Leopard

Column: Man sues over “unlawful” crucifixion of Jesus – Welcome to Legislation Nation

Man sues over “unlawful” crucifixion of Jesus – Welcome to Legislation Nation

In her column ‘Leopard Print in the Ivory Tower,’ Annika Blau looks at what cultural artifacts  both niche and mainstream – tell us about our society. This week, one man’s attempt to sue three countries and a deceased Roman emperor for the unlawful death of Jesus. Have we reached the height of vexatious litigation?

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Though you might not guess it from the celebratory nature of Easter, a lot of people are pretty bummed about Jesus’ crucifixion.

They’re bummed to varying degrees. There are those who think it was a shame. Then there are those who lament it more consistently – say for instance, each time they go to Church. And then there’s that other type. You know, the kind of people that take Italy, Israel and Palestine to the International Court of Justice over the unlawful trial and crucifixion of Jesus 2,000 years ago.

Meet Dola Indidis.

Dola Indidis is so bummed about the crucifixion that he’s seeking amends. It’s not just Israel, Italy and Palestine that he’s after – there’s a bunch of Jewish elders too, including Pontius Pilate (the judge at Jesus’ trial), King Herod and Tiberius (The Emperor of Rome 42BC – 37AD). Yes, they have all been dead for 2,000 years. No, this doesn’t phase him.

The folks at the Hague are as bewildered as the rest of us. Dola claims the International Court of Justice have established a pre-trial panel to decide whether or not to take the case. But when a website called Legal Cheek contacted the ICJ, they denied this, with a spokesperson coolly replying, “the ICJ has no jurisdiction for such a case. The ICJ settles disputes between states. It is not even theoretically possible for us to consider this case.”

Boom. Take that, Dola.

But it’s unlikely that he’ll give up. In 2007, his case was rejected by the High Court of Nairobi, so this is his second attempt to “seek justice for the man from Nazareth” (his words), given he failed at his first bat-shit crazy operation (my words).

Friends, welcome to Legislation Nation.

In Legislation Nation, no party is off-limits when you feel like a good old indictment. Failed twelfth grade? Sue your school. Pissed off about your unhappy childhood? Sue your parents. Bummed about Jesus? Sue three countries and a long-deceased  Roman emperor.

Surely Dola’s case indicates more than the delusional ambitions of a lone individual. The very fact that he thought this was a legitimate case to put forth surely reflects, in some part, how saturated in litigation our world has become. When children sue their parents, and environmental groups can sue a company on behalf of a tree, it is not that much of a leap to nation states and dead emperors.

In The Litigious Society (1981), Jethro Lieberman charts the rise in lawsuits holding people and organisations to account for their duty of care.

This rise, Lieberman says, reflects a shift in litigation from “contract” to “fiduciary”. In contract litigation, one party has failed to provide something specifically guaranteed in a contract which they signed with the other party. These cases a relatively clear, because contracts are pretty clear, detailed and concrete. In contrast, fiduciary duty is an implicit duty of care, for instance between doctors and their patients, government and its citizens and schools and their children. In recent times, a far greater proportion of law suits are being prosecuted based on fiduciary duties of care.

The problem is that fiduciary duties are far harder to determine and lock down than those explicitly specified in contracts. It is difficult to determine the process that is due to a prison inmate, or what constitutes negligence by a school to a child’s education, or the professional competence that a doctor owes a patient. Unlike the clear terms and conditions of a contract, these matters come down to a Judge’s, well, judgment. And it is this very imprecision that is spurring on the lawsuits – when no one can be sure just what they are entitled to, of course they will experiment and see how far they can get.

The suing of a dead Roman emperor might seem extreme, but it’s not so ridiculous when we consider that the vague terms of fiduciary duty have allowed the following cases to win in court:

  1. Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $80,000 after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The toddler was her son.
  2. Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania was awarded $500,000 from the owners of a house that he attempted to burgle because he accidentally locked himself in their garage for eight days and almost starved.
  3. Merv Grazinski was awarded $1,750,000 from Winnebago because their manual didn’t specify that she couldn’t leave the vehicle in cruise control and go into the trailer to make a sandwich. When she tried the above maneuver, she unsurprisingly crashed off the freeway and overturned.

I could go on but I won’t. There are literally thousands of these examples, mostly in the U.S, which illustrate Lieberman’s point.

It is tempting to discount then the notions of parental and organisational duties of care that produce these ludicrous examples. But this is not wise. Duty of care is an important concept if we wish to protect individuals rights: the question is one of finding a balance between safeguarding individuals and excessive demands of care from fiduciaries.

But until the balance is found and litigation remains vexatious, crucifix manufacturers should probably attach a warning: “may result in death if nailed to this and left for days.”

 

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Annika Blau is a freelance writer from Sydney with a lot of opinions. Her writing explores what pop culture tells us about ourselves, and pairs the teachings of academia with those of the supermarket aisle. She wants to know why we don’t examine Kanye West with the same academic rigour as The Cantebury Tales, and finds Lady Gaga as revealing as the census. More of her writing can be found at annikablau@blogspot.com.au.

Read the rest of ‘Leopard Print in the Ivory Tower’ here.

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(Banner image from Quinn Dombrowsky)