Category Archives: television

Mailbag Roundup

Teaching and research have kept me very busy this semester, but I wanted to present a roundup of questions I’ve received and answered via email recently. There are lots of spoilers below, so be warned.

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Daredevil Season 2, Part 2 – The Trial

Following my previous post about Daredevil Season 2, we now move to the main event, the trial of…

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Daredevil Season 2, Part 1

There is so much to discuss about Season 2 of Daredevil that I’m not going to follow the usual post format.  Spoilers ahead, naturally.

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Daredevil Season 2

I’ve received a few different questions about the second season of Daredevil, which puts Matt & Foggy’s legal practice front and center in a key storyline, which I won’t spoil here.  I’ve just gotten through watching the season, and wow is there ever a lot to discuss—and not in a good way.  More to follow.

Defending Kilgrave

(Spoilers for Jessica Jones ahead!  Trigger warning for discussion of rape.)

Jessica Jones features a private investigator, an attorney, accused criminals, and a killer on the loose.  There are so many legal issues it’s hard to know where to begin.  The Legal Geeks have written about the feasibility of Kilgrave’s victims raising an insanity defense, but I’m interested in a related but trickier question: what defense could Kilgrave offer if he were hauled into court (and prevented from influencing the case using his powers)?  At first glance it might seem like Kilgrave is guilty of numerous instances of murder, rape, theft, and countless lesser offenses.  But as Kilgrave claims, he isn’t a murderer himself, he just tells other people to do it.  I will consider three possible crimes: Hope Shlottman killing her parents, Kilgrave’s rapes, and Kilgrave taking money from the poker players.  The show is set in New York City, so I’ll be using New York law for the analysis.

I. Intent

Before looking at each crime, I should first talk about intent.  Not all crimes require intent; there are strict liability crimes such as driving over the speed limit.  But most crimes require some form of intent, which can be divided into two classes: specific intent and general intent.

Specific intent means the state must “prove that the defendant has intended to commit some further act, or has intended some additional consequence, or has intended to achieve some additional purpose, beyond the prohibited conduct itself.” 35 N.Y. Jur. 2d Criminal Law: Principles and Offenses § 26.  Murder is the classic example of a specific intent crime.  The degree of guilt depends on the additional consequence or purpose intended by the defendant.  If the defendant intended to kill the victim, that’s intentional homicide.  If the defendant did not, then that may only be manslaughter.

General intent means that the state only has to prove that the defendant intended to commit the prohibited conduct.  Rape is the typical example of a general intent crime.  What matters is that the defendant engaged in sexual intercourse with the victim and the victim did not consent.  It does not matter whether the defendant was aware of the lack of consent or intended for the intercourse to be nonconsensual.

II. The Killing of Hope Shlottman’s Parents

In this case, Kilgrave instructed Hope Shlottman to shoot her parents, which she then did, resulting in their deaths.  This was done under the influence of result of a virus that Kilgrave produces, which causes others to obey Kilgrave’s commands literally and unflinchingly.  Hope herself has a few solid defenses: involuntary action, legal insanity, duress, and involuntary intoxication.  But what about Kilgrave?  Is he culpable?  After all, he just told Hope to kill her parents.  He didn’t pull the trigger himself.

Alas for Kilgrave, this argument is more effective as a delusional rationalization than a legal defense.  What Kilgrave did is a solid, though unusual, example of solicitation, the basic form of which is this:

A person is guilty of criminal solicitation in the fifth degree when, with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a crime, he solicits, requests, commands, importunes or otherwise attempts to cause such other person to engage in such conduct.

N.Y. Penal Law § 100.00.  The higher degrees of solicitation depend on the defendant’s age and the seriousness of the offense solicited (in this case, very serious).  Kilgrave both commanded and “otherwise attempt[ed] to cause” Hope to engage in conduct constituting a crime, which she then did.  Once the crime was carried out, Kilgrave became fully liable for the murder. N.Y. Penal Law § 20.00.

But wait!  Isn’t the whole point that Hope isn’t guilty?  How can Kilgrave be guilty of something that wasn’t a crime for Hope?  The New York legislature thought of that, and both the general accessory liability statute § 20 and the solicitation statute § 100 have provisions covering this scenario:

In any prosecution for an offense in which the criminal liability of the defendant is based upon the conduct of another person pursuant to section 20.00, it is no defense that:
1. Such other person is not guilty of the offense in question owing to criminal irresponsibility or other legal incapacity or exemption, or to unawareness of the criminal nature of the conduct in question or of the defendant’s criminal purpose or to other factors precluding the mental state required for the commission of the offense in question; or
2. Such other person has not been prosecuted for or convicted of any offense based upon the conduct in question, or has previously been acquitted thereof, or has legal immunity from prosecution therefor

§ 20.05.  Similarly:

It is no defense to a prosecution for criminal solicitation that the person solicited could not be guilty of the crime solicited owing to criminal irresponsibility or other legal incapacity or exemption, or to unawareness of the criminal nature of the conduct solicited or of the defendant’s criminal purpose or to other factors precluding the mental state required for the commission of the crime in question.

§ 100.15.

So Kilgrave is criminally liable for the intentional murder of Hope Shlottman’s parents, even though he only “asked” Hope to do it and she herself is likely not guilty of murder (and in any case was not convicted of it).

III. Rape

This is an even clearer case than the murder of Hope’s parents.  New York criminal law is clear that “A person is deemed incapable of consent when he or she is … mentally incapacitated.”  Penal Law § 130.05(3)(c).  Mentally incapacitated is defined as when “a person is rendered temporarily incapable of appraising or controlling his conduct owing to the influence of a narcotic or intoxicating substance administered to him without his consent, or to any other act committed upon him without his consent.” § 130.00(6).

In this case, Kilgrave rendered his victims temporarily incapable of controlling their conduct owing to a) the influence of an intoxicating substance (the virus) administered to them without their consent or b) the intentional viral infection, again without their consent.

Notably, the prosecution does not have to prove the exact nature of the intoxicant.  People v. Di Noia, 481 N.Y.S.2d 738, 740 (1984).  The considerable circumstantial evidence (Hope lying in bed for hours, refusing to leave, shooting her parents for no reason) is sufficient to show that her mind had been incapacitated.  Similarly evidence exists for Jessica (e.g. the injury to her ear).

Lack of consent could also be proven by Hope and Jessica’s physical helplessness.  § 130.05(3)(d).  Physical helplessness is defined as when a person is “unconscious or for any other reason is physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.” § 130.00(7).  Hope and Jessica were conscious, but they were physically unable to communicate their unwillingness to engage in sexual intercourse (as a result of Kilgrave’s compulsion).

Kilgrave can offer no defense to charges of rape.

IV. Theft

Here there is a glimmer of hope for Kilgrave’s defense team (though even this is illusory, as we shall see).  Kilgrave took hundreds of thousands of dollars from a group of wealthy men at a poker game by commanding them to go all in and then promptly fold.  However, at least under New York law, that may not have been theft (technically larceny).

Unlike murder, the end result was not inherently illegal.  Killing a person is generally a crime unless some exception applies.  But it is generally legal for one person to give another a large sum of money.

Unlike rape, the larceny statutes and case law are primarily concerned with the perpetrator’s evil intent, not the victim’s lack of consent or true knowledge.  Larceny most encompasses taking by fraud, embezzlement, extortion, false promises, and keeping lost property.  But Kilgrave didn’t do any of that.  He didn’t make any false representations or promises, he did not embezzle the money, he did not extort it on pain of some injury, nor was the money lost.

So here is one crime that Kilgrave may not be guilty of, at least arguably.  But there’s a catch: rather than simply tell the men to give him the money, Kilgrave nominally played along with the poker game.  This is not a crime in itself: New York appears to allow private, social gambling (although contracts for wagers are unenforceable).  But there is a catch:

Every person who shall, by playing at any game … lose at any time or sitting, the sum or value of twenty-five dollars or upwards … may … sue for and recover the money or value of the things so lost and paid or delivered, from the winner thereof.

NY Gen. Obligations Law § 5-421.  In other words, the men can sue to recover the money from Kilgrave because, technically, it was lost in a poker game.

V. Conclusion

Although perhaps unsurprising, it is reassuring to know that the nature of Kilgrave’s powers does not put him outside the reach of the criminal law.  And even in cases where it does, he might not be able to keep his ill-gotten gains.

Superman and Supergirl: Environmental Refugees

(This guest post was written by Kean Zimmermana recent graduate from Michigan State University College of Law.  This post is an in-depth exploration of Superman and Supergirl’s environmental refugee status touched on in a previous article. The analysis in this article has changed to reflect the Supergirl in the TV series and recent New Zealand Court decisions. That article can be viewed online at L&F Magazine.)

Introduction

The writers and contributors who have posted on Law and the Multiverse, as well as other legal scholars, have taken the opportunity to note the various legal issues that superheroes and villains face when it comes to the intricate web that is immigration law.  Recent developments in the world have lead to an increase in refugees, especially refugees forced from their homes not just by people, but by the environment.  Kryptonians would likely be counted among the other environmental refugees.  Similarly the survivors of Krypton would also struggle with many of the same setbacks.

The United States has instituted laws addressing refugees since 1948.[1]  In 1948, the  United States government enacted the first law for admitting persons fleeing persecution.[2]  The law permitted 205,000 refugees to enter the United States over the course of two years.[3]  It was not until 1951 that the first steps were taken to recognize refugees on an international scale.[4]  In 1951, the United Nations put forth the 1951 Refugee Convention, which is the underpinning of most refugee law in the world.[5]  The Convention defines refugees, their rights, and what obligations states have to refugees across the globe.[6]  The same Convention states that individuals may seek asylum if they have a well founded fear of persecution on account of one of the five pre-approved grounds.[7]  Those are race, religion, ethnicity, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.[8]  While most countries that have adopted the convention’s regulations to govern refugee law, those same laws have not been updated to keep pace with current trends.  Currently, there is a gap between what the law provides and what is needed.[9]  The widening gap is most certainly the case of what is occurring with environmental refugees.

A. Environmental Refugees

Environmental refugees are growing in number across the globe, but both domestic and international laws have yet to grow along with the refugees.  According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an environmental refugees is “a person displaced owing to environmental causes, notably land loss and degradation, and natural disaster.”[10]  These refugees are also known as “displaced people” or “climate refugees.”[11]  Environmental refugees are not a new phenomena, yet in recent years there has been an increase in attention to climate refugees.  This is correlative to the changes in climate that have occurred in recent years.[12]

I. Superman and Supergirl’s Not so Super Problem

A. Superman: A True Illegal Alien

There is no question that Superman, or rather Clark Kent, is not from this planet.  In fact he embodies the term “illegal alien” in that he never properly migrated to this country, or at least did not do so through official channels.  His provenance can be forgiven given the fact that he was sent by his parents from the planet Krypton.[13]  The reasons for the planet’s demise have varied over the years.  This post, however, adopts the theory from the Man of Steel movie.  In the Man of Steel, Krypton’s resources were over-consumed to the point that the planet imploded on itself.[14]   Environmental disaster on a planetary scale obliterated Krypton in its entirety.[15]

As a baby, young Clark could not be expected to file his asylum petition on his own.  The Kents adopted Clark after finding him in their field.[16]  The two possible ways this would occur today would be if Clark had been legally adopted as an abandoned child, or if the Kents had somehow managed to obtain forged documentation for Clark.  However, Clark would still have to file his claim for asylum the year after he turned 18.[17]  Clark would have clearly exceeded this statutory limitation as there is no evidence he has ever applied for asylum.[18]  Typically the law requires asylum seekers to affirmatively apply for asylum within one year after entering the United States.[19]  Recently, in a Board of Immigration Appeals decision, the court stated that an applicant’s age can be taken into consideration when determining if they can be exempted from the one year filing rule.[20]  Since there is no evidence that Clark ever attempted to apply for asylum this may have no bearing whatsoever.

Somehow Superman has the ability to renounce his United States citizenship in Action Comics 900.[21]  Renouncing American citizenship is governed under  section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.[22]  The backlash after this comic book was released was so huge that publisher DC Comics backtracked a week later and announced the issue itself was standalone.[23]  Being a standalone issue meant no further issue would explore Superman’s discarding of his American citizenship.  At least in this respect, it can be assumed that he has United States citizenship.  There is a chance that Kent was granted citizenship under the foundling statute even though it is rarely used.[24]  Based on this law, because Kent’s parentage was unknown as he entered the United States under the age of five, and since he hid his secret well after the age of twenty-one, he could possibly have attained legitimate United States citizenship through the statute.[25]

There is little debate that Superman had to leave Krypton before its ultimate implosion.[26] While Superman has never formally been considered a refugee, he fits the basic understanding of an environmental refugee in that he literally has no planet to return to.  Since it is presumed from DC that he somehow has citizenship, he does not have to examine this question.[27]  The same cannot be said for his cousin Kara Zor-El, also known as Supergirl.

B. Supergirl’s Dilemma

While Superman might want to file for Supergirl’s entry into the country through legal channels, there is no “cousin” spot for admitting someone into the country as a family member (he could only seek to admit a parent, spouse, child, or sibling).[28]  The most logical option at that point would be Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).[29]  Supergirl’s biological age is only thirteen given that she was trapped in the Phantom Zone, a place where time moves slower than on Earth, after she left Krypton.[30]  However, her actual age is suggested to be much greater given that she was stuck in the Phantom Zone while Superman grew into a man (her age after arriving in the United States is an estimated thirty-seven years).[31]  The United States government might not consider her young enough to qualify for DACA based on the elevated age. Biologically she would have entered the country before turning sixteen, but she would have been alive for thirty-seven years.  As such, Superman would likely seek either asylum or withholding of removal for his cousin.

The problem then exists is that Supergirl cannot claim asylum based on the fact that her planet no longer exists.  Actual displacement based on loss of home due to an environmental disaster would seem to fall under the concept of an environmental refugee, but as of right now environmental refugees are not recognized under most international laws.  Environmental refugees do not appear to be eligible for asylum solely based on their status as an environmental refugee.  Most countries base their refugee law on the 1951 Refugee Convention.[32]  As previously mentioned, the Convention prescribes five grounds upon which an individual can receive asylum.  Those grounds are race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and a particular social group.[33]  Supergirl must also be suffering from some kind of “persecution” that is based on one of the five grounds.[34]

In this case Supergirl’s persecution is simply that she is unable to return to her home planet of Krypton.  She lacks the opportunity to avail herself of the Kryptonian government since it is non-existent.  She would seek admittance to the United States, but she does not fall into a persecutorial nexus based on any of the five grounds.  At this point, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would contemplate whether or not it could forcibly eject Supergirl from the United States.  To do so would mean extreme costs on the United States government as simply containing her would likely cost upwards of $20 million.[35]  Even if Supergirl were to be ejected from the country, she would have nowhere else to go.

C. Super and Stateless

In effect Supergirl is actually a stateless person.  As of now the United States has not signed on to any of the major international conventions which attempt to reduce the number of stateless persons.[36]  Currently, the United States is lacking a basic framework to deal with stateless people, so most of its efforts are merely stopgap measures.[37]  The absence of a framework often leaves stateless persons in a position of limbo for excessive periods of time, especially if they no longer have a country to return to or no country which will accept them.[38]  Supergirl would likely be in a similar position as Krypton no longer exists.  After a determination is made that she either cannot return, or that it is too expensive to deport her, the government would probably require Supergirl to make routine reports to the Department of Homeland Security.[39]  Although she might be able to receive a work permit, if she were to ever leave the borders of the United States, border patrol could then deny her readmission.[40]

As a last ditch effort, Supergirl might try to claim asylum on the basis of her membership in a particular social group.[41]  She could argue that her particular social group is that of a Kryptonian who survived the destruction of the planet of Krypton.  However, such a group has yet to be acknowledged by the United States government.  Even then the persecution would have to be a form of past persecution.  Different circuits within the United States recognize different grounds or acceptable forms of past persecution.  Thus far, none have accepted the idea of “loss of a home” as a viable form of past persecution.  In fact, there is no law stating that the loss of a country, let alone a planet, amounts to persecution.  One of the only individuals in the world to make such an argument thus far has had little success.

II. Tuvalu: An Island and its Implications for Immigrants

Ioane Teitiota is the first man in New Zealand to seek asylum under the label of environmental refugee.[42]  Teitiota has been living in New Zealand since 2007 after leaving his Tuvaluan home; he believes his home will become uninhabitable before too long.[43]  Tuvalu is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean.[44]  The island is located halfway between Australia and Hawaii.[45]  Although very unassuming, the island is predicted to be the first island to succumb to rising sea levels.[46]  In 2009, there were many trees swallowed by the rising salt water, but as of 2012 whole parts of the island were consumed.[47] The highest point of the country above sea level is only a few meters high.[48]  Before the island is swallowed by the sea there are many Tuvaluans who are concerned that encroaching salt water will prevent any type of agriculture from persisting on the island.[49]  To that end, many Tuvaluans have fled their country, but not all have succeeded in trying to relocate.

The Court of Appeals in New Zealand denied Mr. Teitiota’s  application for Asylum in 2014 stating that his case was “fundamentally misconceived” and that it would “stand the [UN refugee] convention on its head.”[50]  While Teitiota argued that he would be facing “passive persecution” as a result of his government being unable to “protect him from climate change’s effects,” the court remained unpersuaded.[51]  Ultimately, the court felt that Teitiota’s arguments were “novel,” but “unconvincing” as granting him asylum would simply open up opportunities for millions of people living in low-lying countries to seek the same kind of asylum.[52]  To avoid a flood gates situation the Court affirmed the lower court’s decision to deny Teitiota’s claim for asylum.  The Court’s decision meant that Mr. Teitiota, his wife, and his three children born in New Zealand would have to return to their native home of Tuvalu.[53]

It seemed strange then that a different family from Tuvalu was granted New Zealand residency only months later after making similar claims.[54]  The family’s petition was the first “successful application for residency on humanitarian grounds in which climate change had featured.”[55]  The Court claimed the second case was different since the family had strong ties to New Zealand.  Like Mr. Teitiota’s claim, the second family was denied initially for not meeting the standards of the refugee convention.[56]  However, the second family successfully won their subsequent appeal by basing their argument on humanitarian grounds.[57]  In the July 2014 decision, the Court found that returning the family back to Tuvalu would be “unjust and unduly harsh.”[58]  The largest difference between the two applicants is the second Tuvaluan family has three generations of relatives living in New Zealand, increasing their ties to the community.[59]  Supergirl may be able to raise a similar argument since she herself has ties to the United States in the form of her cousin Superman.  This would likely fail though since Superman himself is only one man, not three generations of familial ties.  Furthermore, the United States has done very little within its own borders to make immigration exceptions for environmental refugees from abroad.

III. What the United States is doing for Environmental Refugees

There is no official legal framework to address the problems environmental refugees face when they try to enter the United States.  The United States has taken some steps to acknowledge this unique group of refugees immigrating into the United States.  The Immigration Act of 1990 does address granting temporary protection status to such refugees.[60]  Temporary protection status is granted when:

There has been an earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic, or other environmental disaster in the state resulting in a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in the area affected’ and when ‘the foreign state is unable, temporarily, to handle adequately the return to the state of aliens who are nationals of the state.[61]
Temporary status only applies to individuals who are already inside the United States at the time of the disaster.[62]  The temporary status includes six months of protection and the ability to work, but it does not allow for the admission of the claimant’s spouse or family.[63]  Temporary protection status was granted to victims of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and victims displaced by the Montserrat volcano explosion in 1997.[64]  However, the granting of temporary protection status is discretionary.[65]  In addition to only protecting those who were environmentally displaced while they were present in the United States, as of 2014 only citizens of Haiti (earthquake), Honduras (hurricane Mitch), Nicaragua (hurricane Mitch), and El Salvador (earthquakes) were able to get temporary protected status for environmental events. [66]  There is no legal protection in the United States that creates a path to permanent status for environmental refugees.  As a country, the United States’ ability to protect those persons displaced by climate change is limited since its laws do not offer any substantive relief to those fleeing environmental disasters or rising sea levels outside of the United States.  In this lack of framework, the United States is consistent with many other international states who do not have legal frameworks to address the problems faced by environmental refugees.

Conclusion

In the end Supergirl will face the same fate as millions across the globe.  Without an adequate legal framework to deal with the surge in environmental refugees that is predicted to come in the next few decades, stopgap measures will be used to treat the environmental refugee crisis on too small a scale.  Excessive stopgap measures will lead to a bottleneck in the immigration system.  Supergirl will likely not be deported because of the sheer cost that would entail, and the fact that there is likely no Kryptonian agreement with any other country that would allow her to reside there.  In all likelihood, she will stay in the United States, but will not be able to ever qualify for United States citizenship since she falls within a grey area of the law.  This might not be as much of a problem, but if she were to ever save anyone outside of the United State’s borders then the United States could deny her readmission to the country. This would drastically limit the range of her allowable Superhero activities.

 

[1] History of U.S. Immigration Laws, Federation for American Immigration Reform, http://www.fairus.org/facts/us_laws

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 189 U.N.T.S. 137 (done at Geneva, 28 July 1951), as amended by the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 606 U.N.T.S. 267, T.I.A.S. No. 6577, 19 U.S.T. 6223, done at New York, 31 Jan. 1967.

[5] The 1951 Refugee Convention, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49da0e466.html

[6] 1951 Refugee Convention, supra note 5.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Climate Refugees, Michael P. Nash, LA Think Tank, http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/climate_refugees

[10] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, https://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=839

[11] National geographic, Climate Refugee, available at http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/climate-refugee/?ar_a=1 , last visited Apr. 20, 2015.

[12] Climate Refugees, supra note 9.

[13] Man of Steel, Zack Snyder, Warner Bros., 2014.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.  (Adopt is likely a tentative term,  seeing as the Kents probably did not file the appropriate adoption paperwork as they did not want to risk the safety of their young child).

[17] INA §208(a)(2)(B).

[18] Id.

[19] INA §208(a)(2)(B).

[20] BIA Decision, Mar. 29, 2013, http://www.refugees.org/resources/for-lawyers/asylum-research/youth-and-1-year-bar-bia.pdf,

[21] Paul Cornell, Action Comics 900, (DC Comics, 2011).

[22] INA §349(a)(5).

[23] DC Backtracks Superman Renouncing His Citizenship, May 5, 2011, available at http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/luffycapri/news/?a=36606, last visited Apr. 18, 2015.

[24] Ryan Davidson, Superheroes and Immigration Status, Law and the Multiverse, Dec. 22, 2010, available at http://lawandthemultiverse.com/2010/12/22/superheros-and-immigration-status/, last visited Apr. 20, 2015.  (James Daily Commentary).

[25] Id.

[26] Man of Steel, supra note 13.

[27] Paul Cornell, supra note 21.

[28] Bobbie Masters, Frequently Asked Questions About Immigration, Masters Law Firm, P.C., available at  http://www.coimmigrationlawyer.com/faqs.html

[29] USCIS, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals http://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca

[30] Supergirl, Warner Bros. Television (2015)

[31] Id.

[32] 1951 Refugee Convention, supra note 5.

[33] Id.

[34] Id.

[35] Matt Hershberger, Is Superman Undocumented?, http://themigrationist.net/2013/08/21/is-superman-undocumented/

[36] See Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, opened for signature Sept. 28, 1954, 360 U.N.T.S. 117 (entered into force June 6, 1960 ) ; see also Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, opened for signature Aug. 30, 1961, 989 U.N.T.S. 175 (entered into force Dec. 13, 1975)

[37] Mikhail Sebastien, Stateless in the United States, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/stateless-in-the-united-states/2013/07/04/ae4c7a72-debe-11e2-b2d4-ea6d8f477a01_story.html

[38] Id.

[39] Id.

[40] Id.

[41] 1951 Refugee Convention, supra note 5.

[42] Kathy Marks, World’s first ‘climate change refugee’ has appeal rejected as New Zealand rules Ioane Teitiota must return to South Pacific island nation of Kiribati, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/worlds-first-climate-change-refugee-has-appeal-rejected-as-new-zealand-rules-ioane-teitiota-must-return-to-south-pacific-island-nation-of-kiribati-9358547.html

[43] Id.

[44] Climate Refugees, supra note 9.

[45] Id.

[46] Id.

[47] Id.

[48] Id.

[49] Id.

[50] Marks, supra note 42.

[51] Id.

[52] Id.

[53] Id.

[54] Amy Maas, Tuvalu Climate Change Family Win NZ Residency Appeal, The New Zealand Herald, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11303331

[55] Id.

[56] Id.

[57] Id.

[58] Id.

[59] Maas, supra note 54.

[60] An EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, Commission Staff Working Document, European Union (2013), 17 (internal quotation marks omitted).

[61] Id.

[62] Id.

[63] Id.

[64] Strategy on Adaptation, supra note 60.

[65] Id.

[66] Madeline Messic & Claire Nergeron, Temporary Protected Status in the United States: A Grant of Humanitarian Relief that is Less Than Permanent, http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/temporary-protected-status-united-states-grant-humanitarian-relief-less-permanent

Jim Gordon and the Felony Murder Rule

Today’s post was inspired by a question from Christopher about the first episode of the new season of Gotham.  His question presents an interesting twist on felony murder.  Spoilers below:

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Star Trek and Customs Law

Star Trek is usually outside the scope of this blog, since its fictional legal systems are a) quite a bit different from ours and b) not very well fleshed-out in any of the TV series or movies.  But previous guest author Larry Friedman has recently found a way to bring Star Trek and the law together on his Customs Law Blog, with a post about a customs ruling involving Star Trek toys.  Larry goes on to muse about the role of customs law in the Star Trek universe.  As it turns out, a check of a database of Star Trek transcripts finds a few references to cargo manifests, particularly on Deep Space Nine (unsurprising given the setting).  So while we don’t see a lot of customs law on Star Trek, it does exist.

What Zombies Can Teach Law Students

Professor Tom Simmons at the University of South Dakota just published a great law review article titled What Zombies Can Teach Law Students: Popular Text Inclusion in Law and Literature, 66 Mercer L. Rev. 729 (2015).  Drawing on popular works such as The Walking Dead and World War Z, Simmons shows how many legal issues can be illustrated and explained in the classroom using examples that are more interesting than the abstract “A sues B” type and more engaging than examples from more “serious” literature.

I applaud Prof. Simmons’s work, which follows and greatly expands upon some of my work in this area as well as the work of Prof. Adam Chodorow at ASU and the work of Lawrence M. Friedman at John Marshall.  Anyone interested in zombie fiction or novel legal teaching methods should give the article a read.

Human Remains and the Walking Dead

Lawrence M. Friedman is a partner at Barnes, Richardson & Colburn, LLP and an adjunct professor at the John Marshall Law School’s Center for International Law.  He is also the author of the Customs Law Blog, and a previous guest poster here at Law and the Multiverse.  This post was originally written for the Customs Law Blog and is republished here by his invitation.

Lately, I have been on a slow binge of watching the Walking Dead. Like most TV adaptations of graphic novels and comics, I am finding it very entertaining. I’m only in Season 3, so no one tell me . . . well, anything. As a result, I have been seeing a lot of images of corpses, both animate and inanimate. That reminded me that there is a specific provision in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”) for the importation of corpses.

The HTSUS is the statute (19 USC 1202) by which imported products are assigned rates of duty. It also sets out certain other regulatory requirements and exceptions. General Note 3(e), HTSUS, exempts from customs duties “corpses, together with their coffins and accompanying flowers.”

When goods arrive at a port in the U.S., they are usually subject to an “entry.” That is the process of legally entering the goods into the commerce of the United States and reporting that fact to Customs and Border Protection. The Customs Regulations provide that “all merchandise” is subject to entry unless exempted and lists HTSUS General Note 3(e) as an exemption. That seems confirm that corpses are not subject to entry requirements and not subject to duty. Or maybe not.

What if the “merchandise” to be imported is human heads, heads with necks, torsos, legs, arms, etc. taken from body donors? That is the question answered by Customs and Border Protection in its private letter ruling HQ H235506 (Jan.14, 2013). As customs rulings go, this is awesome. I don’t know how I missed it when it was issued.

The ruling starts with the ancient legal principle that there can be no commercial property interest in a dead body. Among other sources, Customs cited Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) for this legal proposition. At the same time, we all have a legal right to a decent burial, which puts a duty on survivors to properly care for the body of the decedent. For this, Customs cites a book I desperately want: The Law of Cadavers by Percival Jackson. All of which must be weighed against the right of the not-yet-dead to donate their body to science under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.

Getting to the substance of the issue, Customs looked at prior rulings in which it determined that cadavers imported for medical analysis are “corpses” for purposes of General Note 3(e). Customs has long had the practice of exempting corpses from duty and entry.

But this case involves parts of corpses. Counsel for the importers made the hand waving argument that it would be distasteful for CBP “to begin quibbling about the relative portions of human remains that are imported before qualifying for the GN 3(e)” exemption. Based solely on longstanding practice, a couple rulings, and “the weight of history,” Customs agreed. Given that the body parts will eventually be given a decent burial, Customs saw no reason to interfere with the disposition of the “merchandise.”

I have a couple of questions. First, is there a flipside to the distasteful task of deciding how much of a body should be treated as a corpse? Counsel for the importer seemed to be wondering how much can be removed from the deceased and still have it remain a corpse for purposes of the customs laws. Apparently, the answer is that an entire body can be removed leaving the head legally a “corpse.” What about a sample taken from a living human? This ruling says an arm or leg taken from a cadaver is a “corpse” and exempt from classification and entry. What about an arm or leg taken from a living person? Is that extremity now a corpse if imported into the United States. How would Customs know whether the “donor” was living or dead? Is the legal distinction administrable?

My second question has to do with the looming zombie apocalypse depicted in the Walking Dead TV series and presumably in the graphic novel. What if the unlucky victim of viral zombie reanimation happens to be visiting the Windsor Ballet at the time of his or her demise? When the undead start shuffling north toward the tunnel to Detroit, will there be a problem when it arrives at Customs? Is the walker a “corpse?” If so, it will not need to be entered as merchandise, and can continue walking.

If it is a person, it will need to clear immigration checks, which will be hard for the inarticulate shuffler lacking a passport. Customs might have to make accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also, would the passport still be valid? It seem the correct “birthday” would now be the date of reanimation. I will leave that to the immigration lawyers.

Assuming the walker is no longer a person, Customs should treat it like an animal. If it is a dead but still walking animal, the best guidance ruling I can find (with minimal research) is HQ 975664, in which dead animals are treated as zoological specimens in HTSUS item 9705.00.00 (it’s duty free!). In this case, the dead animal is walking itself across the border, which raises questions of whether the walker is the “owner, purchaser, or consignee” of the merchandise (which is the walker). Since we know there can be no property interest in a dead body (or living person), the walker would need to be his or her own consignee to have the legal right to make entry of himself or herself. If it is alive but non-human, I suggest an HTSUS classification of 0106.11.00 as live primates, which is also duty free.

Finally, there are, of course, issues of admissibility. As Customs pointed out in the ruling that sparked this post, the importation of corpses is subject to regulation by the Centers for Disease Control. Given the plot of The Walking Dead, it seems pretty certain that the CDC would have something to say about this.

If anyone from Customs and Border Protection knows what would happen if an unaccompanied non-human primate showed up at the border crossing, please drop a comment below.

Also, if any readers have rulings to nominate for Ruling of the Week treatment, please note them in a comment. I am particularly interested in bizarre products, crazy food items, and restricted merchandise. I am aware of the numerous NSFW rulings on personal massage devices, so no need to reference those. I try and keep this a family and office friendly site.