The main legal issues in No Man’s Land ended with the legal separation of Gotham from the United States—after all, if there’s no legal system there can’t be much in the way of legal issues. But there are a few loose ends to address, including some that our readers asked about.
I. Lex Luthor: Humanitarian?
Near the end of No Man’s Land, Lex Luthor comes to Gotham bringing massive amounts of aid and even begins rebuilding the city. The government condemns his actions as illegal, but apparently admits that its hands are tied: since Gotham is outside the United States, the U.S. government has no jurisdiction there. So while entering Gotham was illegal, there’s not much the government can do about Lex once he’s there. Oracle states that it would take a military action to stop Lex.
This is basically accurate but unlikely in practice. For example, the law establishing the No Man’s Land would have likely included a civil asset forfeiture provision, allowing the government to seize assets suspected of being used to violate the law. That would allow the government to seize Lex and Lex Corp’s assets. Because it’s a civil proceeding it would not matter that Lex himself was outside the country at the time.
Of course, in the end Lex was using the humanitarian venture as a cover for a massive real estate fraud operation that would have left him owning most of Gotham if it weren’t for Batman’s intervention. We’ll talk about that dastardly scheme in a (probably final) post on No Man’s Land.
II. Rejoining the United States
The exact mechanism by which Gotham rejoined the U.S. isn’t specified in the comics, but it’s suggested that it was led by the President bowing to public pressure following Lex’s humanitarian aid. This is quasi-accurate. Constitutionally, the President is in charge of foreign policy, but because the acquisition of new territory is derived from the treaty power, and treaties must be ratified by the Senate in order to become effective, at a minimum the Senate would have to approve the (re)annexation of Gotham. That’s assuming the treaty is of the self-executing type; otherwise both houses of Congress would need to pass a corresponding enabling law. So either way there would need to be congressional action.
Although new territory typically becomes a new state rather than enlarging an existing state, there’s no constitutional prohibition against doing so. Overall, having Gotham rejoin the union is a much less problematic proposition than removing it was.
III. The Big Irony
One interesting consequence of declaring Gotham not to be part of the United States is that the United States actually retained jurisdiction over many of the crimes committed there.
The special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States includes “Any place outside the jurisdiction of any nation with respect to an offense by or against a national of the United States.” 18 U.S.C. § 7(7). Although this would only cover federal crimes committed by or against a U.S. national, that still covers a lot of ground. In fact, the federal murder statute makes any murder (“the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought”) committed within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States a federal crime. 18 U.S.C. § 1111. That means that almost every murder committed in Gotham during No Man’s Land is a federal crime that remains prosecutable after Gotham rejoins the United States. So ironically, by removing Gotham from the United States, the federal government actually gained jurisdiction over a large number of crimes that would otherwise have been a state issue!