This article examines the administration of justice in the southern part of the kingdom during the first decade of James IV's reign. It does so through an analysis of the earliest surviving records of the justice ayre, for Lauder (1493), Jedburgh (1493), Jedburgh (1495), Selkirk (1495) and Peebles (1498). The character, intended purpose and provenance of the records is discussed. The function of the itinerant court is assessed, including how it worked with royal and seigneurial officials, and its relationship to regalian jurisdictions. The numbers of cases, outcomes and types of offences are examined, noting differences with the statutory record, especially with reference to the classification of theft and homicide. Comment is made on the process of pardon, highlighting the ways in which royal mercy could precede assythement, and the steps preliminary to remission. The extent to which a culture of private vengeance, feud and compensation can be detected in these records, and how this related to the ambitions and mechanisms of royal justice, underpins a cautiously pessimistic evaluation of this system.