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November 11, 2008

God suit probably not Ernie Chambers' finest hour

Now that I know more about the motivation for Ernie Chambers' lawsuit against God, I'm really disappointed in him.

Apparently, he launched the suit to protest an earlier suit by a rape victim who sued a judge who said she couldn't use the word "rape" in her own testimony.

If we asked Chambers, I bet he'd say he objected to fact that any defendant was suing a judge after the issue had already been resolved by another court. But if he was looking for a test case, was it really necessary to hold a rape victim's suit up to public ridicule? She's not a lawyer. Maybe her suit was legally dubious for procedural reasons, but her underlying grievance is serious.

I wonder whether there's more context to the God suit story that hasn't made its way into the national media--because the motivations for the stunt that have been reported don't make sense and seem to contradict each other.

Chambers has also said that he sued God to make a point that the court house should be open to all. Which, unless he was just being sarcastic, seems to be anathema to the rape-suit protest motivation.

"Nobody should stand at the courthouse door to predetermine who has access to the courts,'' he said. "My point is that anyone can sue anyone else, even God,'' said Chambers, in explaining his cause of action. "If I had just stood here and said, 'The courts should be open to everybody,' then you would all have yawned. This lawsuit grabbed attention".  [LFB]

In general, Chambers is opposed to greater restrictions on the public's access to the courts. Some people think he filed the lawsuit to prove that there's no such thing as a frivolous lawsuit, but that interpretation doesn't square with the idea that he sued God to make fun of the rape victim's suit.

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Comments

Don't blame Chambers, blame AP. Chambers filed suit against god because other Nebraskan lawmakers were trying to stop "frivolous lawsuits" like Tory Bowen's. His suit was in support of Bowen's.

Kaethe -

The AP quotes Ernie Chambers as saying, "This lawsuit having been filed and being of such questionable merit creates a circumstance where my lawsuit is appropriately filed."

Did they make that quote up?

Video of Ernie Chambers saying, "I have tried to make people understand that not every wrong has a remedy in court."

Yeah, Eric, they did make it up, or they completely misunderstood. See the Nebraska paper instead

An atheist, Chambers has said he filed the lawsuit last year to uphold citizens’ rights to sue “anyone else, even God,” after his colleagues in the Legislature sought to limit so-called frivolous lawsuits.

I think the quote in the video is misleading. No doubt he said that, but the AP is the only version that has him opposing Bowen, Nebraska sources have him supporting her, and opposing conservative efforts to restrict lawsuits.

It just isn't the case that "anyone can sue anyone else." You can't sue the government, for example, ' unless the government consents to be sued. Moreover, you have to have standing to bring suit == if, say, you object to some wrong but can't claim that you yourself have suffered injury from it, you don't have that standing.

It may be that anyone can file the papers, but Chambers's is a frivolous lawsuit in more senses than one:

"Frivolous action. Groundless lawsuit with little prospect of success; often brought to embarrass or annoy the defendant."
(Black's, 1991 ed.)

Rather than file a frivolous lawsuit (for which he should be sanctioned) - why not just cite the famous case of Mayo v Satan (pdf of case here). In Mayo v Satan, the plaintiff sued the Prince of Darkness for tempting him into committing various unwise acts. In a cleverly-worded decision, the judge dismissed the case due to the plaintiff's failure to "include with his complaint the required form of instructions for the United States Marshall for directions as to service of process." Alas, as parties to a lawsuit cannot serve papers on their opponents in federal court, the judge could not tell the plaintiff to go to Satan's residence and deliver the papers personally.

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