The Vampi(y)re Judicial Council

This was a less successful attempt by several Houses and VC organizations in early 2011 who worked together to influence the global VC to choose a direction leading to a safer community for all participants. Octarine Valur of House Valur acted as co-ordinator and developer for this project, which became a center-piece for the level of drama we have become used to seeing in the OVC over time. While several VC groups did indicate interest, showed support and even participated for a brief time, it gradually stagnated due to increased resistance to change.

The main activity for this body took place on the VJC forum. This project is considered terminated by House Valur, although the Charter of the VJC did form the basis for the later Constitution of the South African Vampyre Alliance the same year.

Most of the opposition to the VJC was from the American portion of the VC, and the prevailing concerns can be seen in questions like those asked below:

These are FAQ’s posted on the VCN (Vampire Community News facebook group over May 11-12 2011 by Octarine Valur who drafted the VJC Charter:

“What is the main reason for the VJC? Statement of purpose?”

Brief? Hmm ok, in one sentence then – VC Groups and individuals coming together only for the purpose of making the VC a safer place by agreeing on entities which constitute a danger – or have endangered – the VC or the membership of the VJC, and to exclude these entities from their sphere of influence in the VC.

What is the VJC?

It is the expression of the combined will of its Members and member Groups, acting as a bargaining council, as well as an authority within the auspices of its own membership only. The VJC exists solely to mediate and to investigate and decide on issues brought to it by the membership, particularly on issues which threaten to divide the community, or which threaten it in some way and to exclude harmful individuals or groups from the sphere of influence of the member Groups.

Why the VJC – other social groups don’t have “governing bodies”, why do we need one?

Actually Jewish and Islamic communities the world over DO have their own councils to settle their own internal issues – which is exactly what the VJC is based upon. As a matter of interest, most Muslim communities have a “Muslim Judicial Council” which decides internal community issues and also addresses religious dietary concerns (Halaal) etc. Many Jewish communities have similar bodies, as do some others.

Is the VJC an attempt to rule the VC?

No.

Is the VJC a governing body?

No. Its mandate only extends as far as co-operation on issues brought to it by Members. It’s decisions have absolutely no effect outside the membership of the VJC.

Will the VJC “convene” online for any other purpose?

No. The VJC exists solely to mediate and to investigate and decide on issues brought to it by the membership.

Mundane US laws cover everything already, why do we need the VJC?

US Federal Laws do not cover everything from the perspective of the Vampi(y)re Community, nor do US Federal Laws extend all the way round the world. The VJC is intended to focus on the VC alone, its interests and the safety of its members.

Will Sin Nomine be applied for “silly indiscretions” like wearing fangs on TV?

No. Only serious issues involving assault, abuse of children or donors, or posing a serious threat to the community (i.e. JS) would be considered.

Is the VJC going to act like a police force?

No. The VJC is not designed to be any form of law enforcement group akin to actual police forces.

Is the VJC a cover for vigilante action?

No. Any and all actions taken by the VJC will be purely academic and will strive to fit within the Mundane laws of whatever area member Groups exist in.

What about legal action against the VJC by disgruntled individuals?

Pronouncements made against any individuals by the VJC will be made public regarding issues of Sin Nomine and suspensions etc. Common sense should apply. For example in cases where someone has been convicted in a Mundane court of a serious crime and this is an issue regarding SN, mention of this may be made without fear of libel. In cases where no such conviction has been made, then it is probably best that no such mention of the crime is made and just the fact of SN be made. Most vamp  groups are not legally registered clubs and societies anyway, and even most registered bodies are allowed to choose who they admit or keep as members. Anyway, nightside names should be used at all times. Nothing done here is legally binding, like traditional law and policy enforcement.

Does the VJC intend to impose any laws on the VC?

No. The Charter is drawn from already existing community mores and values and contains only the basic common-sense values agreed upon by most Groups in the VC, and agreed upon by its member Groups.

Does the VJC intend to develop its own set of laws to “rule” the VC?

No. There are enough diverse law sets throughout the global VC. The VJC does not hold any specific one central to its core values as this would cause too much friction between diverse groups. Instead, it has taken a common-sense approach to look at what constitutes grounds for concern.

Will member Groups of the VJC lose their independence?

No. The VJC is not going to interfere in domestic affairs of member groups. It will act as a mediator between member groups and if required, member groups and non member groups, and as a cooperative body act in accordance with the Charter – that’s all. It won’t be a governing body in any way shape or form and will have no say over the internal affairs of any member Group.

Is membership of the VJC mandatory?

No. Anyone in the community is free to join, and if they are dissatisfied, they are free to leave.

What if a member Group doesn’t like the outcome of a case?

There is a system of appeal or Review in place.

Does or will the VJC have a leader or leader Group?

No. All Groups on the VJC will have equal status, no one Group can impose anything upon another.

Does the VJC fall under any Group or House?

No. The VJC is a loose collaboration of Members and member Groups and isn’t aligned with or attached to any individual Group, member or otherwise.

Will the views of the VJC reflect the views of the entire VC?

No. The views of the VJC will reflect the views of the Members. No group can truly please everybody.

How will decisions/pronouncements/verdicts of the VJC affect the VC who are not members?

Cases decided upon by the VJC will only have effect within the Groups who support the VJC and their spheres of influence. The VJC does not expect non-members to uphold their verdicts.

How will the VJC pass judgement on a case?

The entire membership of the VJC votes on the outcome of a case, with one vote per member.

What is meant by “divisive sites”?

Divisive sites would be sites such as “vampirewebsite.com” which defames nearly the entire OVC and disseminates misinformation which is in contradiction to the majority of the sites considered to be valid within the OVC. Blatant fantasy is portrayed as cold hard fact, and the actual VC is portrayed as “posers” and “fakes”. What is clear about divisive sites is that they would be sites or groups which attack the VC from inside, or excessively polarize the community to the point of causing a hostile rift within the community.

What effect would VJC statements on divisive sites have?

In the example of the “Vampirewebsite” above, what can the VJC do about such a site? The VJC cannot remove offensive sites, but can work to counter their negative effects on the community. For example, sites which portray real vampires through the lens of misinformation as does “Vampirewebsite” would be distanced from the VC, and formally and publicly denounced as role-player sites in order to limit the impact such sites has on the uninformed and those new to the community who usually fall foul of these sites and the misinformation stored on them.

Can individuals declared Sin Nomine by other Groups or the community in general approach the VJC to be reinstated?

The VJC can only make decisions on Pronouncements it has made, ie cases it presided over or issues which affect its members. If someone was declared SN by another group not in the VJC, then such a person may apply to be heard in the VJC and if such an appeal is successful, they would still be SN outside the VJC, but recognized within the VJC and it’s member Groups.

Can individuals and Groups which are not members of the VNC be declared SN within the VJC?

Yes, although this would only be of effect within the member Groups sphere of influence.

Can individuals declared Sin Nomine by the VJC appeal their cases?

Yes. There is an appeal process built into the Charter regarding individuals pronounced SN by the VJC itself.

Can individuals or Groups approach the VJC to mediate in a community matter?

Yes. This applies where the VJC is not required to meddle in the domestic or internal affairs of any Group.

May Donors join or participate in the VJC?

The VJC is intended for anyone in the VC who is interested in participating in whatever way. The Charter of the VJC is sufficiently clear that the VJC will not interfere in the domestic issues of any member group, including its membership – therefore, if any VC group is led by a Donor or even consists entirely of Donors, the Charter permits it.

I am not in a group – can I participate?

Yes. The VJC exists to constitute a collective of individuals of all spheres in the VC, and not just vampires.

What if I don’t like the idea of the VJC?

Don’t participate. Smile. Put down the stake and mallet – nobody is forcing you into it.

Is the Charter as presented final?

No. Changes can still be made by means of internal processes.

Can the VJC “outlaw” anything?

No. The VJC is not a governing body, so it has no authority to outlaw anything. It applies existing community guidelines in a very broad sense. The VJC cannot “outlaw” anything at all. Firstly, it is an association with voluntary membership which will lose members as soon as it tries to enforce anything unpopular with the membership.

Secondly, the VJC is intended to be the expression of the will of the membership, meaning that all issues decided would be decided by a vote – and a majority of votes – and each decision would be deliberated by the membership before the vote took place, making an undemocratic result unlikely.

Some are concerned that the VJC could outlaw blood feeding – is this true? (Strange question, I know).

No. The VJC is not a governing body, so it has no authority to say “vampires may not feed on blood on pain of Sin Nomine”. The Charter provides for matters where a Donor has been abused by a vamp, or where the Donor Bill of Rights has been seriously breached, or where an individual has committed a crime such as attacking people to obtain blood (as seen in the media last year) etc. The VJC is intended to be a guardian of its membership, who are vampires, Donors, and associated individuals. Denying a vampire the right to feed on blood without causing harm to others would be to deny the nature and existence of our own kind. Since many vampires feed sanguinely, and many Groups have a mixed membership of Psi/Sang/Hybrid vamps, it is doubtful this scenario would ever play out.

Where does the VJC stand on the divisions between Psi and Sang vamps?

If you look closely at the Charter, the VJC enshrines the principles in the Vampi(y)re Declaration of Community posted in December last year, which (hopefully) makes it pretty clear that the VJC is founded on principles of unity, equality and community between all of us, fostering mutual respect, and not based at all on feeding methods.

Will those who sit in judgment on the VJC be qualified legal professionals?

No. All Pronouncements by the VJC will be made by a ballot or vote by the broad membership of the VJC. Those who represent their Groups on the Judiciary Council as Commissioners, and they will not pass judgment, but present evidence and argument either way. Serious crimes will of course be addressed by Mundane law, and the person convicted on such serious charges by Mundane law will be arraigned for Excommunication on that basis. The VJC does not intend to hold a trial on the basis of convicting someone of serious crimes like murder, assault, rape etc – but simply to decide if we want to be associated with them or not, as members of the VJC.

Will the VJC need to take local laws in different countries into account when passing judgment?

This is unlikely. Where issues cross borders, and there are member groups from different countries involved, it is up to the individual groups to implement verdicts by the VJC in whatever way they see fit in order to remain within their regional laws. Thus, this falls within the ambit of the Group’s internal issues and discretion as it is the Group which will have to deal with any consequences and potential fallout in their area.

Will the VJC hold trials and judge individuals or will it act as a mediation group?

The VJC will be doing both. You don’t need a mediation group to warn the community of dangerous individuals moving to their area, a simple email could do that. Yes, the VJC could and would mediate disagreements, and yes it will warn of dangerous individuals in the community – and yes it will seek to excommunicate these individuals from the part of the community that considers itself members of the VJC.

(Specially for Akasha) Are there going to be any fees charged to folks who want be a part of the VJC?

No, but since we are underfunded, we might pass a hat around for collections at each meeting.

What laws does your country not have that you feel the community needs that this council could enforce?

This is not specifically about Mundane law – but about who we as members of the VC want to be associated with in the public eye, and about keeping dangerous elements out of the community. Mundane law does not have ways of dealing with vampire issues such as who the community wants to be associated with, or not – which is basically at the root of why the VJC came about to begin with and more or less what it’s main business will be.

“Regarding criminals – if someone has been convicted of a crime, and a group doesn’t want them to be a part of their community, then why not just make them Sin Nomine on their own website?”

This declaration of SN in the example comes only from one group – via the VJC it can go through as many groups that are members, meaning that more of the community agrees that this person is not part of their community.

“Does the VC not already pass around news of sin nomine and other dangerous individuals?”

Yes, Some groups do – but if for example a matter winds up in public spotlight it will count so much more in favor of the VC if there is a collective of groups representing the X number of members on it who say “that person is not part of our community and we don’t condone his/her actions”. Which is more favorable?

“Why would the VJC want to pass judgment on someone who isn’t a part of the VJC?”

Because some people who are not members of one group can still negatively affect a member of another – and because for example member groups of the VJC can choose to distance themselves from someone who commits a violent crime and attracts bad publicity for the entire VC.

“It is set up under a house banner of any type saying that there is already bias.”

No, it isn’t.

“The Charter says “to keep the VC safe and orderly” by whose standards?”

By the standards of the members of the VJC. If any Member is concerned about a particular individual or Group, they may approach the VJC about it – upon which the VJC Members will deliberate the issue.

“The Charter makes no distinction of what ‘defamation’ or ‘misrepresentation’ is.”

I would think these two terms are fairly well defined in any dictionary?

“Why should this be forced upon everyone that because one group got pissed off at a guy and brought enough to this kangaroo court to make them agree?”

Nobody is made to agree – that’s why each individual votes on the issue. The general agreement of the VJC is that if a anyone involved doesn’t agree, it will either abide by the vote, or appeal the outcome. If the Group does not wish to be part of the group, or agree with the principle of its operation, nobody will “force” anything on them – as agreed by their membership conditions – and nobody will force anyone at gun-point to join or agree to anything.

“It says the authority of this group is only affecting those that are members; this is not true.”

If an individual is SN’ed by one group only, does it affect that person outside of that group? No? The same principle applies to the VJC, only it widens the base of the effect to include more Groups.

“The Charter implies that there is no choice in this; everyone will submit to the rulings handed down if they recognize this group or not.”

No it doesn’t. It means that if someone who is not a member of the VJC presents a threat to the member Groups, or the VC in general (ie JS) then the VJC membership can disassociate itself from them, with or without the participation of that entity.

“This is just as hollow as every other attempt in the past, thinking you can force law onto the people.”

(*face palm* Once again, for the hundredth time…) Nobody is forcing anything on anyone – if you don’t want to be a part of it, then don’t – it’s that simple. It says so several times in the Charter, as well as in the previous two FAQ’s. See – you have a choice – notice how I’m not forcing you to the ground and cuffing you?

“The Charter fails in that everyone taking part in this is already on the same side any way so bias can not be removed.”

As in any democratic system, there are still flaws, but all issues decided upon will rest on a majority vote. Since when have you seen everyone in the VC agreeing on anything at the same time?

“The Charter goes so far as to state that if the VJC deems someone harmful to the community, whether they’ve been your lifelong friend or not, once a ruling is made… THAT’S IT… YOU ARE NO LONGER TO ASSOCIATE WITH THEM… That is tantamount to “my mommy says I can’t be friends with you because (insert stupidity here)”

* buzz * Wrong. It says that you’re not to associate with them or involve them within the context of VJC member-oriented events or bodies – it says nothing about being friends with them outside the VJC membership or at meetings, groups etc context.

“You can’t, even in your own documents seem to agree on whether it is only going to have pull with those IN the VJC or those OUTSIDE of the VJC… Myself, House of xxxx and xxx will NOT be a party to, nor accepting of the VJC any “rulings” leveled by such a group will be seen as NULL AND VOID.”

It’s very clear in the Charter that whatever is decided within the membership about what entities to disassociate from only applies within the membership. I don’t know how many times I have tried to clarify this specific issue, but beyond drawing pictures I cannot make it any simpler or clearer. Neither you nor your groups being a part of the VJC, you have just proved my point to yourself (and hopefully to others) so completely in a way that I, through reams of debate and FAQ updates, obviously could not. Thank you.

“But somewhere, someone has to be the person responsible for making sure the website works, setting up a chat room, clicking the ban button when the VJC decides it needs to be done, receiving the emails from members requesting mediation, etc.”

Yes – that would be me, at least for now while I will be setting the forum up.

“If a group or individual chooses not to adhere to the code of conduct, will the VJC be authorized to cut up their vampire club card?”

No, just their VJC club card If they don’t want to adhere to the Charter, why join or belong?

“This document is so long to print – can’t you make it shorter?”

No. Try printing it in smaller text

(This one is specially for Alison Demzon) “Is there something that you guys are hiding about this?”

No. And no, I’m not lying. No, seriously. No, there is nothing behind my back… *screams* Let go of me!!

(And lastly, I love this one from Paindancer) “A tiger with no teeth is ineffectual. A tiger with teeth is too dangerous to have around. Welcome to politics.”

Indeed.

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