Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ghostly Trespass

One of the more interesting qualities about the building in which the University of Chicago law school is housed is that it appears to be infested by ghosts. Or at least the sound system does. Most of the time, of course, it works fine. But occasionally it starts broadcasting completely random sounds that have no bearing on what is going on in the room or being spoken into the mic. At orientation, one panelists microphone would intermittently cut out on her and start instead broadcasting choppy fragments of what sounded like a two-way radio conversation somewhere completely different. At a talk by Mary Ann Case today, we got snippets of an opera. It's very bizarre.

Now, I'm sure there is a perfectly rationale explanation for all this that does not include ghosts. But such an explanation would probably involve science, and hence does not interest me. What does interest me is, are the ghosts committing trespass?

We learned this week that intangible trespasses (for such things as noise, radiation, or electromagnetic waves) are actionable, but only if the trespass causes physical damage. Regular trespasses, by contrast, see liability as soon as the boundary is crossed -- simply stepping onto my land without permission, even if you don't damage anything, is a trespass.

Assuming that these ghosts do not have permission to be mucking around UC's sound system, it seems we have a few questions to answer.

(1) Are ghosts considered to be physical or intangible? Does it matter if they are visible are not?

(2) If ghosts are considered to be intangible, are the effects they cause on the sound system "damage"?

(3) What difference, if any, does it make as to whether the ghosts have any agency in their decision? If they are "bound" to the law school sound system in some way, can they claim a necessity defense? What if the law school was built knowing there was a substantial risk of a ghost infestation? What if the ghosts are former UC law students and faculty members who died after the building was built? If the students were murdered by their over-ambitious classmates?


Shaun Mullen said...

It's those dang Posners!

Julia said...

Way to now have a "dead people" tag.

My phone at home used to pick up ham radio. But I got something to get rid of that...

The Girl Detective said...

Once, when I was watching TV - alone, in the middle of the night - the sound cut out and was replaced by a man yelling.

That damaged me, lemme tell you.