HARLAN, IOWA — Now, here’s an argument you don’t hear every day in court: A man embroiled in a child custody and support dispute with his ex-wife is asking an Iowa judge to grant him a “trial by combat,” though he says he’ll need about three months lead time track down the Japanese katana and wakizashi swords he’ll need for the duel.
In arguments borrowing heavily from HBO’s hit “Game of Thrones” series, 40-year-old David Ostrom of Paola, Kansas, says in the motion that he wants to meet his ex-wife, 38-year-old Bridgette Ostrom, of Harlan and her lawyer “on the field of battle where (he) will rend their souls from their corporal bodies.”
Ostrom claims he’s justified in asking for the bizarre mediation tactic, writing in the court documents that she has “destroyed [him] legally.”
He also claims his request for a trial by combat, first reported by the Carroll Times Herald newspaper in Iowa, isn’t unprecedented.
“To this day, trial by combat has never been explicitly banned or restricted as a right in these United States,” Ostrom argues in court records, pointing out it was used “as recently as 1818 in British Court.”
Ostrom says he’s willing to let his ex-wife off the hook, writing in the brief that her lawyer, Matthew Husdon, can act as a champion and “stand in her stead.”
The judge put the peculiar request on hold in an order filed Monday, saying Ostrom, who is representing himself, didn’t follow proper procedural steps and no further action will be taken until he does.
Ostrom admits asking a judge to allow the sword duel is preposterous, telling the Des Moines Register, “I think I’ve met Mr. Hudson’s absurdity with my own absurdity.”
His whole game plan, he says, is to bring awareness to a court system he believes is stacked against him and other fathers in child custody and financial disputes. He told Fairway, Kansas, news station KCTV, “They’ve tried to ignore me and not address equal custody, and I think this puts a spotlight on them.”
Ostrom also put the spotlight on himself with his curious argument, garnering media attention around the world that left him in the position of having to defend himself as a sane, nonviolent man who’s “not interested in physically causing harm to anyone,” he tells KCTV.
The stunt may have set back his chances to see his children.
Hudson asked the judge to suspend his visitation and to order a psychological evaluation, writing in a Jan. 10 court filing that “just because the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions do not specifically prohibit battling another person with a deadly Katana Sword, it does prohibit a court sitting in Equity from ordering same.”
The attorney also took a couple of stabs at Ostrom in his response, correcting a spelling error — “Surely,” he writes, “Petitioner meant ‘corporeal bodies’ ” — and arguing the “potentially life-ending ramifications” of his request outweigh the issues in the case.
“Although the respondent and potential combatant do have souls to be rended,” Hudson argues, “they respectfully request that the court not order this done.”
Whether Ostrom’s crusade will sway courts remains to be seen, but Ostrom tells KTCV he’s “kind of run out of options and no one pays attention to what I think is a hardship on myself and my children.”
Ostrom says he’s a fan of “Game of Thrones,” in which disputes among the Westeros were regularly settled via trial by combat, but what he may not have considered is that even in that harsh fictional world, the practice was outlawed because of brutality.