You're a lawyer, prove your android client is a "person."

Some might remember the original form of this thread, which was tragically lost in the Winter of Lost Content. (And before I could manage to save a copy of it. :frowning: )

Everyone seemed to find the concept interesting enough to bat around, so I figured I’d take a stab at trying it again. I hope you’ll understand.

Anywho, here’s the setup:

You’re an attorney, present-day United States. One day, you’re contacted by a very unusual prospective client…he’s an artificially-intelligent android, who’s escaped from the computer equipment company where he’d been designed and built. And he wants to gain the same legal rights and privileges as a human citizen.

So, assuming you take the case…how do you do it? There’s not a lot of legal precedent for this exact kind of situation. How could you prove that an Android is a “person”?
Well, thanks for your patience,

Perhaps not what you are looking for, but since the legal definition of ‘person’ extends to corporations and other ‘non-single human entities’, just incorporate the overlord-to-be.

You can’t prove it absolutely.

The best you could do, I think, would be some variant of the Turing Test; leading to the minimum hopeful conclusion that if it isn’t actually a person, it behaves in all ways as if it is and should be given the benefit of the doubt.

If I recall correctly, what it takes is to show that the android was intimate with the ballbreaking chief security officer on a starship…

How would you prove that you’re a person?

As Mange says, this is essentially just another formulation of the Turing Test.

I just remembered something that I had in the original OP, but forgot to add to this one. And it makes all the difference to the question. (:smack: Baka…)

This ain’t meant to be a debate on the nature of the soul, or what it means to be human. It’s a question about potential legal tactics. What arguements might one use, to establish the human rights of a “non-human”? Pleas to the 13th or 14th Amendments? A standard legal competancy test?

I’m assuming making the jury watch the St:TNG episode Measure of a Man would be cheating?

In Ontario, Canada, we don’t have to speculate. We have the real-live case law which addresses this exact problem (though admittedly with Martians, not androids - but why would it be different?).

I have posted it in SD before, but it is directly on point, and so I will post it again.

Here is the Martian Motion (note that court documents are not copyright). Note the highlighted section, which clearly establishes the precident that Martians have no standing to sue in Ontario. Neither, I would argue, would androids. Unfair, but there it is:

"Joly v. Pelletier

Rene Joly, and
R. Pelletier, Clive Livingstone Clarke, Henry Cussy et al.
And between
Rene Joly, and
Roland Pelletier, et al.
And between
Rene Joly, and
Shoppers Drugmart et al.
And between
Rene Joly, and
MDS Laboratories et al.
And between
Rene Joly, and
Wainbee Limited et al.
And between
Rene Joly, and
Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario et al.
And between
Rene Joly, and
Pharma Plus Drugmarts et al.

[1999] O.J. No. 1728
Court File Nos. 99-CV-166273 and 99-CV-167339

Ontario Superior Court of Justice
Epstein J.

May 16, 1999.
(4 pp.)

No counsel mentioned.

¶ 1 EPSTEIN J. (endorsement):— This endorsement relates to a series of motions brought on behalf of a number of the defendants in two related actions commenced in this Court by the plaintiff, Rene Joly. The moving parties seek orders striking out the Statements of Claim and thereby dismissing the actions on the grounds that the pleadings disclose no cause of action (rule 21.01(3)() or are frivolous or vexatious or an abuse of the process of the Court (rule 25.11).

¶ 2 Mr. Joly’s claims in these two actions, and in several others not currently before me, all centre on his firm assertion that he is not a human being; rather a martian. As I understand them, the nature of his complaints against the numerous defendants who include a number of doctors, medical facilities and government agencies is that they have conspired with the American government in its attempts to eliminate him and have otherwise taken various steps to interfere with his ability to establish himself and live freely as a martian.

¶ 3 As indicated, there are two actions before me. At the beginning of the hearing Mr. Joly advised me that he has recently commenced a third action against, among others, the Central Intelligence Agency, President Clinton and the Honourable Anne McClellan for interfering with his D.N.A. test results that prove that he is, in fact, not human.

¶ 4 Given the related issues in the three actions brought in this Court, I ordered that the three proceedings be consolidated. All parties consented to this order. An order will issue to this effect. Unfortunately, I failed to note the action number of the third action affected by this order.

¶ 5 As another preliminary matter, I should indicate that given the unusual nature of the plaintiff’s claims, a discussion took place at the beginning of argument as to whether I should order that a hearing be conducted pursuant to the provisions of rule 7 of the Rules of Civil procedure for a determination as to whether the plaintiff was in a position properly to represent his interests on the motions or whether a litigation guardian should be appointed. As a result of this issue having been raised, I arranged for a reporter to record the proceedings and the plaintiff agreed to testify under oath and answer certain questions posed by Mr. Novak, counsel who appeared on behalf of a number of the defendants. At the conclusion of this form of hearing and having considered the submissions made, I determined that there was no reason to delay the argument of the motions. I made the observation that in every respect Mr. Joly properly conducted himself before the Court. He presented himself as polite, articulate, intelligent and appeared to understand completely the issues before the Court and the consequences should I grant the relief sought. There was nothing before me, other than the uniqueness of the pleadings in question, for me, on my own volition, to adjourn, pending a hearing to determine if Mr. Joly is under some form of disability. This observation, the fact that no one was really urging me to adjourn and the costs to all concerned of having these proceedings protracted, factored into my decision to proceed.

¶ 6 Finally, I add that at the request of the parties, leave was granted to adduce evidence at the hearing. Both Mr. Novak and Mr. Joly presented evidence to the Court in support of their submissions.

¶ 7 The crux of the various arguments advanced orally and in the written material is that Mr. Joly’s claims disclose no cause of action and are otherwise frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the process of the Court. It was also argued that the tort of conspiracy was not properly pleaded and that no damages have been identified or claimed. It was further pointed out that several of the defendants are not legal entities and are not capable of being sued.

¶ 8 Mr. Joly, in a well prepared, thoughtful argument submitted that he had evidence of falsification of records and related wrongdoing. On the pivotal point of Mr. Joly’s being in fact a martian Mr. Joly advised me that the only reason he was not now able to satisfy the Court that he is a martian, not a human, is due to the falsification of his D.N.A. test results by the Americans.

¶ 9 The authorities relied upon by the moving parties are well known. On a motion to strike out a pleading, the Court must accept the facts as alleged in the Statement of Claim as proven unless they are patently ridiculous and incapable of proof and must read the Statement of Claim generously with allowance for inadequacies due to drafting deficiencies. See Nash v. The Queen in Right of Ontario (1995), 27 O.R. (3d) 1 (C.A.). Perhaps the leading case is that of Carey Canada Inc. v. Hunt et al. (1990) 74 D.L.R. (4th) 321 (S.C.C) in which the test in Canada is described as assuming that the facts as stated in the Statement of Claim can be proved, the Court must be satisfied that it is “plain and obvious” that the plaintiff’s statement of claim discloses no reasonable cause of action.

¶ 10 Concerning rule 25.11, the Court will dismiss or stay an action as being frivolous, vexatious or abusive only in the clearest cases where it is plain and obvious the case cannot succeed. The decision in Steiner v. Canada [1996] F.C.J. No. 1356 (Fed. T.D.) makes it clear that if a pleading does not present a rational argument, either on the evidence or in law, in support of the claim, and casts unreasonable aspersions is frivolous.

¶ 11 In my opinion there are at lease two reasons why the two Statements of Claim in question ought to be struck and the actions dismissed.

  1. Neither pleading discloses a cause of action. While conspiracy to do harm to someone is the basis of many actions in this Court there is a fundamental flaw in the position of Mr. Joly. Rule 1.03 defines plaintiff as “a person who commences an action”. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines person as “an individual human being”. Section 29 of the Interpretation Act provides that a person includes a corporation. It follows that if the plaintiff is not a person in that he is neither a human being nor a corporation, he cannot be a plaintiff as contemplated by the Rules of Civil Procedure. The entire basis of Mr. Joly’s actions is that he is a martian, not a human being. There is certainly no suggestion that he is a corporation. I conclude therefore, that Mr. Joly, on his pleading as drafted, has no status before the Court.

  2. In respect to the motions brought under rule 25.11 I am of the view that the test has been passed in the circumstances of this case. In other words, I am satisfied that the claims are frivolous and vexatious and constitute an abuse of the process of this Court. In addition to the fact that the tort of conspiracy has not been remotely properly pleaded, no damages have been claimed and many of the defendants are not even legal entities capable of being sued. More importantly, with all respect to Mr. Joly and his perception of reality, these actions are patently ridiculous and should not be allowed to continue as they utilize scarce public resources not to mention the time and money of the numerous defendants who have been forced to defend these actions.
    ¶ 12 In the circumstances I have come to the conclusion that the moving parties are entitled to the relief requested. The Statements of Claim in both actions are struck and the actions are dismissed.

¶ 13 The defendants are entitled to their costs of the actions but it would seem to be that the defence has likely incurred little if any costs in defending the actions. The moving parties are certainly entitled to their costs of the motions, if demanded. If the parties require any assistance with respect to the resolution of costs, they may arrange a conference call through the assistance of my secretary.


As luck would have it, Spike TV is broadcasting this episode tonight (January 14th).

I rather have the jury watch Dorothy and The Negotiator in Big O banter. Can they tell who is the android?

Several of the later episodes of ST: Voyager would work as well (Did they run out of plot ideas or what?)

IASNAL. As pointed out by Malthus, a person is usually legally defined as ‘a human, or a corporation’ or something like that. (Apologies for impreciseness.) I would guess you’d have to go right to the top and get this definition changed based on the Supreme Court’s best guess at the intent of the framers of the constitution. For instance:

I would argue that whoever wrote that intended the ownership of any sapient being to be prohibited: even if they hadn’t forseen the possibility of a non-human sapient, they would have included it if they had. Unfortunately this would change innumerable laws drastically, but I think it’s necessary.

I suppose my opponent would argue that they meant no such thing. Black (human) people were enslaved up to that point; no-one at the time would consider granting rights to anything more radical than black humans :rolleyes:

OTOH, that’s was how I would try to prove my client was a person. If instead he was aiming for his freedom, I would attempt to cut a deal (possibly based on some loophole, or just them dropping the suit) on the basis that even if this one goes free they may be able to make more androids. If I have to argue the case as above they’ll be screwed when it comes to owening any androids.

Finally, tactically, I’d make the android look as human as possible and try to get a jury: there’s always the chance they’ll say “Screw the law. It’s alive, it can’t be enslaved.”

Just to nitpick: the definition of a corporation as a legal “person” is just that: a legal definition. No governmental body seriously considers that a corporation is on par with a human being, especially since it comes into and out of existence at the whim of the state. It’s a legal formality to recognize a corporation as a person, but not a life-defining characteristic. (In fact, corporations only get SOME Constitutional rights; off the top of my head, they do get the right to due process, but not the right to vote in federal elections.)

To refocus the argument: you might argue that legal “personhood” should be extended to robots in the same way it does to corporationsm, depending on how robots were being treated in society. As a precedent, you might track down the cases that extended constitutional personhood to corporations. However, arguing that robots were “people” in a philosophical/theological/moral sense could be a lot tougher.

The robot is significantly different than a martian.

First off, I would presume that the martians would have a form of payment that would be acceptable; mars diamonds, the riches of a world, new science, etc. They would be wealthy and desirable clients.

The robot on the hand, having just escaped from a factory is naturally desitute. How will he pay his lawyer? Why would I take this case? Consider that I will have to supply electricity, or neutronium or whatever fuels this android.

Secondly, by simply admitting this android into my office and agreeing to harbor him I may be committing several crimes. The android was manufactured at expense. He is presumably registered and copyrighted, and represents a considerable investment in materials, energies, and intellectual properties of the firm that made him. The corpus of this person literally consists of another person’s property.

If I admit such a person into my office am I receiving stolen property? Presumably since the status of the android at the time he presents himself to me is that of another person’s property and not a person himself, at the time I agree to take the case and recieve him, have I not stolen him?

Clearly he did not steal himself. He’s not a person yet. So, even if I succeed in winning personhood for my client, he was not a person at the time I took him in. I would have stolen him before he became a person. Now I’ve committed a crime for which I can be disbarred and leaves me liable for the cost of the android.

It gets even worse. Organ donation laws might make it illegal to sell a tv. If somebody spams you with a self-aware virus can you computer emancipate itself? Will you be kidnapping if you don’t release it? committing murder if you delete the virus, or turn the power off.

Clearly not.

The only safe thing to do is pull the plug on the sonovabitch the moment he walks in the door and call the manufacturer to come and pick up their property. Then I can send them a bill for my services.

Chat shows? Submitting to scientific research? Terminator films? Computation (many tasks involve both lots of calculation and intuition - an AI would seem a potential godsend!)?

Though you raise an interesting point about stealing (even if you were joking). What’s the precedent? When slavery was abolished no-one could be punished for having kept slaves before (right?) - but what about people who had, say, helped slaves escape. Was there some sort of amnesty? Or could they still be prosecuted for whatever?

I figure that by the time an android realizes his best tactic is to seek a lawyer, and convinces one that he is the real deal, that then a Turing test is a moot point!

Although just a mock trial, this motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent a corporation from disconnecting an intelligent computer, at the International Bar Association conference in San Francisco, Sept. 16, 2003. is very interesting:

Court history though (the defenders got the injunction BTW), points to the most likely scenario of eventually losing in court, and a constitutional amendment as a way to settle this issue later.

For what purposes? Given that we don’t even treat all “persons” the same, the exact legal rights sought to be vindicated matter tremendously.

It may be true that corporations are not treated exactly as humans are, but as a practical matter it’s completely reasonable to argue that they are frequently treated better than humans are in the courts, especially where economic matters are concerned, primarily because corporations represent the wealthier elements of society. And as a practical matter, human beings typically are treated differently by the courts according to race and economic status, hen ce all the poor non-Caucasians in the lockup (though I’ve got my fingers crossed that Ken Lay will be joining them soon).

So, maybe the android could apply for status as a metallic African American or something – paint himself black and he’s in!

Some computer scientists (among those who believe AIs are possible) feel that once you have a human-level AI, the task of creating intelligence levels that are many times more advanced than human intelligence levels will be a trivial task (in relation to creating an AI in the first place). In fact they say that by the time you have a human level AI, it’s already too late – the computer’s cognition will advance so quickly that in a very short time our intelligences will be doglike in comparison with its. And the question before the court will be, what rights would the AI choose to grant to us – if any?

To deal with that hijack, I will post again some points I made in another thread:

  1. There will be a long, long, period of time were robots would depend on humans (Oilcan! Oilcan!)

  2. Such a period will show us that the first generation of robots will be well suited for the job, but stupid when attempting to do something outside their area of expertise.

  1. When reaching the Singularity, strong A.I. in robots will be limited for a long time by all the previous items.

I do think that even if strong AI appears in court, the fact will remain that it would still depend on humans for further advances; it may think that it can grant us rights, but the joke will be on the AI.