Shakespeare Theatre Company to Host Annual Mock Trial at Sidney Harman Hall, 5/19
The Shakespeare Theatre Company, recipient of the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award, presents its Annual Dinner and Mock Trial at Sidney Harman Hall (610 F Street NW) on Monday, May 19, 2014. This marks the 20th year that Shakespeare Theatre Company has produced the Mock Trial. The evening begins with dinner at 5:30 p.m. followed by the Trial at 7:30 p.m. The dinner will be held in the Forum while the Trial will be in Sidney Harman Hall. This year's trial includes a special session of the Supreme Court of Austria, convening at Sidney Harman Hall to hear the case of Isabella v. The Duke of Vienna. Some of the allegations include illegal secret surveillance, false imprisonment, negligent appointment of an unfit deputy, and disrespect of commitment to religious vows.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will preside and be accompanied by Justice Stephen Breyer, as well as Chief Judge Merrick Garland and Judge Patricia Millett both of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Council for the Duke of Vienna, the Defendant, will be Kathleen M. Sullivan of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP. Council for Isabella, the Plaintiff, will be Roberta Kaplan of Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, LLP. The Court Marshal will be Pamela Talkin of the Supreme Court of the United States. The discussion will be moderated by Nina Totenberg of NPR.
"As I've often said, Shakespeare doesn't tell us what to think, he tells us what to think about. This is what Mock Trial does so stunningly, it uses these classic plays as lenses to look at seemingly old issues and bring them to our modern, and legal, world," said Michael Kahn, STC Artistic Director.
Shakespeare Theatre Company's Mock Trial is sponsored by the Bard Association, STC's affinity group for Washington's legal community.
Since 1994, the Shakespeare Theatre Company has hosted a Mock Trial based on a Shakespearean play from STC's mainstage season. The fictional court case poses a legal question, or questions, and the audience must act as the jury to decide the fate of the characters. The Trial aims to examine the links between classic works and contemporary legal theory that is both thought-provoking and entertaining. Past Mock Trials have explored whether Malvolio (Twelfth Night) was entitled to damages for wrongful imprisonment; Iago (Othello) was guilty of the murders of Desdemona and Othello; Hamlet (Hamlet) was insane when he murdered Polonius; and if Sir John Falstaff (Henry IV) should have been compensated for his services to Prince Hal and reinstated as a member of the royal court. Last year's Mock Trial concentrated on the characters in William Shakespeare's Coriolanus and the great struggle for power in Rome after the overthrow of its kings in 505 B.C.
This season's Mock Trial focuses on the characters in William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and asks the question: Should the Duke of Vienna be required to defend his actions in a trial or is he immune from suit because of his political office and the political nature of Isabella's complaints?
Factual Background: The Duke of Vienna entrusted Angelo with the power of his office while he hid among the people to observe how everyone behaved in his absence. Isabella, who suffered greatly under Angelo's misrule, eventually sued the Duke for myriad abuses. These abuses included illegal secret surveillance, false imprisonment, negligent appointment of an unfit deputy, and his disrespect for her commitment to her religious vows.
Legal and Procedural Background: Isabella filed a common law tort action against the Duke in the Vienna Regional Court for Civil Law Cases (district court) alleging five separate torts:
(1) The Duke had negligently abandoned the duties of his office and entrusted them to Angelo, an unfit deputy he should have known to be a scoundrel.
(2) The Duke should be liable for Angelo's abuse of the power of his position in that Angelo rigidly enforced archaic laws that led to her brother Claudio's sentence to death, and hypocritically attempted to seduce her in exchange for his promise to pardon Claudio, a promise, on which he reneged, to Isabella's great distress.
(3) The Duke had caused her extreme emotional distress by mysteriously disappearing but then going among his subjects disguised as a religious friar, demonstrating his contempt for the Church as well as for the privacy rights of his subjects, whom he subjected to illegal and secret surveillance.
(4) The Duke had caused her further extreme emotional distress when he falsely imprisoned her and maliciously allowed her to believe her brother had been executed.
(5) The Duke's extraordinary marriage proposal caused her extreme emotional distress because it reflected his disrespect for the institution of marriage, for the Church, and for the dignity and integrity of her intention to enter a religious order.
The Duke moved to dismiss Isabella's suit on the grounds:
(1) That her challenges to his decisions to appoint Angelo and then return to watch over his subjects, as well as his exercise of judicial discretion in imprisoning her and delaying her awareness of Claudio's pardon, involved political questions that could not properly be decided by the court.
(2) That he enjoyed qualified immunity from suit for all actions undertaken in the exercise of the powers of his office.
(3) That the claim that his marriage proposal caused offense should be dismissed for failure to state a claim.
Isabella argued that the political questions doctrine did not counsel abstention in this case because this is not the unusual case in which there is need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made. Isabella further contended the Duke could not claim qualified immunity from the suit for his tortious conduct. He was acting in some instances in his personal capacity and the rights he violated in his sovereign capacity are clearly established in the constitution of Austria - the right to free religious expression, the right of privacy, the right not to be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures (including warrantless surveillance) and the right not to be subject to cruel and unusual punishment. Finally, she argued that the facts surrounding the marriage proposal revealed the Duke's extreme insensitivity and disrespect for both the institution of marriage and her religious vows, and therefore stated a cognizable claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The district court (the Judge of which was appointed by the Duke and confirmed by the Duke's Council) dismissed the suit on the ground that none of Isabella's asserted claims could be adjudicated without causing extreme embarrassment to the Duke. Out of respect for the executive branch of government the district court abstained from deciding the case.
The Vienna Court of Appeals (who enjoyed lifetime appointments and were selected by the former Duke) reversed the district court's determination, holding that the claims are justiciable. The Duke should be held accountable if his negligence in appointing Angelo and his other alleged intentional misconduct had caused damages to Isabella. The Court of Appeals also rejected the Duke's qualified immunity defense, holding that the negligence claim does not assert a constitutional violation in the first instance and that the Duke could only defend his actions under common law standards of negligence. The Court held that Isabella's claim of distress at the marriage proposal did not involve an allegation of unconstitutional conduct, and could be adjudicated under ordinary tort principles. As for the remaining constitutional torts - illegal surveillance and invasion of privacy, abridging free expression of religion, and imposing cruel and unusual punishment - the Court held that the constitutional standards are clear and that the Duke could be held liable if he had indeed violated those principles. The Court of Appeals remanded for the district court to conduct further proceedings on the merits of Isabella's claims.
The Duke petitioned the Supreme Court of Austria for review of his defenses, which singly or in combination should bar litigation of all the claims Isabella asserted.
1. Should the courts of Vienna abstain from adjudication of Isabella's claims of misconduct because such questions are inappropriate for resolution by the courts out of respect for the fundamental doctrine of separation of powers?
2. Should the Duke's defense of qualified immunity bar litigation of Isabella's claims because none of his actions transgressed clearly established constitutional boundaries?
3. Should the marriage proposal claim be dismissed for failure to state a claim?