The Adeptus Arbites are the Imperial law enforcement and judiciary. Oath-sworn to uphold Imperial Law above all else, they pursue, judge and summarily prosecute the most serious criminals, answering to neither Planetary Governor nor noble House in their pursuit of the Emperor’s Justice.
Five Things To Know About the Adeptus Arbites
- They are the force of Law in the Imperium of Humanity. They enforce law and act as judge, jury and executioner; citizens of the Imperium have no rights before their powers.
- They deal with major crimes. The vast majority of minor crimes, including most murders, are dealt with by local planetary Enforcers. The Arbites concern themselves with serious breakdowns in order and breaches of Imperial law where the local security forces have proved ineffective.
- They are not military. Although they have a hierarchical rank structure and often use similar equipment to the Imperial Guard, they do not fall under Crusade command. Any Arbiter is expected to be capable of acting alone and without the support of their hierarchy.
- They enforce Imperial law. The Arbites enforce the Lex Imperialis, which overrules all planetary and Sector laws.
- They oversee Governors and nobles. Rank and temporal power are no bar to the duties of an Arbiter. The Adeptus Arbites can arrest a Planetary Governor who fails to pay their Imperial Tithe or a noble of a major House accused of a serious crime.
At the heart of the Arbites’ vocation is the Lex Imperialis, the great codex of Imperial law, held to be the Word of the Emperor Themself. The Lex itself is vast, containing a huge volume of legal precedent and records of past judgement; for this reason, no single copy of the entire Lex exists anywhere but Holy Terra.
Abridged versions, codices and exegetical manuscripts of the Lex are used throughout the Imperium in Arbites precinct-fortresses, to provide the Adepti Arbites with a basis for their righteous judgements. The most complex cases, however, must be referred back to the Book of Judgement on Holy Terra, and may be centuries in the adjudication – often coming to a conclusion years after the original victims and perpetrators of the alleged crime are long dead.
Arbites often carry a field summary of the Lex known as the Book of Law – often, incorrectly, referred to as the Lex. An oath on such a book is considered by most in the Imperium as binding and sacred as an oath upon a religious text or the Name of the Emperor.
In cases where local planetary or feudal law and the Lex might seem to contradict each other, the Lex – as interpreted in the unquestionable judgement of a sworn Arbiter – always has primacy. Cases which highlight local law diverging too far from the Lex Imperailis are often considered a warning sign that the planetary government is straying dangerously from Imperial norms, and may even call for an investigation into the Governor themself by the Arbites; no Imperial subject is above the Law.
Rank and Status in the Adeptus Arbites
Any Adeptus Arbites can correctly be addressed as “Arbiter” or “Arbitrator”. Exact designations of rank and status within the Adeptus can vary from Precinct-Fortress to Precinct-Fortress, and it is not uncommon for a particular rank or title to be awarded for the duration of a criminal investigation, to represent the greater autonomy granted to the lead investigative officer. The titles below are the most commonly understood by the Arbites of the Prosperitas Sector.
Even the lowest Arbitrator Minoris is granted an unimaginable level of autonomy by comparison to the ranks of planetary Enforcers, who must answer to byzantine and often corrupt local justice systems. Any Arbiter who wears the badge is entitled by office to carry out summary justice, including execution, upon any wrongdoers they judge guilty of breaching the Lex. Only in the most complex, difficult or politically sensitive cases will an alleged criminal be brought back to the Precinct-Fortress for further investigation and trial before a more senior Arbitrator – whose word will be final.
- Arbitrator Minoris: The lowest rank of Arbiter, one who has successfully completed their training and is considered capable of enacting the judgement of the Lex on wrongdoers.
- Arbitrator Majoris: An Arbiter entrusted with command, often found in command of a riot control squad or leading an investigation.
- Arbitrator Senioris: A senior Arbiter who can be trusted to act alone on sensitive or dangerous cases, or coordinate several squads of Arbiters to deal with major civil unrest.
- Marshal: A Planetary Overprecinct is headed by the planet’s Marshal, responsible for overseeing law and commanding the Arbitrators of the Planet’s Fortress-Precincts. They are assisted by at least one, and often several, Deputy-Marshals. More populous planets will be divided into several regional precincts.
- Nomad Marshals: Also called “Frontier” or “Hunter” Marshals, these Marshals have no fixed Precinct and report directly to the High-Marshal Subsector. They are responsible for bringing the Law to wild frontier worlds with no formal Precinct and the distant reaches of the Sector, hunting down fleeing criminals who cross Overprecinct boundaries and overseeing complex investigations into criminal conspiracies spanning several planets.
- High-Marshal: The three High-Marshals Subsector, addressed as Lord-, Lady- or High-Marshal, are responsible for overseeing the Subsector Overprecincts.
- The Provost Marshal of the Court or High Chief Justice of the Prosperitas Sector Overprecinct is appointed by the Grand Provost Marshal the Head of the Adeptus Arbites, and one of the High Lords of Terra – this Arbiter is charged with being the final arbiter of law within a given Sector Overprecinct and takes responsibility for law and order – depending on their personal taste they may be addressed by either of their titles.
In addition to these ranks, some Arbites are also known and addressed by technical specialism – for example:
- Verispex– a forensic crime scene investigator specialising in biometric, chem and ballistics analysis.
- Chastener – an interrogation and debriefing specialist.
- Detective – an investigative specialist in plain-clothes, agent handling and covert surveillance work.
The Adeptus Arbites in the Prosperitas Sector
The first Adeptus Arbites arrived with Durovera’s Crusade, establishing the Sector’s grand Hall of Judgement in the newly-named capital Duroverum. By ancient tradition, the High Chief Justice of the Sector has their Fortress-Precinct overlooking the Governor’s Palace – a symbolic overwatch, as the centuries of growth have seen outcroppings of the Hive sprout and shift until the original architecture is barely recognisable, but an important symbol: it is the iron-willed and carapace-armoured Arbitrators who watch the watchers.
Faced with dozens of worlds which provide fertile soil for crime, recidivism and heresy to take root, it is an open secret that the Adeptus Arbites of the Sector are stretched beyond their capabilities. Forced to turn a blind eye to increasingly major and organised criminal enterprises, and continually raising the threshold for “local law enforcement business”, the last four High Chief Justices have reportedly petitioned Terra for additional reinforcement – with minimal results.
Despite highly publicised successes in defeating a series of criminal gangs on Hive-Worlds across the sector in the last two decades, the whispers at the highest levels are that the Arbites are failing at one of their most vital duties – cutting out the rot of rebellion and recidivism before it spreads and becomes a problem for the Inquisition or the Crusade itself.
At the Trooper level, morale seems high; the Adeptus are well-led, well-funded when compared to their planetary Enforcer counterparts, and have favour from the highest levels of the Noble Houses – nobody wants to be in a Marshal’s bad books. The upper echelons, however, eye the wild corners of Subsectors Secundus and Tertius with a nervous gaze, painfully aware how thinly their precinct-houses are spread and how few their forces are for the task that faces them.
People of Note
- Sammias Carrick. The current Provost Marshall of the Prosperitas Sector. A ruthless and straightforward leader who made his name as a Regulator on the wild and lawless planet of Mawson’s Wake. Nearing his second century the Provost Marshall has been speaking in wistful terms of retirement for the last decade – it remains to be seen which of the High Marshalls will gain sufficient political capital to succeed her. Rumour has it that he finds his full title tedious in the extreme and insist on being addressed as “Chief”, an irreverence that scandalizes his noble peers on Duroverum..
- Kemal Jabez. High-Marshal Subsector Primus. A former Intelligencer with out-of-sector origins, High-Marshal Jabez rose to fame after they cracked the ciphers used by the Yarrow Cartel to smuggle weaponry to criminal gangs in Gaudium. Humourless, highly intellectual and utterly devoted to their work, they are popularly said not to understand the concept of a personal life.
- Adjoah Sparksmith. Lady-Marshal Subsector Secundus. A native of Olethros Secunda from humble beginnings, Lady-Marshal Sparksmith is usually to be found aboard her Punisher class Strike Cruiser the IMJV Lex Glorificus, scouring the corners of the Subsector for wrongdoers. She is heavily augmented following serious injury while hunting down a raiding gang on Helaerus, and reportedly owes her life and mobility to timely intervention by the Cult Mechanicus. She is said to maintain a close relationship with several of the Fabricators-Locum of Naximus Prime.
- Lask Yusuf. Lord-Marshal Subsector Tertius. Lord-Marshal Yusuf is a bluff, hearty man in his mid-fifties whose cheerful exterior belies a capacity for utter brutality when facing the enemies of the Lex. He made his name putting down a series of brushfire rebellions on Amenophis in the mid-80s. He is popular among the Sector Arbites and a natural leader, but since settling in the Subsector Precinct-Fortress on Agrial with his husband and two young children, has adopted an altogether slower pace of life and seems to show little interest in higher office.