United States ex rel. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and His Staff

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United States ex rel. Mayo v. Satan
Court United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
Full case nameUnited States ex rel. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and His Staff
DecidedDec. 3, 1971
Docket nos.Misc. No. 5357
Citation(s)54 F.R.D. 282
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Gerald Joseph Weber

United States ex rel. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and His Staff, 54 F.R.D. 282 (W.D.Pa. 1971), [1] was a federal court case in which a prisoner filed a lawsuit against Satan and his servants in United States District Court. [2] The case's class-action status was dismissed on procedural grounds.


The complaint

Gerald Mayo, a 22-year-old inmate at Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, [3] filed a claim before the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in which he alleged that "Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff's downfall" and had therefore "deprived him of his constitutional rights" in violation of the United States Code. Mayo filed in forma pauperis ; that is, he asserted that he would not be able to afford the costs associated with his lawsuit and that they therefore should be waived. Mayo decided to file suit lawsuit against Satan and his minions, which was an external force over which the prison had no control.

The decision

In his decision, [3] U.S. District Court Judge Gerald J. Weber first noted that the jurisdictional situation was unclear. While no previous cases had been brought by or against Satan and no official precedent existed, Weber jokingly remarked that there was an "unofficial account of a trial in New Hampshire where this defendant filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as plaintiff," a reference to the 1936 short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" by Stephen Vincent Benét. Judge Weber suggested that the Devil, who had claimed in that story to be an American, should he have appeared, might have been therefore stopped from arguing a lack of personal jurisdiction. In this context, the court noted that Satan was a foreign prince, but did not have occasion to address whether, if sued as a defendant, he would be able to claim sovereign immunity from suit.

Judge Weber noted that three of the four requirements for a class action suit were met, but he was unable to determine whether Mayo would adequately represent the class and therefore the case could not continue.

Finally, the judge noted that Mayo had failed to provide directions to the United States Marshals Service as to service of process.

Citing the foregoing reasons, the court refused the request to proceed in forma pauperis. [4] The court doubted the need for action due to the complaint containing no allegation of residence in plaintiff.

Precedent Created

This case is used to teach law students the requirements necessary for the service of process. The textbook Civil Procedure Cases, Materials, and Questions 8th Edition by Freer et al. cites it in the third chapter, stating "When the marshal's office does serve process, the plaintiff may be required to instruct the marshal on how to do so. In Mayo v. Satan & his staff, 54 F.R.D. 282 (W.D. Pa. 1971), the court dismissed the case because the plaintiff failed to render such aid when asking the marshal to serve the devil himself." [5]

See also

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  1. United States ex rel. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and His Staff, 54 F.R.D. 282 (1971)
  2. Jason Zasky (Mar 13, 2007). "Devil's Advocate: Can Satan be held legally responsible for his actions?". Failure Magazine. Retrieved Dec 3, 2017.
  3. 1 2 "A federal judge has refused to order Satan to quit". Huntingdon Daily News, ocr, pg 2. December 7, 1971. PITTSBURGH. A federal judge has refused to order Satan to quit placing temptations before a 22 year old inmate at Western Penitentiary who claimed the Devil caused his downfall. The devil with it all, said US District Court Judge Gerald J. Weber on Monday when he threw the case out of court because federal marshals could not produce the devil. Gerald Mayo of Reading, Pa, filed the petition for the injunction against Satan and his staff, and argued Satan violated his constitutional rights by placing irresistible obstacles in his path. Weber said the nearest thing he could find to a precedent was Stephen Vincent Benet’s short story 'The Devil and Daniel Webster' where Webster contended Satan was a foreign prince and could not sue in America courts. Although he did not go that far, Weber said Mayo failed to show Satan lives within the court’s jurisdiction and that federal marshals were not told how Satan could be summoned.
  4. "United States ex rel. Mayo v. Satan and His Staff". Lowering the Bar. 2015-10-05. Retrieved 2018-09-21.
  5. Freer, Richard D. (2020). Civil procedure : cases, materials, and questions. Wendy Collins Perdue, Robin J. Effron (Eighth ed.). Durham, North Carolina. ISBN   978-1-5310-1408-7. OCLC   1142517736.