusiasm.

Their big break came when one of them bought a slave who had once been owned by a former praetor, Edius Petronius. This particular slave was a Pontic female renowned for her ravenous beauty and being in her late twenties, was still quite attractive as Rufus was not immune to such pleasures himself. Unknown to Petronius, who had bought her for one particular reason, she was quite literate as her father had been a student at one of the schools of philosophy in Athens. She was quite familiar with the conspiracy as Petronius would usually brag about it after consuming large quantities of wine (Sicilian wine of course. These vultures were never cheap when it came to their own pleasures). Once after she had not satisfied him adequately, he punished her severely. When he traveled, she read more than a few documents he kept in his study for safekeeping as he never imagined his Pontic slave was literate in latin and greek.

Rufus traveled to Campania, where the slave had told him Petronius had placed much of his fortune in a Campanian bank. As Rufus was Consul, he was able to look at the bank's transactions and thus was able to see what exactly Petronius had deposited and withdrawn from his account at the bank. What was interesting was that within a week after Cotta lost his fortune, Petronius deposited one million sesterces in his account. The Consul was staggered by the sum as Petronius had been named the judge in that case. Rufus returned to Rome with his information and evidence. The Consul left two lictors at the bank with orders to prevent any movement of Petronius's money.

The Consul then had Petronius brought before him in the dead of the night for interrogation. With Rufus was the other Consul and the Princeps Senatus (the leader of the Senate), and several other leading Knights and Senators who had been untainted by the corruption of the legal mafia. Petronius was a Roman citizen and thus due certain rights. Therefor, he was granted immunity in exchange for testifying against the legal mafia. They were floored by the web that had been woven as Petronius detailed which Senators, Praetors, Judges, Tribunes, and other officials were paid off. Of chief interest to them was Scrulinius, Langilus, and Baltius.

As Baltius had always been known as a social climber who knew no Greek (the Roman way of saying someone was uncultured as literate Romans were expected to know Greek), he was their first target. He was someone who cared more about what people thought about him, possessing a weak character. He succumbed quickly to their pressure and told them everything he knew in exchange for the seizure of only half of his riches. As it was the corruption of the praetors, judges, and tribunes (which during the time of the Gracchi had become a thorn in their side) along with Scrulinius that was their target, they were willing to cut a deal with some of the conspirators.

Langilus, who was smarter than Baltius, better-connected, and had more to lose, blustered for awhile before he cut a deal. In exchange for his evidence and testimony, he received an exile from Rome of only three years and had to leave Italy while suffering a fine that still left him some of his money but not enough to where he would ever be a power in Roman society again. In the scrolls he provided, there were 25 judges that were shown to be in the legal mafia's pay. Now Rufus had a real and provable case for the extortion court. Scrulinius was summoned but resisted for several days. When he realized that his former cohorts in crime were lined up against them and the choice was either selling out the rest of his group or being thrown off of the Tarpenian Rock, he made a deal and received six years of exile and had to surrender his entire fortune as it was clear to him that even though he that he was related to several prominent senators through marriage, he was getting no protection in this case.

Many wondered why Rufus made a deal with Scrulinius. Rufus would reply that there would always be individuals who were looking to get rich and Scrulinius was merely one of those people. However, it was the praetors, judges, and tribunes who made it possible for people like him TO get rich and manipulate the system. His real target was not the advocates involved but the past two Praetor Urbanae, Juncus Hortensius and Michaelis Milo, who had made it possible for Scrulinus to win his lawsuits as they would threaten the victims with prosecution and had helped in corrupting the tribunes to safeguard against any honest verdicts. It was Hortensius and Milo who sold Rome out to the vultures, who had corrupted their class and Roman traditions, who had shown a despicable breed of advocates a way to power that left them immune from repercussions if left alone.

Scrulinius provided them with the documents implicating his former conspirators. Then the fun began. The Consul declared a state of emergency, backed by the Senate, and was made Dictator of Rome for 3 months (the other consul kept his office and imperium), thus protecting him from any legal repercussions after his terms was over. Rufus arrested Hortensius, Milo (who had just announced he was not going to run for consul after being a heavy favorite to win the election), and the other implicated officials. As this severely affected the governing of Rome, Rufus sadly assumed the role of Dictator in order to assure Rome that it would survive this crisis.

At trial much evidence and testimony was produced. The judge was Gnaieus Cethegus, who was so rich he couldn't be bought and whose family was one of the original families that over threw the King of Rome, establishing the Republic. At trial, there was no way Hortensius and Milo could overcome the mountain of evidence that stood against them. They had paid off judges over the years. Tribunes had been bought and sold like cheap Gallic slaves.

It soon came out that the conspiracy didn't stop at rich defendants but at smaller, lesser ones who had committed some slight upon them to earn their ire. One judge testified that they paid him so well that if the praetor wrote his charges on a linen napkin he would find in favor of the praetor without even looking at the evidence. The number of victims who were thrown in jail, exiled, made penniless, and extorted exceeded all estimates. Not even suicide was an escape as one victim's family discovered after he ended his life after being falsely prosecuted. They merely declared that his wife and children were responsible for his alleged misdeeds and exiled them from Rome after making them paupers. One poor soul chose to fight the suit Scrulinius filed against him. He lost when the judge appointed by Hortensius ruled against him (the jury rigged by the judge) and then Milo still prosecuted him. The victim lost everything in the civil suit then was exiled from Rome and Greece for the rest of his life. As the extent of the corruption became known, public opinion turned against the two defendants, who had been previously loved by the masses for their more progressive politics. Many a drink was raised at a crossroads college or tavern by the Tiber to the two heroes who were seen as sticking it to the rich and protecting the poor.

After the cases were presented, the verdicts were a foregone conclusion: Milo and Hortensius lost all of their riches. They were stripped of their Roman citizenship. None of their descendants would be allowed to regain the citizenship. The court decreed that the two should be thrown of off the Tarpenian Rock. Justice for the moment, had been done, Rufus and everyone else concluded after their final screams ceased. Rufus set about righting what wrongs he could and when the three month term ended, he finished out his term as Consul and lived out the rest of his days known as a hero of the Republic.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. That was actually pretty good.

Edius Petronius...... hahhaha

Anonymous said...

Love it! We can fill in the correct names ourselves!

Kingfish said...

You people understand what a sophisticated knowledge of Roman history that post required?

Anonymous said...

Yep.

Kingfish said...

Had forgotten about this post and read it again tonight. Still one of my favorites.

Queenfish said...

You are an extremely gifted writer indeed. I loved it.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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