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"I kind of take it for granted that our great-grandchildren will regard us as a sort of precursor species. That they won't think of us as human and if we could see them, we probably wouldn't think of them as human either."
- William Gibson

Courtarena  
  A combination of a court of law, and an arena of combat, in which every participant could be called out and executed under legal circumstances.  

The courtarena is introduced in this story; it is a somewhat tamer version than that presented in later books dealing with the same "universe."

"Hear ye! Hear ye! System High Court, First Bench, Central Sector, is now in session!"

The robo-clerk darted back and forth across the cleared lift dais of the courtarena, its metal curves glittering in the morning light that poured down through the domed weather cover. Its voice, designed to fit precisely into the great circular room, penetrated to the farthest walls: "All persons having petitions before this court draw near!"

The silvery globe carrying First Magistrate Edwin Dooley glided trough an aperture behind the lift dais and was raised to an appropriate height. His white sword of justice lay diagonally across the bench in front of him.

From The Tactful Saboteur, by Frank Herbert.
Published by Galaxy in 1964
Additional resources -

The courtarena also figures prominently in The Dosadi Experiment, an excellent novel and the last in the series that dealt with the universe of the Consentiency.

Everyone in the courtarena, plaintiffs, defendants, judges, lawyers and the audience, were all at risk when Gowachin law was at stake. According to the Gowachin, everyone was guilty of something; only the innocent were suspect. One rather admirable characteristic of Gowachin law was that the stakes meant that there were very few lawsuits, and fewer lawyers.

In this excerpt from the novel, Jorj X. McKie, Saboteur Extraordinary, was in danger of being found innocent:

The instruments of Truth-by-Pain had been arrayed on their ancient rack below the judges. Seldom brought out of their wrappings even for display to visiting dignitaries these days, the instruments had not been employed in the arena within the memory of a living witness. McKie had expected this display.

Knowing he was watched by countless eyes, McKie swept his gaze around the arena. Above the soft green absorbent oval where he stood were rank on rank of benches, every seat occupied. Muted morning light from the domed translucent ceiling illuminated rows of Humans, Gowachin, Palenki, Sobarips ... every species and faction of the ConSentiency would be represented here. Those who could not come in person would watch these proceedings via the glittering transmitter eyes which looked down from the ceiling's edges.

The traditional ending of a legal contest in the Gowachin courtarena was those who were found Gowachin-guilty (innocent) were torn apart by the audience just outside the doors.

The Gowachin had many useful aphorisms; here's a good one for those who seek "justice" -

Justice belongs to those who claim it, but let the claimant beware lest he create new injustice by his claim and thus set the bloody pendulum of revenge into its inexorable motion.

Read more about the Gowachin in the entry for graluz, the place where they raised their young.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Tactful Saboteur
  More Ideas and Technology by Frank Herbert
  Tech news articles related to The Tactful Saboteur
  Tech news articles related to works by Frank Herbert

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