Hive of Scum and Villainy: Lawyers in the EU (Part III)
By Marcel Ryan
Welcome back to our galactic tour of the legal profession in that Galaxy Far, Far Away! In my last two articles, we focused on two of the biggest legal trials in the Expanded Universe. We saw a fair bit of the “scum” mentioned above, but one thing we haven’t seen much of yet is the “villainy”.
Sure, we talked about some antagonistic prosecutors and judges, but we never really got the sense that they were true villains. At best, they were trying to do their jobs. At worst, they were satisfying every lawyer’s deep-seated need to always be right in every circumstance.
The portrait of a “lawyer as villain” is an easy one to imagine. Case in point, let’s take a brief look at Star Wars author Paul S. Kemp’s biography, as featured in the back of his books:
“When he’s not writing, he practices corporate law in Michigan, which has inspired him to write some really believable villains.”
The reality is that not many people like lawyers. It’s easy to cast them as the villains. Much like dentists, they are a necessary evil (although, even that is debatable). Unless you’re a big corporation, it’s likely the case that the average person only ever really needs a lawyer when (1) they’re buying a property; (2) they’re drafting a will; and/or (3) something goes wrong. And nobody ever really likes to think about (2) and (3). It’s no wonder William Shakespeare wrote “Let’s kill all the lawyers” in Henry VI. Similarly, we now begin to understand why Dungeons & Dragons casts “lawful evil” devils in the role of contracts lawyers.
But what makes a lawyer bad? In today’s article, we will be focusing on one specific lawyer in the EU, the infamous Lord Lestra Oxic.
Several of you may not have heard of Lestra Oxic. He’s the primary antagonist in James Luceno’s Millennium Falcon, which was published on October 21, 2008. Millennium Falcon is somewhat unique in that it is a standalone novel and covers 103 years of galactic history from 60 BBY to 43 ABY. Present day for this novel is 43 ABY, which places it between Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi in the timeline. Some knowledge of the events in Legacy of the Force may be needed, but not much. It can be read and enjoyed on its own merits.
As a continuity guru, James Luceno is one of the few authors qualified to write a book like this. And, in my opinion, he did an amazing job. The history of one of the most popular starships of all time (the eponymous Millennium Falcon) is traced through its beginnings all the way to present, a grand century-long saga wherein the ship was constantly repaired, patched up and changed hands many times. Luceno masterfully weaved all of the existing lore on the Falcon into his narrative, referencing sources from across the EU timeline. Remarkably, however, I’ve noticed that more casual readers never really feel lost or out of the loop while reading this book. That’s the magic of James Luceno.
So where does a lawyer figure into all of this?
Well, as it turns out, Lestra Oxic was an obsessive and dedicated collector of Republicana, art and antiques from the Old Republic era. As Star Wars fans, we can probably sympathize somewhat with his need to collect it all. The “holy grail” collector’s item for Oxic is the Insignia of Unity. It was an insignia forged in aurodium, orichalum, and Coruscanthium that hung from the Galactic Senate Chancellor’s podium. We see it displayed prominently as early as Episode I: The Phantom Menace in front of Chancellor Valorum.
When the Republic fell in 19 BBY, the Insignia was spirited away by members of the Republic Group, a
secret group of elites dedicated to undermining Palpatine’s rule. Why was this Insignia so important? Think about the symbolism behind it. It represented something completely antithetical to Palpatine’s Galactic Empire. As a result, it was safely hidden until such a time that the Republic’s honor could be restored. Unfortunately, however, it never resurfaced after Palpatine’s rule ended.
Oxic learned from a former client and longtime friend, Senator Des’sein, that a ship called the Stellar Envoy held the key to finding the Insignia of Unity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the title of the novel, the Stellar Envoy would later be renamed to the Millennium Falcon. This is where the fun begins.
A bit of background on Lestra Oxic is needed before we delve further into the plot. Oxic was a human noble who made a name for himself as a high-profile defense lawyer on Coruscant. Noted for his skills with words and data, he built a large and prestigious firm, which represented political power brokers (e.g. Senators) and celebrities. In fact, Oxic wielded so much influence that he would eagerly defend Palpatine’s political enemies in the aftermath of the Clone Wars without ever suffering a reprisal. It’s hard to believe that the evil Galactic Empire did not silence him, although I suppose it suited Palpatine’s purposes to foster the illusion of due process, and Oxic would have (unwittingly) been part of that farce.
Oxic survived the Empire’s tyrannical reign and continued to amass his wealth in the years that followed. As of 43 ABY, he had the three things every collector needs to find their “holy grail”: obsession, wealth and information. He had spent untold amounts of credits tracking the Stellar Envoy through the years. In 4 ABY, when the Empire began to fall apart, Oxic obtained secret Imperial Intelligence documents that traced the Envoy from the Battle of Coruscant (see: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) to the smuggler’s moon, Nar Shaddaa. It was there that Oxic learned that the Envoy had been wrecked in a crash. Its captain at the time, a man named Tobb Jadak, had been grievously injured and reduced to a coma in said crash.
Oxic dedicated a considerable amount of his vast fortune to pay for Jadak’s transfer to the prestigious Aurora Medical Facility. Why would he do such a thing? Not out of the goodness of his heart. He was determined to find any more information he could on the location of the Insignia. He even hired a private neurologist to help with Jadak’s rehabilitation at the facility. Now this might seem crazy to some, but if you had all the time and all the money in the world, you would really need to ask yourself what lengths you might go to in order to obtain that one thing that would complete your collection.
Sometime after the Yuuzhan Vong War, Oxic hired Koi Quire, a Firrerreo (for you Crystal Star fans), who eventually became his most trusted aide. Oxic would also employ less savoury individuals to act as hired muscle, collect information, detain bail-jumpers and carry out sensitive tasks. He was a pragmatist, unbothered by the moral dilemmas that would plague lesser people. He was even able to hold onto some of his youth (despite advancing age) as a result of treatments from the Aurora Medical Facility.
On the eve of a large trial in 43 ABY, Oxic learned from Quire that Jadak had finally (after decades) awakened from his coma. Before he could intercept the former captain, Tobb Jadak left the Facility and went on his own hunt for his former ship, the Stellar Envoy. At the same time, Oxic lost his big case when the star witness refused to testify as a result of meddling from a fellow Republicana collector and adversary named Rej Taunt – now there’s a name that is right on-the-nose!
As all of this was unfolding, Han and Leia Organa Solo had launched their own investigation into the Falcon’s origins. Their efforts led them to the Aurora Medical Facility, where they discovered that a former captain of the Falcon had recently come out of a coma after decades. After learning of this visit from the neurologist he hired, Oxic strongly suspected that the Stellar Envoy was the same ship as the Millennium Falcon. Of course, he knew about Han and Leia – not only did he know Leia’s adopted father, Bail Organa, but it’s hard not to know about two of the most famous people in the galaxy after their many exploits over the previous 43 years.
Always the pragmatist, never the moralist, Oxic sent his thugs to steal the Falcon on a planet called Vaced. Unfortunately for him, the Falcon’s theft prevention systems kicked in and returned the ship back to the spaceport. At this point, Oxic intervened and secured a plea deal for his thugs:
"Princess Leia, I'm certain you don't want to spend any more time on Vaced than is absolutely necessary. If my clients take my advice and enter a plea of not guilty, you and Captain Solo and your young ward will be required to remain here for the arraignment, and be forced to return for the pretrial and trial, assuming the case should get that far. Furthermore, you will be obliged to reside in a hotel—assuming for the moment Vaced even has one—for however long it will take for this…law officer to complete his poking around in the Falcon on an ostensible search for forensic evidence."
"Nice to see you haven't lost your special touch, Lestra."
―Lestra Oxic and Leia Organa Solo
Following these events, Oxic surreptitiously tracked the Falcon to its ultimate destination. With the help of former captain Tobb Jadak, Han and Leia had located the Insignia themselves in an ancient structure on Tandun III. Oxic again intervened and laid claim to the Insignia of Unity. He had invested countless credits and time into locating it and, therefore, felt entitled to its ownership. In an ironic twist of fate, when he scanned the Insignia, he discovered it was a counterfeit.
Although they had been at odds with one another, the Solos and Oxic parted amicably, narrowly avoiding danger from groundquakes that leveled the ancient structure. Oxic even hired Jadak to assist him with the ongoing search for the real Insignia. After all, he had another lead now – the Naffiff Brothers construction company, which had been hired to repair and renovate the Galactic Senate Rotunda, decades earlier.
In retrospect, Oxic is not a traditional villain. He is not portrayed as intentionally malicious, although his actions sometimes involve bad things happening to other people. We are given the sense that he will stop at very little to achieve his ends. We are left wondering what Oxic would have done if the Insignia was the real deal and if the Solos had tried to take it from him. Would he cross an uncrossable line? While we’d like to think he’s too classy for that, it’s difficult to predict how he might have reacted given all that he put into this wild Bantha chase. But, it appears all is well that ends well.
Is Luceno trying to tell us that Oxic isn’t such a bad guy after all? And by extension, does that mean he’s telling us that lawyers are just like anybody else? Or are we unable to overlook Oxic’s obsessions, his morally dubious actions and pragmatic approach to getting what he wants? Whichever way you slice it, Oxic is undoubtedly someone you’d want on your side.
Nobody wants a lawyer until they need one. Then they want the best one they can find – someone who will get the job done and not get bogged down by moral dilemmas. But is that the kind of lawyer that society (as a whole) wants to cultivate? The story of Oxic’s obsessive chase for the ultimate MacGuffin forces us to look back in on ourselves and re-examine the societal role played by lawyers, not just in the GFFA, but also in our own world.
And so, while I continue to ponder these deeper questions, I implore you to go read (or re-read) Millennium Falcon by James Luceno! It’s one heck of an adventure. Remember, the devil is in the details and lawyers are obsessed with details.