Oh yeah! Well I am suing GOD, so there!

So in response to the woman in Nebraska who is rightfully suing for the ban of the word “rape” at a rape trial, State Senator Ernie Chambers has said that he is suing god to show how frivolous lawsuits can be.

Chambers lawsuit, which was filed on Friday in Douglas County Court, seeks a permanent injunction ordering God to cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats.
The lawsuit admits God goes by all sorts of alias, names, titles and designations and it also recognizes the fact that the defendant is “Omnipresent�.
In the lawsuit Chambers says he’s tried to contact God numerous times, “Plaintiff, despite reasonable efforts to effectuate personal service upon Defendant (“Come out, come out, wherever you are�) has been unable to do so.�
The suit also requests that the court given the “peculiar circumstances� of this case waive personal service. It says being Omniscient, the plaintiff assumes God will have actual knowledge of the action.
The lawsuit accuses God “of making and continuing to make terroristic threats of grave harm to innumerable persons, including constituents of Plaintiff who Plaintiff has the duty to represent.�
It says God has caused, “fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects, and the like.�
The suit also says God has caused, “calamitous catastrophes resulting in the wide-spread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants including innocent babes, infants, children, the aged and infirm without mercy or distinction.�
Chambers also says God “has manifested neither compassion nor remorse, proclaiming that Defendant “will laugh� when calamity comes.
Chambers asks for the court to grant him a summary judgment. He says as an alternative, he wants the judge to set a date for a hearing as “expeditiously� as possible and enter a permanent injunction enjoining God from engaging in the types of deleterious actions and the making of terroristic threats described in the lawsuit.

via AP.
I pasted the whole thing, because it is just so weird. It is also extremely disappointing as Ernie Chambers is a well known civil rights activist and according to an interview in Mother Jones last year, “he’s been named the “angriest black man in Nebraska,â€? the “defender of the downtrodden,â€? and the “maverick of Omaha.â€? And it’s hard to deny that Chambers lives up to such colorful titles.” How can someone with such a reputation think in anyway that banning the word “rape” at a rape trial is justified, let alone something to parody?
That really is disappointing. Thoughts?
Thanks to Azliza for the link.

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46 Comments

  1. Barbara P
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    You would think for a parody to make any sense in that situation, it would be at the expense of the judge, not the woman…
    How can this be seen as a frivolous lawsuit when the real ludicrousness is banning the word “rape” in the first place? I simply can’t understand that at all.

  2. Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    It’s possible to be strongly opposed to the judge’s decision while simultaneously thinking that the rape victim’s aforementioned lawsuit is frivolous.

  3. Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I’m just hoping when it goes to trial the judge bans the word “God” because it’s associations with infallibility and ownership of the universe
    predisposes the jury to skew the results in the defendant’s favor.

  4. Blitzgal
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    So a judge equals God and we mere humans have no legal recourse if he happens to cause us damage? Because that’s the message I’m getting from this jackass.

  5. Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Besides, hasn’t this been done in a George Burns movie? Really original, dude.

  6. marle
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Norbizness, she’s had 3 mistrials because of his asshole decision. What do you want her to do, just give up? Men are not going to overturn patriarchy on there own if we just sit back and let them do what they want. She’s a fighter, she’s stronger than most people would be in her situation, and her actions will mean that the next woman in her position will have it a little easier. I have nothing but respect and admiration for her for filing the lawsuit.

  7. SarahMC
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    A lawsuit is “frivilous” when the Plaintiff is a raped woman seeking justice.

  8. sgzax
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    The lawsuit against the judge might not be founded, but she is dealing with a huge injustice. This State Senator could have done so much good if he had advocated for her rather than taken the lawsuit as an excuse to make jokes and bring attention to himself.
    This was not the issue to make this point on. If he thought her legal counsel was misguided he could have offered to help instead.

  9. FashionablyEvil
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Suing god was also the premise of an episode of Boston Legal.
    Oooh, life imitating “art”!

  10. FashionablyEvil
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Suing god was also the premise of an episode of Boston Legal.
    Oooh, life imitating “art”!

  11. noname
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    “It’s possible to be strongly opposed to the judge’s decision while simultaneously thinking that the rape victim’s aforementioned lawsuit is frivolous.” – norbizness
    Exactly.
    This has Wendy Murphy written all over it (big time publicity, no legal merit).

  12. SarahMC
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Well Norbizness and Noname, what recourse would you suggest the woman take in this situation?

  13. BlackBloc
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    The arguments against God in this lawsuit seem perfectly legit to me. The only reason one might find the lawsuit frivolous is if God doesn’t exist… :)

  14. Peepers
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Hmmm…I may be morning-groggy, but I do not get the parody. Unless, as Blitzgal pondered, Sen. Chambers meant to point out that judges are godlike beings against whom mere citizens can only futilely rage.

  15. DrkEyedCajn
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    This “frivolous lawsuit” stuff really riles me up, having worked for a plaintiffs’ personal injury firm for a year and a half. I think the reason average people see lawsuits as frivolous is because they never see THEMSELVES in a position to need to file a lawsuit. No one anticipates getting injured, or being unable to get their lives back together if they do get injured. As my uncle wisely said to me, “Everyone hates a lawyer until they need one.” Let me hear you tell me lawsuits are frivolous after you or your spouse are injured on the job, or are in a horrible auto accident caused by a careless driver, and you have no legs. Tell me then that people who sue to recover for injuries are abusing the system and should just get on with their lives.
    I see absolutely nothing frivolous about this woman’s lawsuit. What would you have her do as an alternative? Vigilante justice? A pistol duel at dawn? A jousting match? The tort system provides a legal recourse for people who feel wronged by other people, instead of having these people take “justice” into their own hands.
    I always cringe when I read headlines screaming about “frivolous” tort suits that have been FILED, that people think are ridiculous. Just because someone is SEEKING millions of dollars does not mean that they have been AWARDED millions of dollars. Also, most giant jury verdicts get overturned on appeal- it’s called REMITTITUR. The most recent example I can think of is the person suing McDonald’s for putting cheese on their hamburger, when the person was severely allergic to cheese and had specifically asked for no cheese. It was immediately portrayed as “ANOTHER FRIVOLOUS LAWSUIT!” without most people knowing most of the facts, and before the case had even been heard in court. Same with the infamous McDonald’s “Hot Coffee” case- if you look at the ACTUAL facts of that case and the events leading up to it, plus the remittitur that was granted on appeal, it isn’t nearly as ridiculous as the MSM would have you believe. I blame a lot of this mess on lazy reporting by the MSM, coupled with the successful propaganda of “tort reform associations” which are really conglomerations of big businesses and other special interest groups looking to dodge responsibility when they injure someone and end up as defendants in a lawsuit.
    I think that if I were in this woman’s position (and had the amount of bravery to stand up for myself as she does), I would feel absolutely justified in filing a lawsuit. I do not consider this lawsuit an abuse of the system, since she feels the judge deprived her of justice in her rape trials, and is seeking recourse through the justice system.
    Someone please explain to me how this lawsuit is frivolous, because I just don’t get it.
    Also, someone explain to me how filing a lawsuit against God makes any kind of statement about frivolous lawsuits. I thought this story was absolutely idiotic when I read it.

  16. Posted September 18, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    FWIW … NPR reported this story (on my drive to work) with no mention of which lawsuits the legislator in question found frivolous. They just indicated this guy was a maverick (no mention of race) and simply trying to make a point about frivolous lawsuits and they implied (they mentioned this legislator refuses to participate in pre-session prayers) that “he’s one of them extremist wall-between-church-and-state types”.
    Also, the idea of suing God isn’t just out of Boston Legal … in Judaism, there is a tradition of stories describing various Righteous folk placing God on trial for the injustice in the world.
    I wonder what Mel Gibson would say about that tradition given how he and his ilk feel we treated their special “Son of God” …

  17. zekeo
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I’m a little confused here. Other than being in the same state, there’s nothing in the article that indicates that suing god was a response to this woman rightfully suing the judge. They seem totally unrealted. The question of our possibly overly litigious society is a valid one. Parodying this woman seems horrible, but it’s not clear if that’s what’s happening.

  18. DrkEyedCajn
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    This “frivolous lawsuit” stuff really riles me up, having worked for a plaintiffs’ personal injury firm for a year and a half. I think the reason average people see lawsuits as frivolous is because they never see THEMSELVES in a position to need to file a lawsuit. No one anticipates getting injured, or being unable to get their lives back together if they do get injured. As my uncle wisely said to me, “Everyone hates a lawyer until they need one.” Let me hear you tell me lawsuits are frivolous after you or your spouse are injured on the job, or are in a horrible auto accident caused by a careless driver, and you have no legs. Tell me then that people who sue to recover for injuries are abusing the system and should just get on with their lives.
    I see absolutely nothing frivolous about this woman’s lawsuit. What would you have her do as an alternative? Vigilante justice? A pistol duel at dawn? A jousting match? The tort system provides a legal recourse for people who feel wronged by other people, instead of having these people take “justice” into their own hands.
    I always cringe when I read headlines screaming about “frivolous” tort suits that have been FILED, that people think are ridiculous. Just because someone is SEEKING millions of dollars does not mean that they have been AWARDED millions of dollars. Also, most giant jury verdicts get overturned on appeal- it’s called REMITTITUR. The most recent example I can think of is the person suing McDonald’s for putting cheese on their hamburger, when the person was severely allergic to cheese and had specifically asked for no cheese. It was immediately portrayed as “ANOTHER FRIVOLOUS LAWSUIT!” without most people knowing most of the facts, and before the case had even been heard in court. Same with the infamous McDonald’s “Hot Coffee” case- if you look at the ACTUAL facts of that case and the events leading up to it, plus the remittitur that was granted on appeal, it isn’t nearly as ridiculous as the MSM would have you believe. I blame a lot of this mess on lazy reporting by the MSM, coupled with the successful propaganda of “tort reform associations” which are really conglomerations of big businesses and other special interest groups looking to dodge responsibility when they injure someone and end up as defendants in a lawsuit.
    I think that if I were in this woman’s position (and had the amount of bravery to stand up for myself as she does), I would feel absolutely justified in filing a lawsuit. I do not consider this lawsuit an abuse of the system, since she feels the judge deprived her of justice in her rape trials, and is seeking recourse through the justice system.
    Someone please explain to me how this lawsuit is frivolous, because I just don’t get it.
    Also, someone explain to me how filing a lawsuit against God makes any kind of statement about frivolous lawsuits. I thought this story was absolutely idiotic when I read it.

  19. TheSoyMilkConspiracy
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I mean, fucking really…of all the lawsuits that are ACTUALLY frivolous, this is the one that broke the asshole’s back? A woman suing a judge who repeatedly re-victimized her is “frivolous?” On top of that, he’s making a fucking joke out of it? This made me so mad when I read about it yesterday I didn’t even know what to do with myself.

  20. Posted September 18, 2007 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    SarahMC, DrkEyedCajn:
    This is outside the area of the law that I normally read, but a writ of mandate/mandamus to compel the judge to either withdraw the order or recuse himself seems to be more appropriate than a suit, given that to my understanding, the judge has a near-absolute immunity to this sort of suit, and the only relief available to a petitioner is by appeal to a higher authority.
    That’s what makes the suit frivolous: not that it wouldn’t correct an injustice if successful, but that the law, as it stands, more or less forbids this approach to correcting a judge.
    Incidentally, I’d be happy to be corrected by a lawyer who knows better.
    An alternate suggestion is the one I made in the first thread where this woman’s case came up, noting that she can probably generate a much more visceral reaction by describing the entire process of the rape without ever actually using the word.
    (For the record, if you peruse the original thread, you’ll note that I think the judge is both wrong and a complete asshat. This doesn’t stop me from noting that there are, in fact, wrong ways to go about seeking remedies — and although we could segue quite nicely here into a discussion about why the law is so damn arcane to the average citizen, we’re heading well off-topic.)

  21. Ismone
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I don’t think this is a frivolous lawsuit, I think it raises interesting and important legal questions, and I’m a lawyer with a pretty strong academic background in first amendment law and criminal procedure.
    Is the judge somehow not a state actor? Is the fact that this woman is being denied the chance to testify as she sees fit problematic in light of the first amendment and the truth-seeking function of the courts?
    For those who think it is frivolous, why do you think it is frivolous? In what other way can she assert her federal right to free speech? I am somewhat stymied by the objection to the lawsuit.

  22. imnoheroine
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    isn’t a laywer who purposefully files a frivilous lawsuit subject to fines and punishment? If he is filing this lawsuit and claiming its frivilous can’t he get in trouble? Also I am pretty sure he will have to pay Gods legal fees for having to defend against the frivilous lawsuit.

  23. Ismone
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Zed,
    I wrote my first post before I saw yours–good point about immunity, I actually had to look up judicial immunity. Although judges are generally absolutely immune for judicial acts (including rulings in a case), this immunity only extends to damages–she can proceed for declaratory and injunctive relief, which is (in effect) a mandamus.
    Izzy

  24. emiana
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    This is apalling. He so should know better as a lawyer. Why attack this woman like this?
    Anyone with access to Lexis? If so, you will find that there was a suit against Satan and his minions and the verbiage was almost identical to the god suit. Suit was dismissed not because frivolous, but because service could not be made.

  25. Posted September 18, 2007 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    DrkEyedCajn,
    Moreover, the newsmedia hype about frivolous lawsuits often ignores the many frivolous lawsuits made by corporations seeking to intimidate people (e.g. Fogerty, Jim).
    I find the bait and switch of it odd, too: “there is a problem with frivolous lawsuits, therefore we must cap damages” … unless people who sue frivolously are Bayesian rational agents who assume a strictly monotonic relation between utility and money, how does capping the amount of money you could potentially (as you point out, there are no guarantees on winning a suit) recover affect a person’s decision to sue? Does someone making a so-called frivolous suit make an expected utility calculation such that if you change the utilities of certain outcomes they’d decide differently? Are people who are acting “frivolously” acting that rationally? Which is it?
    Of course, we all know, the drive for so-called tort reform isn’t really about frivolous lawsuits anyway … but that’s how it’s sold.
    As to the case of the judge: when doctors, they are potentially liable for malpractice. Is there as such thing as malpractice for judges?

  26. novelgirl73
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately MoJo thinks this suit (the God one) is great.
    http://www.motherjones.com/mojoblog/archives/2007/09/5497_ernie_chambers.html
    I know I told them politely that I disagree, I would encourage others to do the same.

  27. Posted September 18, 2007 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Sorry for the delay in responding; I typed it out on the last thread dealing with the judge’s decision: motion for recusal, complaint with the Judicial Conduct Commission, writ of mandamus. A federal lawsuit based on “free speech” is all flash and no chance of success.
    Ismone: The main reason I think it’s frivolous is because there’s no way to get around judicial immunity, and the argument that it would be ludicrous if every motion in limine (or evidentiary ruling or ruling on an objection to testimony) could then be pursued as a federal lawsuit.

  28. Posted September 18, 2007 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Boing Boing has picked this story up, but without the background about the rape case. I’m waiting to get email verification to post on Boing Boing, so if anyone already has an account there, you should comment on the circumstances of this story. Especially this paragraph from KETV story: “Chambers said he decided to file the lawsuit after a suit was filed in early September in federal court against Lancaster County Judge Jeffre Cheuvront. He’s the judge who was hearing a sexual assault case in which the plaintiff wants to use the words rape and victim during her testimony.”

  29. Posted September 18, 2007 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Boing Boing has picked this story up, but without the background about the rape case. I’m waiting to get email verification to post on Boing Boing, so if anyone already has an account there, you should comment on the circumstances of this story. Especially this paragraph from KETV story: “Chambers said he decided to file the lawsuit after a suit was filed in early September in federal court against Lancaster County Judge Jeffre Cheuvront. He’s the judge who was hearing a sexual assault case in which the plaintiff wants to use the words rape and victim during her testimony.”

  30. Ismone
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Norbizness,
    See my 11:36. You can get around immunity if you want declaratory relief or an injunction. It is a mandamus by another name.
    Most federal lawsuits re: in limine rulings would be frivolous, because there is so much discretion. Here, the law is not clearly established about what words judges can and cannot ban witnesses from saying. In fact, I think there is very little case law on the subject. And it is an important issue that is not solely within the province of state courts.
    Creative lawyering, but to explore an important gap that we wouldn’t even be aware of if it weren’t for the stringency of the judge’s ruling.
    And a mistrial before a jury is even impaneled? That’s a new one on me.

  31. Ismone
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Here is a link to the text of Pulliam v. Allen, a 1984 U.S. Supreme Court case which held that judicial immunity does not cover prospective injunctive or declaratory relief.
    http://supreme.justia.com/us/466/522/case.html
    According to WL, it has “some negative history but has not been overruled.”

  32. Ismone
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Expanding further, the current text of section 1983, which allows suits for deprivations of civil rights, bans injunctions (but not declaratory relief) against judges unless the judge violates a declaratory decree or one is unavailable.
    So, injunctive relief may be hard for her to get, but declaratory relief seems possible if the court is willing to declare that the judge violated the First Amendment.

  33. Posted September 18, 2007 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I think people are misreading Sen. Chambers’ action. From the story that Samhita quotes:
    Chambers says senators periodically have offered bills prohibiting the filing of certain types of suits. He says his main objection is the constitution requires that the doors to the courthouse be open to all. Chambers said, “Thus anybody can file a lawsuit against anybody – even God.”
    I read this as saying Sen. Chambers is objecting to the introduction of the bills that violate the constitutional guarantee that keeps the courthouse doors open to all. That is, he’s against legislation which would limit lawsuits like the one filed by the victim in the rape case.

  34. Posted September 18, 2007 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I take it back. Another story clearly says that Sen. Chambers is upset with the rape victim’s suit. Damn.

  35. TheSoyMilkConspiracy
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Is there any way we can get his contact info or something?

  36. Posted September 18, 2007 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    That’s not *another story*, that’s still the AP version. According to WOWT “Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers has filed a lawsuit against God. He says he just wants to make the point that the constitution allows a lawsuit to be filed for any reason.” In which case he is filing the suit to show that no one is above being sued, not even god, and that it is wrong to try and stop such suits.
    I’m hoping he decides to make it class action.

  37. Posted September 18, 2007 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    This man’s attitude is disgusting.
    BUT, I do LOVE the title of this post ;)

  38. DrkEyedCajn
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Ismone and norbizness, thanks for your comments on the mandamus issue. I’m still in law school, so your practical experience with procedure adds a lot to the discussion. I was wondering about the judicial immunity part, myself.
    And DAS, I’m also not a fan of limiting damages based on the defendant’s behavior instead of the plaintiff’s injury. The way to get around damage caps, at least in my state, is to prove that the defendant acted recklessly or intentionally (instead of just negligently). It seems like if you wanted to end frivolous lawsuits, you’d set some caps on what injuries a plaintiff could sue for, hm? However, if “tort reform” is a tool to dodge responsibility, it makes perfect sense to hinge the recovery on the defendant’s state of mind instead of what the plaintiff needs to be made whole.
    Sorry for the double post this morning. Was having more issues than usual with the comments.

  39. Posted September 18, 2007 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    The “frivolous lawsuits” justification for damage caps is a smokescreen. If a lawsuit is frivolous, there are already plenty of ways to prevent it going to trial at all: dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, summary judgment, and a motion under Rule 11. Damage caps don’t do anything about frivolous lawsuits, which don’t make it to the stage of awarding damages. All they do is limit recovery for admittedly meritorious lawsuits.

  40. ShifterCat
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    Emiana is right: there was previously a case called Gerald Mayo vs. Satan and His Staff, and it got thrown out because the court could not determine any way to subpoena Satan.
    There is also no way of serving notice to God, and Ernie Chambers should bloody well know it.

  41. kissmypineapple
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    If her lawsuit can’t bring relief because of judicial immunity, wouldn’t that make it ineffectual, rather than frivolous? I get all crabby when I hear the word frivolous to describe this suit, since the word is so often used to describe women in all their shallow silliness. My dictionary even uses “frivolous girl” as the first example of the word in context.

  42. DrkEyedCajn
    Posted September 19, 2007 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    Shifter, he tried to dodge the service issue by arguing that since God is omnipresent, service can be constructively construed.
    I get the feeling he entertained himself enormously writing all this- not just on the service issue, but also with all the alliteration in the cause of action. He really should have kept this a private joke among his lawyer friends instead of actually filing a lawsuit against God, as if this country needs any more excuses to hate lawyers. What an ass.

  43. Unree
    Posted September 19, 2007 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    Kissmypineapple, “frivolous” is a technical term for the kind of filing that can bring on punishment to the lawyer (and sometimes the client) for wasting the court’s time. The sexist uses of this word you mention are a pity but can’t be avoided for a term of art. You could google “frivolous rule 11″ for more information.

  44. Unree
    Posted September 19, 2007 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Kissmypineapple, “frivolous” is a technical term for the kind of filing that can bring on punishment to the lawyer (and sometimes the client) for wasting the court’s time. The sexist uses of this word you mention are a pity but can’t be avoided for a term of art. You could google “frivolous rule 11″ for more information.

  45. kissmypineapple
    Posted September 19, 2007 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the info, Unree. I stand corrected, and I’ll keep my crabby to myself.

  46. Unree
    Posted September 19, 2007 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Kissmypineapple, “frivolous” is a technical term for the kind of filing that can bring on punishment to the lawyer (and sometimes the client) for wasting the court’s time. The sexist uses of this word you mention are a pity but can’t be avoided for a term of art. You could google “frivolous rule 11″ for more information.

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