The Aeldrethian legal system is fairly basic.
Criminal: A crime is committed. Guardians investigate and effect an arrest. The accused is tried in a court of law where attorneys for the prosecution make the case against him, and attorneys for the defense make the case for him, with the conclusion being decided by either a jury or a judge or panel of judges. If acquitted, the accused is freed. If convicted, the accused is sentenced by a judge to an appropriate penalty ranging from fines and/or mandated service up to life imprisonment.
Civil: Two parties get into a dispute they cannot resolve between them. They retain lawyers. The lawyers represent them to the local Guild chapter for mediation. The decision of Guild mediators is final and binding. If the mediators determine that one or more parties are sufficiently at fault under the law, they may recommend criminal proceedings as well, but that is quite rare.
The Guild of Law:
The form of the Aeldrethian legal system was created by Pwyll, god of law and government. Thus, it is consistent everywhere in the world, like other god-generated systems such as currency and health care. Details of implementation, enforcement and specific local laws vary from place to place and from one national government to another, but the basic procedure is always the same.
There are three arms of the legal system: Legislation, implementation, and adjudication. Legislation is the procedure by which governments write laws. Implementation is the system by which laws are applied and enforced. Adjudication is the system of courts that hear cases and conduct trials in accordance with the law.
Adjudication is also the system by which national legal systems are regulated to conform to the will of Pwyll. Adjudication is independent of any government and is always controlled by the Guild of Law. All lawyers are licensed and judgeships granted by the Guild of Law, and all law courts are controlled by the Guild as well, maintaining a global standard. Any government that refuses to cede control of the courts and legal services to the Guild risks being cursed by Pwyll.
Naturally, this makes the Guild of Law one of the most powerful organizations in the world. To mitigate its influence on governments, the Guild is bound by rather extreme ethical restrictions on what its members may do in politics, business, and other aspects of public life. Failure to abide by any of the ethics rules of the Guild will bring down the curse of the god on the offending member.
The Nature of Pwyll:
Pwyll is one of the more active (some would say meddlesome) and quixotic of the Aeldrethian gods. Balance is what he is all about, and balance is a dynamic interplay of equally weighted opposing forces. As a result, although Pwyll is a force for order and harmony in the world, he is not necessarily a force for good, if good is understood as sweetness and light and puppies and whatnot. If, however, good is understood as balance, harmony, justice, then Pwyll is vital to the well-being of all people. It is no coincidence that he is the patron of both those who make and enforce the law and those who break it.
Checks and balances are probably the core concepts in the nature of Pwyll. In the aspects of life influenced by this god, there is no force that is not countered or checked by another force. Law is balanced by crime, and crime by law. The power of one government is checked by the power of another government, both are checked on one side by the people and on the other by the Guild of Law. The Guild of Law is checked by the will of the god, and the people are checked by the need to be protected from crime. And so it goes.
See the sub-pages of this section for more about how the legal system works.