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Rokugan Magistrates are those who enforce the various laws and responsibilities of the people of Rokugan. There are four core types of magistrates, and also specialized Magistrates such as the Inquisition, who have special, limited powers and responsibilities.
• Emerald Magistrates
Direct representatives for the Imperial government. They have immense powers, but immense limitations; they can only technically get involved in inter-Clan disputes, or against a certain list of known threats to the entire Empire (including Shadowlands incursions, maho, treason, and heresy against the Tao and Fortunes). They’re the ones also in charge of signing the vital travel papers between provinces, and would probably get involved in any case that involves misuse of those papers, or crossing Clan lines, as no Clan Magistrate would have authority to pursue it. They also have legal authority to investigate significant troop movements and battlefield engagements, although how much one Magistrate can do against an army led by a bull-headed daimyo isn’t clear (usually, it’s “not much”). Finally, they also get assignments from the Emerald Champion, who can set them to do pretty much nearly anything.
Outside of this, though, Emerald Magistrates are more politicians than cops. Some local bushi get knifed in the back while attending the geisha den on the wrong side of town? That’s a local matter, not an Imperial crime. Now, if investigation uncovers that the assassin was a Dragon and you’re in Crab lands, then the Emerald Magistrates could get involved … if they feel like it.
• Clan Magistrates
Clan Magistrates are the highest level of legal authority that most people encounter day to day, although it’s important to distinguish between a Magistrate (who acts as a sort of quasi-judge in Rokugan) from the usual legal authority of a samurai over the commoners. They handle the criminal investigation of a Clan over their given district. It’s important to remember that Imperial Magistrates are not the boss of any of the “lesser” Magistrates. Clan Magistrates owe their alliegence to their local legal system and daimyo, not any meddling Imperial Magistrate. The Doji, Shinjo, and, in particular, Kitsuki have schools that train magistrates at this levels. Clan Magistrates might have free-ranging jurisdiction over the Clan at large, or might be appointed to a district, or even more specialized jobs.
• Family Magistrates
Just like Clan Magistrates, only they’re concerned with a given family, and each and every family can have their own. Technically, Family Magistrates should bow to the authority of a Clan Magistrate, but this isn’t always so. A crime against an Asahina by an Asahina? That’s under the thumb of the Asahina Family Magistrates; they’d probably even resent the intrusion of a general Crane Clan Magistrate, because that would spread their dirty laundry across the Clan, which is not polite (and the Crane would certainly be aware of that and not assign one).
• Location Magistrates
These cover a lot of room; all the way from the Rokugani equivalent of the beer-swilling Southern sherrif out in the middle of nowhere, to the honorable men of honor assigned to Otosan Uchi. These are magistrates tied to the legal authority of a very specified and very limited geographical area. While you might think this makes them more or less powerless compared to the higher magistrates, as always, in Rokugan, perception is not reality.An example of this would be Shiba Yasuri or Shiro Shiba. In that city, what she says is law. Why? Because she’s the completely trusted right-hand woman of City Governor, and everyone knows that Hyobu trusts her implicitly in all things, so when Yasuri speaks, she’s basically speaking for the governor, which means even Imperial Magistrates have to get out of Yasuri’s way if she’s on the warpath.