The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Friday, August 10, 2012

Serving the Devil

with legal papers, I mean. How exactly would you do it?

Have you ever heard of the classic case United States ex rel. Mayo v. Satan and His Staff? This is, as we say on the Intertubes, a real thing in the world, a case in which a self-representing plaintiff (who was seeking to have court fees waived, and, possibly, appointed counsel, raised an interesting, and novel, legal claim: "He alleges that Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff's downfall. Plaintiff alleges that by reason of these acts Satan has deprived him of his constitutional rights."

OK, so, you're a federal judge. In addressing the complaint, especially back in 1971, when this little beauty was decided, you must assume all the facts in the complaint to be true. So, what to do? A puzzler for many judges, but not for Judge Weber of the Western District of Pennsylvania:
We feel that the application to file and proceed in forma pauperis must be denied. Even if plaintiff's complaint reveals a prima facie recital of the infringement of the civil rights of a citizen of the United States, the Court has serious doubts that the complaint reveals a cause of action upon which relief can be granted by the court. We question whether plaintiff may obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant in this judicial district. The complaint contains no allegation of residence in this district. While the official reports disclose no case where this defendant has appeared as defendant there is an unofficial account of a trial in New Hampshire where this defendant filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as plaintiff. The defendant in that action was represented by the preeminent advocate of that day, and raised the defense that the plaintiff was a foreign prince with no standing to sue in an American Court. This defense was overcome by overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Whether or not this would raise an estoppel in the present case we are unable to determine at this time.
There's actually a record of the hearing in that case:

Tell us more, Judge Weber:
If such action were to be allowed we would also face the question of whether it may be maintained as a class action. It appears to meet the requirements of Fed.R. of Civ.P. 23 that the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, there are questions of law and fact common to the class, and the claims of the representative party is typical of the claims of the class. We cannot now determine if the representative party will fairly protect the interests of the class.
We note that the plaintiff has failed to include with his complaint the required form of instructions for the United States Marshal for directions as to service of process.
The class action bit ("yeah. You and everybody else, chum") is good, but that last bit is especially rich--telling the plaintiff he must direct the Marshals on how to serve the Devil. Or, even better, go to him himself...

And what's the point in suing Satan's Staff? I'm pretty sure that the Boss keeps all the assets.

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