David Ostrom, of Paola, Kansas, is in a prolonged custody battle with his ex-wife, who lives with their children in Shelby County, Iowa. You know things aren’t going well, because he recently submitted court filings in Iowa asking the judge to let this matter be resolved with a trial by combat, according to KCTV 5 News.
“Petitioner demands the Court sanction trial by combat to resolve these disputes,” reads the filing. “The Petitioner requests 12 weeks lead time before Trial By Combat date so he may have 1 Katana and 1 Wakizashi sources or forged for use.” He clarified that his ex-wife “may choose a Champion (Her counsel Matthew Husdon) to stand in her stead.”
So not only does Ostrom want trial by combat, he’s actually thought about the weapons involved. And yes, he did get the idea from Game of Thrones. “I’ve seen the television show and read the books,” he said.
It’s true that, technically, trial by combat isn’t specifically outlawed in the U.S., which is an argument that Ostrom makes in his filing. It’s still hard to seeing a judge grant it, though. Matthew Husdon, the attorney on the other side, made much the same argument in his response, writing, “just because the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions do not specifically prohibit battling another person with a deadly Katana Sword, it does prohibit a court sitting in Equity from ordering same.” He’s asked the judge to suspend visitation and order a psychiatric evaluation for Ostrom.
Now before we go making assumptions, Ostrom says that he knows the request is absurd, and that he’s “not interested in physically causing harm to anyone.” Instead, he’s frustrated by what he sees as a system that is unfairly working against him and made the request as a way to get attention for his case, and, well…here we are.
They’ve tried to ignore me and not address equal custody, and I think this puts a spotlight on them…I’ve kind of run out of options and no one pays attention to what I think is a hardship on myself and my children.
For their part, the judge isn’t taking any action on the request “until the proper procedural steps to initiate a court proceeding are followed.” Ostrom is representing himself, which is generally a very bad idea when it comes to the court system, so although he can make all the Game of Thrones-inspired requests he wants, it might be hard for him to get them heard.
This case is pretty similar to one from several years back, when a Statan Island lawyer named Richard Luthmann asked for a trial by combat in response to getting sued for allegedly helping a client commit fraud. Again, Luthmann knew the request was absurd, but did it to make a wider point. “They want to be absurd about what they’re trying to do, then I’ll give them back ridiculousness in kind,” he said at the time.
The judge may look askance at it, but I’m prepared to take it to the highest level. I’d love to have a court determine whether we have those rights under the Constitution.
I don’t think that ended up happening, but maybe the second time’s the charm.