Was it Lawful for Darth Vader to Squeeze Lothal for the Rebels?

Darth Vader does not lack imagination when it comes to targeting civilians and killing Imperial Ministers in order to crash a Rebellion. Were his actions in the Star Wars Rebels season two premier legal?

Lord Vader took the following actions to entrap the Rebels:

Used Minster Tua as bait;

Killed Minster Tua in a shuttle rigged with explosives;

Raided and arrested refugees in Tarkin-town; and

Placed a tracking device on a shuttle to follow the Rebels back to their Fleet.

Law enforcement cannot willfully use murder of suspected traitors as a means to entrap criminal suspects. While Minster TUA had planned to defect to the Rebellion given the threat on her life, killing her without a trial would violate the Fourth Amendment, Seventh Amendment, and Eighth Amendment on Earth (warrant for arrest, right to a speedy trial, and prohibition against cruel and usual punishment). Minster Tua was denied the right to defend herself in court, the right to counsel, a trial by her peers, and executed by explosives without any form of due process.

The Empire clearly views civil rights as an impediment to effective law enforcement. The State certainly has the right to set sting operations to capture criminals, however this does not permit the intention killing of individuals to carry out the arrest of others.


Darth Vader ordered the arrest of refugees in Tarkin-town in order to draw out the Rebels. There are precedents for squatters in public lands being arrested, such as the US Army routing the March of the Bonus Army or police in San Jose clearing out the homeless living in Shanty Towns on public areas. However, these actions are normally taken out of concern for public welfare after reports of high crime or safety concerns. Such police actions are often not taken well by the public, can be viewed as cruel, or in the case of President Herbert Hoover, cost him the 1932 Presidential Election after ordering General MacArthur to use the Army on World War 1 Army veterans. No one wins re-election when there is marshal law and fires burning in the Washington, DC.

Governments have a duty to protect its citizens from public and private nuisances that can originate from Shanty Towns such as Tarkin-town. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania found that the mayor of Philadelphia was justified in ordering the destruction of a “Shanty Town” that was (1) composed wholly of highly combustible materials, (2) insufficiently provided with chimneys or protected against fire, (3) occupied as a bar-room, (4) the resort of disorderly persons, and (5) located so close to governmental buildings as to imperil them. Fields v. Stokley (1882) 99 Pa. 306, 309.

Vader made MacArthur look like a sissy in the Imperial attack on Tarkin-town. There was no evidence that the refugees in Tarkin-town were squatting on public lands or a danger to public safety with the construction of the village. They might have violated zoning requirements if they were within a city, but Tarkin-town appeared well removed from Capital City on Lothal. Furthermore, the refugees did not appear to pose the public health hazard that would come from living in a Hooverville.

Even if there were public health and safety violations, enforcing those laws with Imperial Storm Troopers, possible airstrikes by Tie Fights, mass arrests, imprisonment in labor camps, or sending refugees to the Spice Mines of Kessel, would be grossly excessive force. What was their crime, not dying in the first place?


The Empire’s Doctrine of Fear takes “laws with teeth” to a new level. Moreover, Darth Vader claimed at the end of Revenge of the Sith that he had “brought peace, freedom, justice, and security to my new Empire.” Executions without trials and military attacks on citizens are a very unique view of “peace, freedom, and justice.” Such extreme uses of force would justify in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” A Rebellion is not just very logical result of such tyranny, but the Doctrine of Fear would cause mass recruiting for the Rebellion.

Let’s just hope Ahsoka Tano does not die horribly fighting Darth Vader this season.

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Josh Gilliland
Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, the ABA Web 100 for Best Legal Blog and Podcast categories, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.