Home Blog Page 90

The Trial of Ahsoka Tano in The Clone Wars with Special Guest Judge Matthew Sciarrino

Judge Matthew Sciarrino joined Jessica and Josh for a special video and podcast on The Clone Wars and the trial of Ahsoka Tano.

Violating the Prime Directive in Countdown to Darkness

Josh_Reading_CountdownCountdown to Darkness, the official Star Trek comic prequel to Star Trek Into Darkness, has come out with its first two issues.

The story focuses on the U.S.S. Enterprise visiting a planet that was supposed to be the technological equivalent of ancient Rome and somehow had energy weapons.

The key “legal villain” in the story is the former captain of the Enterprise, Robert April. Well, and barbaric aliens called the Shadows. And maybe a Bajoran woman named Mudd.

Only if you are a hard core geek do you know of Commodore Robert April from the animated series where the Enterprise crew was aging backyards. However, in the “new” timeline, April was not captain of the Enterprise that was also captained by Christopher Pike and then James T. Kirk, but a prior Enterprise (based on the Captain’s Chair, possibly the 1701 from The Original Series that was decommissioned for the new 1701). He never made the rank Commodore and spent 20 years going rogue.

Redshirt_GeekHow is Robert April the “villain”? He deserted his Enterprise, thanks to a cover-up by his First Officer, to stop the minority of a pre-warp society from being butchered by the majority known as Shadows.

This is also a crime, because April willfully violated the Prime Directive. For those who do not know the actual text of the Prime Directive, it states the following:

As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Star Fleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.

How did April violate the Prime Directive? He armed the inhabitants of Phaedus IV with Federation weapons in their civil war and became the “leader” in the minority’s fight against the Shadows.

Skye_Phaser_1It is highly unlikely a JAG officer will make an appearance in the story, but it is obvious that Captain April can be charged, and convicted, of a violation of the Prime Directive. His former First Officer also could be charged with a conspiracy to violate the Prime Directive and any subsequent crime by April in furtherance of the conspiracy. However, the former XO might not be responsible for additional arms smuggling, as that arguably is outside the scope of the original conspiracy for April to leave the Enterprise to help fight against the Shadows. It would all depend whether the Executive Officer contacted the arms dealers.

Of course, this is a Star Trek story. Let’s see how the story unfolds Into Darkness…

It’s All About the Ice: A Legal Geek’s Curling Adventure

Curling: The Sport of Kings…or maybe just the sport of people who like to stand on ice so much they even found a way to bring an ice sport indoors.

That’s right.  This week I’m talking about curling – the bizarre but highly entertaining sport of the far northern states, Canada, and a few other countries.

My Curling TeamAs a native Minnesotan (albeit one who’s been gone a long, long time) I’m ashamed to admit that, until this past weekend, I had never curled before.  Much as I’m pretty sure there’s a state law in Wisconsin that all food establishments must serve mac ‘n cheese, I’m pretty sure there’s some law that all northern Minnesotans must curl at least once.  So I can finally say I am a true northern Minnesota girl.

What is curling?

Curling was invented in medieval Scotland (I guess they had to find something to do when it was too cold to golf).  As one court explained, the game involves curling stones, with handles attached “for convenience in their use in the playing of a game on the ice for exercise and recreation. The stones are hurled along and on the ice to a mark, sometimes called a tee. There are four players on a side, and the object of the player is to so hurl or slide his curling stone as to bring it to a stop in or on the mark.”  U.S. v. Kelley Hardware Co., 1924 WL 26627, 1, 12 U.S.Cust.App. 204, 205 (Cust.App.1924).

As another court noted in a footnote, curling is similar to shuffleboard in the way it’s played.  See Cusano v. Kotler, 159 F.2d 159, 163 (3rd Cir. 1947).  Curling also requires the use of brooms by sweepers – teammates who furiously sweep the ice in front of the thrown stone (or rock) to help the rock travel farther than it otherwise would (in theory).

Is curling really a sport?

 Curling OlympiansIt is!  After playing three games this weekend I can tell you that it’s harder than it looks.  I was actually a bit sore for a couple of days.  There’s even a calendar put out by some of the female curlers.  Plus, it’s actually in the Olympics, so it has to be a sport.    And the Bemidji Curling Club, where I curled, is home to many Olympian curlers (see the picture above if you don’t believe me).  According to some Canadians who have visited the curling club, Bemidji’s ice is special (and they should know!).

Dave's PizzaThere must be something special about Bemidji’s ice.  It was the local men’s team that won bronze in curling at the 2006 Olympics — the U.S.’s first curling medal ever.  And Pete Fenson, the skip of the bronze-medal-winning team, is also the owner of Dave’s Pizza, one of my all-time favorite pizza places.

Why are The Legal Geeks talking about curling?

CurlingBecause I curled!  Other than that, the connection is weak (well, the legal part, anyway — I think the geeky part is pretty clear).  I mentioned above two cases that have at least touched on curling, but other than those two I was only able to find one other case that discussed whether a party had a legal duty to advise a curling club about using barricades. See Otto v. Eau Claire County, 2012 WL 1165749, 4 (Wis.App. 2012).

No, this was really all just a pretext so I could talk about my first time curling.  I played in a tournament with my cousins and consider it a success (even though we lost all three games) because I had a ton of fun, I actually scored one point, and I didn’t get injured (the odds were high that I would).  So if Laura, Stef, and Sara invite me back next year (and they’re clearly good sports – they didn’t mind me using these pictures), I will definitely curl again!

CurlingTeam2

 

It's All About the Ice: A Legal Geek's Curling Adventure

Curling: The Sport of Kings…or maybe just the sport of people who like to stand on ice so much they even found a way to bring an ice sport indoors.

That’s right.  This week I’m talking about curling – the bizarre but highly entertaining sport of the far northern states, Canada, and a few other countries.

My Curling TeamAs a native Minnesotan (albeit one who’s been gone a long, long time) I’m ashamed to admit that, until this past weekend, I had never curled before.  Much as I’m pretty sure there’s a state law in Wisconsin that all food establishments must serve mac ‘n cheese, I’m pretty sure there’s some law that all northern Minnesotans must curl at least once.  So I can finally say I am a true northern Minnesota girl.

What is curling?

Curling was invented in medieval Scotland (I guess they had to find something to do when it was too cold to golf).  As one court explained, the game involves curling stones, with handles attached “for convenience in their use in the playing of a game on the ice for exercise and recreation. The stones are hurled along and on the ice to a mark, sometimes called a tee. There are four players on a side, and the object of the player is to so hurl or slide his curling stone as to bring it to a stop in or on the mark.”  U.S. v. Kelley Hardware Co., 1924 WL 26627, 1, 12 U.S.Cust.App. 204, 205 (Cust.App.1924).

As another court noted in a footnote, curling is similar to shuffleboard in the way it’s played.  See Cusano v. Kotler, 159 F.2d 159, 163 (3rd Cir. 1947).  Curling also requires the use of brooms by sweepers – teammates who furiously sweep the ice in front of the thrown stone (or rock) to help the rock travel farther than it otherwise would (in theory).

Is curling really a sport?

 Curling OlympiansIt is!  After playing three games this weekend I can tell you that it’s harder than it looks.  I was actually a bit sore for a couple of days.  There’s even a calendar put out by some of the female curlers.  Plus, it’s actually in the Olympics, so it has to be a sport.    And the Bemidji Curling Club, where I curled, is home to many Olympian curlers (see the picture above if you don’t believe me).  According to some Canadians who have visited the curling club, Bemidji’s ice is special (and they should know!).

Dave's PizzaThere must be something special about Bemidji’s ice.  It was the local men’s team that won bronze in curling at the 2006 Olympics — the U.S.’s first curling medal ever.  And Pete Fenson, the skip of the bronze-medal-winning team, is also the owner of Dave’s Pizza, one of my all-time favorite pizza places.

Why are The Legal Geeks talking about curling?

CurlingBecause I curled!  Other than that, the connection is weak (well, the legal part, anyway — I think the geeky part is pretty clear).  I mentioned above two cases that have at least touched on curling, but other than those two I was only able to find one other case that discussed whether a party had a legal duty to advise a curling club about using barricades. See Otto v. Eau Claire County, 2012 WL 1165749, 4 (Wis.App. 2012).

No, this was really all just a pretext so I could talk about my first time curling.  I played in a tournament with my cousins and consider it a success (even though we lost all three games) because I had a ton of fun, I actually scored one point, and I didn’t get injured (the odds were high that I would).  So if Laura, Stef, and Sara invite me back next year (and they’re clearly good sports – they didn’t mind me using these pictures), I will definitely curl again!

CurlingTeam2

 

Why I Have a Bust of John Quincy Adams

JQA_BustI have a bust of John Quincy Adams on my desk.

Why?

Because few Americans are greater symbols of resolution, loyalty to country and the courage to overcome defeat.

Moreover, John Quincy Adams is a reminder of how one lawyer can make a difference in the United States.

JQA suffered a massive stroke on the Floor of the House of Representatives on February 21, 1848.

He served in the House from 1830 to his death on February 23, 1848. He is the only American President to be elected and serve in Congress after his Presidency. [While President Andrew John was elected to the Senate by the Redeemer Government in Tennessee, he died before taking the oath of office.] During this time, President John Quincy Adams earned the nickname Old Man Eloquent.

Never before in our country’s history had there been a larger funeral for a former President of the United States. Statesmen and a grieving procession several miles long accompanied Adams’ body back to Quincy, Massachusetts. In true government fashion, Adams’ coffin was several inches too wide for the crypt.

Only one other state funeral would have a larger outpouring of national grief in the 19th Century. It was for an attorney from Illinois who served one term in Congress. His name was Lincoln.

JQA grew up at the founding of the United States, thanks in large part to his father’s determination to see an independent United States of America. A boy who became an ambassador (and the only family where the grandfather, father and grandson each served as Ambassador to England); the US Senator who lost his office because of his support for the Embargo Act of 1807; the statesman who helped negotiate the end of the War of 1812; the Secretary of State who defined 19th Century foreign policy with the Monroe Doctrine; and a man elected President of the United States by the House after a disputed election with four candidates.

President John Quincy Adams was the first “modern” President who did not wear a wig, worn clothes modern for the time and had what would be considered a progressive administration. He wanted roads, a Naval Academy and what would be called the Smithsonian. He also wrote in his diary daily, even go so far to teach himself to write left-handed when his right hand became tired. He also swam nude in the Potomac to exercise…which would not go over well today.

Unfortunately, his Presidency was a total failure. Congress dug in and opposed him on every issue, biding their time for Andrew Jackson.

Adams lost the election of 1828. Many historians joke it was probably more honorable to have lost than won that race. During the campaign, Jackson’s people accused Adams as having supplied the Russian Tsar with American virgins while Adams was Commissioner to Russia (which was not true); the Adams camp produced the Coffin Hand Bill, which accused Jackson of being a bigamist, having killed men in duels and being illiterate. All of which were true about Jackson.

Jackson could also spit blood at will on people he argued with, thanks to a dueling injury.

To be fair, Jackson’s wife did not have a proper divorce from her first husband. The stress of the election also killed her.

Adams was one of two Presidents not to attend his successor’s Inauguration. The other was John Adams.

How does a man totally defeated from the Presidency have the courage to run for the House of Representatives? How does he serve with honor and dedication until his dying day? Where does that courage come from?

Congressman John Quincy Adams fought tooth and nail against the Gag Rule, the practice of tabling without reading petitions on slavery. Adams called the Gag Rule exactly what it was: an outright violation of the First Amendment, denying citizens the right to petition their government for grievances. Adams was once greeted in Ohio for his defense of the First Amendment with a banner declaring he was the “Defender of the Rights of Man.”

In time, John Quincy Adams’ allies grew. One was Joshua R Giddings. Congressman Giddings also took up many of Adams’ causes. Like most Congressmen of the time, many lived in boarding houses and ate together. Adams and Giddings lived at the same boarding. Giddings roommate was Abraham Lincoln.

So, why a bust of John Quincy Adams? Because I admire a lawyer who lived, fought and died in order to make America better.

Jabba the Hutt & Employee Safety

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far far away, the planet of Tatooine apparently did not have any laws on employee safety or premise liability.

Jabba the Hutt’s Palace would make thousands of OSHA inspectors scream out in horror, then nothing.

Jabba’s safety standards raise many issues as they related to employees (such as the guard who fell in the Rancor Pit), independent contractors (Boba Fett) and those held in servitude (Oola, the green dancing girl fed to the Rancor & Princess Leia).

Employers’ Duty to Employees

Provided the Old Republic had similar employee protection laws to the United States, an employer:

(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;

(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.

29 USCS § 654(a).

Additionally, floors with holes that “persons can accidentally walk” into (such as on a construction site) must be guarded by a railing or cover. W. C. Sivers Co. (1972) OSHRC Docket No. 239, 1973-1974 CCH OSHD P 17792, 29 CFR 1926.500(b)(8).

The Trap Door to The Rancor Pit

Jabba the Hutt used a trap door to 1) dispose of Oola, the dancer who displeased Jubba and 2) attempt to eliminate Luke Skywalker, accidentally sending a guard to be a snack for the Rancor.

Gamorrean_AssumptionofRisk_3051

Oola’s case highlights several issues: She was held in Jabba’s Palace against her will and then fed to the Rancor.

Jabba’s actions would range from holding someone in slavery (which apparently was legal on Tatooine) to outright murdering her.

Jabba’s Palace Guard who fell in the Rancor Pit with Luke Skywalker was owed a duty by Jubba  to be free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

However, as a palace guard, he also assumed the risk the different dangers that came with the job. With that said, being a palace guard does not mean he assumed the risk of falling through a trap door and being eat alive by the Rancor.

Even if the Guard could have assumed the risk of falling down the trap door, the Rancor was a wild animal (See, Wookieepedia). Case law has found that an owner of property can be liable for injuries under premises liability for a free roaming wild animal on their property provided they have knowledge of the dangerous animal. (See, The Landings Ass’n, Inc. v. Williams, 736 S.E.2d 140 (Ga. Ct. App. 2012), regarding knowledge of an alligator in a lagoon that injured someone). In Jubba’s case, the Rancor was imported to Tatooine to be used as an execution weapon in a pit. It certainly was not free roaming, but purposely contained because it was dangerous. It was highly foreseeable that the creature could accidentally eat the wrong person.

The Independent Contractor & The Sarlacc Pit

Boba Fett was an independent contractor, because he was a bounty hunter not directly employed by Jabba the Hutt. In the universe of premises liability, independent contractors are viewed as business invitees. Taylor v. Nabors Drilling United States, LP, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14555, at *5 (S.D. Miss. Feb. 4, 2013).

Boba_IndependentContractor_3030

What duty was Boba Fett owed by Jabba while on the Barge over the Sarlacc Pit?

A case involving an injury on an oil rig is illustrative, if we view Jabba’s barge over the Sarlacc Pit like an oil rig at sea.

Jabba as a premises owner (the barge, not the sand dunes) had a general duty to “provide an independent contractor with a reasonably safe work environment or give warning of danger.” Taylor, at *5, citing Nofsinger v. Irby, 961 So. 2d 778, 781 (Miss. Ct. App. 2007).

However, Jabba as a premises owner was not, “an insurer of the [independent contractor’s] safety.” Taylor, at *5, citing Coho Res., Inc. v. McCarthy, 829 So. 2d 1, 10 (Miss. 2002). However, “there are exceptions to the general rule, which can be reduced to two issues: who controls the work which caused the injury, and whether the contractor had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard which caused the injury.” Taylor, at *5, citing Coho Res., Inc. v. McCarthy, 829 So. 2d 1, 10 (Miss. 2002).

Case law states that when the premises owner “devolves upon the contractor the right and fact of control of the premises and the nature and details of the work, the owner has no liabilities for injuries experienced by the contractor’s workers where those injuries arose out of or were intimately connected with the work.” Taylor, at *5.

A  premises owner is “not liable for the death or injury of an independent contractor or his employees resulting from dangers that the contractor, as an expert, knows or reasonably should know.” Taylor, at *6, citing McCarthy, 829 So. 2d at 14. The Taylor Court went on to state:

Phrased differently, a premises owner will not be held liable where an independent contractor has “assumed the risk” of danger. Stokes, 217 F.3d at 357.  Accordingly, an “employer is relieved of the duty of informing an independent contractor of a danger at the work site if the independent contractor knows of that danger.” Nofsinger, 961 So. 2d at 781.The “knowledge of the danger” exception . . . does not require such a close nexus between the dangerous condition and the work the contractor is obligated to perform. That rule rests on the premise that under circumstances where the contractor has knowledge of the condition, his ability to avoid the harm is equal to that of the owner of the premises. The ability of the contractor to avoid injury where he knows that a dangerous condition exists does not depend on his control over the manner in which the work is performed or his reason for being on the premises. Stokes, 217 F.3d at 359.

Boba Fett was the adult clone of Jango Fett, trained as an expert bounty hunter. Given his skill as a warrior-for-hire, he assumed the risk of engaging Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca in battle over the Sarlacc Pit. As such, Jabba owed Boba Fett no duty under premises liability for any injuries sustained in the Sarlacc Pit.

Rancors’ Rights: Possible Episode VII Plot Ideas

The New Republic may mean the end of Slave Leia outfits, but what about the Rankors of the universe? Will the outlawing of slavery in the New Republic mean these creatures could still be held against their will for brutal entertainment? Let’s review one California case for a possible outcome.

Leaping KillerWhale, Orcinus OrcaPlaintiffs in California brought a Next Friends case on behalf of orca whales held at Sea World, claiming the whales’ 13th Amendment rights were being violated. Tilikum v. Sea World Parks & Entm’t, Inc., 842 F. Supp. 2d 1259, 1262-1264 (S.D. Cal. 2012).

That’s right, the Killer Whales were the Plaintiffs.

After lengthy historical analysis, the Court held the 13th Amendment applied only to persons, not non-humans. Tilikum, at *1263.

In the case of the Rancors, it is unlikely a law prohibiting slavery would apply to them, as they were simply eating machines. As such, the New Republic would need specific legislation to ensure the safe and humane treatment of Rancors.

It was a joke!

Donald Trump is back in the news again…this time for suing comedian Bill Maher over an offer Maher made on the Tonight Show a month ago.  Talking to host Jay Leno, Bill Maher said that he would donate $5 million to the charities of Trump’s choice if Trump could prove that he wasn’t “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan.”  Trump provided Maher with his birth certificate, but Maher refused to pay up, so Trump filed a breach of contract suit against Maher.

GavelI’ve written about unilateral contracts before.  In such a contract, the offeror (Bill Maher)  makes a promise (donate $5 million) if the offeree (Trump) performs the requisite terms (proving his father is a homo sapien).  Trump’s claiming that he performed and, therefore, Maher needs to pay up.  But Maher is refusing, so what’s his defense?

It’s a joke!  Maher isn’t the first defendant in a breach of contract suit to claim that a contract was never intended – that the entire deal was based on a joke.  And, indeed, the law generally recongizes the idea that even if the contract looks legit it won’t be enforced if it’s a joke.  See Restatement of Contracts, 2d, § 214(d)-(e) comment c.  Of course, if you could easily avoid your contractual obligations by claiming you were joking, everyone would do it.  See, e.g., Luebbert v. Simmons, 98 S.W.3d 72, 78 (Mo.App. W.D. 2003) (defendant was unable to avoid contract by claiming she was drunk and/or joking).

Studio Audience

So how does Maher prove to the court that he was joking?  The court will look to Maher’s conduct and words.  If a reasonable person would believe that Maher intended a real agreement from his actions, then Maher can’t avoid the creation of a contract.  Id.  If, on the other hand, it was obvious that it was a joke, than the court will find that no contract was formed.  See Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., 88 F.Supp.2d 116, 127-128 (S.D.N.Y. 1999).  In this case, given that this was a comedian performing on a late night talk show before a laughing studio audience – and given the parallels to Trump’s own offer to President Obama – it will be difficult for Trump to show that any reasonable person believed a contract had been formed.  But he’s in the news again, so Trump’s already won.

 

AbbyShot's Eleventh Doctor's Purple Coat