In Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress chapter 11, we hear the story of Manuel serving as a judge. Manuel fines Stuart Rene LaJoie 50 Hong Kong dollars for making advances on the girl Patricia in a way that local customs don't permit (he tries to kiss her without her permission). What happens to the fine Stuart pays?

  • Is it paid to Patricia as compensation for the harm Stuart has done to her? This sounds possible, but I think it then wouldn't be called a “fine”, but “compensation” or “damages” instead.
  • Does Manuel keep it? But why would he profit from a crime unrelated to him, especially after he's already got his payment for serving this case a judge.
  • Does Manuel handle it but donate it to a charitable cause?

I don't. Here's my verdict. First that juryman—you!—you are fined fee paid you because you fell asleep while supposed to be judging. Grab him, boys, take it away from him and throw him out.”

They did, enthusiastically; made up a little for greater excitement they had thought of but really could not stomach. “Now, Gospodin LaJoie, you are fined fifty Hong Kong for not having common sense to learn local customs before stirring around. Ante up.”

I collected it. “Now you boys line up. You are fined five dollars apiece for not exercising good judgment in dealing with a person you knew was a stranger and not used to our ways. Stopping him from touching Tish, that's fine. Rough him, that's okay, too; he'll learn faster. And could have tossed him out. But talking about eliminating for what was honest mistake—well, it's out of proportion. Five bucks each. Ante up.”

Slim gulped. “Judge … I don't think we have that much left! At least I don't.”

“I thought that might be. You have a week to pay or I post your names in Old Dome. Know where Bon Ton Beauté Shoppe is, near easement lock thirteen? My wife runs it; pay her. Court's out. […]”

  • Good question. I never noticed that we're not told what happens to the fine.
    – Pixel
    Commented Apr 16, 2017 at 23:26

1 Answer 1


I have always assumed Manuel kept it, but there's very little further evidence in the text. The only other discussion of this incident in the book is that later on Manuel says about the gang's fine:

I thanked him [Slim Lemke Stone] for prompt payment (he had come in three days after Stu's trial and paid Sidris thirty Hong Kong, for gang)

There is no mention of donation to a charitable cause (although Manuel and Stuart do buy drinks at an expensive place for Tish and the gang). Since both parties agree to be judged, I guess people just don't pick greedy judges. Perhaps in other situations (that were matters of finance rather than honour) there would be transfers among the parties.

  • 2
    I agree. I always took it for granted that Manuel kept those fines for himself.
    – Lorendiac
    Commented Apr 16, 2017 at 22:24
  • 2
    Yes, TANSTAAFL. Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 18:15

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