Sunday, February 28, 2010

Erie R. Co. v Tompkins- US Supreme Court (1938)

Ponda Baba, an Aqualish smuggler, was peacefully enjoying a drink in Chalmun's Cantina in Mos Eisley, Tatooine one afternoon when a young Jedi approached him, and began to hassle the bartender Wuher, one of Ponda's friends, for a beer. Seeing that the Jedi had not paid for his drink, and knowing how upset Wuher got when droids entered the cantina, even briefly, Ponda decided to stick up for his friend, and had his partner, Dr. Cornelius Evasan translate his dislike for the arrogant Jedi. Suddenly, an older Jedi appeared and unprovokedly sliced off Ponda's arm with a lightsaber.

Under Tatooine case law (law created by court decisions, rather than by legislative statutes), Jedi were given a certain amount of leeway (to prevent unnecessary Imperial attention), and Ponda knew that any planetary court was likely to dismiss any claim he filed against his attackers.

Ponda therefore decided to file a claim in Tatooine's Imperial District Court based on diversity of citizenship (usually only Imperial issues are tried in Imperial courts, but planetary issues are allowed when, as in Ponda's case, both parties are from different planets and the amount of damages requested exceeds 75,000 credits. This is known as diversity of citizenship, and is meant to protect the non-planetary resident from bias in a planetary court).

When a planetary issue is tried in Imperial Court, the court is required to apply planetary law rather than Imperial law, in order to prevent plaintiffs from bringing suit in Imperial law just to escape unfavorable planetary law (this is known as "forum shopping"). However, at the time Ponda brought his suit against the Jedis, the Imperial court was only required to apply "written" planetary law, which included planetary statutes, but not planetary case law. Since there was no Tatooine statute prohibiting Jedi violence in cantinas, the Imperial court was free to decide the case based on Imperial common law (basically however they wanted), and awarded Ponda his requested damages.

The Jedi appealed the ruling, which was affirmed by the Imperial Appellate Court, and finally petitioned the Imperial Supreme Court. The Imperial Supreme Court reversed the decision, and held in favor of the Jedi. They reasoned that allowing Imperial courts to apply Imperial common law in cases with only planetary issues created a loophole to the prohibition of forum shopping. Under the law as it was, anyone (like Ponda) could use diversity of citizenship as a means of avoiding bringing suit in a planetary court. They pointed to an earlier case (Black & White AT-ATs v Brown & Yellow AT-ATs), where an AT-AT rental company actually moved to a different planet in order to meet the requirements of diversity of citizenship and avoid planetary law. Based on that negative precedent, the Imperial Supreme Court reversed, and held that Imperial courts were hereinafter required to apply both planetary statutes AND planetary case law when deciding diversity of citizenship cases.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Trial of Han Solo

This comes on recommendation from our friend Andy E., after seeing how great a fit it was, we had no choice but to post it. This site had utterly no hand in making this, but it's grand. Just grand.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vocabulary of the Law: Desultory- (Used in United States v. Hamilton, United States District Court of the District of Columbia, 1960)

Desultory- Lacking a plan, purpose, or enthusiasm. (Oxford English Dictionary)

(as used in the majority opinion)-
"[The defendant and the deceased] played several games of pool. They imbibed intoxicating beverages in the rear of the establishment, and they also carried on desultory conversations. There was an exchange of banter between the deceased and the defendant, which developed into an argument, and finally into an acrimonious quarrel..."
United States v. Hamilton (1960)

Ponda Baba and his close chum and drinking buddy Dr. Evazan were enjoying a relaxing afternoon in Chalmun's Cantina in Mos Eisley listening to the house band Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes, carrying on desultory conversation and recanting of old stories with their fellow patrons. A young human pulled up to the bar and knocked Ponda Baba's drink over without apologizing, Ponda Baba recognized that a "party foul" had occurred and wished to point out to the young human, that knocking over drinks without apologizing wasn't just cool, it could be dangerous in certain contexts. At that point, Evazan took over and blew the whole thing way out of proportion, leading to a long and awkward trip between Ponda Baba and Evazan on the way to the medical droid station down the alleyway.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Schwartzreich v. Bauman Basch, Inc.- (Supreme Court of New York, 1921)

Jabba the Hutt, frustrated by a certain smuggler's ongoing debt, employed the intergalactic bounty hunting services of Boba Fett. Jabba, following the the underworld's news feeds, suspected that Solo would likely head towards the Cloud City. Jabba then had Bib Fortuna write up a lengthy contract regarding the bounty on Solo. The terms of the contract stipulated that Fett was to travel to the Outer Rim in his hunt for the elusive Solo, and upon his capture was to immediately return to Tatooine. Fett signed the contract and proceeded to Slave I to begin fulfilling his obligations under the contract.

Along the way, Fett was summoned by Darth Vader and amongst his bounty hunting peers aboard the Super Star Destroyer Executor, was given additional (ie, superior) monetary consideration for the capture of Solo. While Jabba promised a healthy bounty, Vader assured the same bounty and that he would surrender his hypothetically unending legal right to force choke Fett at any time. Fett then hailed Jabba over comscan, informing him of the new arrangement with Vader. Jabba offered to increase the bounty, and the two formed a new contract, which Fortuna forwarded to Fett over comscan.

Soon after, Fett was able to capture Solo on the Cloud City of Bespin, and began his return transit to Tatooine, but did not contact Jabba to inform him of the news. In the interim, Jabba realized that Fett simply could not be trusted to fulfill duties under the contract, and contracted Dengar to do the job for less. Just as Slave I returned to Tatooine orbit, Jabba transmitted the news to Fett, and summarily refused to pay Fett the bounty.

Fett sued for breach of contract, with the bounty as expectation damages. Jabba argued that the second contract with Fett was a coercive contract for a pre-existing duty to perform. Fett argued that he and Jabba had mutually consented to terminate the original before enacting the latter contract, and the court agreed. Stating that the prior contract had been properly rescinded, and a new one established in its place, Fett then received his well earned bounty and returned to Bespin for another session...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hammer v. Dagenhart- (US Supreme Court, 1918)

Lando Calrissian, without doubt the classiest administrator the Bespin Cloud City had ever known, was in a pickle. Lando had just recently been able to bring the tibanna gas mining operation back up to profitable levels through the use of incredibly inexpensive ugnaught labor. The tibanna gas mined by the ugnaught mining crews and frozen in carbonite by ugnaught carbonite tech crews was distributed throughout the galaxy for use in developing hyperdrive and weapon technology. While some had murmured that the 18+ hour shifts and dangerous working conditions the ugnaughts toiled under were immoral, Calrissian easily shrugged off these complaints, knowing full well that the ugnaughts were a hardy, hard-working race. Besides, production was high and the credits were pouring into the station like a Naboo waterfall.

The Galactic Imperial Senate (just before its forceful dissolution) caught wind of this activity, as well as other such clandestine uses of diminutive species labor in the Outer Rim, and fearing a theoretical "race to the bottom" in labor standards throughout the galaxy, raised legislation that set wage levels and affixed limits on the amount of work hours. Under this legislation, any goods constructed from such "scoundrel-esque" and "rogue-ish" uses of labor could be barred from entering interplanetary commerce.

Calrissian, seeing the writing on the wall, had his chief administrator and legal advisor, Lobot, file an injunctive complaint with the Imperial Court, stating that the Imperial Senate had no power to create such legislation, that any supposedly applicable interplanetary commerce clause under the Old Republic constitution would be inapplicable to the Bespin Cloud City's mining activities; that mining as a purely local activity is too indirectly related to interplanetary commerce to fall under the Old Republic Senate's classic means of enacting legislation. The complaint further suggested that Imperial Senate's invocation of the almost ancient clause was merely a "pretext" for enacting legislation affecting purely planetary issues, a firm violation of the Cloud City's sovereignty.

The Imperial Court agreed, stating that the tibanna gas in question was not a harmful item that could be kept out of interplanetary commerce, simply the nature of the gas' mining and manufacturing was offensive to the Imperial Senate. As mining, manufacturing, hydrofarming and other forms of production were all planetary issues out of the Empire's hands (at the time), the Court struck down the legislation, allowing Calrissian's callous use of ugnaught labor to continue. Little did the Imperial Court know however, that by striking down the Imperial Senate's legislation that they had only made it more powerful then they could even imagine... [See, US v. Darby- (US Supreme Court, 1944)]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

McCray v. United States- (US Supreme Court, 1904) [The oleomargarine tax case]

Dex's Diner serves up the best Vercupti of sgazza boleruueƩ in CoCo Town. What's the difference that draws in such notables as Obi-wan Kenobi? It's Dex's secret ingredient: lubricating oil.

Now, Dex didn't become a successful diner owner by wasting money on the finest quality ingredients, so he uses synthetic lubricating oil in his Vercupti of sgazza boleruueƩ. It tastes about the same, and no one has ever noticed the difference because the synthetic lubricating oil manufacturer artificially colored their product to give it the same, rich brown hue of natural lubricating oil.

Recently, Dex noticed a sharp jump in the price of synthetic lubricating oil. That's because the powerful natural lubricating oil industry lobbied the Galactic Senate for measures to eliminate the unwelcome competition from synthetic oils. The Galactic Senate passed a tax on artificially colored synthetic lubricating oil of 10 credits per pound, while clear synthetic lubricating oil remained taxed at 0.25 credits per pound.

I Can't Believe It's Not Natural Lubricating Oil Corp. brought suit to have the tax declared unconstitutional, claiming that the tax arbitrarily discriminated against synthetic lubricating oil in favor of natural lubricating oil as to destroy the synthetic lubricating oil industry for the benefit of the natural lubricating oil industry, and is thus repugnant to those fundamental principles which are inherent in the Galactic Constitution.

The Supreme Court ruled that the judiciary had no power to question the motive of the Galactic Senate in the exercise of its constitutional powers.

The power to tax is the power to destroy, but it is still a power of the Galactic Senate to use at its own discretion. Nothing in the Galactic Constitution limits the power to tax. It is beyond the Court's power to strike down a lawful tax, even if it seems unwise or oppressive.

The Court also stated that synthetic lubricating oil is greatly different from natural. The Court pointed out that some planets have banned the manufacture of artificially colored synthetic lubricating oil because it deceives the public.

Dex simply added his own artificial coloring to clear synthetic lubricating oil after this case. No one has complained.

Personally, I recommend just sticking to a hot cup of ardees if you visit Dex's Diner...

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Vocabulary of the Law: Inimical- (Used in Souter's Dissent from Alden v. Maine, US Supreme Court, 1999)

Courts use a lot of specific language that's not used in every day conversation in their opinions. These 'vocabulary' posts will explain a term used in an opinion, and will hopefully give you a tasty treat to impress people with at future social functions.

Inimical- Adverse or injurious in tendency or influence; harmful, hurtful. (Oxford English Dictionary)

(as used in Souter's Dissent)-
"It would be hard to imagine anything more inimical to the republican conception, which rests on the understanding of its citizens precisely that the government is not above them but of them, its actions being governed by the law just like their own." Alden v. Maine (1999)
It was a little known fact that after completing a contract, Boba Fett would visit a psychotherapy clinic on Bespin and engage their services, where he would talk about his issues with abandonment and residual feelings of paternal loss (also known as "daddy issues") and finish up by participating in a group-based "cry session", where he would express his sorrows through extensive sobbing, and by communal hugging as a means to comfort those feelings. Fett had this information suppressed (often by threat of physical violence) as it was inimical to his well crafted image as an intimidating, no-nonsense killer for hire.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

United States v Jewell- (United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, 1976)

Han Solo was captured by the Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator in a smuggling run from Tatooine to Alderan. After breaching the vessel, the Stormtroopers stumbled upon Jedi that had been concealed in a secret compartment aboard the Millennium Falcon. Imperial Law prohibits smuggling- “A person who knowingly engages in the interplanetary transportation of Jedi is guilty of interplanetary smuggling.”

Before the Imperial District Court, Han testified that although he knew of the secret compartment, and was aware of the possibility that the Jedi had been hidden there (while Han was conveniently drinking Flameouts in a cantina nearby); he had deliberately avoided looking in the compartments after takeoff so that he could avoid responsibility if he was caught. Therefore, he stated, his actions did not meet the “knowingly” requirement of the smuggling statute.

The District Court ruled that even though Han did not have ‘positive knowledge” of the incident, deliberate ignorance should be held equally culpable, and convicted Han under the statute.

The Imperial Appellate Court affirmed the conviction, determining that the District Court need only prove “beyond a reasonable doubt, that [Han’s ignorance of the presence of the Jedi] was solely and entirely a result of a conscious purpose to avoid learning the truth.”

The Jedi however, were allowed to leave the Imperial vessel unharmed. It turns out they weren’t the Jedi the stormtroopers were looking for.

Hypothetical 3 [See US Constitution (Art. I, §8, Cl. 3; §9, Cl. 2)]

The Republic Senate has the power to create legislation over interplanetary commerce, including the channels, instrumentalities, individuals and droids of such commerce. The Trade Federation has formed a blockade around the planet Naboo for undetermined reasons. The Senate has dispatched two Jedis to negotiate with representatives from the Trade Federation. The negotiations fail, and the Republic Senate quickly creates a new law forbidding any blockades, and then files suit against the Trade Federation for their "flagrant" violation of that law. What result?