48

Assume the Republic Senate voted for some kind of inquiry to determine if the Supreme Chancellor had acted legally and if there are grounds for impeachment (for example, bear with me here). Even if Palpatine speaks the truth to any question and made no attempt to hide anything, even his Sith identity, would his executive decision to invoke Order 66 be considered legal nonetheless?

First, does the Jedi Order have the legal power invested in them for Mace Windu to do what he did, or is it considered extralegal? Based on the legal definition of Order 66, does Mace's actions fulfil the conditions necessary to legally invoke it? And does Palpatine have the executive power to unilaterally invoke Order 66 without consulting or getting approval from any entity?

Second, would it matter to the Senate if Palpatine had come clean about his Sith identity as the reason for the attack? Does the Senate consider Sith to be enemies of the Republic by default like the Jedi do? Would the Senate have considered the Jedi's actions legally justified solely on the basis that Palpatine is a Sith? For that matter, does Palpatine have enough public popularity and political support to influence the Senate to turn a blind eye anyway and vote in his favour?

To summarise: Even if Palpatine made no attempt to cover up and just spoke the truth in any questioning, was open about his Sith identity, and did not use the Force to manipulate the Senate's minds, would the laws of the Republic, the Chancellor's legally granted executive powers, the wheels of democracy and the dirty game of politics ultimately work in his favour anyway?

  • 9
    You may wish to note that the Jedi's justification for trying to arrest him wasn't his actions, it was the fact that he was a Sith, something that Palpatine notes is covered by the Republic's laws against religious intolerance. Most of the Senate wouldn't know or care that he was the adherent of an ancient religion although they might be grumpy to find out that he was a secret Force user. – Valorum Jul 18 '17 at 16:16
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    @Valorum I don't think there's really a need to define "legal"? It is what it is. What is legal and what is popular aren't necessarily the same. The answer should simply be based on what we know about the Republic's laws, its politics and the actual events that transpired once Mace Windu and his crew ignited their blades. – thegreatjedi Jul 18 '17 at 16:21
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    @Valorum Mace talks about Sidious controlling 'the courts' which suggests there's a judicial branch of the government as well as the Senate as executive... – PhilPursglove Jul 18 '17 at 16:23
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    belongs on law.stackexchange.com – user13267 Jul 19 '17 at 2:36
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    @Valorum He doesn't need to convince the Senate of anything. He is the Senate. – KSmarts Jul 19 '17 at 13:22
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No... but it almost is.

If we are to take some Legends material into account, Order 66 was buried in a set of Contingency Orders for the Grand Army of the Republic that outlined protocol for a series of "what if" scenarios.

Order 66 states:

"In the event of Jedi officers acting against the interests of the Republic, and after receiving specific orders verified as coming directly from the Supreme Commander (Chancellor), GAR commanders will remove those officers by lethal force, and command of the GAR will revert to the Supreme Commander (Chancellor) until a new command structure is established."

Republic Commando: True Colors

The legality of how Order 66 went down hinges on whether or not the Jedi should have attempted to arrest Sidious. Palpatine issued the order in response to Mace Windu's attack and used it to claim that the Jedi were acting against the interests of the Republic, all of which appears to be executed legally assuming Palpatine's claim was true.

Palpatine tells a convincing story and if your question involved him sticking to his guns, it's much harder to answer. But the phrasing of your question actually makes things easier. If in your hypothetical Palpatine told the truth about everything, he would admit that the Jedi weren't, in fact, acting against the interests of the Republic. They were acting in response to the revelation that Palpatine was the Sith Lord who was leading the Separatists. That's very much in the Republic's best interests.

The attempted arrest of Palpatine by Windu was justified and while we don't know exactly what the Jedi's authority is, we can at least infer by his words that they had the right to make the arrest:

MACE WINDU: In the name of the Galactic Senate of the Republic, you are under arrest, Chancellor.

MACE WINDU and the other JEDI ignite their lightsabers.

PALPATINE: Are you threatening me, Master Jedi?

MACE: The Senate will decide your fate.

Revenge of the Sith Script

While one might argue that the Jedi didn't have the authority to kill Palpatine, I see no reason to make that claim. In the real world, if an officer is attacked, he is allowed to defend himself with lethal force (if necessary). In the absence of in-universe material stating otherwise, it's reasonable to assume Windu had the same right. Especially with his friends lying dead on the floor next to him.

Interestingly enough, it wasn't illegal to be a Sith so that wouldn't have been the issue (though he would have lost a lot of credibility and support). The only real legal issue with Palpatine's actions is that he was leading the Separatists which is treason. If he were truthful about his involvement in starting and leading the war, Windu was justified in his attack and Order 66 had no legal justification.

But Palpatine fudged the details of the encounter with Mace Windu, masked his true role in the war by having the Separatist leaders executed, and then used those deceptions as justification for a perfectly legal process that allowed him to carry out the slaughter of the Jedi Order and the destruction of the Republic.

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    He was a traitor. So technically, his orders were not lawful. After that, he resisted a legal arrest, so his orders are not lawful. He murdered the legal authorities, so his subsequent orders are not lawful. Most importantly, the Jedi weren't acting against the interests of the republic, so Order 66 was definitely invalid. Yup, looks like you're right -- and he broke the law -- multiple times over. – Shane Jul 18 '17 at 20:30
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    @Shane Technically, being the master Sith is illegal, requiring one to kill their previous master in order for it to become reality, so he's at least guilty of first degree premeditated murder. – Anoplexian Jul 18 '17 at 21:06
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    @Anoplexian You are assuming that first degree murder is illegal in all jurisdictions. (Hint: It's not.) – Perkins Jul 18 '17 at 22:51
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    Worth noting that the order reads "those officers," in other words, the officers that acted against the interests of the Republic. It does not say the entire Jedi Order would be removed with lethal force (unless they are demonstrably working against the Republic in whole). In our specific scenario, this would mean Windu and the company he brought with him. I don't see any way you could use that to instantly justify battlefield execution across the galaxy. Heck, depending on how you interpret the order, maybe the army was supposed to order them to step down and see how they responded first. – jpmc26 Jul 18 '17 at 23:52
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    One could argue the fact that Palpatine had funky Sith lightning powers and was therefore still a threat, even sans Lightsaber, but Windu didn't know that and was only vulnerable to such an attack after Anakin lopped off his arm. – DisturbedNeo Jul 19 '17 at 9:18
9

It would be a matter for the Republic Supreme Court to decide, and it's not clear what the decision would be. Both sides have a case, and it would come down to what each side could prove.

The Jedi attempted to kill Palpatine with no concrete evidence against him except that he was a Sith. The problem is that it was not a crime to simply be a Sith. Therefore the Jedi attempt to kill Palpatine was essentially an attempted assassination of the legitimately elected Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. The courts would probably define that as treason. The exact text of Order 66 has not been given in canon, but if the Jedi were guilty of treason then the text of Order 66 as given in Legends certainly seems to apply:

In the event of Jedi officers acting against the interests of the Republic, and after receiving specific orders verified as coming directly from the Supreme Commander (Chancellor), GAR commanders will remove those officers by lethal force, and command of the GAR will revert to the Supreme Commander (Chancellor) until a new command structure is established.

Order 66, from the Legends novel Star Wars Republic Commando: True Colors

However, there are factors which make the case against the Jedi not as clear-cut as Palpatine would have the Supreme Court believe. In particular, Palpatine committed treason, too, as Darth Sidious in control of the Separatists (and he committed treason before the Jedi). If the Jedi could prove that Palpatine was fighting against the Republic as Darth Sidious then the court would have to decide whether or not this meant that Palpatine's claim to the office of Supreme Chancellor was legitimate at the time he gave the order. If the court decided against Palpatine on that point (which is likely) then Palpatine would have been ineligible to give the order.

Ultimately, the question is whether or not the Jedi would be able to prove that Palpatine was really Darth Sidious and that Darth Sidious led the Separatists against the Republic. If the Jedi could do that then the Jedi would win the case and Order 66 would be deemed as given illegally. If not, however, then the court would have to assume that Palpatine was the legitimate Supreme Chancellor and had the power and justification to issue the order. It's doubtful the Jedi would be able to prove their case since Palpatine/Sidious covered his tracks pretty well and (as Mace Windu stated) he had a lot of influence in the Senate and courts.

Using only the information available to the Republic characters in-universe, it's likely that Palpatine would prevail. Out-of-universe, though, the audience knows that Palpatine committed treason before he even became Supreme Chancellor and that therefore Palpatine did not have the authority to give the order.

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    Two things your answer doesn't address: 1. There's the mitigating factor that the Jedi tried to arrest Palpatine first and only responded with lethal force after he killed several of them. (Whether the arrest is legitimate is a serious question, but the murders Palpatine committed on the spot do muddy the waters a bit.) 2. The order as written does not seem to suggest that the entire Jedi Order should be killed immediately. As written, it says that the specific perpetrators may be removed with lethal force. Palpatine didn't have evidence that the entire Order had turned against the Republic. – jpmc26 Jul 19 '17 at 0:38
  • Read the first sentence and my first instinct was "Flag to migrate to Law.SE" :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 19 '17 at 19:45
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Probably. Palpatine was the only one required to determine that the conditions necessary to trigger Order 66 had been met; having made that determination, he was the only one legally empowered to issue the order.

Order 66: In the event of Jedi officers acting against the interests of the Republic, and after receiving specific orders verified as coming directly from the Supreme Commander (Chancellor), GAR commanders will remove those officers by lethal force, and command of the GAR will revert to the Supreme Commander (Chancellor) until a new command structure is established.
Republic Commando: True Colors, by Karen Traviss (Wookiepedia)

It's Legends canon, but let's take this as the wording of Order 66.

First, does the Jedi Order have the legal power invested in them for Mace Windu to do what he did, or is it considered extralegal? Based on the legal definition of Order 66, does Mace's actions fulfil the conditions necessary to legally invoke it?

And does Palpatine have the executive power to unilaterally invoke Order 66 without consulting or getting approval from any entity?

The Wookiepedia page has some discussion on this:
The Supreme Commander is the only one who can issue Order 66. Palpatine is the Supreme Commander.
There is no requirement for anyone other than the Supreme Commander to make the determination that the Jedi are acting against the Republic.
There is no requirement for the order to be authenticated with any other command authority e.g. GAR High Command.

As soon as the Jedi led by Mace show up at the Chancellor's office with the intent to arrest him, it seems to me that the Chancellor can take the view that that is an attempted coup d'etat 'against the interests of the Republic' and from that point onward he has all the legal cover he needs.

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    Palpatine could probably make that argument, sure, but the question asks if Palpatine was justified if he were being honest. If he were honest about his involvement in the war, his legal position against Windu would crumble. – TheIronCheek Jul 18 '17 at 18:39
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    "As soon as the Jedi led by Mace show up at the Chancellor's office with the intent to arrest him..." He illegally resisted arrest. This makes him a fugitive. That makes everything he did after that point be illegal. If this were the US, the equivalent would be the house+senate impeaching the president, only to have the president murder them all and continue going about his day. That is not legal. – Shane Jul 18 '17 at 20:25
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    @Shane It's not clear if the Jedi actually had the right to arrest the Chancellor. It could be that it was more like e.g. the military trying to arrest you or a bunch of monks. Also, given that Mace was trying to kill Palpatine after he (pretended to) submit, lethal force would be justified (there's been many complicated situations with the use of lethal force by and against police in the US, with various results). And the US is generally rather hard on resisting arrest, unlike most countries ("killing a police officer" is always a problem, of course). – Luaan Jul 20 '17 at 6:38
  • It maybe isn't 100% clear, but them showing up and saying that they are going to arrest him and not saying anything like 'you aren't allowed to arrest people' make it seem more like looking through a window than a wall. – Shane Jul 20 '17 at 19:28
3

Before any Impeachment Trial the Senate would have to look at the wider events leading up to the triggering of Order 66, any impeachment would have to be on the base of the wider picture not simply the legality of giving order 66.

A) Was the triggering of the order to the wider benefit of the Republic and therefore in his position as Supreme Chancellor was Palpatine legally able to give the order without having to seek wider Senate Consensus?

B) In the months/years leading up to the giving of the order where Palpatines actions in the best interests of the Republic, or did he act solely in his own best interests?

C) in Sending Anakin to kill children was he acting in the best interests of the Republic?

Looking at the first, the order was issued out of a sense of self protection for Palpatine and anyone directly involved in his plot to Overthrow the Senate. The Jedi where not a threat to the Republic, they did not wish to Overthrow or bring down the Government. There removal was necessary in order to prevent them from stopping Palpatine in his quest for absolute power. Mace Windu didn't move to kill Palpatine until he had been attacked, he went instead to arrest and detain him with the aim of holding him to account in a trial. Enacting the order and then attempting to kill all the remaining Jedi would be considered, under any version of any law, to be acting outside of the Authority of the Position of Chancellor.

B) In regards to the second there is a clear pattern of Palpatine acting in his own interests in order to destabilise and bring down the Republic. He was the power behind the Separatists without his prompting, support and manipulation the separatists would not have gone to war. He initially purposely attempted to keep the events at Naboo from the Senate only bringing them to the Senates attention when forced to by Amidala. He can then be traced as causing multiple actions to take place that where not in the best interests of the inhabitants of the Republic (due to millions of them dying).

C) Finally even if he could provide a defence of the top 2 points, he would find it hard to explain why he gave the order to murder the Younglings.

However all this is mute, if Palpatines scheme had failed he would have been arrested, Impeached and possibly put to Death. The fact his Coup succeeded in overthrowing the elected Government means he was never going to be impeached. If you look at Dictators throughout History very rarely do they end up on Trial for there actions, instead usually undergoing mob Justice or agreeing a deal to slip away quietly into exile. The fact is Palpatine oversaw a Coup of an elected government, ordered the violent removal of the key organisations of state and went to war with all who opposed him. So yes, if he had been stopped he would have been impeached, stripped of office, tried for Treason and then punished.

2

    

Strictly legally, Jedi attempted coup d'état

  We don't have much information about Republic's legal system, but we could assume it is based on US legal system, with mixture of Anglo-Saxon common law and Roman edict law . In such systems, it is not possible to arrest someone without evidence, especially if that someone is head of state, having additional legal protection and immunity.

  And realistically, all that Jedi had was hearsay - Anakin told them that Palpatine told him that he knows Dark Side. Putting aside if knowledge of Dark Side is even a crime in Republic, Jedi (who were all officers in GAR) with this flimsy knowledge attempted to arrest their superior, without even trying to gather further proof. Or, in other words, they attempted to remove legal head of state by force, which is by definition coup d'état and treason.

  One more thing we should mention is that Order 66 is not a contingency order. Novel "Republic Commando: True Colors" which mention this is now obsolete and part of Legends. Instead, in cartoon series "Clone Wars" we have entire story arc about secret inhibitor-chips in heads of Clone troopers. Jedi didn't found out about those chips, at least not until Order 66 was issued. Clones also didn't know about chips, and Senate itself was kept in the dark . On the other hand, contingency orders are legally binding documents, and at least commanders of units that should carry them out would know about them.

  What really happened from legalistic point of view was this - Jedi attempted coup d'état, Clones on order of Chancellor stopped them. How was that accomplished is another matter, but certainly it is not out of ordinary to shot at traitors attempting to bring down legal government.

-1

Certainly No.

Order 66 was pre-programmed in clones at the time of their creation. This gives grounds to charge Palpatine with premeditated mass murder, as at the time of clone creation, there was no evidence of any attempt of the Jedi to remove Palpatine from the office.

Also, truth about Order 66 suggests that Palpatine has orchestrated the beginning of the Clone Wars under false name and false pretense.

I doubt that any legislation could consider these actions justifiable.

Another argument in favor of this: Darth Vader was ordered to assasinate all separatist leaders thus ensuring no one could testify against Palpatine.

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    Mace Windu wasn't so certain that the Jedi would be able to make a legal case against Palpatine. – Null Jul 18 '17 at 16:34
  • @Null I agree, because Palpatine manipulated the Senate and the courts, and it was difficult to find the proof of his involvement. However, if Palpatine did not hide his actions and confessed that he installed and executed order 66 in the clones, I doubt he would have any chance. – TimSparrow Jul 18 '17 at 16:47
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    The creation of the order doesn't indicate intent to use it. Morever, it doesn't indicate intent to use it without justification. I suppose if we take the full extreme of the question's premise that Palpatine is fully honest, we'd likely find out that he did intend to use it without true justification -- but I think this answer is coming from the wrong angle. – Matthew Read Jul 18 '17 at 21:23
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    Chancellor Valorum could have garnered support to raise an army and instituted this order if he wasn't so "weak" (by Palpatine's standards), and we'd consider it a non-issue if it wasn't carried out (or in some far-fetched circumstance where Windu killed Palpatine, fell to the dark side, went on a rampage, and was killed by the troopers according to this order). – Matthew Read Jul 18 '17 at 21:23

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