Civ Pro Case Study: Deities

If you’re a follower of the career of Malcolm McDowell, then you probably know about his upcoming movie, Suing the Devil.

You might find this premise a little familiar for a couple of reasons. For those of you who haven’t taken Civil Procedure, you may be familiar with either the short story or film version of The Devil and Daniel Webster. For those of you who have taken Civ Pro, then you’re probably reminded of another case brought against Satan, United States ex rel Mayo v. Satan & His Staff, 54 F.R.D. 282 (W.D. Pa. 1971). The opinion in that case is a civil procedure classic, in which the district judge denies the plaintiff’s prayer to proceed in forma pauperis due, in part, to a lack of personal jurisdiction and proper service of process.

In that case though, as opposed to the movie, no one showed up as counsel for the defendants. This can be contrasted with another, more recent case, Chambers v. God, No. 1075 (Neb. D. Ct., Douglas Cty., Oct. 14, 2008). In this case, Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers sued God in state district court, seeking a permanent injunction preventing God from continuing to “cause harmful activities.” The final order to dismiss is was posted online by Slate, but what are more interesting are the documents mentioned in the order: three answers filed on behalf of God and a special appearance, all filed in September 2007. Luckily for us, the Civil Procedure & Federal Courts Blog posted the original petition, all three answers, and the special appearance, which are a wonderful read for just about anyone, although only lawyers and law students may really appreciate the invocation of the doctrine of unclean hands.

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