The judicial system in Westeros can be very strange. When legal proceedings are actually allowed to go forward, they seem to resemble kangaroo courts where even highly circumstantial evidence can prove the guilt or innocence of whoever’s being accused of something—see Tyrion’s trial in Season 4, or Loras’ holy inquest this past year. More often, high-stakes disputes are settled on the basis of trial by combat, because nothing says “exoneration” like a sword through the gut.
Richard Luthmann, a Staten Island lawyer being accused in a civil suit of helping his client commit fraud, is taking a page from the Song of Ice and Fire novels by asking to skip the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo and just resolve the matter with a fight to the death. Specifically, he requested that the court “permit the undersigned to dispatch plaintiffs and their counsel to the Divine Providence of the Maker for Him to exact His divine judgment once the undersigned has released the souls of the plaintiffs and their counsel from their corporeal bodies, personally and or by way of a champion.”
And yes, Luthmann is a self-avowed Game of Thrones fan. How did you guess?
Here’s the story in nutshell: the plaintiffs in this case accused Luthmann of advising his client, David Parker, to move certain amounts of money “beyond the reach of [his] creditors” in violation of New York state law. The plaintiffs had actually already been awarded monetary judgments against Parker, but could not collect on account of his alleged insolvency, so they sued Luthmann in hopes of getting a payday. They’re looking for $550,000, plus punitive damages.
Luthmann denied any wrongdoing, and decided to fight fire with fire. “They want to be absurd about what they’re trying to do, then I’ll give them back ridiculousness in kind,” he said.
Then he wrote a ten-page brief outlining the history of trial by combat, from its beginnings in the Middle Ages to its presence in American history. He argues that, although definitely outdated, trial by combat was never officially outlawed in the United States or in the state of New York. Also, it’s not mentioned anywhere in the U.S. Constitution, so it’s arguably retained by the people by way of the Ninth Amendment.
“The judge may look askance at it, but I’m prepared to take it to the highest level,” Luthmann said. “I’d love to have a court determine whether we have those rights under the Constitution.” If we do, it could certainly make the judicial process a little more exciting. People would probably be more eager to have jury duty if trials played out like this.