Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
Luke 11:52 (KJV)
Well, the Lord’s lawsuit against all similarly situated homosexuals lasted just five days in the District of Nebraska. U.S. District Judge John Gerrard dismissed it yesterday in this three-page order, citing a couple of the same problems I mentioned the other day, although to his great credit there is no indication that he read my post before doing so.
He did not, for example, dismiss on my suggested grounds that Ms. Driskell is not a lawyer and so is not authorized to represent God, Jesus, or anyone else in the courts of Nebraska. He doesn’t address her claim to be acting as their “ambassador,” and chooses to treat her as the actual plaintiff. That’s fine—with a case like this the question is often not “is there a reason to dismiss?” but rather “where should I start?”
Do not deny justice to your [pro se] people in their lawsuits.
Exodus 23:6 (NIV)
[D]o not show favoritism to a [pro se] person in a lawsuit.
Exodus 23:3 (NIV)
For one thing, the court noted, Ms. Driskell had not alleged any basis for federal jurisdiction over the case. She did not ask for a remedy under any federal statute, the court noted, “[n]or can the plaintiff plausibly allege that her [state] citizenship is different from the citizenship of each defendant,” which might give the court diversity jurisdiction over a state-law claim. (Plaintiff didn’t allege this at all, actually, thus allowing the court to sidestep the question of whether there is in fact at least one gay citizen of Nebraska.)
More fundamentally, of course, U.S. federal courts only have jurisdiction over legal “cases and controversies,” and are not allowed to get involved in religious disputes. In other words, they have the power to “decide what is lawful, not what is sinful,” which appeared to be what Driskell was after here. See United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944).
And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
Matthew 22:20-22 (KJV)
The court also noted that the complaint did not comply with Rule 8, which requires a “short and plain” statement of the plaintiff’s claim, partly because the complaint “did not set forth what relief [the plaintiff] seeks in this matter.” She didn’t ask for an order that the defendant class members become heterosexual, for example, or for some sort of money damages to compensate her for whatever injury their existence is supposedly causing her. The failure to allege such an injury also meant that she had no standing to sue.
There was also the problem I noted that Driskell has “attempt[ed] to sue a class of unidentified defendants.” It would be impossible to accomplish service of process, the court pointed out, here citing another Hall of Fame case that should be cited whenever possible. See Order at pp. 1-2 (citing United States ex rel. Mayo v. Satan and his Staff, 54 F.R.D. 282, 283 (W.D. Pa. 1971)). In Mayo, of course, it was clear who at least some of the defendants were; the problem was more where they might be located.
While there were obviously several reasons to dismiss the case, the court ultimately dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and, because Driskell would not be able to fix the problems with this lawsuit, did not give her leave to amend the complaint.
The judge did not get into the question of whether the plaintiff’s own allegation that the Lord is “compassionate” would be enough to show she couldn’t prevail.
Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Exodus 23:9 (KJV)
But then he didn’t need to.