Here Come da Judges: Second Life Superior Court is Now in Session

by Alphaville Herald on 22/09/05 at 7:53 pm

We were hoping to see experiments like this. Two law school students, Judge Mason and Judge Churchill (Churchill is the Herald alumnus who wrote about the ESRB under the pseudonym “J”), have opened a court in second life. The idea is that residents may take disputes to the court to be settled according to The SL Community Standards, Ralph Koster’s “Declaration of the Rights of Avatars“, and general “real world” principles of law and dispute resolution (e.g. international law, trademark law, international decisions that involve gaming, etc). What we especially like is that residents may also bring suit against Lindens! And vice versa. A press release and FAQ follow, but I’m sure there will be many more questions.

Press Release

Recognizing a need for legal judgment and dispute resolution, the Second Life Superior Court (SLSC) has been created. The SLSC is composed of law students studying the development of legal theory and jurisprudence in cyberspace. The goal of the SLSC is to evolve a body of law that improves the world of Second Life. The SLSC exists not to create its own law, but interpret the Community Standards already set forth in Second Life. The law of the real world poses no precedent on its decisions. However, real world principles of law and international dispute resolution may serve as guidance.

To submit a case for Second Life Superior Court, send a summary description of the nature of action (250 words or less) to either avatar Judge Churchill or Judge Mason. Due to the limited availability of the court system, the Judges will choose which cases to take under consideration. A response of acceptance, rejection, or deferment will be returned within a week. If accepted, the case will be placed on the court calendar. Parties will then be allowed a period of at least one week for discovery of evidence and submission of a brief. Once briefs from each party are submitted, the court will distribute a copy of each brief to the opposing party. Failure to submit a brief will result in a default judgment. Each party may consider the opposing party’s brief and submit a rebuttal brief within one week. Once all briefs are submitted, the Judges will take the case under advisement. An order will be returned within two weeks and an opinion made public for further advancement of the law in Second Life. All parties are bound by the judgment in the order. Failure to abide by the procedures or judgment of the SLSC will result in a report and sentencing recommendation to Linden Labs.

Legal actions and disputes are now being accepted on a limited basis by avatars Judge Churchill and Judge Mason. Send a summary description of your case to either Judge for consideration.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What kind of cases will the SLSC hear?
A: The SLSC will hear both criminal and civil cases. This includes, but is not limited to, cybercrimes, civil disputes, contract violations, property right issues, and Terms of Service violations.

Q: How does the SLSC enforce its judgment?
A: We prefer that both parties agree to be bound by the judgment of the court before entering into legal action. However, a legal action may be brought against one party, which is often the protocol in criminal cases. If any party does not follow the judgment, a report and sentencing recommendation will be filed with Linden Labs.

Q: Can I bring an action against a Linden? And can the Lindens bring an action against me?
A: Yes, the SLSC treats all avatars as equals. An action can be brought against a Linden and will follow the same format as described above. Likewise, the Lindens have equal access to the SLSC and may bring an action against any avatar.

Q: What legal authority does the SLSC follow?
A: The goal of the SLSC is interpret the law in light of two primary sources: the Community Standards of Second Life and the Declaration of the Independence of Avatars. We view cyberspace as independent from the real world and, therefore, look only to its authority for guidance. Such guidance may include international dispute resolution, case law, the Restatement of Contracts, and the Unif

16 Responses to “Here Come da Judges: Second Life Superior Court is Now in Session”

  1. Prokofy Neva

    Sep 22nd, 2005

    I’d hope to test this, but my questions off the bat would be: was this discussed and “cleared” with Lindens before implementation? Will Lindens and the general counsel of LL see this as any kind of pre-empting of their own functions? Have they indicated any willingness to abide by these recommended rulings or sentencings? What force can the court use to implement its rulings in the face of Linden indifference.

    What protection does a litigant have against retaliation by Lindens for bringing suit against a Linden?

    How can you have a court when you have no government and no other branches of government, except the autocratic federal government?

  2. Tony Walsh

    Sep 22nd, 2005

    What a mind-numbingly futile exercise. So now we have yet another level of tedious bureaucracy to Second Life, one administered by self-appointed “officials” with no recognized real-world powers let alone make-believe ones. I’m in contempt of this kangaroo court.

  3. Urizenus

    Sep 23rd, 2005

    My understanding is that it is not Linden sanctioned at all, and as for retaliation, this is something you have to face when you go to court in RL. Try taking the CoS to court or the US Gov to court, for example.

    As for it being a futile exercise, well I for one think it would be interesting for people familar with the law to hear these cases and render opinions. The opinions won’t have teeth, but they may well offer us a fresh way of looking at in world disputes and the merit of the arguments being tossed about, and it may well be valuable to the law students to grapple now with issues that they won’t hear about in law school but will have to deal with 10 or 20 years from now. Finally, I think it would be great if we began thinking about how to integrate what we know about trademark law, copyright law, international law, etc., with the SL community standards.

    How can it be futile or a waste of time to think about the nature and implementation of the legal principles that will guide us through the next century?

  4. TrannyPet Barmy

    Sep 23rd, 2005

    Q: Can I bring an action against a Linden? And can the Lindens bring an action against me?
    A: Yes ……………….

    “If any party does not follow the judgment, a report and sentencing recommendation will be filed with Linden Labs.”

    “Failure to abide by the procedures or judgment of the SLSC will result in a report and sentencing recommendation to Linden Labs.”

    So effectively, you can’t bring any case against a Linden at all, because the Linden will laugh at the case, SLSC will file a report, and then LindenLab will laugh at SLSC to.

    On top of which, 250 words is supposed to be ample to explain a case ? Whats the point in this, it’s of no more benefit than the current failing AR system !!!!

    We all already know that LindenLab only ever enforces it’s ToS on the users of its game, and NEVER on its own employees, what difference do you think this will make ? LMAO

    This all seems like another one of those excercises that have no more intention of doing any good than raising the feeling of power for those doing it. suggestion: Judges Mason and Churchill – GET A LIFE !!!!!

    TrannyPet Barmy

  5. Dygash Talamasca

    Sep 23rd, 2005

    I believe this can only lead to further hope of improvement in not only Second Life but many other Virtual Worlds, the fact that we as a society are realising that Internet Law is a serious and major part of the future. SLSC may be futile as an ‘authority’ in SL, indeed l believe, as Uri said, it will have no teeth and perhaps even the Lindens themselves will take action to stop this as seems their current totalitarian concept but the data and events recorded now will only help to further improve cyberspace in the next decade as a safe, constructive enviroment where concepts and ideas are respected and given their much needed protection from those that would seek to ‘terrorise’ cyberspace culture. In finish l would like to say that l am a great admirer of Prokofy Neva as a fighter for humanitarian cyberspace rights and of Urizenus as a journalist who helps us see how sides of the arguments and isn’t afraid to defy authoritive figures who would ‘oppress’ the people. Thanks for reading what l had to say.

  6. Urizenus

    Sep 23rd, 2005

    The 250 word report is what they use to determine if they will *hear* the case. Presumably the evidence and arguments presented in the case can take as long as necessary.

    I don’t understand this view that a court without a police force and a jail behind it is a waste of time. What courts do is *judge* actions based on established legal principles and some canonical set of documents. I don’t think the World Court is illegitimate or a waste of time just because the US Government ignores its decisions. One hopes that some day the embarrassment of being judged as behaving illegally will get to the US and we will change our ways. Then too, the court may be establishing its own case law and precedents for the day when it has enforcement powers. Likewise the Lindens may well ignore the judgment of this court, but if they are found acting outside of some established set of legal and ethical principles, well then that would be interesting, don’t you think?

    Yes, Justice requires both a scale and a sword, and here we have only the scale. So no, this is not a system of justice. It is an experiment in a system of judgment. How can that possibly be a bad idea?

  7. Tony Walsh

    Sep 23rd, 2005

    Uri, you describe the SLSC in better terms than they do themselves. I agree that observing the SLSC is not a futile effort. If they framed themselves more accurately they might get more support. The SLSC’s references to the Lindens and possible “actions” against them only cause confusion and concern. But it’s a great way to get attention. Can’t wait for the headlines.

  8. Joe Public

    Sep 23rd, 2005

    and so be it the court of SL passes judgment and sentences you to…”Death by Hectoring” to be administered by Chief Executioner Prokofy Neva.

    May god have mercy on your soul…

  9. Janus Sartre

    Sep 23rd, 2005

    While on the surface this is about as binding as wet noodles it is a good experiment.

    I heartily agree that the whole “Bring suit v. Linden Labs” is a farfetched pipe dream that is more likely to get you restricted or banned than have any real effect. For Resident v. Resident disputes I think it has a very nice People’s Court Dynamic. If both sides decide to abide by the judgement and arbitration (Hopefully not abritrary) then it can work, and the report filed to Linden with the consent of both parties then has some legitimacy if people do not follow the sentence.

    Another interesting possibility here, which again is subject to many problems from the outset, would be the inclusion of a cosent clause built in to the Renters agreements for land to have a hearing of certain greivances before the courts.

  10. Cindy Claveau

    Sep 23rd, 2005

    To briefly summarize, a couple of law school students have taken it upon themselves to set up an arbitration process without any method of enforcing their own judgements beyond the agreement of both submitting parties.

    Yeh, that’ll fly

    Interesting pretend exercise for a school paper, but in terms of actually accomplishing anything this will have all the impact on Second Life of a Prokofy brainfart.

  11. Marsellus Wallace

    Sep 23rd, 2005

    Ya unless the Lindens actually agree to this, no way of actual enforcement. You can’t report someone for something that happened 3 weeks ago. There would be no proof other than logs or screenshots that someone could make up. Thats what the reporting feature is for. You can send an official copy to Linden Labs. If you want to sue someone for selling you a blue ball when you bought a red one, that’s buyer beware as the Lindens say clearly on the site. They will not handle disputes in regards to bad business.

    I think it’s a great idea, but unless Linden labs agree to it officially, it’s futile. As someone else already said, all it is is arbitration, you still have to have the judgment enforced somehow. Even if both parties agree, no way to regulate payments or whatever unless property or cash is put up first by the defendent and good luck with that one. The only way someone would do that would be to try and save face.. Of which most won’t and don’t care.

    Marsellus Wallace

  12. Prokofy Neva

    Sep 23rd, 2005

    Cindy, Some day not you, but perhaps your children will be happy that Prokofy fought for things like removing the vicious officer recall function from groups so that they could not harm landowners, tier-payers, and even just generally well-organized non-profit projects. This is the sort of struggle that doesn’t seem to bear fruit right away, but when you look back, you see it was worth it. I’m sure that some day, when you or your children or your friends get to take THEIR TURN on the website instead of Aimee and company, you’ll also be grateful. Nobody ever thanks the people who make these struggles, even when they benefit from them.

  13. Sabin

    Sep 23rd, 2005

    Trust me, Lindens do enforce the rules against themselves. You’d be surprised how many times Bub has been kicked out of a sim. ;-)

  14. TrannyPet Barmy

    Sep 23rd, 2005

    how many times has he been banned though ? wrongly banned at that ?

    Which ever Linden you are, you’re FOS, as are all the rest :)

    TrannyPet Barmy

  15. amber carlberg

    Jan 28th, 2008

    how serious and / or effective this really is must depend only on a test of its merits. watch this space… what boggles my mind is how come a reporter for the herald who is an observer of the metaverse republic project has not thought it fit to draw our attention to this… and can a couple of law students seriously expect senior lawyers within secondlife to waive their common sense as is to be required and appear before them, even if secondlife be perceived to be a game, as no doubt their ‘honours’ must perceive it to be?

    watch this space

  16. Jessica Holyoke

    Jan 28th, 2008

    The reason why I didn’t mention this project is because at least as of November 2006, this superior court was no longer in existence. Judge Mason and Judge Churchill are empty shells in People search.

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