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We’re Going to WonderCon 2019!

The Legal Geeks are returning to WonderCon for TWO panels! Check out our panel schedule for Friday and Sunday!

Stormtrooper Defective Body Armor Mock Trial 

Friday March 29, 2019 6:30pm – 7:30pm, Room 200B

Imperial Stormtroopers are tired of being beaten up with sticks by blind fanatics and Ewoks. The Imperial Department of Military Research expressly warranted that all armors would protect Stormtroopers from projectile weapons. Legions of Stormtrooper associations have sued the manufacturer of body armor for defective design, breach of warranty, and fraud. Can Stormtroopers find justice or are they doomed to get the short end of the stick? Find out as attorneys Kathy Steinman, Doug Ridley, Christine Peek, and Jack Yang argue before U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge Mitch Dembin. Brought to you by The Legal Geeks.

Lawyers Go Batty Over the World’s Greatest Detective from Gotham

Sunday March 31, 2019 2:30pm – 3:30pm, Room 300D 

Holy Liability! Lawyers answer the Bat-Signal to debate the greatest legal issues from Bat-tastic stories across comics, animation, television, and movies, over the last 80 years! How could the Gotham police in 1966 deputize vigilantes without violating the Constitution? What is the liability for a crime-fighting vigilante for the death of a child sidekick? What are the legal issues for a mental hospital acting as a prison for super-villains? Find out from our panel of attorneys including Steve Chu, Courtney McNulty, Jordon Huppert, and Joshua Gilliland. Moderated by Matt Weinhold of MonsterParty and brought to you by The Legal Geeks.

Two-Face Civil Rights Mock Trial at San Diego Comic Fest 2019

We returned to San Diego Comic Fest for a mock trial inspired by Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth, where Two-Face had sought a preliminary injunction to keep his doctors from taking his silver dollar away as “treatment.” The case was argued by Ezekiel Bottorff and Mackenzie Parker from Golden Gate University for the Plaintiff and Claudia Salinas, Ching-Yun Li, both from California Western School of Law, and Zachary Sterling, from the University of Kentucky, for the Defendants. Job well done in bringing this mock trial to life.

Special thanks to US Magistrate Judge Mitch Dembin for presiding over the hearing, Dr. Janina Scarlet and Dr. Asher Johnson for serving as expert witnesses, and Kathy Steinman and Stephen Tollsfield for assisting as coaches for the teams.

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Check out the audio from the mock trial, available on our podcast channels.

The Duty to Rescue and Pinky Swears on Star Trek Discovery

Is there a duty to rescue Starfleet Officers kidnapped into the Mycelial Network? Are pinky swears legally enforceable? And is someone still a murderer when the murder victim comes back to life? The Star Trek Discovery episode “Saints of Imperfection” boldly explores these legal issues.

Does Being in Starfleet Create a Duty to Rescue Shipmates?

Captain Christopher Pike ordered the USS Discovery to go on a rescue mission to find Ensign Sylvia Tilly who had been kidnapped to the Mycelial Network. Captain Pike explained that “Starfleet is a promise,” that “no one gets left behind,” and that “we keep out promises.” This is absolutely the best core values of Star Trek, but was there a legal duty to place the USS Discovery in danger to rescue Ensign Tilly?

There is no general common law duty to rescue someone unless there is a special relationship. Rhodes v. Illinois Cent. Gulf R.R., 172 Ill. 2d 213, 232-233 (Ill. 1996). A duty to rescue can be created between individuals by 1) statutes; 2) contractual relationships; or 3) impliedly by virtue of the relationship between the tortfeasor and a third party. Bobo v. State, 346 Md. 706, 715, 697 A.2d 1371 (1997).

Captain Pike’s first duty was to the safety of the USS Discovery. He himself admitted the plan to partially jump into the Mycelial Network was highly dangerous. Moreover, if the ship was destroyed or life lost, there is a good argument Pike could have been charged with willfully hazarding a vessel. 10 U.S.C.S. § 910. There is a sound argument that Pike had no obligation to launch a rescue mission that could have endangered the lives of everyone on the ship.

The fact that the crew of the USS Discovery purposely embarked on a dangerous plan to rescue a fellow shipmate is why people love Star Trek. There was no legal duty for the crew to place themselves in danger to save Ensign Tilly; it was a choice to leave no one behind. The crew knew the risks and went on the mission anyway. Those are the qualities of why fans have loved Star Trek for over 50 years.

Are Pinky Swears Enforceable?

Ensign Tilly made a “Pinky Swear” with Mycelial entity known as May to help her with a “monster” that had invaded the Mycelial. When challenged about helping May, Tilly responded, “I told you I would try to help you. We keep our promises.”

Did Ensign Tilly and Mycelial May have an enforceable contract agreement? Basic contract formation includes offer, acceptance, consideration, and performance. There are many types of contracts that require a written document to avoid any issues from the Statute of Frauds.

There was an offer and acceptance for Tilly to help May. However, while contract law does not specifically address Pinky Swears, the law does recognize oral contracts. In California, all contracts may be oral, except such as are especially required by statute to be in writing. Cal. Civ. Code § 1622. The list of contracts that must be in writing is a long one, but overall includes contracts that cannot be performed within one year to real property and payment of debts, plus similar contractual relationships. Cal. Civ. Code § 1624.

Tilly’s promise to “help” has serious vagueness challenges to performance. What exactly did the term “help” mean for Tilly’s performance? Contracts must be for a lawful objective and cannot be ones for personal service. Cal. Civ. Code § 1550 and Cal. Civ. Code § 3390. Moreover, unenforceable unlawful contracts are ones that are contrary to an express provision of law; contrary to the policy of express law; or contrary to good morals. See, Cal. Civ. Code § 1667. As the term “help” is not defined, there is real danger that Tilly could be required to perform an action that is against public policy, which the law would not allow.

The “monster” causing harm to the Mycelial Network was a resurrected Dr. Hugh Culber, who had avoided being digested the Mycelial spores with tree bark toxic to the spores. If May’s idea of “help” was murdering Dr. Culber, there is no way a court would enforce Tilly’s performance. Murder is against public policy.

On the flip side, Tilly does “help” May by explaining the Dr. Culber was a victim and to him, the spores were monsters literally burning away at him.

In the end, Tilly and crew do keep their promise to help, without violating public policy.

When Your Murder Victim Comes Back to Life

Dr. Hugh Culber is alive….again? Lt. Ash Tyler killed the good doctor while the Klingon Voq was in control of Tyler’s body. While there is a strong insanity defense argument for Tyler, things get weird fast with a murder victim returning from beyond the veil. If Tyler wanted to clear his name, attorneys could try to prove Tyler’s actual innocence by arguing that Culber never died and had been in the Mycelial Network for months. This is a problematic argument, because there is a body of Dr. Hugh Culber with a snapped neck. Even if Tyler wanted to clear his name, there is no good legal strategy for that goal, because there is still a dead body of Dr. Culber; that Voq committed the act of murder; and no matter what, Dr. Culber has a newly reconstructed body. Dr. Culber coming back from the dead does not give Voq a mulligan for murder.

Don’t Trust Stormtroopers to Uphold Civil Rights

The First Order on Star Wars Resistance stationed a detachment of Stormtroopers on the Colossus to protect against pirates in the episode “The First Order Occupation.” As with any invading force with ulterior motives, the First Order started conducting law enforcement activities. One can imagine how Stormtroopers are naturally guardians of Civil Rights.

Three Stormtroopers stopped a Rodian named Glem and demanded to see his identification near the beginning of the episode. The stop of the Rodian was a civil rights violation, because there was no reason to justify a “police” stop. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Law enforcement (in the United States) must have a “reasonable suspicion” based on specific facts that warrant a stop. This is a lower standard than probable cause, but it cannot be a “hunch” to stop someone. United States v. Hodgkin, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 199936, at *7-8 (D. Nev. May 24, 2017). Reasonable suspicion is a commonsense standard with the practical considerations of everyday life. Id.

An equally important requirement for a station with denizens from multiple species is that any stops by law enforcement must be done in a racially neutral manner. See, Floyd v. City of New York, 959 F. Supp. 2d 540 (2013); U.S. Const. amend. XIV § 1; Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996).

The First Order had no common sense reason to stop Glem beyond, “You! Show us your identification.” There are no facts the First Order Stormtroopers can identify that support a reason to stop Glem. They made no attempt to even meet the low standard of a “reasonable suspicion” other than to send a message to bow down to the First Order.

The Civil Rights violations continued throughout the episode with Stormtroopers stopping a Frigosian janitor named Opeepit and confiscating his floor buffer. There is no credible argument that a floor buffer is a weapon or a contraband item warranting confiscation. The taking of the floor buffer was an unreasonable seizure and a violation of the janitor’s rights. It’s also just mean.

The worst violation of an individual’s Civil Rights was the arrest of a Gotal named Rolt for loitering past curfew. Loitering is usually a misdemeanor if someone is in a place for an “unreasonable length of time as to give rise in a reasonable observer a belief that the person intends criminal mischief.” Bouvier Law Dictionary. Modern curfew laws usually apply to children. While wartime curfews that apply to an entire population might be valid, courts have held that curfews that restricted the travel of Japanese-Americans during World War II violated their rights. See, Odow v. United States, 51 Fed. Cl. 425 (2001). The language and applicability of the First Order curfew is never explained, but would be highly suspect given the First Order’s track record of Fourth Amendment violations.

Liberty does not die a quick death, but a slow one when people have a blase attitude on Civil Rights in the name of security. Tam Ryvora surprisingly embodied this view, with her nonchalant attitude about the First Order providing “security” on the Colossus. When anyone advocates that a “stop and frisk” policy is needed for “law and order” over freedom, the bulwark against oppression breaks. Where will this all lead in Star Wars Resistance? Probably without lawyers, but I bet there will be a dogfight or two.

Court Blasts “Terran Tempus” Guru Back to Suspension with Time Travel History Lesson, “This Nut Job’s Tryin’ To Kill Us All!” fumes UNA Appellate Judge

Opinion of the Court

COURT OF APPEALS OF THE UNITED NORTH AMERICA

__________

No. 2195.03.15223

__________

ROBERT XIAOTONG XANDO v. UNITED NORTH AMERICA

ON WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS CHALLENGING LIFE SUSPENSION

[March 15, 2195]

Judge Amukamara-Ping delivered the opinion of the Court.

         We revisit the irreconcilable tension in the space-time continuum between Time Transitioners and the continuity of our universe.  On January 15, 2194, Robert Xiaotong Xando was arrested by officers of the Time and Transportation Security Administration (“TTSA”) at the Time Transition Facility (“TTF”) in New Phoenix, Arizona.  Following a bench trial, Xando was convicted of attempting to enter a foreign object into the space-time continuum in violation of the Time Travel Act (“TTA”), 18 U.S.N.C. § 2815 and 40 C.F.R. § 890.103.  Xando contends the lower court does not have jurisdiction over the action, or alternatively, erred by failing to properly consider his defenses.  For the following reasons, we affirm Xando’s conviction.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Robert Xando is a time transition (old English: time travel) enthusiast from New Laredo, UNA.  Since the TTA was amended to permit one annual time transition event per qualifying citizen in 2176, see 18 U.S.N.C. § 2814(b), Xando has elected and paid for the opportunity every year.  During each of these prior 18 events, Xando’s fully complied with all statutory and regulatory requirements for Travelers. See 40 C.F.R. § 890.010 et seq.  Xando commonly wrote about these experiences, detailing the procedural process of transitioning time periods on his public cloud, TransitionTalk.RX.

         On February 21, 2193, Xando paid and provided certifications for his annual time transition event.  As part of complying with 40 C.F.R. § 890.230’s requirements, Xando geno-certified that he “would not bring, or attempt to bring, a foreign object . . . into the [TTF].”  Despite this certification, TTSA Agents conducting routine electromagnetic radiation sweeps observed a suspect object on Xando’s person as he entered the New Tucson TTF on January 15, 2194.  Upon secondary search, a small card (the “note”) was discovered concealed within the lining of his transition suit.

         Xando was subsequently taken into custody and charged with attempting to enter a foreign object into the space-time continuum in violation of the Time Travel Act (“TTA”), 18 U.S.N.C. § 2815 and 40 C.F.R. § 890.103.  Xando was ultimately convicted and sentenced to permanent life suspension. 18 U.S.N.C. § 2815(e)(3).  Pending his commitment to the Life Suspension Facility at Toronto, see Goldsmith v. United North America, 2095.11.16421 (CA-UNA), he now appeals that conviction.  We review all claims de novo.  C.Crim.Pr. 123.57.

II. DISCUSSION

1. This Court’s Temporal and Corpus Jurisdiction

         Xando first challenges, as he did in the lower court, our temporal and corpus jurisdiction to hold or hear charges against him based on the fact that (1) he is from a future time period and knows the current universe remains unchanged, and (2) that he is not a citizen of the United Northern America (“UNA”), but “Relinquished that Citizenship in Favour of His Majesty’s Service in a Colony of the Balkan Federation of 2142.”

         As stated by the lower court, the answer to those challenges are firmly established in our jurisprudence.  First, “[t]hat we are here to hear this case is evidence alone that the universe remains unchanged; however, it does not diminish this Court’s ability to weigh the evidence or apply the law against [the defendant].”  United North America v. McKay, 2163.11.09342 (CC-UNA) (denying defendant’s claims that he is from a later time period and thus cannot be subject to the Court’s temporal jurisdiction).  Last, Xando’s visa and pre-Transition certification both explicitly stated that he “was submitting and subjecting [himself] to the jurisdiction, authority, and temporal control of the [UNA] upon entry of the [TTF].”  See 18 U.S.N.C. § 2802(a).  We therefore affirm the lower court’s ruling that it has jurisdiction over Xando en toto.

         But because this Court is of the belief that Xando is an adherent of the Terran Tempus Autonomus psuedolaw movement—whose adherents resemble the Sovereign Citizens and Freemen of the Land of the 20th Century—we provide a longer response to Xando’s allegations that “No TERRAN Can Be Judged For ACTS that Do Not EFFECT [sic] or ALTER tempus corpus.”  

         Following the discovery of the rifts in Old Khartoum, New African Union (“NAU”) (“TEAR-1”) and New Phoenix, UNA (“TEAR-2”), the early 22nd Century power struggles in Africa, the Chinese Collective States, and central America resulted in the populist-driven New United League of Unions (“NULU”).  The newly formed UNA and NAU adopted resolutions approving NULU’s Civil and Criminal Codes.  Among those were Time Transition Criminal Act, passed by unanimous vote in NULU General Assembly in 2162, stating:

Acknowledging the unruly yet delicate string holding the entire Universe at her mercy, these Unions hereby commit to Sincere and Unyielding Control of the [rift sites]; whereby current temporal and spatial dimensions shall be maintained consistent with Article I;

***

and any Person(s) caught within the [physical jurisdiction] of a Union’s [rift site] shall be subject to their full jurisdiction, authority, corporal and temporal punitive discretion, without exception or appeals.

NULU Charter, Art. IV, § 200.1.  See also 18 U.S.N.C. § 2802 (enacted 2162).  Because Xando was taken into custody as he entered a UNA TTF in 2194, any claims relating to lack of jurisdiction are forfeit.  Morley v. United North America, 2164.01.22341 (CA-UNA).

2. Time Travel Act, 18 U.S.N.C. § 2800 et seq.

         Following enactment of the TTA, which later established and directed enforcement authority of time transitions to the TTSA, a regulatory scheme was put in place to ensure that “joint Union scientific ventures may retain access for stabilization and exploration.”  § 2800(a). By 2170, NULU’s General Assembly restricted all transitions to “observatory,” as later defined by 40 C.F.R. 810.020, and integrated a scheme for public access to Union citizens.  Consistent with NULU Charter, Art. III, any qualifying Union citizen would be permitted access to one time transition event in their lifetime.  § 2810.  By 2176, however, a qualifying citizen was eligible for one TTE per year, see § 2847(b)(2)(iii), and a recent 2195 NULU Investigative Committee Report found that some black markets offer circumvention of security measures that allow up to three TTEs pre calendar year, see NIC-UNDOJ Report 2192.12.12998.

         In the entire history of legislation of time transition, from the 2162 NULU Charter through the most recent revisions to the USNC, the following has been absolutely prohibited:

To Attempt or Complete, the act of Entering Oneself, Extension, or a [foreign] Object into the [Space-time Continuum].

See NULU Charter, Art. IV, § 280; § 2815 (adopting Charter).  Since the earliest written record of the common law, sovereigns have criminalized attempting an act and punishing that attempt as if it were completed.  See I. de S. and Wife v. W. de S, At the Assizes, coram Thorpe, C.J. (1348).  As part of TTSA’s regulations, 40 C.F.R. § 890.230 explains that “‘foreign objects’ are any object, not organic[] to one’s own self, that are not approved by the [TTSA Controlling Authority].”

          And the U.N.A Constitutional Court has determined that “entering, or attempting to enter, can include such acts as placing, … displaying, concealing,” and is “no more connected to intent than the butterfly that flaps its wings” for constitutional purposes.  Krisotnis-Xi v. United North America, 2162.05.05429 (CC-UNA). As a result, we have validated the practice of pre-TTF arrival arrests when individuals are carrying “foreign objects” containing harmful material that “merely cross the threshold of planning.” Gonzalez-Rodriguez v. United North America, 2162.12.24771 (CA-UNA) (citing Krisotnis-Xi).

         Here, Xando was arrested walking into the New Tucson TTF at 21:42 on January 25, 2194, with a note concealed on his person. Subsequently, the government charged him under 18 U.S.N.C. § 2815 and 40 C.F.R. § 890.103, certifying that “the note, …, is consistent with and included within the [TTA’s] definition of “foreign object.” See Xando Indictment (2194.01.26085). Challenging the government’s indictment on appeal, Xando claims that his charging document failed to specify what made the note a prohibited “foreign object.” Furthermore, he contends the lower court erred because he presented evidence at trial that (1) “[he] failed to enter the [TTF Protected Area] or actually Place an Object into the [time space continuum],” and (2) he “is a ScienceMAN of NOTABLE repute, … and can Certify the Note’s INERT Nature,” by failing to credit his “extensive TIME TRAVEL Knoledge [sic].”

         While the contents of the note remain under seal, in camera review revealed the UNA Government has “met its burden to show that a ‘plausible’ opportunity existed to irreparably alter the universe.” Krisotnis-Xi, 2162.05.05202. The Court also affirms the lower court’s finding that Xando has no formal Transition training or certification. From the record, it appears his knowledge concerning the delicate balance of the space-time continuum was wholly gleamed from 20th Century science fiction and his personal experience transitioning within the Government’s confined terms and boundaries for public access. Accordingly, he has not met his burden of “proving through scientific methods and to a greater degree of certainty [the invulnerability of space-time] than those time transition forefathers whose admonitions formed the basis for NULU Charter, Art. I.”  Gonzalez-Rodriguez, 2162.12.24560 (detailing inherent and untenable risk of irrevocable harm to our universe in the event of a breach in the time-space).

III. Conclusion

         Although the U.N.A. Government (by adoption of the NULU’s Charter) may permit and encourage its citizens to make use of its TTFs, thereby allowing the public to view (from afar) our world’s greatest historical moments from Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel to the building of the Great Pyramids, that privilege is not without harsh and unyielding requirements.  We do not affirm Xando’s sentence and commit him to complete life suspension lightly; however, we quote the words of our first NULU Secretary General Manuel O’Kelly XI:  “Our world shall never again know the peace of an undisturbed or unthreatened history or future.  Because we cannot ever allow that which would change and possibly destroy this universe, we treat those who would attempt to do so as treasonous enemies of everything we now hold dear.”

AFFIRMED.

Star Trek Extravaganza

We kicked off 2019 with two Star Trek webinars on the Trials of Star Trek and Star Trek Elimination of Bias. Sorry, CLE credit is not available for the recordings.

Recorded on January 28, 2019. Every generation of Star Trek had at least one trial episode that explored the ethical duties of attorneys. The stories Judgment in Enterprise and Rules of Engagement in Deep Space Nine, all are out of this world example of trial advocacy, the duty of loyalty, competency, and the special duties of prosecutors.

Recorded on January 29, 2019. Star Trek has shown a future with Equal Protection under the law. We will boldly go across each series exploring discrimination and bias issues that include women and the practice of law, gender identity, slavery, refugees, religion, and race. Laws discussed will include the US Constitution, 13th Amendment, 14th Amendment, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

 

 






















Can the First Order Be Charged with Piracy for the Kidnapping of Torra Doza?

The First Order in the Star Wars Resistance episode “The Doza Dilemma,” hired interstellar pirates to kidnap Torra Doza. Could the First Order and pirates be charged with conspiracy to commit piracy and piracy?

Looking to international and United States law for guidance, the answer unquestionably is YES. US law states:

“Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life.”

18 U.S.C.S. § 1651.

The “high seas” are defined as “open waters of sea or ocean, as distinguished from ports and havens and waters within narrow headlands on coast.” United States v Rodgers 150 US 249 (1893).

Looking to international law, the Convention of the High Seas states that piracy includes, “Any illegal acts of violence, detention or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed.” 1958 U.S.T. LEXIS 31, Article 15, section 1.

The Colossus is an operational refueling station on the ocean planet Castilon. The Colossus is either adrift or holding station in open waters, far out of sight from any ports or harbors. The location of the Colossus meets the statutory requirements of being on the “high seas” given the nature of Castilon being an ocean planet.

The pirates Valik and Drell were smuggled aboard the Colossus in a shipping container. They were released from the container and gained access to the Aces’ Tower with the assistance of Synara San in order to kidnap Torra Doza. International law recognized piracy as “any illegal acts of violence.” Kidnapping is an act of violence that is recognized as one form of piracy, along with being held hostage, tortured, or murdered. See, United States v. Said, 798 F.3d 182, 199-200 (4th Cir. 2015).

Valik and Drell forcibly took Torra Doza from her quarters. Doza was then transported by over the Castilon Ocean in a small vessel to the pirates’ mother ship. These actions would constitute an act of violence on the high seas. As such, all of the elements of piracy are met in the kidnapping of Torra Doza.

The First Order cannot escape liability by claiming their retention of the pirates never placed them on the high seas, because the prohibition against piracy on the high seas has universal jurisdiction. Those who stay ashore who are part of a conspiracy cannot escape liability for the actions of co-conspirators on the high seas. See, United States v. Ali, 718 F.3d 929, 937 (D.C. Cir. 2013).

The issue of the First Order double-crossing the pirates does not absolve the First Order of being an active participant in the conspiracy to kidnap Torra Doza. It is merely a lesson that there is no honor among thieves.






















AbbyShot's Eleventh Doctor's Purple Coat