Sunday, January 31, 2010

People v. (Huey) Newton- (California Court of Appeals, 1970)

Han Solo and Chewbacca were relaxing in Chalmun's Cantina on Tatooine, when Chewie stood up and left the table to grab another Algerine for him and Solo. The rodesian bounty hunter, Greedo, recognizing his chance, then sat down and confronted Solo regarding Jabba the Hutt's bounty on his head. In the middle of the conversation, Greedo felt threatened and attempted to pull a blaster on Solo, which lead to a physical struggle between the two. When Imperial Stormtroopers then rushed into the Cantina to break up the quarrel, Greedo managed to squeeze off a shot into Solo's abdomen. Solo then proceeded to draw his blaster and execute Greedo, and in a rampage of violence killed several other Stormtroopers and Cantina patrons, before running several miles and passing out in the street.

Waking up in a cell in the brig, Solo claimed that after Greedo shot him he could not remember anything that followed after. Expert testimony by a GH-7 medical droid suggested that indeed, after being shot Solo went into a state known as "Automatism"; under which, like a droid he had no conscious control over himself, merely recieving input and submitting output (in the form of repeated blaster fire). The medical droid suggested that such a state could be in this reflex shock condition for up to a half an hour.

This raised several issues for the Outer Rim Court on Tatooine, as one of the elements of being charged with a criminal act is the requirement of "mens rea", or the mental culpability (or intent to commit the act). If Solo was not actually conscious during this obscene flurry of violence, it would be philosophically repugnant to punish him for an act outside of his control. This concern was also to be balanced with the notion that Solo had (even in his "droid-like" state) managed to kill several innocent individuals. The case was eventually remanded by the court for a jury determination as to whether or not Solo's act was voluntary.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Marbury v Madison (US Supreme Court, 1803)

After winning the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance assembled The New Republic under the articles of the New Republic Common Charter. Leia Organa Solo was the second, fourth, and sixth Chief of State. As she was preparing to leave office (for the final time), she made several last minute appointments to the Coruscant judiciary, including an honorary judge-ship for her long-time friend, Admiral Ackbar. Although the appointments were signed and sealed before Leia left office, she, in her rush to get back to Han and the children, forgot to drop them in the mail-droid, and they were never delivered.

Leia was replaced as Chief of State by Borsk Fey’lya, a Bothan who had opposed Leia during her service as leader of the New Republic, and a long time rival of Admiral Ackbar. Upon taking office, Borsk found the undelivered judicial appointments on his desk. He decided to show Leia and Ackbar who was boss, and refused to deliver them.
Ackbar, who had been given advance notice of his judge-ship, and who was very much looking forward to retiring from the stresses of military life, petitioned the New Republic’s Court of Justice to issue a mandate ordering Borsk to deliver his appointment. He based his claim on the fact that because the appointment was signed and sealed, it was a legally valid document. He also relied on a section of New Republic law recently passed by the Senate that stated:
“The Court of Justice shall have the ability to review appeals from the courts of the planets making up the New Republic; and shall have the power to issue mandates to any court or person holding office under the authority of the New Republic.” (New Republic Senate Law on Judicial Proceedings §13)

The Court of Justice was aware that issuing a mandate ordering Borsk to enforce the appointment would be an encroachment on the powers of the Chief of State. The Justices were concerned that such an attempt to infringe on the executive power would lead Borsk to not only ignore the mandate, but to also have the Justices tossed into the Sarlacc pits of Tatooine.

In order to avoid that unpleasant outcome, the Court of Justice turned to the New Republic Common Charter. In the article describing the powers of the Court, they found a clause that read:
“In all cases affecting foreign dignitaries or ambassadors, and in cases in which a planet is a party, the Court of Justice shall have the power to hear cases of original jurisdiction. In all other cases, the Court shall only have the power to hear appeals from the lower systems, unless the Senate creates exceptions.” (New Republic Common Charter, Article III, § 2, clause 2)

Since Admiral Ackbar’s petition had been sent straight to the Court of Justice, it was not an appeal, and was therefore not allowed under the Charter. However, in order for the Justices to refuse Ackbar’s request, they had to also come up with a reason why the exception created in the New Republic Senate Law, and relied upon in Ackbar’s request, was invalid.

Upon close examination, they discovered that if they interpreted the semi-colon in the relevant provision as a period, it looked as though the clause allowing issues of mandates applied to both original and appellate jurisdiction. They had found their loophole.

In the official opinion issued by the Court, the Justices claimed a new power- the ability to interpret the Charter to make sure the laws and decrees of the Senate did not contradict the Charter’s supreme law. This power of judicial review would allow the Court to void any law they found “uncharteristic.” This allowed them to void §13 of the New Republic Senate Law on Judicial Proceedings, since it violated (kind of, maybe) the Charter’s tenet regarding Judicial power. Admiral Ackbar’s petition was therefore denied.

By granting itself the power to nullify Senate laws, the Court of Justice avoided the risk of intruding on Borsk’s power. The Justices lived to judge another day, and no Bothans died to uphold the rights and powers of the Judicial branch of the New Republic.

R v Cogdon (Australia, 1951)

After Anakin Skywalker watched his mother die at the hands of the Tusken Raiders in the deserts of Tattoine (See Portee v Jaffee), he began to have force visions in his sleep that his secret wife, Padme Amidala, was in danger of dying during childbirth. One night, after a particularly gruesome dream, where a vampiric baby straight out of Twilight ate its way out of Padme's stomach, Anakin awoke to find himself standing over his sleeping wife, force pushing on her stomach as if forcing a tiny life back into the womb. Disturbed by the situation (made worse by the fact that he had slept-flown from his current station post on Coruscant all the way to Padme's summer palace on Naboo), he consulted the Jedi Council who suggested that he freeze himself in carbonite before sleeping, in the hopes that the suspended animation might end the horrific visions.

That evening, while communicating via hologram with Padme and the droids, C3PO expressed his trepidation about the ongoing war against the Sith lord Darth Sidious. That night, Anakin had 3PO freeze him in carbonite. Unfortunately, the droid, worried that in his absence R2D2 would cheat at their ongoing game of holochess, set the timer incorrectly on the freezing chamber, setting the auto-unfreeze for 5 minutes instead of 5 hours. Upon unfreezing, Anakin, who was still asleep, dreamed that the Sith were attacking Padme in her home. A sinister cloaked figure was on her bed, lightsaber drawn.

Anakin awoke to find himself crying hysterically, landing his ship on Coruscant. He rushed to Obi-Wan's room and told him that he was afraid he had harmed Padme. Together they rushed back to Naboo, only to find that in his unconscious state, Anakin had hacked his wife to death.

The Jedi Council, in determining Anakin's culpability, stated that there is no crime without the presence of overt and voluntary conduct (actus reus). They found that even though Anakin had overtly preformed the act of lightsaber murder, it was a product of involuntary unconsciousness, and that the act was not actually his act at all.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Webb v. McGowin- (Court of Appeals of Alabama, 1935)

Chewbacca, having been imprisoned on Coruscant for illegally freeing wookie slaves, was being whipped to death by Commander Nyklas. Imperial Lieutenant Han Solo entered the room to inform Nyklas that comscan had detected a vessel containing a new shipment of wookie slaves had been detected dropping out of lightspeed. Before speaking, Solo noticed that the whip in Nyklas' hand was about to deliver a likely lethal blow to the beaten, battered, and bloodied wookie, and overcome with guilt, heroically jumped in front of the whip as it fell. Solo was severely injured in the process (given the fact that the whip had been specifically formulated for the sturdy wookie physiology). Chewbacca then proceeded to remove Nyklas' arms from their sockets, and then decided to form a "life-debt" with Solo for his courageous act, promising to repay his kindness with services as a co-pilot, mechanic, dejarik player and drinking companion for the rest of Solo's natural life in addition to a payment of 15 credits every two weeks.

Following his heroic death at Sernpidal, Chewbacca's estate cut off the biweekly payment of 15 credits to Solo and his family. Solo shortly thereafter filed suit for breach of contract.

The New Republic Court of Appeals eventually held that even though Solo had saved Chewbacca's life without his permission, Chewbacca's life had provided the inherent consideration necessary for contractual obligation. By promising to a life-debt and 15 credits every two weeks, Chewbacca had created an effective contract. The court rationalized this by stating that even though there was no express agreement between Solo and Chewbacca before Solo intervened, Chewbacca almost certainly would have agreed to such a contract had there been time to discuss its terms. The court was relying on the concept of the "quasi-contract" or "implied contract", a "legal fiction" used by courts to imply a contract where in fact one did not exist.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ybarra v. Spangard et al- (Supreme Court of California, 1944)

Two days following the Battle of Endor, Han Solo woke up blind. The next day, Solo consulted with a medical droid, who stated that it was a possible side-effect of his time in suspended animation in carbonite weeks earlier. While such a prolonged reaction to the process was rare, the droid stated that the possibility of such a malady was dramatically increased if the process was performed negligently.

When Solo attempted to contact and confront the carbonite crew on Bespin, they refused to respond to inquiries regarding his processing. Han then filed a lawsuit accusing negligence against the crew, relying on the doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur.

This doctrine transfers the burden of proof when three elements are satisfied: 1) the harm to the plaintiff must be of the kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of negligence, 2) it must be caused by an an agency or instrumentality in exclusive control of the defendant, and 3) the plaintiff must not have contributed to the negligence by voluntary action. The newly reconstructed Republic Court fully agreed, reasoning that the carbonite processing instruments were fully under the control of the bespin crew, and that Han, being fully restrained and in the hands of the Empire could not have contributed to the potential negligence.

Having satisfied all three elements, the burden then transferred to the Bespin carbonite crew to prove that they were NOT negligent in treating Han. The New Republic Court specifically noted that there had recently been a liberalization of the Res Ipsa Loquitur doctrine that encouraged its use in this case. Han was unlikely to have much evidence of negligence by the crew. In order to overcome a "circle of silence", that simply by remaining silent and withholding evidence the carbonite crew could prevail against Han, the doctrine should be applied.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kannavos v. Annino- (Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, 1969)

Ackbar in preparation of leaving Dac to represent the Calamarian Council in negotiations with the Empire, was planning on selling his home. He released a series of announcements over the com-scan network advertising his house as being in first class condition and perfect for first-time house owners, and was eventually able to find ready, willing and able buyers, a young Quarren couple looking to start a family.

As the couple toured the house with Ackbar, their Mon Cal Realtor agent close behind them, the owners inquired as to the condition of the house's structural integrity and foundation. Almost without thinking, Ackbar let slip "It's a tra--traditional style home." Ackbar was about to say that the house was a trap, knowing full well that the house's foundation was on the verge of collapse having been built on unstable structures just above the ocean. The Quarren couple, relying on Ackbar's reputation and statements purchased the house, and as predicted, shortly after Ackbar left Dac, the house collapsed.

While no-one was killed in the incident, the Quarren couple sued Ackbar for making an untrue representation, as by making a statement regarding the house, Ackbar had a duty to be full and forward with his statements regarding the house. While it was true that the buyers could have found out by inquiries with the city council, the fact that Ackbar made these falsified assertions made this distinct from case precedent. The Mon Cal Council found for the couple, not only because of the rationale, but also due to Ackbar not showing up for the court date, as he had been enslaved by the Empire.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Proctor v. State- (Criminal Court of Appeals of Oklahoma, 1918) [Back to Buisness]

Shortly following the Emperor's initiation of Order 66, the secondary market for Jedi lightsabers exploded, with hundreds filling the black markets on Coruscant. While the statutory language of Order 66 largely dealt with the removal of Jedi commanders, §A(3) made it illegal for any citizen of the Empire to possess Jedi paraphernalia with the intention of practicing the Jedi arts, including the use of lightsabers; punishable by death by means of firing squad, force choke or lightning. Mere ownership of lightsabers exclusively, however, was not illegal.

Marso Yula was a low level bureaucrat and Imperial officer on Coruscant who secretly collected lightsabers purchased from bounty hunters, stormtroopers, and the black markets. Yula wished to learn the ways of the Jedi, but had never acted upon these intentions. While following a tip in efforts to obtain the light saber of fabled Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn, Yula was arrested by a stormtrooper raid and later charged under violation of Order 66, §A(3).

However, upon review by the Coruscant division of the Imperial Court of Appeals Order 66 §A(3) was termed "inoperative and void." The court held that since ownership of lightsabers was entirely legal, the fact that Yula had an illegal intent to learn the Jedi arts was immaterial. Under the Imperial Penal Code, charging an individual with a crime required BOTH a physical act (Actus Reus) and an intent to act illegally (Mens Rea). While Yula may have (and in fact, did) intended to act illegally by learning the ways of the Jedi, the unfilled action meant a lack of "Actus Reus", and thus Yula could not be charged with a crime. Order 66 §A(3) was then struck down for its problematic requirements, and Yula was released, but was compelled to "donate" her collection to Darth Vader via a most persuasive force gripping.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hypothetical 2 [See Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co.- (Court of Appeals of New York, 1928)]

At the Boonta Eve Classic, Ody Mandrell's droid accidently was pulled through his pod's engine, causing an explosion that set off a chain reaction that caused a large part of the stands of the Mos Espa Grand Stadium to collapse and crushed Ziro the Hutt's prized jester Gibberous Crumb, injuring him severely. Crumb sues Ody Mandrell for negligence. What result?