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We analyze a classic country hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” from a legal perspective.

“The Devil went down to Georgia, he was lookin’ for a soul to steal/He was in a bind ’cause he was way behind/And he was willin’ to make a deal/When he came across this young man sawin’ on a fiddle and playin’ it hot/And the devil jumped up on a hickory stump/And said, “Boy, let me tell you what:”

“I guess you didn’t know it but I’m a fiddle player too/And if you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you/Now you play a pretty good fiddle, boy/But give the devil his due/I’ll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul/’Cause I think I’m better than you!”

The boy said, “my name’s Johnny and it might be a sin/But I’ll take your bet, you’re gonna regret/’Cause I’m the best there’s ever been!”

This agreement to undertake a wager against Satan makes a great song.  The agreement to take up a bet also is a kind of contract.

We all know Johnny wins the bet and gets the golden fiddle. 

But what if the Devil had won the duel?  Could he have succeeded in enforcing this contract in court?

Almost certainly not.  This scenario happened in Georgia, so I get to show off the fact that, in addition to Alabama, I am a member of the State Bar of Georgia and maintain a practice there.

First, Johnny, described as a “boy,” probably lacked the capacity to form a contract.   ” The law prescribes certain ages at which persons shall be considered of sufficient maturity to discharge certain civil functions, to make contracts… Prior to those ages they are minors and are, on account of that disability, unable to exercise these rights as citizens unless such minor becomes emancipated.”  Ga. Code § 1-2-8.

The age of majority in Georgia is 18, and we have been given no reason to believe that Johnny had been emancipated (freed from the restrictions associated with being a minor).  I know some people refer to adults as “boy” but in the music video (for the Primus recording of this song) Johnny appears to be about ten years old.

If he was under age 18, then Satan could not enforce this contract against him, unless he had been emancipated, which we have no reason to believe had happened.

Second, gambling contravenes the public policy of Georgia.  Ga. Code § 13-8-2, labeled “Contracts contravening public policy generally”, provides in pertinent part, “(a) A contract that is against the policy of the law cannot be enforced. Contracts deemed contrary to public policy include but are not limited to…(4) Wagering contracts.”  “Gambling transactions contravene public policy of Georgia and constitute obligations unenforceable in Georgia courts.” Gulf Collateral, Inc. v. Morgan, 415 F. Supp. 319, 1976 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14512 (S.D. Ga. 1976).

Even if the contract in “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” had been enforceable, Johnny always could get a pardon by accepting representation from the ultimate defense attorney, Jesus Christ.

The Devil Went Down to Georgia Official Music Video:


“No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.”

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