Praetonian common law
Praetonian common law is a form of customary law practiced mainly in countries settled by Praetonian people, an area typically called the Commonwealth. A majority of people in the Commonwealth consider the common law, synonymous for natural law, to be the supreme form of law; consequently, countries in the Commonwealth do not have forms of government or a state, and do not have an executive, a legislature, or a judiciary. While Praetonian common law originates from radical Christian thinking regarding biblical interpretation, it has since developed secular philosophical groundings, and is considered a practical application of voluntarist philosophy.
Common law emerged from the Praetonian Legalists' radical Christian doctrines. Believing that man was imperfect, they saw God himself as the only legitimate sovereign. Even if men only attempted to enforce Biblical law, they argued, they would still fail because they would not be able to agree on the correct interpretation of the scripture. This, the Legalists reasoned, was because man was incapable of perfectly comprehending the divine. The purpose of law on earth, then, was only to arbitrate disputes between individuals so that they could live as they themselves chose, and that God was the only one who would eventually judge their moral conduct.
Christianity arrived in the early 13th century in Praetonia, and seeking to create a unified Empire with religious justification for absolute rule, was spread with official support by successive Praetonian Emperors. Although it never succeeded in completely eradicating the native polytheism, by the end of the 14th century it had become near-universal among the educated and at least publicly accepted by most of the peasantry.
The influx of new ideas proved impossible for the weak central government to control, however, and a variety of 'heresies' emerged over the course of the century, fuelled by the waves of plague that swept across the island since contact was established with the New World. In 1530, during a brief power vacuum, a Millenarian cult with the support of the city burghers and landless nobility seized power in Haversham, declared "the eternal reign of King Jesus", and executed the heir apparent. Surprised by the ease of their success, the radical clerics found large numbers of willing converts to their doctrine of 'equality before God', and serfs throughout the Kingdom seized the land they worked and expelled the established nobility. It became clear that it was not possible for the Common Law to co-exist with a feudal monarchy, and a ten year civil war between 1682-1692 saw the Senland Estates-General defeat the Praetonian Emperor. Their victory is generally ascribed to the superior commercial and economic development of Senland, the unity and resolve of their society, and repeated rebellions and defections among the peasantry in Imperial Praetonia.
Courts and law enforcement
Common law countries do not have official state courts, but instead have courts consisting of magistrates who have studied the law. Acceptance of the decisions made by these magistrates is essentially voluntary, but since a majority of the population respect the common law, the outcomes of the most prestigious courts are nearly universally accepted. Courts do not give instructions or order people to act in a certain way, but instead judge what would be lawful or not lawful in a given situation in response to a case, or decide whether a particular person has acted unlawfully or not, and if so what would be a justified response by the aggrieved party. Typically, the willingness to act or not act on the judgment made by a court depends on the prestige of that court; some of the most prestigious common law courts such as the Court of Maritime Settlement, the Haversham Metropolitan Court and the Pahang Circuit Courts make judgments which are very widely accepted; less prestigious courts can refer their case to a more prestigious court if required. Courts are funded by fee-paying.
In principle, a person does not need to seek a decision or a judgment from a court to act if their actions are justified, but in order to protect themselves from potential retaliation, a large majority of the population, especially in Praetonia and North Point, obtain a judgment from a court before acting, in order to have a clear authority with which to justify their actions to others. Common law countries rarely have centralised police forces; claimants can hire private firms, collectivelly called Nightwatchman agencies, in order to secure restitution. Only in Questers do centralised police forces, which act on the instruction of, and are funded by a private body, carry out the work typically associated with law enforcement. Even these centralised police forces do not cover a majority of the people, or geographical area, of the country, and are viewed with scepticism by Praetonians and North Pointers. Police forces and private security firms do not have legal powers of arrest as in other countries, but instead act only in accordance with what a court believes is just law. The Pahang Circuit Courts issue notices to law enforcement agencies detailing what types of actions they judge to be lawful in a given case; these are called warrants. Other than this, law enforcement officers are only employees of an agency, and do not have special powers or rights; they are subject to legal action in the same way any person is.