In a real-life story that seems taken out of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, a New York lawyer accused of fraud is actually asking for a trial by combat to settle a legal dispute.
Richard Luthmann says his bizarre request may sound ludicrous to most people, but it certainly isn’t against the law. He pointed out that the right to Trial by Combat was technically never outlawed in the state of New York, or anywhere else in America. “The common law of Britain was in effect in New York in 1776,” he told reporters “And the Ninth Amendment of the Constitution recognises the penumbra of those rights. It’s still on the books.” Historically, trial by combat was indeed a little-used but accepted aspect of English common law.
Luthmann, 35, feels that his request for a combat trial is fair, given that the legal dispute itself is silly and “baseless”. It started in 2013, when Luthmann represented the losing side in a lawsuit between two investment firms. His client, David Parker, was supposed to pay $550,000 to the opposition, but he disappeared without a trace. So the opponents decided to sue him instead, alleging the lawyer helped his client hide his assets in order to avoid payment.
After spending the past two years filing motions and countermotions against the other lawyer, Luthmann was at his wits’ end. “This is not a lawsuit anymore; this is an absurdity,” he told the New York Post. “So I will give them absurdity in kind.” That’s when he decided to make use of a loophole in the law and challenge them to a medieval-style duel to settle the matter.
In his brief, Luthmann asks “that the court permit the undersigned (Luthmann) to dispatch plaintiffs 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.” Alternatively, he’s willing to settle for just having the case dismissed.
It sounds like a joke, but Luthmann is actually pretty serious about testing the power of the Ninth Amendment. “The judge may look askance at it, but I’m prepared to take it to the highest level,” he said. “I’d love to have a court determine whether we have those rights under the Constitution. This is a matter of honor.”
It’s highly unlikely that the judge will accept Luthmann’s request, but in any case, he’s prepared to go to combat dressed as Game of Thrones character Robert Baratheon. His weapon of choice – a warhammer.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Richard Chusid, feels differently about the issue. “It should be clear that we do not find the brief amusing and, we believe, neither will the court, both from a legal and ethical perspective,” he said.
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