The Order of the Quest for Justice or the Order of Bob are the shortened titles for a long-established charitable society in Oceana that was created to provide support for citizens who were being unfairly punished by powerful individuals manipulating the justice system. The Order was originally secret, its activities being resented by both the Monarchy and established Baronial interests. Even now, as a registered charity, there is an air of mystery surrounding the organisation.
The name is believed to have been inspired by various historical stories of figures known as ‘Robert’ or ‘Bob’ who either made use of their positions as functionaries within local law courts or government service to try to ensure that everyone in Oceana could be given a fair trial, free of establishment vested interests. Stories of their activities range from supplying poorer defendants with money to pay for legal services to using highly technical administrative devices to get cases thrown out.
Origins: The Trial of Tom Leadfoot, 1826Edit
No one knows precisely when or where the Order was established. It is believed to have been in 1826 in Aquae Corbie, after the infamously one-sided trial of the labourer Tom Leadfoot, regarded by commentators both in Oceana and abroad as one of the most openly corrupt court proceedings in history. In the most memorable incident, the judge in the case permanently dismissed his Clerk of the Court, known simply as ‘Robert’, who had attempted to protest that some of the practices in the trial ignored court procedure and were not legal. Some of these practices included: the prosecuting landowner being the Judge’s son-in-law; the judge being the landlord for all members of the jury; members of the jury being called as prosecution witnesses; and the landowner being given the right to intimidate witnesses with a cane. The Judge, Lord Justice Reginald Skulkgobbler, justified this dismissal in a manner seen as typifying the worst excesses of legal corruption, “The law is there to ensure the King’s Justice and Judges to ensure that the law does not prevent Justice from being served! If I didn’t punish people who were obviously guilty then I would be just as well to burn my wig!”. Although this statement was not initially widely known in wider public circles it circulated considerably within the court system and became known as the “Burning Wig Precedent”.
Many attached to the courts, including clerks, court servants, local state officers and merchants serving in part-time legal capacities were angered by what was perceived to a blatant disrespect for even any pretence of legal process. For a small group of these individuals in Aquae Corbie itself, the selfless actions of Clerk Robert who had been dismissed from his job provided the catalyst for coming together to try to curb some of these excesses. Having been witnesses of the ruthless suppression that had followed previous public protests or reform petitions, these individuals decided to begin their work in secret. Eventually, their efforts would evolve into a society with members across Oceana.
The society’s full title was, and remains, “The International Concatenated, Benevolent and Proactive Order of the Omnipresent Bob”, also known as the Order of Bob, or Order of Robert, or, since the early twentieth century, the Order of the 'Quest for Justice'. The use of such a long name was, in part, a social comment, seeking to attack and parody the use of grandiose and superfluous titles by judges and established interests. There was, however, also a practical reason for the long label; variations of the name and even longer titles filled with legal jargon were used to disguise various front organisations set up by the Order both domestically and abroad to raise funds and provide legal support. In many cases, suspicious officials were deterred from inquiring too closely, unable to differentiate between large numbers of similarly named organisations sometimes 20 to 150 words long, and believing them to have been established by obscure and difficult to acquire charters hundreds of years old (a common source of special local privileges for particular individuals or guilds).
Traditions and PracticesEdit
Very few members of the Order have ever talked publicly about their meetings or traditions, so reports are often based upon hearsay or propaganda. The few stories that recur across sources written both by supporters and opponents of the Order tell of various rituals which involved blindfolded reading of legal texts, wig burning, and bobbing up and down in a preset rhythm while standing in a circle.
It is difficult to establish just how widespread the Order’s activities were, although it is an area that historians are finally able to explore openly since the Revolution. Researchers in Glaschu have, since 2012, suggested that the Order was very selective about which cases it interfered with in order to avoid their movement being detected. The goal would appear to have been to target those cases which demonstrated particularly flagrant disregard of the principles of a fair judicial process. Furthermore, it has been suggested that, at the height of their power, the Order was able to influence the outcome in up to 5-8% of court cases across the nation in any given year. Corroboration of these claims will require further research.
The activities of the Order began as anonymous tip offs, mostly to Barons and their immediate subordinates, suggesting that the judge or prosecutor in a particular case might be attempting to appropriate money or powers that were rightfully due to the Baron. These tip offs appear to have met with some, albeit limited success. Over time, methods evolved to include the raising of funds to provide legal counsel for poor defendants, supplying specialised legal knowledge, interfering with judges’ carriages or papers, sheltering witnesses under threat of intimidation, and even the provision of escape routes abroad for some of those who were effectively convicted without trial.
The Order enjoyed increased support during the reforms of the 1990s. Its membership is rumoured to have increased from around 25,000 to over 89,000, although it is difficult to know the accuracy of these figures. Some leading members even began openly to advocate further legal reforms and to print their thoughts in newly legalised publications. There were significant moves towards making the organisation a more publicly visible body, particularly by the large number of more recently inducted members, in order to wield greater legitimacy in these reform debates. Many of the long-established members continued to avoid public disclosure, fearful that the state could still seek to act against them.
Increased repression in the early 2000s led to one of the most sustained crises in the history of the Order. It is estimated that up to half their membership effectively left the organisation to avoid being caught. Around a thousand of their members, including many leaders, were arrested in a crackdown and imprisoned in secret labour camps. Thousands more were allegedly forced to flee to safe havens abroad, while most remaining members limited their activities for several years to reduce the risk of being detected.
The Revolution and the Liberation of the CampsEdit
Some of the most close-knit groups within the Order spent a long time planning for the possibility of the breakdown of repression. When the Revolution came, many of these plans were activated. The most famous action of the Order during this period was the liberation of 3 secret prison camps, where operatives of both the Underground and the majority of arrested Order members had been detained. Details remain sketchy, but some of the more popularly reported stories tell of escape tunnels dug from inside courthouses, scaling walls using towers made of legal textbooks and weapons being concealed in wigs.
The Order have publicly praised the emphasis of the Republic of Oceana on establishing fair justice as a priority, in motto, flag and deed, and are believed to have added celebrations of the Revolutionary leaders to their existing rituals.
As it stands, members of the Order have publicly expressed their desire to continue their charitable activities and campaigning to ensure the entrenchment of an open and fair justice system. Ongoing habits of secrecy and the loss of official information during the Revolution means that it is not known precisely how many there are in the Order at present, or what positions they may occupy.