Ex-husband seeks 'trial by combat' to resolve case


Marie E. Matyjaszek

It’s not unheard of for a fight to break out at a courthouse, or on the way to or from a court hearing. People’s emotions are high, and depending on the court’s ruling, they may intensify once the gavel hits the bench. Shouting matches and physical altercations are one of the unfortunate outcomes of our legal system.

In an Iowa court case, David Ostrom decided to take a different route, and actually asked the court for permission to engage in “trial by combat” with his ex-wife or her attorney. Ostrom and his ex-wife Bridgette are involved in an apparently highly contested battle concerning their two children and property taxes. Obviously he’d like to seek swift justice in the matter, but only once he is adequately prepared.

While adjournments are not unusual, Ostrom’s reasoning for one was indeed out of the ordinary – he needed three months to secure the appropriate Japanese samurai swords for the trial. It should be noted that making a “katana,” as the swords are called, is a very labor-intensive process, requiring multiple workers, with the polishing alone taking one to three weeks. In other words, a three-month adjournment seems reasonable to me.

According to The Iowa Carroll Times Herald, Ostrom’s pleadings stated that he wanted to give Bridgette and her attorney, Matthew Hudson, “the chance to meet me on the field of battle, where I will REND THEIR SOULS from their ... bodies.” Ostrom relied on the fact that a trial by combat has not been “explicitly banned or restricted as a right in these United States.”

Attorney Hudson, in turn, requested that Ostrom’s relief be denied, noting that the risk of harm outweighed the benefit of this unusual judicial remedy.

The court responded by telling both sides nothing was moving forward unless proper procedure was followed. In this case, Grammy Award winner Pat Benatar was wrong — love is not a battlefield.


Marie Matyjaszek is an attorney referee at the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court; however, the views expressed in this column are her own. She can be reached by e-mailing her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.


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