Playing By The Rules

Before this particular Tip, let us just re-emphasize the substance of the important “Disclaimer” at the bottom of this page:  NO LEGAL ADVICE GIVEN HERE.  That said:  Did you know there’s a 50-square mile patch of land in Idaho in which you might be able to get away with murder? 


Quoting from the wonderful Futility Closet blog: 

Yellowstone National Park doesn’t quite fit in Wyoming — small portions extend into Montana and Idaho. But Congress has placed the legal jurisdiction for the entire park in the District of Wyoming. At the same time, the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that a jury be “of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.”  Suppose you lure me into the 50 square miles of Yellowstone that lie within Idaho, and suppose you kill me there. The Sixth Amendment requires that the jury be drawn from the state (Idaho) and the district (Wyoming) in which the crime occurred. But the only way to fulfill both those requirements is to draw the jury from the tiny part of Yellowstone that lies in Idaho — and its census population is zero.

Speaking of multijurisdictional shennanigans, a politician once told us that the first thing he learned upon arrival in Washington D.C. was that, if he was ever invited to a meeting at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, he should presume that it was a trap and that there was a U.S. Attorney trying to venue some prosecution in Virginia to get it out of the District. 

The lesson here?  Knowing the applicable rules can make all the difference.  

What about the ethics rules?  Suppose you’re an Illinois licensed lawyer, trying a case in New York, and you want to travel to California to interview a witness, who used to be a senior manager for your opponent’s company, headquarted in Missouri.  You know that different jurisdictions have different versions of Rule 4.2 regarding contacts with former employees, where the company is represented by counsel.  Which state’s ethics rules apply?     

Happily, the ethics rules have their own choice of law provisions.  The Model Rules, followed in large part by many states, say that, in exercising discipline, the rules to be applied should, for conduct before a tribunal, be the rules of the tribunal.  For other conduct, the rules to be applied will likely be the rules of the the jurisdiction in which the conduct occurred.   

Getting back to killing people in parts of Idaho . . . a final thought.  While Michigan State law professor Brian Kalt makes a compelling legal case, we’re certainly not advising a crime spree in this section of the Gem State.  Nor would we wish to handicap the chances of an acquital.  All we are saying is:  If you invite us camping in Yellowstone, we’re on to you!