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Jurisdiction: Serving Satan Mayo v. Satan & His Staff
© Jerry Buchmeyer, 1981


But there is no time for poetry(1) when you're serving Satan — and there are limits, after all, to the reach of "long arm" statutes — as shown by United States ex rel. Mayo v. Satan & His Staff, 54 F.R.D. 282 (W.D. Pa. 1971).

The plaintiff Gerald Mayo (pro se) wanted to recover damages from those who were, ultimately at least, responsible for his confinement in a penal institution. So he sought leave to file a civil rights suit (42 U.S.C. 1983) in forma pauperis, alleging:

"... that Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of the plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff's downfall [and] that by reason of these acts Satan has deprived him of his constitutional rights.
The court (Weber, J.) first considered the jurisdictional question — could personal service be obtained over the named defendant's? — and was troubled by a case in which Satan (a/k/a "The Devil) had been permitted to-sue as a plaintiff in a case defended by Daniel Webster:
"… Even if plaintiff's complaint reveals a prima facie recital of the infringement of the civil rights of a citizen of the United States, the Court has serious doubts that the complaint reveals a cause of action upon which relief can be granted by the court. We question whether plaintiff may obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant in this judicial district. The complaint contains no allegation of residence in this district.

"While the official reports disclose no case where this defendant has appeared as defendant there is an unofficial account of a trial in New Hampshire where this defendant filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as plaintiff. The defendant in that action was represented by the preeminent advocate of that day, and raised the defense that the plaintiff was a foreign prince with no standing to sue in an American Court. This defense was overcome by over-
whelming evidence to the contrary. Whether or not this would raise an estoppel in the present case we are unable to determine at this time."
Unable to resolve this jurisdictional dilemma(2), the court took the easy way out — and refused to permit the plaintiff Mayo to proceed in forma pauperis on technical grounds: the plaintiff had "failed to include with his complaint the required form of instructions for the United States Marshall for directions as to service of process" upon Satan & His Staff. (3)

 


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