“The Cause of Action is Denied as Unintelligible”

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“An amusing order,” said Matt, who sent me this. Matt, you had me at “Living Soul Chief Asan Manuel Mustafah Fearce W. Yahzoo.”


This comes to us from the Northern District of West Virginia, where yesterday a judge dismissed a petition filed by Mr. Living Soul Chief Asan Manuel Mustafah Fearce W. Yahzoo (hereinafter “Living Soul Chief”) on the grounds that she was “unable to determine the legal basis for Petitioner’s claims.”

He seems to have been asking the court to release everyone under the age of 16 who is currently in the custody of the federal government or any court or state entity within West Virginia. The first two pages of the petition argue that canon law requires it, and he seems to have a point, or at least he would if canon law applied here. The remaining 45 pages list all the officials who are directed to free the aforementioned prisoners.

But he really gets going in the lebellus, described by the court thusly:

Attached to the petition is a second forty-seven page document which is labeled “Lebellus.” Forty-five pages of that document are devoted to listing respondents, including President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, President William Jefferson Clinton, President George Herbert Walker Bush, and individually named members of the 113th Congress, 112th Congress, 111th Congress, 110th Congress, 109th Congress, 108th Congress, 107th Congress, 106th Congress, 105th Congress, 104th Congress, 103rd Congress, 102nd Congress, 101st Congress, 100th Congress, and fifty-five governors.

These people are to be prosecuted for their many crimes—so obviously the guy is not completely crazy—but the trial is apparently to be held in the Vatican, and petitioner seeks $1,666 trillion in damages, all to be paid to the Yazoo Tribe Eternal Living Trust, none of which increases his credibility much. The court found that “Petitioner has not included any facts or [binding] law in support of his cause of action, and the same must be denied as unintelligible.”

Living Soul Chief seems to have been representing himself, although as you know lawyers are entirely capable of incomprehensible nonsense too.

So what the hell is a “lebellus”? Good question. This seems to be a misspelling of libellus, which literally means “small book” in Latin but was also used to refer to a variety of legal documents under Roman law. This is one of the (surprisingly) rare examples where Wikipedia has led me astray, because the only kind of libellus it refers to at the moment is “a document given to a Roman citizen to certify performance of a pagan sacrifice, hence demonstrating loyalty” to the Emperor. Basically it was a receipt you could get to prove you weren’t a Christian if they came by looking for people to persecute. But according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Church later used the same term to refer to “letters of indulgence,” which were apparently receipts you could get to prove you weren’t a pagan, once the shoe was on the other spiritual foot. So that’s nice.

But according to Black’s Law Dictionary, which some nerd had sitting around in her office here, libellus was generally used to mean a complaint or petition of some kind, like libellus supplex (a petition to the Emperor) or libellus repudii (if you wanted a divorce). This possibly older sense is obviously what Living Soul Chief had in mind here, though whoever told him to do this was just wasting his time.

The dismissal was without prejudice, although it seems unlikely that an amendment is going to fix things here.