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Trial by Combat

By Kanika Ferency posted 03-16-2020 10:35

Trial by combat may not just be a “judicial process” in lieu of a standard trial in the popular HBO show Game of Thrones. Some feel that “based on an obscure loophole, the U.S. might actually permit this archaic form of justice.” Though trial by combat has not been explicitly banned or restricted in the United States, it would arguably violate other parts of the Constitution such as due process and cruel and unusual punishment.

David Ostrom of Kansas is attempting to push the bounds of this pseudojudicial process. On January 3, 2020, Ostrom requested that an Iowa judge grant his request for trial by combat to settle his custody dispute with his ex-wife. He claimed in his request that his ex-wife has already “destroyed (him) legally.” Ostrom did ask for 12 weeks of lead time to “source or forge” a katana and wakizashi sword. He claims that he is not violent or mentally ill, but he is frustrated with the custody case. Opposing counsel representing his ex-wife responded by requesting a suspension of Ostrom’s parenting time and an order for a psychological evaluation.

The judge presiding over this custody case issued an order citing various irregularities with both sides’ motions and responses. The court held, “until the proper procedural steps to initiate a court proceeding are followed, this court will take no further action concerning any motion ... by either party at this time.”

Although Ostrom’s motion for trial by combat was likely meant to garner attention and to poke fun at the judicial system, one should always follow the proper procedure. Please see chapter 12 of Michigan Family Law for more information on legal ways to modify child custody and parenting time.