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Data: The Measure of A Property Challenge

In the Star Trek The Next Generation episode “The Measure of A Man,” Data is put on trial about whether he is a sentient being. Picard’s defense is among the best legal arguments in the history of science fiction. No one would question the excitement of the argument for Data’s sentience for other legal strategies, right? No one but lawyers that is, lawyers tend to get excited about legal nuances.

A Matter of Jurisdiction

First, let’s focus on the fact that Starfleet is a military organization. Military courts do not have general jurisdiction, but limited jurisdiction. In the US, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution establishes the power to create a military code and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) codifies that section. The UCMJ § 803 grants jurisdiction over “a person who is in a status in which the person is subject to this chapter and who committed an offense against this chapter.” The most important word here is “person,” it is about people who are or have been in the service or the reserve. Under Article 139 (10 U.S.C. § 939)  property-related claims can be brought to the court, but then both parties must be subject to the military code. That is a general tenant of military justice: it applies to military personnel. Commander Maddox contention that “Data is a machine” actually challenges the very jurisdiction of the military court. The case should be a matter for a civil court, and the other party is overlooked in the proceedings.

A Matter of Property

Maddox contents that Data is “the property of Starfleet,” but is he?

Dr. Noonian Soong, a private citizen, built Data with his own funding. It follows that Data is the property first and foremost of Dr. Soong. Even if Dr. Soong is presumed dead, ownership of Data would be part of his estate. The Fifth Amendment will protect the Soong’ claim to Data against governmental or military appropriation without due process. In Star Trek, we never heard about an equivalent of condemnation proceedings regarding Data to use the power of eminent domain. Nor is Data abandoned. Data’s career in Starfleet clearly shows that he is a machine that can maintain itself without its creator’s supervision. Leaving Data to function autonomously on a planet is not an intent to relinquishing property claims but an intent to let Data function as designed. We learn in an episode about two years later (Brothers, Season 4, Episode 3) that Dr. Soong was still alive at the time of the proceedings and had the ability to recall Data to him at any time. Dr. Soong was still the owner of Data during the proceeding and has not in fact intended to relinquished all property claims as the recall mechanism shows. The least we should do is to try and find the other party before we simply assume him dead or assume abandonment.

Starfleet’s one and only claim of ownership over Data is based on Data’s decision to join Starfleet and become an officer. Starfleet cannot have it both ways: they cannot argue that Data is under Starfleet’s control and jurisdiction because he is a sentient Starfleet officer and that Starfleet can dismantle Data as he is not a sentient being.  Either Data is a sentient being and can, therefore, leave Starfleet, or he is the property of a private citizen and cannot be expropriated without due process.

Starfleet’s goal to dismantle Data could very well be construed as property crime from theft to vandalism. Picard seems duty-bound to fulfill the superior order. That is similar to the UCMJ Article 92 that criminalizes the disobedience any lawful order. However as the Court of Military Appeals held in United States v. Keenan:  “the justification for acts done pursuant to orders does not exist if the order was of such a nature that a man of ordinary sense and understanding would know it to be illegal.” Picard may very well refuse to hand over Data based on the unlawfulness of the order to expropriate private property without due process.

A License to Command

Our argument, however, establishes an uneasy truth. Starfleet might have stolen Data and used a machine without the consent of its creator which could make them liable for gold-pressed damages. Our client Data would like to continue to serve in Starfleet. Can we both claim that Data is a machine, but he could still have autonomy in contracting with Starfleet his services?

In today’s High-Frequency Trading (HFT), algorithms of traders are already buying and selling stocks. Buying and selling stocks are property transfers. Although the traders have created the programs and therefore expressed a general will to contract, there’s no individual intent for each property transfer.  In 2010 Flash Crash was a trillion dollar stock market caused in part by HFT. No trader claimed that they are not liable for the trades of their programs. The creators of the programs felt legally bound by the contracts formed by their programs. I  propose a theory of attribution here. The acts of computer programs are attributed to the legal or natural personality that created the program as the programming itself is a representation of their will.

Even if Data is considered a machine and has no natural personality, he may have the ability to form contracts as those contracts are attributed to Dr. Soong. Data’s act of joining Starfleet can be construed as an implied or expressed license to use him. However, under which terms? Both Dr. Soong and Data conceive Data as a sentient being. Starfleet trained him like any other officer. He receives medals as if he were an officer in the fleet. If joining Starfleet is the basis for the license then the obligations and rights of Starfleet against its officers must be its terms. Starfleet has a license to command but not destroy Data.

I believe that Data is a sentient being and as such a Starfleet officer. However, even if Starfleet maintains that Data is a machine, Starfleet has only a license to use him as if he were an officer of Starfleet. An officer cannot be ordered to undergo a medical proceeding that may kill him. Whether or not Data is sentient, Starfleet must treat him as a man, and therefore he has a right to refuse the proceedings.

“The Measure of a Man” is a brilliant episode and it questioned the rights of AIs and that almost 20 years ago. However, Picard’s defense was not the safest path to victory ignoring the inherent flaws in Maddox argument. Nevertheless the episode is more relevant than ever. We are in the age of emerging AI and how we treat them will define our humanity. If others consider AIs as property, let us make sure that property law will protect their sentient rights rather than enslaving them. As Guinan pointed out to Picard:

“Consider that in the history of many worlds, there have always been disposable creatures. They do the dirty work. They do the work that no one else wants to do because it’s too difficult or too hazardous. And an army of Datas, all disposable… You don’t have to think about their welfare, you don’t think about how they feel. Whole generations of disposable people.”

It is our legal challenge to prove to Guinan that we are better than that.

Rogue One: The Jedha Ambush & The Law

The Empire’s vile use of the Death Star, enslavement of entire worlds, and wrinkly psychopathic ruler generally don’t make for good examples when it comes to abiding by the law of war. Nevertheless, just like a broken clock, the Empire occasionally gets things right when it fights. The Jedha City ambush scene from Rogue One is one of those instances where the Empire doesn’t royally screw things up from a legal perspective. With Rogue One’s release on Blu-Ray and DVD today, it’s a perfect time to break down one of the best scenes in the movie and take away some lessons about how the law of armed conflict impacts military operations.

Even if you haven’t watched Rogue One in a while (if that’s the case, you should immediately cease reading this article and go rectify that travesty), you probably remember the scene we’re talking about. Cassian Andor and Jyn Erso are on Jedha in search of an Imperial cargo pilot who has defected with possible information about the Empire’s new top-secret super weapon, the Death Star. They soon find themselves caught in the middle of a major firefight, as Saw Gerrera’s insurgent forces ambush an Imperial patrol. Heavy fighting and general on-screen awesomeness then ensues.

Anakin would have to wait to have his fun until later in the movie when a bunch of Rebel troopers got to see a real lightsaber up close and personal.

Pre-Ambush

Gather ’round and let the sweet sounds of Imperial propaganda fill your ears.

The Jedha ambush scene begins with a pretty routine Imperial operation. A squad of stormtroopers escorts an Imperial “occupier” assault tank, which is transporting a number of kyber crystals. Of course, the Imperials do so with typical flare, using a loud-speaker to broadcast a message touting the moral high ground the Empire supposedly occupied. There is nothing unlawful about the Imperials’ use of the loudspeaker.

Psychological operations, which are commonly known by the shorthand “PSYOPS,” can be legal in various forms. PSYOPS have been around in one form or another for nearly the entire history of warfare, ranging from leaflets to loudspeaker messages and beyond. They are often a highly effective non-lethal way to affect enemy morale or sway civilian attitudes. For example, U.S. forces dropped over 29 million leaflets to Iraqi forces during the first Gulf War in the early 1990s. The leaflets portrayed the futility of resistance, the inevitability of their defeat, and placed blame on Saddam Hussein. After the war, 88% of Iraqi forces said they believed the messages and roughly 70% said the leaflets affected their decision to surrender. Thus, if the Imperials had Judge Advocates within their ranks, they would have raised no issue about using a loudspeaker to broadcast PSYOPS messages to the denizens of Jedha.

The most dangerous version of “I Spy.”

As the convoy enters a small plaza, the ambush is already in motion, unbeknownst to the patrol. Saw Gerrera’s insurgents employ spotting techniques from several vantage points, observing and communicating information about the patrol.

Their actions constitute what is known as “hostile intent.” Hostile intent is the threat of imminent use of force against friendly forces. Although Gerrera’s men were disguised as civilians, their spotting effectively reveals their status as combatants, making them lawful targets. Spotting is considered a demonstration of hostile intent because of its purpose: to gather information about the enemy and facilitate attacks. It is a tactic often used by fighters to gather intelligence on enemy forces. Spotting is also commonly used in ambushes, where a spotter will relay information designed to precisely time the attack. The act of spotting is therefore a precursor to the use of force.

That is exactly what Saw’s forces are doing in this scene as they rapidly relay information to coordinate multiple prongs of their ambush. Therefore, the Imperials would not have to wait to be fired upon before attacking. Had they realized what was happening, they could have lawfully fired on the spotters even before the insurgents attacked.

The Ambush Begins

TK-255 and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Saw’s forces trigger the ambush with a grenade that is meant to surprise and confuse the Imperial patrol. The misdirection works, causing the stormtroopers to be preoccupied with locating the grenade’s source. Saw’s men seize the advantage, opening fire from all directions.

The insurgents’ deceptive tactic initially works well, as they inflict many casualties before the stormtroopers and tank can react. At this point, Saw’s men were committing hostile acts—attacks or other uses of force against friendly forces. The insurgents’ hostile acts make them lawful targets.

The patrol is within its legal right to fight back against the insurgents. Commanders retain the inherent right and obligation to exercise self-defense of their units in response to hostile acts. This also means that individual unit members retain the right to defend themselves and other members of the unit. Here, that means that each stormtrooper can use deadly force to defend themselves and other members of the unit. The Imperials in the patrol do just that, returning fire with blasters and the tank.

However, self-defense does not give soldiers a blank check to use unlimited force. Even in chaotic circumstances, the core principles of the law of armed conflict remain in effect. That includes the requirement to distinguish between civilians and military targets. To their credit, the Imperials maintain their discipline by focusing fire on the insurgents. While civilians are caught in the fray, Imperial troops distinguish their targets by returning fire on insurgent positions and not firing wildly all over the plaza.

Someone isn’t getting their security deposit back…

Additionally, the law of armed conflict requires military units to use proportional force in self-defense. That means the nature, duration, and scope of the force should be no more than is necessary to decisively counter the hostile act. This concept does not mean that the stormtroopers on Jedha could only return fire with blasters and grenades. The use of the tank to level the tower was lawful because of how the tower was being used. The patrol was taking heavy fire from insurgents in the tower, which provided excellent cover and concealment for Gerrera’s forces. The Imperials were therefore within their legal authority to fire on the tower with the tank, thereby quickly ending the insurgents’ strategic advantage.

Reinforcements Arrive

If only Saw Gerrera had recruited a few ewoks to fight on Jedha…

As the fighting raged on, the Imperials were eventually reinforced with more troops and an AT-ST. In the real world, the U.S. military coordinates combat operations on different levels. Tactical Operations Centers (TOCs) and Joint Operations Centers (JOCs) are used to ease that sort of coordination. Generally, TOCs and JOCs are the place where a commander plans, monitors, and directs tactical operations. TOCs and JOCs range from a group of connected tents to larger rooms that resemble a NASA mission control center.

TOCs and JOCs also play a key role in overseeing combat operations. For example, the JOC might display a live video feed from a drone that is providing surveillance for a convoy below. If that convoy gets attacked, the JOC will likely coordinate or direct close air support from nearby fighter jets. Judge Advocates are usually in TOCs and JOCs, advising commanders on the law of war every step of the way.

We see the effects of that sort of battlefield coordination on Jedha. As the ambush unfolded, the Imperial patrol would radio up to the TOC or JOC, which was likely housed inside the Star Destroyer looming over the city. The patrol would have reported “troops in contact,” or TIC. Declaring a TIC, as the practice is known, is an alert that friendly forces are engaged in combat. A TIC often triggers the rapid coordination of reinforcements and combat assets, such as close air support.

The concept of unit defense comes into play in situations like this one. Unit self-defense allows friendly forces to come to the defense of another unit. In the real world, that might occur when Apache attack helicopters provide air cover for a pinned down group of infantry. Here, Imperial forces lawfully called in support from an AT-ST and more troops to defend the patrol. Some of the stormtroopers from the original patrol were likely in need of medical evacuation and there were still other troops at risk in the immediate vicinity. The reinforcements ultimately had the desired effect, scattering Gerrera’s forces and allowing the Imperials to regroup.

Conclusion

Contrary to their general dastardly reputation, the Imperials actually managed to play by the rules during the Jedha ambush. Imperial haters should have no fear, as it wasn’t too long before Director Krennic and Governor Tarkin made sure everyone on Jedha knew what a real war crime looked like by obliterating Jedha City with the Death Star.

Can the Hand be Prosecuted for Distributing Synthetic Heroin?

Marvel’s Iron Fist episode “Under Leaf Pluck Lotus,” included the Hand using Rand Enterprises as a front to sell synthetic heroin. The over-the-top sexy women pushing the drugs claimed to prospective dealers that the drug was “legal,” because it was synthetic. Better yet for the dealers, the human body would not develop a resistance to it.

Federal Courts, Congress, and the DEA would take issue with the Hand’s position that a synthetic drug with all of the effects of a Schedule I drug is somehow legal. The Bad Guys don’t get to make the call on what is legal and illegal.

The United States has a long history of battling heroin. Congress first banned the importation of crude opium for manufacturing heroin in 1909 and again in 1924. 68 P.L. 274.

Heroin is a Schedule I drug, which means: (A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse; (B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; and (C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision. 21 U.S.C.S. § 812.

The factors applied by the Attorney General in determining whether to add or remove a drug from the schedules include:

(1) Its actual or relative potential for abuse.

(2) Scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known.

(3) The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance.

(4) Its history and current pattern of abuse.

(5) The scope, duration, and significance of abuse.

(6) What, if any, risk there is to the public health.

(7) Its psychic or physiological dependence liability.

(8) Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this title.

21 U.S.C.S. § 811.

Federal law also states it is unlawful for anyone to 1) “to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance;” or 2) “to create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to distribute or dispense, a counterfeit substance.” 21 U.S.C.S. § 841.

There is no way around the fact the Courts would treat synthetic heroin like heroin. First, the Attorney General would classify it as a Schedule I drug because of its high potential for abuse, the lack of any medically accepted use for treatment, and the lack of any accepted safety for the use of the drug. The affects of the drug are the same as heroin, regardless of whether any crude opium is used.

New York Courts would also have no trouble prosecuting anyone selling the Hand’s synthetic heroin. Pursuant to New York Public Health Law § 3383, it is “unlawful for any person to manufacture, sell or possess with the intent to sell, an imitation controlled substance.” The synthetic heroin is an “imitation controlled substance.” New York’s finest [in the Marvel Cinematic Universe] would have legal authority to conduct drug busts and prosecute those selling the synthetic heroin.

No matter how much the Hand chases the dragon that the lack of crude opium somehow makes the drug legal, the synthetic heroin is technically a counterfeit drug under the law. Federal and State law enforcement would be upholding the law with massive raids to break the Hand’s synthetic heroin ring.

#TBT: Buffy is back (from the dead)!

I’ve been listening to the songs from Once More with Feeling a lot lately. [I’m glad La La Land helped spread some new love for musicals in Hollywood but it doesn’t hold a candle to the greatness that is Buffy’s musical episode.] And then I learned that it was twenty years ago this month that Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the TV show, began. So the signs were clear: it was time for me to write a post about my favorite geek TV show of all time.

I missed the beginning of the Buffy phenomenon, turned off both by the name (a problem I had with Jane the Virgin and My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend too, shows I’m now obsessed with) and the movie. I only caught on to the Buffy phenomenon a few years later, when I was in law school and FX started broadcasting reruns back to back. Back then–pre-DVRs, Hulu, and Netflix–reruns were the only way to catch up on a show you had otherwise missed. Once I caught up on the old ones I started watching the new episodes. And if I missed one of the new episodes, I had to go to Television Without Pity to find out what I missed. [Wow, how did we ever manage before all of these awesome new technologies that let us watch our shows whenever and wherever we want?]

Season five ended with one of the most amazing cliffhangers ever (spoiler alert!): Buffy realizes what her gift is and sacrifices herself to save her sister and the world. It was also the 100th episode of the show and the last episode on the WB so the wait to see what happened the next year on the UPN was excruciating.

Season six was criticized by many for being too dark, but I loved it. And the fact that Buffy’s death and resurrection brought us one of the most amazing Hollywood musicals ever only proves how amazing that season was. [I was just temporarily distracted by a review of the season six and it reminded me of how much I loved that season and its finale as well—Big Bad Willow was awesome! I’m also pleasantly surprised at what a true superstar Jonathon became. I loved Danny Strong’s acting on both Buffy and Gilmore Girls but I guess he’s even stronger as a writer!]

Season six was obviously about the entire Scooby Gang dealing with the ramifications of bringing Buffy back from the dead. Bringing her back was an impressive act of witchcraft by Willow, but as a legal geek, I was more interested in the logistics: What kind of paperwork does that involve?

The answer: A lot. It’s a painful process without a guaranteed solution so try to avoid this situation if at all possible (a good rule for hellmouths as well).

The usual reason a non-dead person has to deal with coming back from the dead is because their “death” was the result of a typographical error or they were declared dead in absentia. Buffy, of course, doesn’t fall into either of these categories–she actually came back from the dead and had to bust out of her own gravesite. Can’t blame her for falling into a destructive relationship with Spike after that trauma.

So what happens when you die?

“For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow,
but phone calls taper off.” 
-Johnny Carson

More importantly, you get entered in the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File. Creepy as it sounds, that’s where the Social Security Administration has been keeping track of the Social Security numbers of everyone who’s died since 1980. Unfortunately, those numbers are still entered into the file by humans and sometimes errors occur, leading to people who are very much alive and well being told they are, in fact, dead.

And if your Social Security number comes up as “dead,” then you’re going to be treated like a zombie: no tax filings or refunds, no new driver’s license, rejections of any application where you’re required to provide a Social Security number. For some, it’s a brutal, years-long process that leaves them impoverished and depressed.

In addition, there can be other legal ramifications for being declared dead, especially if you were declared dead by a court in absentia. That means your estate has been disbursed, life insurance benefits paid, and Social Security disbursements made to dependents. California Probate Code Section 12408 addresses this in a section entitled “Reappearance of missing person; recovery of property; limitations of actions; order for final distribution conclusive as to parties; disputed identity of reappearing missing person.” Under that section, if you reappear you can recover assets (minus fees and costs) that are still in the possession of your estate’s personal representative. §12408(a)(1). You might be able to recover assets that have already been given to your beneficiaries, if that recovery is deemed “equitable in view of all of the circumstances.” §12408(a)(2). And if you reappear more than five years after your assets have been distributed, you’re out of luck. Id.

That’s not as bad as what happened to Donald Miller in Ohio. Declared dead by a court at the request of his ex-wife (he wasn’t paying his child support and couldn’t be found), he showed up years later and tried to be officially declared alive again. The court refused, however, explaining that under Ohio law he could only challenge a finding of death within three years of the order being entered. Miller had waited longer than that so the court told him he had to stay dead!

Presumably, the Scooby Gang was too busy fighting monsters in Sunnydale to notify the Social Security Administration about Buffy’s death – or distribute her meager assets. So all Buffy had to deal with was settling back into her old life, going through the motions as best she could:

Ah, Buffy and the Scooby Gang. It wasn’t a perfect show but it was a great show and many of its alum have gone on to make other great TV shows and movies. But there will never be another Buffy–she can only come back from the dead so many times! Next time, I’ll have to figure out what happens when a vampire regains his soul. Is there anyone tracking that?

What Happens when the President is Actually An Alien?

Supergirl knows how to create a Constitutional crisis. The big surprise at the end of “Distant Sun” is that the President of the United States is a shape-shifting alien.

This…is legally problematic. What the real President Olivia Marsdin kidnapped? Or has she been an alien all along?

The requirements to be President are that the individual must be a natural born citizen, at least thirty-five years old, and a resident within the United States for fourteen years. Article II, Section 1, United States Constitution.

A “natural born” citizen is someone who was born in the United States or their parents are US Citizens, thus they are a citizen by birth. Elliott v. Cruz, 137 A.3d 646, 655-56 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2016). While this has made interesting debates for Presidential candidates born on military bases abroad or to US citizens while overseas, there is a key similarity between all of them: they are human beings.

An actual “alien” born on a different planet, or born in the United States to non-human parents, is not a human being. The Framers intended for human beings to serve as President, which is why there is a lengthy debate as to human beings who are foreign born. There is nothing more foreign than being born on a different planet.

This raises interesting issues on Supergirl. If the President was kidnapped and replaced by a shape-shifting alien, any acts by the imposter would be unlawful. Bills signed would be invalid, because the President did not sign the legislation or Executive Order.

The situation is more complicated if the President was an alien all along who committed fraud on the American people. If that is the case, “Olivia Marsdin” was never eligible to serve, thus any actions by her would be unenforceable. The Vice President of the United States would then assume the presidency, assuming that individual is also a human being.

Thrawn’s Web: Were Rebel Forces in Zero Hour a Lawful Target?

Cue up those ominous pipe organs from Grand Admiral Thrawn’s theme song, because the Empire’s master tactician finally cornered the Rebellion in Zero Hour, the season finale of Star Wars Rebels. After discovering the Rebel Alliance’s secret base on the planet Atollon, Thrawn swept in with his fleet to crush the Alliance and, in true bad guy style, delivered some dastardly lines to the heroes about their impending doom.

How many times did you practice saying that one in front of the mirror, Grand Admiral?

In Zero Hour, Imperial forces took decisive offensive action against the Rebel fleet and its secret base (as well as a very pissed off Bendu). The episode was truly unique because we have never seen the Imperials launch a large-scale attack against a combined element of the Rebel Alliance in the show.

In the real world, offensive military operations are shaped through careful and deliberate planning. A critical part of that planning process involves making sure that the use of force will be lawful. Since the audience was mercifully spared from any scenes involving the inner workings of the lengthy and arduous military planning process, let’s fill in the gap by analyzing whether Thrawn’s assault was legal.

The nature of the attack really sets the Imperial assault on Atollon apart from other skirmishes in Rebels. Time and again Rebels has shown the Imperials in a reactive stance in which the Rebels attack and the Imperials respond. In those situations, Imperial forces typically rely upon their inherent right to self-defense to justify their use of force. Unlike those scenarios, Thrawn’s assault in Zero Hour is an offensive operation in which the Imperials seize a tactical advantage to surprise and destroy the Alliance. Here, instead of defending themselves from attack, the Imperials are the ones pressing the fight.

Thrawn, the skilled maestro…except instead of violins and trumpets he conducts scathing batteries of turbolasers and legions of deadly ground forces.

One of the central legal issues is whether the Empire could lawfully attack the Rebels, who were not actively engaged in any type of combat at the time. Militaries cannot legally use force against anyone they wish. Under the law of war, force can only be used against those who are considered hostiles or are part of a hostile force. A person or group can be considered “hostile” in one of two ways: By being declared a hostile force or by demonstrating hostility through one’s conduct.

Certain high-level officials have the legal authority to designate (or declare) that a group is a hostile force. Once the proper authority makes that designation, that group is officially called a “declared hostile force.” That status has a serious effect. Declared hostile forces can be lawfully attacked even if they are not openly engaged in hostilities. For example, in World War II, the German Army was declared a hostile force as part of the United States’ declaration of war. That status means that if Americans spotted a group of German soldiers singing kumbaya around a campfire they could attack them, even though the Germans weren’t engaged in combat.

Alternatively, if an person or group is not part of a declared hostile force, they can become a lawful target through certain conduct. If a person or group displays hostile intent or commits a hostile act, they can be lawfully attacked based on that hostile conduct. In other words, if someone’s conduct reveals that they are hostile, they can be lawfully attacked. The Jedha ambush scene in Rogue One is a great example of conduct-based targeting. Before the attack, Saw Gerrera’s fighters were indistinguishable from other civilians milling about in Jedha City. Therefore, Imperial forces had no legal basis to attack them. However, once they started firing on the stormtroopers, they were committing hostile acts—conduct that revealed their status as fighters and legally justified the Imperials’ use of force against them.

In Star Wars Rebels, those in Imperial high command would have almost certainly designated the Rebel Alliance as a declared hostile force by the time of Thrawn’s attack. The Alliance would have given them good cause to do so, having staged numerous significant attacks against the Empire across the galaxy. These attacks meant that the Rebellion was engaged in open hostilities with the stated purpose of overthrowing the Imperial government, which would have justified the designation.

The Empire would have wanted to grant field commanders like Thrawn the tactical flexibility to respond to the growing threat and crush Rebel forces. Labeling the Rebels collectively as a declared hostile force would have done just that, opening the doors for Imperial forces to hunt and destroy without first waiting to observe a hostile act or hostile intent. In Zero Hour, that meant that the Rebel base on Atollon and fleet above it were valid and legal military targets, even though they weren’t actively engaged in any sort of fighting. Having discovered the location of the base, Thrawn was free to bring his tattooed Star Destroyer and the rest of Seventh Fleet to bear on the unsuspecting Rebels.

If sound could carry in space, Thrawn would have ordered the fleet to blast ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC (an orchestral version, of course) as it arrived in orbit above Atollon.

Even if the Empire had not declared the Rebel Alliance to be a hostile force, Thrawn could have still been legally justified to attack based on the Rebels’ actions. To do so, the Rebels would have to display certain conduct in the form of hostile intent or a hostile act. Under the law of war, hostile intent is defined as the threat of imminent use of force against friendly forces.

At the start of Zero Hour, Thrawn reveals that a Rebel attack is indeed imminent. Thrawn first discloses Imperial intelligence reports that a large Rebel attack is coming. Additionally, General Dodonna’s Massassi Group, one of the largest Rebel military cells, was known to be on the move for a rendezvous, which strongly suggested that a coordinated attack was coming. Thrawn surmised that the TIE Defender factory on Lothal was the target, given its location and significance.

Agent Kallus then delivered the final piece of the puzzle, as his intercepted transmission synced with Dodonna’s trajectory to reveal the hidden Rebel base. That last bit of intelligence effectively corroborated the other pieces, thereby establishing that the Rebels were moving to launch their first coordinated multi-cell attack.

Under the circumstances, the Rebel attack on Lothal would have almost certainly been deemed to be an imminent use of force. Phoenix Cell was heavily armed and had a history of combat operations against the Empire. Meanwhile, General Dodonna was a known Rebel military commander flying through hyperspace with a bunch of combat-ready vessels, not some gaggle of cargo freighters. The Rebels ordinarily avoided massing their forces, so the rendezvous of Phoenix Squadron and Massassi Group strongly suggested that an attack was in the works.

Similarly, the impending rendezvous also underscored the imminent nature of the attack. Dodonna’s forces were on the move at the start of the episode, which meant that the Rebels were in the process of marshaling their forces. Given the Rebellion’s aversion to massing their fleet for extended periods, it was highly likely they would spring their attack soon after linking up.

Under the law of war, Thrawn had no obligation to wait and engage the Rebels above Lothal. Once Imperials determined that the Rebels were displaying hostile intent, they were free to move in and use force. Grand Admiral Thrawn did what all tactically proficient commanders should by seizing upon the element of surprise and attacking at a place and time the enemy was not ready. Therefore, the Rebels’ conduct represented hostile intent that justified Thrawn’s attack.

Thrawn’s devastating attack on the Rebels showcased the escalating stakes of war for the Alliance. Although the law of war sets certain boundaries for lawful conduct within a war, it does not guarantee that you get to fight on favorable terms. The Rebellion’s own successes painted an ever-growing target on their backs, fueling the Empire’s desire to burn them out. Fortunately for the Alliance, buffoons like Admiral Konstantine and Admiral Ozzel exist, helping them escape and fight another day.

For his efforts above Atollon, the Empire posthumously honored Admiral Konstantine by granting him the glory of naming a trash compactor inside the Death Star after him.

What are Iron Fist’s Duties as a Landlord?

Danny Rand purchased the building where Colleen Wing had her apartment and dojo in Netflix’s Iron Fist. Romantic [albeit stalky], overtures aside, what are Danny’s new obligations as a landlord?

The first is that landlord warrants the property is fit for human habitation. N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 235-b. Moreover, those living in the property “shall not be subjected to any conditions which would be dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to their life, health or safety.” Id. However, damages caused by the tenant or those under the tenant’s direct control, shall not be a breach of the warranty of habitability. Id.

Danny Rand as a landlord is entitled to “reasonable compensation” for Colleen’s use of the property. N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 220. Danny also has a duty to provide a written receipt for rental payments. N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 235-e.

No super-hero show explores the intricacies of landlord-tenant duties, but Danny has unusual liability for his new building. First, Danny, Colleen, and Claire all kidnap Madam Gao from China and falsely imprison her in Colleen’s dojo. Second, there is extensive property damage to the dojo from different factions of the Hand and a DEA raid.

International kidnapping is a crime; regardless of the fact Danny was fighting an ancient terrorist organization of ninjas selling heroin. Danny had actual notice of the ceiling being breached in a raid, plus the door by the DEA.

Danny would have a duty to have the ceiling repaired under N.Y. Mult. Dwell. Law § 78:

Every multiple dwelling, including its roof or roofs, and every part thereof and the lot upon which it is situated, shall be kept in good repair. The owner shall be responsible for compliance with the provisions of this section; but the tenant also shall be liable if a violation is caused by his own wilful act, assistance or negligence or that of any member of his family or household or his guest. Any such persons who shall wilfully violate or assist in violating any provision of this section shall also jointly and severally be subject to the civil penalties provided in section three hundred four.

Danny knew rappelling members of the Hand had breached the ceiling of the dojo. This could subject the dojo to flooding, to say nothing of the roof being safe and sound. Prior case law has found that landlords have been responsible for property damage caused by water invasion from damaged roofs. Excellent Holding Corp. v. Richman, 155 Misc. 257, 258 (N.Y. Mun. Ct. 1935). There is no question that three human sized holes in the ceiling would cause water intrusion to the property [assuming Colleen’s dojo is on the top floor].

Jeri Hogarth might argue Danny’s liability is either limited by the actions of organized crime or seek damages from the government for the DEA raid. This would be highly problematic, as Danny was acting in violation of international, Federal, and New York state law, when they kidnapped Madam Gao from China. Moreover, the government had been given false evidence, which does not mean the DEA was acting in bad faith when they sought a warrant. As far as they knew, there was probable cause to arrest Danny Rand for being a drug dealer.

What is not easy to tell, is how difficult it will be in the future for Colleen Wing to get renter’s insurance in the future.