Courts are kept by magistrates. At one time, these were all Golds, who each heard cases from their demesne, but in more recent times trained and paid magistrates are often hired by the Golds to sit in their place. Most crimes require only one magistrate, but serious crimes, like murder, require three in most localities.
Order is kept with a bell, rung by the magistrate, and usually with an attached mindspell to calm those present. The bell is also rung after the verdict is announced.
Two advocates appear, accusing and defending. Their task is to assemble a coherent narrative to support their side's version of events, based on witness testimony and evidence. Testimony is taken under truth-geis, often administered or at least monitored by the magistrate.
The magistrate may, at his or her option, question a witness first, or may hand this function over to one of the advocates, after which the other advocate takes a turn. The accusing advocate questions the witness first after the magistrate.
Even if events occur such that no trial is necessary, the responsible magistrate must still make a finding and enter it into record, if a charge has been made formally. For example, if the accused dies, there is still an investigation, and if the case is settled out of court the magistrate must still be involved in closing it off and ensuring that no coercion or avoidance of justice has occurred. If they are satisfied, they will record it as resolved by restitution, without conviction.
Even a guilty plea does not remove the necessity to offer supporting testimony and evidence and map out a clear story of events, though it does reduce the time required, since the defender no longer argues for the accused's innocence. The defender may, however, urge mitigating circumstances.
Cases are often settled with an agreement to pay a harmgeld, which can be a monetary fine, goods or services, to the victims or their families. There may also be a geis placed on convicted criminals to prevent them from reoffending in a similar way, with their cooperation. Prison is also used to prevent dangerous criminals from reoffending, though Victory is working on reducing the prison population and keeping only the truly dangerous and unreformable there, whereas her predecessor was given to imprisoning anyone who disagreed with him.