Ragtag Legal Lessons from Agents of SHIELD

Agents of SHIELD is drawing to an excellent season finale. Here are legal issues from Ragtag.

Doing the Right Thing vs Vigilantes

Agent Fitz admitted the operations the Agents are carrying out makes them vigilantes. Agent Coulson countered he called it “doing the right thing.” The “doing the right thing” has been the core of the posts Vigilantes of SHIELD and Flying Lola in the Face of Orders. More importantly, Coulson’s motivation to “be the shield” has been an excellent moral justification for being of SHIELD.

Agent Coulson and his team are breaking the law, but they have a very strong “necessity defense,” because they are trying to stop greater crimes from happening. Moreover, there is no other course of action for them to take. Additionally, they have broken multiple laws in conducting law enforcement activities, but they have not taken the lives of anyone in law enforcement, the military or civilians. That still shows they are acting in the nation’s best interests and not outright committing treason.

Who is Cybertek’s Records Information Management Officer?

Cybertek would throw the Silicon Valley world of electronically stored information on its head by only maintaining paper records and not having any electronic data.

HYDRA_InfoGov_Email_9483For all of the attorneys who wish to avoid text messages, social media and email in litigation, Cybertek is the right client for you.

Just be highly skilled at defending charges ranging from treason to unlawful human medical experimentation.

There are over 14,000 records retention laws in the United States. Knowing which ones apply to a company is how general counsel earn their paychecks. Companies struggle with data managements, archiving, and preserving data they are legally required to maintain under the law or for business reasons.

That being said, Cybertek is not an anomaly for having paper documents going back to 1990. There are technology companies in Silicon Valley that have paper documents from the 1980s appearing in patent cases. That is not abnormal. What is highly strange would be a tech company in Palo Alto without computers.

Can We Get Haircuts in Cuba?

Cuba has the distinction of making Theodore Roosevelt a hero, a rare Presidential trip and speech by Calvin Coolidge, the Bay of Pigs, and being ground zero for almost starting World War III in 1962. For many foreign policy reasons, Cuba has been embargoed in a grudge match with the United States.

It would be very difficult for our heroes from SHIELD to drop in on Cuba for a day trip, without the risk of war. Moreover, a secret HYDRA base under a barber shop would not help Cuba’s relations with the United States.

Travel to Cuba is highly regulated for specific reasons. Tourist travel is prohibited. 31 CFR 515.560(F). General and specific travel licenses can be granted to those subject to US jurisdiction to Cuba for the following activities:

(1)  Family visits (general and specific licenses) (See § 515.561);
(2)  Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations (general license) (see § 515.562);
(3)  Journalistic activity (general and specific licenses) (see § 515.563);
(4)  Professional research and professional meetings (general and specific licenses) (See § 515.564);
(5)  Educational activities (general and specific licenses) (See § 515.565);
(6)  Religious activities (general and specific licenses) (See § 515.566);
(7)  Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions (specific licenses) (See § 515.567);
(8)  Support for the Cuban people (specific licenses) (see § 515.574);
(9)  Humanitarian projects (specific licenses) (see § 515.575);

31 CFR 515.560.

SHIELD_CubaAgent Coulson and his team’s travel to Cuba would violate US law, as they could not apply for a license, and also Cuba’s rights as a nation. Most countries do not approve of rogue former spies doing the “right thing” in a paramilitary operation.

It also should be noted, getting a haircut and shave is not on the list.

In the unlikely event Agent Coulson and his fellow agents coordinated with the Cuban government, they would likely violate the Logan Act. This law prohibits US citizens effectively having their own foreign policy agreements with the “intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government” that are “in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States.” 18 USCS § 953. Given the nature of the relations with Cuba, and the likely negative reaction from the US with HYDRA launching operations from Cuba into the United States, the Logan Act might be violated if Coulson coordinated with Cuba. However, this seems highly unlikely.

Don’t Make Me Go Old Yeller

Garrett should not be allowed around children. Or Dogs.

There is no question that John Garrett “liberating” Grant Ward from juvenile hall would have been child abduction.  Massachusetts law states:

Whoever, without lawful authority, forcibly or secretly confines or imprisons a child under the age of 16 within the commonwealth against his will or forcibly carries or sends such person out of the commonwealth or forcibly seizes and confines or inveigles or kidnaps a child under the age of 16 with the intent either to cause him to be secretly confined or imprisoned in the commonwealth against his will or to cause him to be sent out of the commonwealth against his will or in any way held to service against his will, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 15 years. The provisions of the preceding sentence shall not apply to the parent of a child under 16 years of age who takes custody of such child.

ALM GL ch. 265, § 26.

Garrett arguably meets this offense, because HYDRA agents forcibly broke Ward out of juvenile hall and left Ward in the woods to fend for himself. While Ward did agree to go with Garrett, that did not also include “troops are about attack.” Moreover, leaving a minor in the woods to care for themselves would be child abuse and abandonment.

HYDRA_OldYellerOrdering Ward to kill Buddy the Dog would violate Wyoming law, which defines animal abuse, in part, as “unnecessarily… attempts to kill an animal.” Wyo. Stat. § 6-3-203(a)(ii).

Forcing Ward to kill Buddy would go far beyond Old Yeller, where our boy hero had to shoot his beloved dog infected with rabies.

Buddy’s only reason to be put down was making Ward weak by emotional attachment. If the young Ward had executed Buddy, he would have committed a crime.

And Garrett is a supreme jerk.

Too bad Ward did not feel the same loyalty to all the SHIELD Agents he killed.

It is eerie that it looked like Ward was going to kill Fitz and Simmons like Old Yeller. Instead of being in a shed, Fitz and Simmons were in a cargo pod as Ward wrestled with his feelings. However, Fitz’s puppy dog loyalty to Ward seems to have been rewarded by being dumped at sea from a survivable altitude and speed, opposed to executed like Old Yeller in a shed.

An EMP As a Weapon

Fitz might not understand how to do a fist bump, but he knew how to ruin a cyborg’s day with an electromagnetic pulse.

Was using the EMP a valid form of self-defense? Maybe. Garrett wanted Fitz and Simmons dead. While a gun was not to his head, stopping Garrett was more a tactical move to eliminate an enemy.