General Leia Organa sought her brother Luke Skywalker’s help to save the galaxy from the First Order. Did Luke owe his sister, or the galaxy, a legal duty to rescue them from the Kylo Ren and the First Order?
The Duty to Rescue
As a matter of common law, no one has a legal duty to rescue others in peril, unless there is a special relationship. People v. Oliver, 210 Cal. App. 3d 138, 147 (1989). Moreover, even the realization that action is necessary for the protection of another, does not impose on a would-be rescuer to take such action. Rest.2d Torts, § 314.
From a certain point of view, Kylo Ren brought the First Order’s reign of terror across the galaxy because Luke Skywalker failed the “Would You Kill Baby Palpatine” test. Since Luke sensed the darkness within Ben Solo, Luke had a momentary lapse of ethics and considered killing his own nephew to protect the galaxy.
The problem with preemptive murder is that it is murder: Ben Solo had done no wrongdoing other than being tempted by the Dark Side. Luke was right not to kill Ben Solo and should have instead offered counseling to Ben. Unfortunately, Luke’s ethical failure ensured Ben Solo became Kylo Ren. This resulted in the immediate deaths of Jedi students, followed by the rise of the First Order over a several year period.
It is an extreme argument that Luke created Kylo Ren, thus owed the galaxy the duty to rescue them from the First Order. Such an expansion of the duty to rescue would require interpreting the Restatement of Torts maxim that one who does an act, then realizes that the act created an unreasonable risk of causing physical harm to another, thus imposing the duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent the risk from taking effect, to apply to the entire galaxy. Rest.2d Torts, § 321.
Special Relationship from Rebellion?
It is unclear if Luke had ever been in the Republic’s military, or just held a rank within the Rebellion. Retired members of the military can be called back to active duty under the Selective Service Act. Depending on the relationship between the Republic and Resistance, there is a colorable argument that Leia could have called Luke back into service (provided the Republic had a similar statute for Rebel veterans). Moreover, Luke traveled to Ahch-To in a Rebellion X-Wing. While the fighter could have been military surplus acquired by Luke, it is evidence of a connection to the military.
Luke might have had a duty to rescue the galaxy because he was a Jedi. For example, Alaska law states there are circumstances where police have a duty to protect the lives of the public, such as in instances of domestic violence. See, State v. Gibson, 267 P.3d 645, 661-62 (Alaska 2012), citing Alaska Statute 18.65.515. As Obi-Wan Kenobi stated that Jedi were the guardians of peace in the galaxy, there is an expectation that Jedi would protect others from the First Order. However, it would be unreasonable for a single Jedi to take on the First Order by themselves with just a lightsaber and the Force.
Unreasonable…but totally awesome.