Romani Justice: The Gypsy Court
Disputes within the Romani community are usually addressed by community’s unique judicial system. In the first episode of National Geographic Channel’s new series American Gypsies, the Johns family finds itself confronting the Gypsy Court.
Upset that another Romani family has established a psychic parlor within three blocks of its own shop, the Johns family points out that it is against Romani law for another family to establish a similar business closer than three blocks from another family’s establishment. Bobby Johns wants to settle the dispute by bringing in the elders in a formal Gypsy court to settle the dispute. Hot-headed Nicky, Bobby’s younger brother, wants them out!
Refusing to listen to the more reasonable Bobby, he (with the brothers in tow) visits the shop, which is in the home of the other family—a family with whom they normally are on friendly terms. The furious Nicky trashes the shop, much to the chagrin of his brothers, who know the community elders will be angry with them for not settling this dispute through proper channels. Although they are reluctant to bring the matter before the tribunal of elders, called a kris (Greek for judgment), they now have no choice.
A kris only has domain over disputes between Romani parties. Problems between Romani and non-Romani are dealt with by the local authorities. Whenever possible, issues between Romani are addressed informally without resorting to the more official kris. Clan leaders or respected members of the community might hold a divano to settle between the conflicting parties. The divano can recommend a solution, but it’s voluntary, and if those in conflict do not agree to resolve things informally, they must go before the kris.
The kris rules on all sorts of disputes and cultural legal matters beyond business or personal disputes. The court also rules on divorces and hears accusations about violations of Roman spiritual purity standards.Continued on the next page