Daredevil is here on Netflix, and man, do we have great legal issues just in the first episode.
As a preliminary matter, that toxic waste company should have given the Murdock family one heck of a check for blinding Matt Murdock. Granted, there would be significant issues for a trial on who was at fault in an accident, which would determine which driver’s insurance company would pay the different victims, but it is hard to escape liability for toxic chemicals, especially if the truck driver was at fault.
Forgive Me Father I am GOING to Sin
Matt Murdock asked a Priest for forgiveness for a sin he was going to commit. This clearly demonstrated Charlie Cox’s emotional acting skills and raised an issue: could the Priest go to the police if he believed Murdock was going to commit a crime?
New York defines the Clergy Privilege as follows:
Unless the person confessing or confiding waives the privilege, a clergyman, or other minister of any religion or duly accredited Christian Science practitioner, shall not be allowed disclose a confession or confidence made to him in his professional character as spiritual advisor.
NY CLS CPLR § 4505.
In order for a communication to be protected by the clergy privilege, the communication must: 1) it must be confidential; 2) it must be made to a minister or clergy member acting in a professional character as a spiritual advisor; 3) it must be made for the purpose of seeking spiritual advice or religious counsel; and 4) it must not be waived by the person making the confidential statement. People v. Harris (Sup.Ct.) 934 N.Y.S.2d 639, 645.
Murdock’s “confession” seems to meet all four elements.
First things first: Confession usually is about seeking forgiveness for PAST sins. Alternatively, many seek spiritual guidance on difficult choices they have to make. Matt Murdock’s visit to confession falls into both categories, because he effectively was seeking advice for actions he was going to take as a vigilante. As such, the Priest could not disclose communications made to him from someone seeking spiritual advice.
If Matt Murdock went and sought forgiveness for beating up four men who were kidnapping women to be sold into slavery overseas, the Priest should give the lawyer a high five in the confessional booth. While Romans 12:19 in he Bible states, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” there is the brutal reality that the law allows for the defense of others. Saving people from slavery should not involve any feelings of guilt.
Saving Others from Slavery
Daredevil saved four women from being sold overseas into slavery for $1,000 a head. This rescue involved seeking out those in danger and engaging four men in brutal hand-to-hand combat. Was this legal in New York?
New York allows for the defense of others:
- A person may, subject to the provisions of subdivision two, use physical force upon another person when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself, herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by such other person, unless:
(a) The latter’s conduct was provoked by the actor 1 with intent to cause physical injury to another person; or
(b) The actor was the initial aggressor; except that in such case 1 the use of physical force is nevertheless justifiable if 2 the actor has withdrawn from the encounter and effectively communicated such withdrawal to such other person but the latter persists in continuing the incident by the use or threatened imminent use of unlawful physical force; or
(c) The physical force involved is the product of a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law.
NY CLS Penal § 35.15.
A District Attorney might argue that Daredevil was the initial aggressor in the fight. This argument would fail. The female victims were clearly kidnapped, physically harmed, and about to be locked in a shipping dark shipping container with a bucket for a bathroom. Daredevil entered the scene well after the first “aggression” had taken place. As such, a person could reasonably believe that the mobsters were using unlawful physical force on the women by kidnapping them. Daredevil’s actions were thus legally justified.
Just the Beginning
Those were the legal issues in just the opening minutes of the show. There are many other significant legal issues, from bribing police officers with cigars, being retained as counsel by a criminal defendant, the state holding someone without pressing charges, Whistle Blower Protections, the duty of loyalty to a client, extortion, fraud, money laundering, drugs, conspiracy, and likely a growing list of high crimes.
There are also many issues with setting up a law practice, from what kind of entity to form, advantages of a Partnership vs Limited Liability Partnership, rental agreements, insurance requirements for employees, HR compliance for employees, malpractice insurance, legal research accounts, a matter management tool, and a discovery management application. However, law office management is not really that exciting on a super-hero TV show.
The first episode of Daredevil opened with a bang. Great job and looking forward to binge watch the rest.