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Atlas Sued:

The misbehaving John Galt story (the attempt to steal the LSAT) leads me to repost this item from a few years ago.

Where Is John Galt? Our tour through the Law of Atlas Shrugged begins with this question, which was the heart of the noteworthy case Temple v. John Galt Co.[1] The Temples (note the antirational religious connection) sued the John Galt Co., but failed in their attempts to serve process by mail. Had they been better read, they would have realized the intrepid hero was harder to find than that. Suffice it to say that, in the ringing words of the Court of Appeals, "the trial court filed a judgment entry, granting John Galt's motion and vacating the default judgment."

But this just returns us to the more familiar Who Is John Galt? Is it indeed the John Galt Co.? Or is it John Galt Associates, of Pakwood Industries v. John Galt Associates?[2] Here, John Galt, a commercial landlord who refused to let tenant Pakwood assign a commercial lease, won again. Galt's refusal to assign, the court said, was "reasonable." (But of course.) Pakwood should consider it lucky that Galt agreed to go to court, rather than just dynamiting the whole property. Whoops, wrong book.

Who else might John Galt be? Surely not John Galt, Ltd. of Assistant United States Trustee v. John Galt, Ltd.[3] or John Galt Energy, Inc. of In re John Galt Energy, Inc.[4] If there's one thing we know, it's that John Galt would never flee his contractual obligations by declaring bankruptcy.

Could he be the plaintiff in Galt v. City of Sparks?[5] The decision is a one-line order which provides only the tantalizing clue that a co-defendant was Policeman Henderson (Badge # 9516 of the City of Sparks). That John, always getting into trouble. Or perhaps the answer lies in Rolfe v. Galt,[6] where John and his wife Lorraine Galt -- how come we never heard about her? -- triumphed over a baseless personal injury lawsuit.

Curiously, I could find no appearance by the rest of John's merry band in the published cases, except for one shadowy figure: none other than Ragnar Danneskjold. Danneskjold v. Brown[7] acknowledges that Ragnar was a veteran (naturally), though apparently one suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which seems much less like the Ragnar we know and love.

Ragnar next shows up in Danneskjold v. Hausrath,[8] the case that first revealed this fascinating subject to your humble author, who stumbled on it when doing research for an article he was writing. Here Danneskjold is found to be an inmate at Attica State Prison, suing to challenge, of all things, the Prison's failure to pay him minimum wage for certain work that he was doing. Such a suit may at first sound distinctly unobjectivist, but bear in mind that Danneskjold is demanding a minimum wage from the government, not a private business. (Danneskjold's crime of conviction is not indicated, but since he's being kept in state prison, it probably doesn't involve the high seas -- or could there be an inter-governmental conspiracy afoot?)

Finally, we return to the questions we started with: Where Is John Galt? Who Is John Galt? And a new one, What Ever Became of John Galt?

Here is where John's story draws to a close; for though he emerged a resounding winner from the book, everyone, even (perhaps especially) man qua man, loses in the end. But what a fitting end, as chronicled in State ex rel. Smith v. Greene.[9] "On September 14, 1970," the court explains, "Tri-State Motor Transit was struck by members of Teamsters Local 823." On September 30, "a truck, carrying explosives, owned by Tri-State Motor Transit Company and driven by Galt was struck by rifle fire and exploded. Galt was killed and his clothing, pocket book, money and personal effects, valued at $100.00 were destroyed." "[T]wo teamsters [were] subsequently convicted for the second degree murder of Galt."

Even in death Galt struck a blow for what he held most dear; for State ex rel. Smith is a case about private property. "[T]he substance of the claim here is not wrongful death," the Court said: "It is property damage." And that the "value of the property destroyed ... was small" could make no difference: The "wrong is just as great as the wrong done to the owner of property of great value."

Property is property. Not only actual damages, but even punitive ones were available, see id. at 60, to punish those who tamper with this sacred principle. Ayn Rand couldn't have written it better herself.

[1] 1997 WL 177627 (Ohio. App.), appeal not allowed, 79 Ohio St. 3d 1491 (1997).
[2] 219 Ga. App. 527 (1995).
[3] 130 B.R. 464 (S.D. W. Va. 1989).
[4] 75 B.R. 658 (Bankr. E.D.N.Y. 1987).
[5] 848 F.2d 1242, 1988 WL 58008 (9th Cir.).
[6] 477 N.Y.S.2d 790 (App. Div. 1984).
[7] 1996 WL 695524 (Vet. App.).
[8] 82 F.3d 37 (2nd Cir. 1996).
[9] 494 S.W.2d 55 (Mo. 1973).

fffff:
Prof. Volokh,

I had been waiting for one of these posts, so I could post this in eloquent response.
2.11.2007 3:08pm
Informant (mail):
To this list I can add the related matter of Howard Roark Holdings, LLC v. Avarice Group LLC d/b/a "Donkey Den", Case No. 06C17258, an FED action in Denver County Court, in which Mr. Roark successfully recovered possession of the property which has since been extensive remodeled (although not by use of explosives).
2.11.2007 10:40pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Property is theft.
2.11.2007 11:36pm