Ex Machina: NYC Politics and Police Unions

Ex Machina is the 50-issue series by Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris about Mitchell “The Great Machine” Hundred, a superhero who is elected to be the Mayor of the City of New York in the aftermath of September 11. In this post, we’re looking at two things: the stories’ portrayal of New York City’s municipal government, and the possible implications of superheroes on police union contracts.

I. Background

Ex Machina is set in an alternate version of early- to mid-2000s New York City. Mitchell Hundred is a civil engineer working on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1999 when he is injured by an exploding. . . device of some sort. He recovers, scarred, but possessed of the ability to “hear,” speak to, and command all manner of machinery and electronic equipment, including computers, radios, handcuffs, you name it. He initially does some freelance superhero work as “The Great Machine” and decides to run for mayor in the summer of 2001. He is actually able to prevent the plane from hitting the second tower on 9/11, and possibly due to that accomplishment, wins the election, taking office in January 2002 in place of Michael Bloomberg.

While doing his freelance gig, he discovers that the NYPD and FDNY aren’t necessarily thrilled with him. True, he saved that one guy on the subway, but in so doing he shut down most of the subway system for half a day. And yes, he did disable the car in which bank robbers were fleeing the scene, but that caused a ten-car pileup in which numerous people–including an NYPD officer–were injured. He also finds out that the Commissioner has reasons beyond the merely practical for disliking him. . .

II. NYC Politics

I’m about half a dozen issues into the series, and the portrayal of city politics thus far has been accurate. The New York Election Law does require an independent candidate to submit a petition supported by 7,500 signatures to get on the ballot for the mayoral race. The Public Advocate–currently Bill de Blasio, who just won the Democratic nomination for the 2013 mayoral race–is the first in line to fill the Mayor’s office should the Mayor resign or otherwise fail to complete his full term. The NYPD is unionized. Indeed, it is represented by at least a handful of unions, mostly divided up by rank rather than geographical area (e.g., the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association, the Captain’s Endowment Association, etc.). The Brooklyn Museum of Art, as part of the Cultural Institutions Group does receive much of its funding from the City. In short, I haven’t yet come across a detail about the NYC government that the story has gotten wrong. Which is impressive, considering that municipal governments in general–and in New York City in particular–tend to be rather arcane and obscure affairs when compared to the federal or even state governments.

III. NYPD Unions and Superheroes

But the story does flag one issue which we haven’t discussed before, one which is applicable to a wide variety of comics contexts. Simply put: what effect, if any, would the activity of superheroes have upon police unions and union contracts? And what remedies, if any, would the unions have in the event of such an effect?

In Ex Machina, the issue is mentioned by the police commissioner, who is annoyed that Hundred used his powers to thwart an assassination attempt on his own life despite the fact that his protective police detail had the situation well in hand. The would-be assassin wasn’t anybody special, really. No supervillain, no alien, nothing. Just a nut with a gun. The kind of threat that the NYPD is specifically designed to counter. The commissioner suggests that if Hundred moonlights as a freelance crime-fighting vigilante, that could interfere with the NYPD’s union rights. While Mitchell is a private citizen, that’s one thing. But as Mayor of the City of New York, that’s something else entirely.

How might superhero activity interfere with union contracts? Essentially, the NYPD is the primary law-enforcement agency in New York. If someone needs to be arrested, or someone needs to be protected, in the vast majority of cases, that’s the NYPD’s job. And not just de facto either: the NYPD, through its unions, have collective bargaining agreements with the City about the nature and extent of the City’s obligations to its police officers. This includes, obviously, not hiring non-union scabs to take the place of unionized police officers. Every time a superhero makes an arrest, or saves the day, that’s potentially a ton of overtime that the NYPD unions aren’t getting.

In its most extreme form, the argument is kind of silly. When the Chitauri open up their portal and send a ridiculous number of ships and troops pouring into Midtown, either the Avengers are going to handle that situation or its the End of the World. But if you think about it for a minute, many if not most superhero stories, especially in decades past, have to do with far more mundane villains. Even many supervillains are ultimately just bad guys with big guns. And this is to say nothing of various superheroes’ efforts to curb in run-of-the-mill street crime.

This is also where the fact that Hundred is now the Mayor comes into play. If the NYPD unions were to sue a private citizen superhero for edging in on its union-protected turf, the word “crucified” does not even begin to describe what would happen to said unions in the press. Particularly if it appeared that the villains being apprehended really were outside the ability of the NYPD to handle. But if the NYPD were to sue the Mayor for moonlighting as a superhero, the argument that this is an attempt by the Mayor to save budget by reducing the need for unionized police officers looks a lot more plausible. Especially, if as in this case, the threats in question are of the sort that the NYPD handles just fine on its own, thank you very much.

But expanding the argument from Ex Machina to superheroes in general, a city in which a number of superheroes were operating might well decide that it’s time to rethink its collective-bargaining agreements with its police unions. That might well provoke a suit against the city, arguing that by relying upon superheroes to do what the police have been contracted to do, the city has breached its contractual obligations. It might also involve a suit against the superhero for tortious interference, arguing that the superhero has interfered with the union’s contractual rights and/or obligations.

And before you think that such a suit would always be unpopular, remember that (1) voters generally like police departments, and (2) a lot of comics stories involve significant questions of the overall popularity of superheroes. Suggestions of anti-democratic tendencies, delusions of grandeur, and an overall attitude of “Just who asked you anyway?” could really come back into play here.

Regardless, a union facing a significant bite to its contracted jurisdiction might feel that it has no choice. If the choice is between extinction (or at least radical reduction) on one hand and filing an unpopular lawsuit on the other, unions don’t have a lot of easy choices. Remember the strike that shut down Hostess last year.

IV. Conclusion

Ex Machina is to be credited for its accurate portrayal of the procedures of New York City electoral politics. But spotting the issue of police union contracts being implicated by superhero activities is truly inspired.

26 responses to “Ex Machina: NYC Politics and Police Unions

  1. As an IR specialist I wonder what the exact nature of the unions’ argument would be here. Collective agreements tend to set out employees’ duties in terms of their job description and reporting relationship, so the argument that that has been varied unilaterally due to the actions of a third party is a bit tenuous in that the officers in this case would still be contracted and paid to perform that role, but that some tasks are required of them less often. A union’s involvement would more likely be triggered at a point where the NYPD did actually take action to amend the roles of officers without consultation, or layoffs were being considered due to a significant reduce in demand for labour, which is something that doesn’t seem to be the case here and in most comics (just see how many are running around Gotham at any given time). In that circumstance the union’s role would be to maintain as many positions as possible, likely even citing the involvement of superheroes and the need to maintain a visible police presence as a deterrent, and secure decent redundancies for any of their members who were eventually dismissed.
    Now if the unions decided to coordinate strike action because of the actions of superheroes, that would be much more interesting (especially depending on the location, and the type of strike) and would make for a lot of drama. Otherwise, there is not enough case law to show that a union which initiated a dispute about a threat to their members’ employment due to the presence of a third party with an overlapping JD would be successful, let alone make it to a hearing. In saying this I am looking at disputes where multiple unions have competed for coverage in an industry (and often had to agree to share with very strict nitpicky rules about who gets who) and where unions have initiated disputes about the nature of work being performed at a site. An example of how this works can be seen in the intersection of sheriffs’ offices, State Police and Federal agencies, where in some cases cooperation and overlap does occur in the interests of efficiency, justice, and resources, but you don’t see sheriffs being booted out of a job because Homeland Security has been given significantly wider powers.
    Conclusion: In the absence of any action from the NYPD or budgetary pressure from the city that directly affects their members in the form of alterations to their job descriptions or dismissal, the unions would be unlikely to have grounds to initiate a dispute under the applicable CAs. If the NYPD did cut staff either on their own or due to budget cuts, the unions could then make a stand in that context rather than on the presence of a superhero alone. If unions decided to strike, that would then be a separate issue again with other issues that would be argued before ‘oh superheroes made us do it’.

    • I feel this exact issue was explored in Watchmen. The police unions went on strike because of the presence of superheroes was making them feel/appear redundant.

      This strike actually caused the Keane act, but I wonder how this would have turned out if there were superheroes in politics. (Ozymandis was in business not politics I believe)

      • My understanding of the industrial action in Watchmen was that it was based in fear and not a legal argument or active threat to jobs. It is my opinion that it is unlikely that such action would occur in the post 9/11 or modern day world as firstly, strike action is much much much more legislated or outright prohibited (see, for example, NY’s “Taylor Law”) so the unions and the employers (in this case the NYPD/the City of New York) would be forced to negotiate and a mere possibility based on circumstances or the actions of a third party would be unlikely to trigger formal negotiations, led alone lead to arbitration under the CA’s dispute resolution procedures. Also, if the NYPD did strike the members would suffer penalties and the unions themselves and/or their officials would also risk sanction, something which would then reduce their currency to act later on and also impact on their ability to act as advocates generally. Therefore, strike action would be considered a last resort and only if there was an impasse in negotations.

        Watchmen’s version of the police strike is basically ‘we’re the cops, these guys are coming in and beating up on people, so we won’t do our jobs until they go away’, and built on a mass of public fear and uncertainty that is buoyed by the political climate at the time, but doesn’t strike me as fleshed out beyond that. Also, the Keene Act was passed by Congress, not

      • Watchmen’s version of the police strike is basically ‘we’re the cops, these guys are coming in and beating up on people, so we won’t do our jobs until they go away’, and built on a mass of public fear and uncertainty that is buoyed by the political climate at the time, but doesn’t strike me as fleshed out beyond that. Also, the Keene Act was passed by Congress, not New York State, so there are wider implications that would have been taken into account, especially given the military service of some of the Watchmen and the ongoing implications of their Stateside activities as a result, not just the strikes.

    • You make some excellent points. But it seems that the issue here comes up in the fact that it is the mayor doing some of this action. The mayor is not a third party but is involved in the negotations (at least indirectly and possibly directly) with the unions. Even if they do not make changes, the unions could argue, perhaps truthfully, that the mayor’s activities are removing what would otherwise form a need to hire and therefore interfering.

      Now, if it is merely third parties that are not affiliated with the government then you are quite persuasive that the unions would have little they could do validly. Though the police themselves might. After all, most fictional superheroes break the law while they are doing their thing. As has come up in other posts here, it is perfectly possible for a superhero to be effective while staying within the law but they have to toe a very fine line to do it. Most fictional superheroes either cross that line on a regular basis or else they are somehow legimitized as law enforcement (with all that comes with that).

  2. Not certain if it’s a good idea for superheroes to seek public office to begin with anyway- too much party politicking for my liking- like the military or the clergy(denomination irrelevant) or the Civil Service, superheroes should stay out of the world of politics.

    Technically superheroes are vigilantes as they are not sworn or deputize law enforcement personnel( and not just the Punisher or Sangre), but when Galactus or Dr Doom is on the rampage and neither conventional law enforcement or the military can handle them, then the NYPD would do well to accept their assistance and “backburner” grumbles about “vigilanteism”(how many times have not just Spider-Man, Daredevil or the FF saved not just the lives of civilians but cops as well?)!

    • I don’t know that I agree with you on them staying out of politics, especially in the case of The Great Machine where he’s already hung up his jetpack at the beginning of his bid for Mayor. His past as a superhero shouldn’t any more bar him from participating in political office than Jesse Ventura’s past as a wrestler, Arnold Schwartzenager’s past as an actor, or John McCain’s past as a soldier.

  3. How does the status of the Mayor as head of the Executive branch for the city impact this? Doesn’t that make him de jure the city’s highest law enforcement officer?

    As an additional political option to a lawsuit, the police might instead look at a qui custodiet ipsos custodes approach to shift job emphasis. After all, it’s hardly unthinkable to this day and age that heroes might themselves go astray — excessive force, violations of civil rights, groups of heroes secretly covering up crimes by one of their own.

    • City and State governments are not always (in fact, not usually) structured the same as the Federal Government.

      Also, the President is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces… but the Justice Department does not technically answer to him. If it did, you couldn’t have cases where the Justice Department looks into things like Watergate, the Valerie Plame affair, etc.

      Neither the President, the Governor nor the Mayor has any more right to enforce the law than you or I.

  4. I haven’t read the issue in question, so I don’t know the details of when Hundred stopped the assassination attempt, but it seems like there’s another factor being ignored: that Hundred was defending HIMSELF from the assassin.

    Hundred has a right to engage in self-defense, especially non-lethal. It would seem that this would trump any police union rights. Furthermore, he wasn’t acting as an agent of the government, but as a private citizen protecting himself.

    If a guy with a weapon charges Mike with apparent lethal intent, and Mike has pepper spray or a taser on him, it would seem that Mike has the right not to wait for the police to react (it’s his own life we’re talking about!), even if Mike’s last name happens to be Bloomberg. Same if it is not Mike but Mitchell, and Mitchell is packing the ability to fry the gun at 50 paces.

  5. Wouldn’t the city attorney just insert some contract language to fix things the next time the union’s contract expired?

    Note also that for a significant portion of Batman’s continuity, the GCPD is not just overmatched… it’s absolutely corrupt. How does that change the analysis? (i.e., the union not opposing superheroes because they’re bad for the police business, but rather, because they’re bad for the payola business.)

    • The agreement would need to be agreed to (in detail) and signed by reps from each union, it’s not just a matter of a simple amendment, although a draft clause may be a starting point for negotiations. It may even be such that for the wording to be agreed on that the PERB would need to be involved.

      To your point on the more corrupt side of the union interest, any such dealings would need to either involve corrupt officials (highly likely), or be couched in terms that addressed the other side of the business but be legit enough to equally apply to officers not on the take or unaware (even if only the one) so that it would get through the legal hoops.

      • The agreement would need to be agreed to (in detail) and signed by reps from each union”

        Yes, I understand that contracts are not effective unless they are accepted. I also skipped over other fine points, such as the fact that whatever language it is that takes superheroing out of the union’s concerns had better be tightly-worded, because if there is a dispute over it later, it will be construed against the drafter.

        I’m having a hard time seeing the union opposed to superheroing… the superheroes are taking on the most dangerous criminals/threats to public safety, leaving the police to handle easier stuff. You have to get a little bit arcane to find an objections. (Superheroes mean less need for (union) cops?… not unless the police are already catching all the miscreants in the city. The one complaint I CAN see is that before there were superheroes, there weren’t supervillains, and supervillains appear to be drawn to where the superheroes are, meaning that the superheroes may actually be making policing harder. But that’s a stretch, and rests on a historically dubious claim… was Jack the Ripper a “supervillain”? If so, it blows the premise out of the water.)

        So, I think that if superheroes really began showing up in actual cities, the union contracts for the police would be adjusted to account for them, either by amendment or by changes the next time the contract was up for negotiation.

      • Collective agreements are not always strictly interpreted according to the principles of contract law – the intention is weighed a lot higher by the dispute resolution authority for one, and they interact closely with both the overarching statutes and the employees’ individual contracts rather than forming the basis of a contract on its own.

        Part of a union argument against superheroes was outlined in the main article – the grey area where some superheroes will take on work that a police officer could do merely because they are there/it’s part of a larger thing/etc. Further, the presence of superheroes with vastly superior powers could be a threat in itself without any supervillains or goons present – unions may want extra protection for their members (e.g. armour so police don’t get dead if caught in the crossfire while evacuating a building) which would cost the employer (which would cost the city a ton of money) and that could be a sticking point in negotiations. The union argument would be duty of care and OHS, the city argument would be money and that the officers don’t need to be there (the Avengers movie proves otherwise, IMO) so there isn’t a duty. That’s without getting to the extremes in this article’s source material where superhero activity actively makes the police’s job more difficult, requiring overtime and penalty rates to be paid out and argued about etc.

        I don’t think the article necessarily raises the question of whether the agreements would be amended, but what steps a union would take to get there (like, strikes, work bans, coordinated campaigning etc.) and how these issues would arise outside of the bargaining/renewal period and how they could then be resolved without rewriting and voting on the entire thing. For example – say the cleanup of Metropolis after Man of Steel means a ton of extra man hours requiring police (and municipal workers and everyone else you can think of) to work overtime beyond that specified in the agreement and they have to do it without having the minimum time off between shifts just so it gets done. The union would step in at that point, but it’s not part of bargaining for the next agreement so it can’t be fixed, per se, by a new clause being dropped in and everyone saying yay. It would need to go through the dispute resolution process outlined in the agreement, to the Metropolis equivalent of the PERB and then the PERB members would most like either make a strongly worded recommendation to faciliate a conciliated outcome or straight out go through a binding arbitration. This may even involve emergency hearings, run overnight, and in the meantime maybe all the police, EMTs, firefighters, builders, municipal workers etc etc etc are wearing red armbands to show their solidarity. How that then plays out depends on the unique situation and the possible outcomes can range from ‘everyone has to have their breaks so the subway will take longer to rebuild and we realise the public interest is compromised but it’s better for everyone to be safe on the subway than have it up early and then it have problems’ to ‘everyone on call all the time and double pay and an extra week’s leave for all’.

      • ” the grey area where some superheroes will take on work that a police officer could do ”
        This is only a union problem if it means that there’s less need for union workers. Unless they’ve caught all the criminals, there’s still enough police work to keep all the union police officers busy. You already have every citizen allowed to make arrests, so having superheroes allowed to make arrests is not actually a new thing. Would the union complain if ordinary citizens began making arrests? Or would the complaint come from the city (“Please don’t expose us to liability for false arrests… let the police make the arrests.”)

        “the presence of superheroes with vastly superior powers could be a threat in itself without any supervillains or goons present – unions may want extra protection for their members (e.g. armour so police don’t get dead if caught in the crossfire while evacuating a building)”

        Don’t they want this already? There’s nothing specific to superheroes that triggers the need for body armor, police already have it because bad guys have guns. Again, I’d bet that the union is actually arguing the other way… the city wants them armored all the time to cut down on liability and expense, but the union members don’t like it because it’s heavy, hot, uncomfortable, and slows them down if they have to have a foot pursuit.

        “I don’t think the article necessarily raises the question of whether the agreements would be amended, but what steps a union would take to get there”
        I think there’s a fundamental flaw in the argument. Yes, it’s true that right now, big-city police departments collective bargaining agreements don’t take superheroing into account. This is because superheroing doesn’t impact actual police work. If superheroing DID start to impact police work, the CBA would be fixed so that it DOES take superheroing into account, and that change would be made when it is simple and trivial to do so.. long before there was a need for a job action. I think you’d see something along the lines of the way it’s portrayed in Spider-Man, with a division of labor. Spidey’ll web up a mugger, but he doesn’t spend his day looking for them, he’s busy looking for Doc Ock or the Hobgoblin. Meanwhile, the police will respond to calls that a costumed bad guy is doing something, but they don’t mind hanging back and letting the guy in the tights do his thing. On the other hand, in 30’s and 40’s Batman, Batman is actively trying to do the the police’s job, because they’re too corrupt to do it themselves. In the intervening years, however, you see Batman and the GCPD reach more of an accord (Batman actually comes when Gordon calls him.)

        “say the cleanup of Metropolis after Man of Steel means a ton of extra man hours requiring police ”

        Massive fight by extraterrestrial invaders would probably be treated like a natural disaster, which every major city is familiar with. Californian cities have earthquakes, Texan cities have tornadoes, cities all up the Eastern seaboard have hurricanes, cities in the Pacific northwest and Hawaii have to worry about volcanoes. They’d get help from the federal government, unless one party really wanted to play politics with the disaster aid (this is alwo why we have a national guard, and police have reserve officers.) You might see something where a specialty insurer sets up shop to provide coverage for acts of supervillainy and related combat damage.

      • Have you dealt with unions much, if at all? It really is not as simple as you are trying to make it sound. It is not just a matter of assuming that the agreement will be amended, but everything that will be taken into account in getting to that point, and it is never easy and a change of this scale, involving public figures, will most likely include industrial action not just because of the nature of the changes but the amount of attention being paid to them and the visibility of the police force as the affected workers. This isn’t a nice business done through lawyers in perfectly fitted suits, after all.

        I don’t think arguing about examples is going to help as obviously they are not having the impact required – if you cannot see that a rise in property damage due to non-police activity is a threat to their safety, I can’t convince you of that. But this:

        Industrial action is a part of negotiations. Industrial action is highly regulated, especially where the public interest is concerned, which it would be here given the nature of work of the members taking such action. Similarly, amending an agreement is never simple or trivial. At the very least, there would be an argument about what the members must give up in exchange for extra protections. The reason I used armour as an example is that standard body armour for riots probably would not stand up to superhero activity, where the police may be being ordered to contain civilians or control traffic, and so asking for armour to be provided for those situations would cost the city more money. The city would then say ‘we don’t have the money, either use the armour we already provide or we’ll cut overtime to pay for it’ and then that would be hammered out over a few months, no matter where the balance ends up. Sure, in the meantime, maybe a few openminded policemen will come to an informal arrangement with the resident superpeople which keeps their butts free of being kicked on a regular basis, but at the same time we come to the bane of modern-day policing in risk assessment. Remember that police and first responders are held to a higher duty than civilian Good Samaritans – they are going to need something in writing – in their CA, in consequent workplace policies, in the handbook – that says when they should not intervene to shield them from being made subjects of a suit down the track.

      • James Pollock

        “Have you dealt with unions much, if at all?”
        Well, I’ve been represented by one, and I’ve worked in heavily unionized industries, including my present work. But IT workers, which is what I’ve been for most of my working life, are usually “professional/technical” workers who are not union.

        Consider this analogy: the law today does not really handle the case of people who can fly independent of mechanical assistance. You would have to struggle to find laws that applied to non-mechanically-aided human flight, and the application of such laws would be, well, iffy. My point is that this is so because our laws have developed in a world in which non-mechanically-aided human flight is not known to exist, and therefore the law has never had to deal with that situation before, so if suddenly tomorrow there were people who could fly, the law would not really be set up to handle it. If, however, people had been able to fly all along, the law would have developed in this area and there would be relevant statutes, precedent, etc. within the legal framework. There have certainly been cases where the law has had to deal with problems that had never been addressed before (for example, mechanically-aided flight had an effect on property law, where pre-flight doctrine was that ownership of land gave rights down to the center of the earth and unlimited distances above the ground. After flight became commonplace, this doctrine was changed, people no longer have unlimited air rights over their property.)

        My point is that if there was any significant number of superheroes doing any significant number of superhero-y things, those problems for the police, and their union(s), would have been explored, negotiated, and settled while those problems were small. You wouldn’t have the situation where the union contracts had absolutely no provision for superheroes (as current real-life police union contracts do) and then having to be adapted to a world with superheroes, unless a whole bunch of superheroes emerged, all at once, and began doing a LOT of superhero-y stuff, after there having been no superheroes at all previously.

        Imagine, for a moment, attempting to apply the law of vehicles circa 1890 to any part of the second half of the twentieth century… it had no provisions for motor vehicles at all! The cops of 1890 would have been horrified into action by the suggestion that not just some of them, but each and every one of them, must become qualified to operate a motor vehicle at speeds upwards of 60mph… not one of them was prepared for such a thing. Cops of the 1950’s, however, were not at all bothered by the requirements to be qualified to drive, and wouldn’t even think of complaining (through the union or otherwise) about having this requirement placed on them. This says nothing at all about the police union of 1890, the police union of 1950, or police unions in general. Unions advocate for what their membership wants, and for what the union wants, and they don’t take “industrial actions” over things that don’t bother either. You only see problems of any scale if you have people with one set of expectations and present them with different circumstances. Would cops of the real world have problems if suddenly presented with a world in which superheroics were common? Possibly. But I contend that this would be because of the sudden change from no superheroics to superheroics… change is always traumatic. If, however, the change from no superheroics to rare superheroics to occasional superheroics to infrequent superheroics to … common superheroics, over a span of years if not generations (Superman’s been patrolling Metropolis since 1938, after all), the change is small and much more easily dealt with, so I think it’s reasonable that it would have been.

  6. Didn’t the police go on strike in Robocop? Googling… Ah, “OCP forces a police strike by terminating their pension plan and cutting salaries. As RoboCop is legally the property of OCP, he cannot strike.”

    That brings up a good question: Alex Murphy was legally dead and OCP took possession of the remains but did Alex Murphy’s family agree to have his remains used this way? And what if instead of using Alex Murphy’s remains they took a single cell and cloned a new Alex Murphy? Really? Seriously? He would be the “legal property” of OCP?

    I suppose if Alex Murphy’s family had taken OCP to court then they would eventually have been able to bring him home which is why OCP told everybody that Alex Murphy was dead and Robocop was just a robot. Their claim that Robocop was their property would have been considered invalid. So I guess I answered my own question: they DIDN’T own Robocop because Alex Murphy was still alive but the general public did not know that.

    • My memory of Robocop was that Murphy died on the operating table, and OCP took the opportunity to enforce a clause in the police contract that their dead bodies were OCP property. Been a while since I saw it though, so I could be wrong.

      It is interesting that in the upcoming remake, they’re totally changing the nature of Robocop’s transformation: Murphy is critically wounded, going to be a quadriplegic, and so his wife gives the Evil Corporation permission to do the surgery to make him Robocop. His identity as Alex Murphy seems to be public knowledge, even to him, but because they’re evil, they’re secretly controlling his mind.

      • “OCP took the opportunity to enforce a clause in the police contract that their dead bodies were OCP property”

        Ah so it is a strict application of organ donation.

    • And here with the “cloning” issue, we start to wonder when Orphan Black and its implications for Canadian law – criminal, civil, contract – might be due for a discussion here.

      • I decided the writers were clueless when they revealed that the clones were patented. Of course, given their age, all patents would have expired. Also, patents require disclosure, which there doesn’t seem to have been–you can’t patent something without there being a patent application. (And no court would allow humans to be patented anyway, but that one can be chalked up to artistic license.)

  7. “what if instead of using Alex Murphy’s remains they took a single cell and cloned a new Alex Murphy?”

    The clone would be a living human being and therefore not owned by anybody.

  8. On the issue of superhero’s causing extra work for the cops, what do real contracts say about emergency situations like Katrina? For example the clean up of Metropolis after “Man of Steal” would be comparable.

  9. I don’t fully understand the tortious interference angle; does the intent required for that kind of tortious interference include oblique intent?

  10. James: superhero worlds usually run on comic book time, where many years of real life publication are a short time in-story. Superman has only been around a few years, not since 1938 (and that doesn’t even consider that Superman’s history is gone with the new 52). Typically in a superhero world there were occasionally superheroes since at least WW2, but superheroes only became common in the past 5-15 years.

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