David Ostrom is the Kansas father who is making headlines worldwide for demanding a “trial by combat” to settle a custody dispute with his former wife. He says he was inspired to make his “ridiculous” request by the HBO show Game of Thrones. He even specified the types of swords that could be used in the battle in the court filing.
The case is being handled in Shelby County, Iowa. That is where Ostrom’s ex-wife, Bridgette Ostrom, lives with their children.
Court records show that Ostrom filed his motion for a trial by combat on January 3, 2020. In response, his ex-wife’s attorney, Matthew Hudson, requested that Ostrom lose his visitation rights and undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Ostrom has since filed another motion to formally accuse Hudson of misconduct.
Ostrom has publicly stated that he made his unusual request in order to draw attention to his case. He says he feels that he has been treated unfairly as he and his former wife struggle to come to terms about custody going forward.
Here’s what you need to know.
David Ostrom Says He Wants Equal Custody of His Children But Claims the Court Process Is ‘Stacked Against Men’
David Ostrom explained to CBS affiliate KCTV News that he decided to submit the court filing to request a trial by combat because he feels he has run out of options. He says that the whole idea was to draw attention to the case and try to inspire some sort of change. Ostrom claims that in the custody battle with his ex-wife, the legal system is “stacked against men.”
Ostrom told the TV station, “I’m not interested in physically causing harm to anyone… No one pays attention to what I think is a hardship on myself and my children. They’ve tried to ignore me, not address equal custody, and I think this puts a spotlight on them.”
Ostrom Suggested His Ex-Wife’s Lawyer Could Serve as Her Champion In a Sword Battle
David Ostrom says he knows his request is “absurd,” but that didn’t stop him from listing all of the explicit details concerning the proposed sword battle. According to the Des Moines Register, Ostrom explained that he wished to meet his former wife and her lawyer, Matthew Hudson, “on the field of battle where [he] will rend their souls from their corporal bodies.”
Ostrom was also specific about the type of weapons he felt could be used. The Carroll Times Herald reported that Ostrom suggested the combat be delayed for at least 12 weeks so that he would have enough time to “forge katana and wakizashi swords.”
Hudson pointed out in his formal response that Ostrom had misspelled the word “corporeal” in the filing. He argued that the potentially deadly consequences of physical combat would outweigh the financial and custodial issues they were debating in court.
Ostrom noted that his former wife could appoint her attorney as her “champion” and fight in her place. He told the Register, “I think I’ve met Mr. Hudson’s absurdity with my own absurdity.” Ostrom added that he didn’t think Hudson would have the “guts” to actually meet him in a physical confrontation.
Trial By Combat Has Never Been Formally Outlawed In the United States
David Ostrom pointed out in his legal filing that trial by combat has never been formally outlawed in the United States. He’s correct on that, and he’s also not the first person in recent years to suggest resolving a court case this way.
In 2015, attorney Richard Luthmann from Staten Island, New York requested a trial by combat in the state’s Supreme Court on behalf of a client. He argued that the accusations against his client were “ludicrous” and that his response was intended to be equally ridiculous.
Interestingly, Supreme Court Justice Philip G. Minardo acknowledged that trial by combat was technically legal in the United States because it had never been abolished. He did not, however, allow such a battle to actually take place in the New York case.
The United States inherited trial by combat from the British. The practice, which dates back to the Middle Ages, was legal under the British legal code during the colonial era. The founding fathers did not ban trial by combat in the Constitution and it’s never been specifically outlawed in the centuries since then.
Attorney Patrick Reilly discussed the issue in an article that was published by the American Bar Association. He noted that Game of Thrones had triggered interest in the subject but expressed doubt that an American court would ever order a trial by combat. “It is unimaginable that a U.S. court would seriously consider a trial by combat claim in this day and age, despite its television appeal. However, the fact that the claim did exist – and some say still does – again proves that people (past and present) continue to explore unique alternative dispute resolution methods.”